The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Complete Edition Review

What can be said about this game that hasn’t already been said. The Witcher 3 was originally released on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 back in 2015 and has now been ported to the Nintendo Switch. So, what did people think back then? As it says on the cover it has received over 800 awards and won “Game of the Year” and “Best Roleplaying Game” at the Game Awards in 2015. This also looked fantastic too, with high graphical fidelity, detailed textures and good framerate. Impressive, right? But this game is now 4 years old and has been ported to a system with significantly poorer performing hardware… how could it possibly be any good on the Nintendo Switch? Let’s find out!

For those Nintendo fans out there who have never played this game or any in the Witcher series, fear not. This game establishes itself very well and guides you in with some entertaining cutscenes and sets the tone very well. The game is based in a medieval style world that is in the midst of war. As such, there’s a decidedly dark theme throughout which is reflected in the numerous characters and NPCs you meet throughout your playthrough. The game tells of a historic event called “the conjunction of the spheres”.

Essentially, this was the event that caused magic to enter their world, along with all the ghouls, werewolves and other nasty and imaginative monsters. Out of this, Witchers were also born – humans mutated by magic and trained from a young age to become the ultimate monster slayer. This is where you come in. You play the role of Geralt of Rivia, a Witcher, and are thrown into a world where you are looking for your surrogate daughter. This will lead you on an adventure through a huge world where you can do whatever you want.

The Witcher 3 is an exclusively single player story driven experience. Once you start, you are free to go anywhere and do anything. It’s a huge open world RPG, like Skyrim. But unlike Skyrim, the game does not scale the level of its monsters with you. Meaning that if you go too far out too early, you’ll be a lowly level 7 Witcher potentially coming up against a level 30 Basilisk… you have been warned! This adds a good element of challenge to the experience as you can’t just set the game to “easy” mode and power through the story in any order. One thing some gamers may not like about this is that it does limit some of your freedom, but this is overshadowed by how big the world is, so it shouldn’t feel too limiting. The game does have a narrative that progresses and changes based on your actions and dialogue decisions too, so it is designed for you to hit certain check points in the game to continue the story. The story also recaps your latest progress in the main story – a very nice addition for a huge open-ended RPG game like this.

As expected, this game has a heavy emphasis on combat, but unlike games (again, like Skyrim) there is a lot more strategy involved. You can customise Geralt with better weapons and armour, but you also get the options of using bombs, some basic magic and a crossbow. You are also provided with a compendium of monsters that shows you their weaknesses once you have killed one. The monsters come in many creative varieties and not one fighting style can be used to easily beat them, again adding a good element of challenge to the game. The pace is frequently changed up with side quests and with different gameplay styles. Sometimes you are fighting, sometimes you are using your “Witcher sense” (think of this like super heightened senses that allow you to see and smell what humans do not) for tracking people and monsters and sometimes you are engaging in fully voice-acted dialogue.

One thing that brings this game together very well, and the reason I think it is so critically acclaimed, is the cause and effect model created in the game. Your actions have consequences which can make quests easier, harder, or just completely different. You’ll often find that a decision you made 15 hours ago, impacts something happening right now in the game. The game really is designed well for this and makes you want to replay the game to see what else could have happened. Speaking of hours, expect to be playing this for about 100 hours to complete the main game and DLC, which in my opinion is pretty good value.

I was very excited when I started this game as I loved my playthrough on Xbox One, though I was hesitant about the performance. With the game compression and the fact that Switch is just not all that powerful, expected the worst. Then I was greeted to this stunning cutscene!

Then visually… oh deary me… things fall off a metaphorical cliff. The game is significantly downgraded from its Xbox One and PlayStation 4 counterparts. Subsequent in game cut scenes are downgraded as well (but still look better than main gameplay) as the look of the game during gameplay.

Don’t get me wrong, this game is not unplayable… not even close. But, if you played it on Xbox One or PlayStation 4 previously, you may be disappointed. Additionally, this game is pretty cheap on those platforms now, so if you want the best visual experience, play it there. But, this still leaves us with overall look, feel and gameplay. The controls are still as tight as ever, whether you are playing with a Pro Controller or the JoyCons. The lighting effects, much like with Zelda Breath of the Wild, make this a very pretty game. There is an overall blurriness to the graphics which helps you not notice the lower quality textures as much. I can’t recommend playing this on your big TV at home – it just doesn’t look good. But, in handheld it looks surprisingly good despite all of the beforementioned issues (most likely because of the smaller, lower resolution screen). The framerate to my eyes looks like a steady 30 FPS with a few dips in places, like crowded cities or areas with a lot of enemies. After about 15 minutes of play, I personally started to forget about the visual issues and got totally engrossed in the gameplay.

There are more and more game publishers enforcing mandatory game downloads as part of buying a physical cartridge (L.A. Noire and it’s 10GB download comes to mind). This makes it so that the overall life of these games is limited to how long the respective eShop will be up and running. Given that Nintendo has already closed down it’s first digital store on the Wii, this is a real concern for some gamers. But, good news! In a first for Europe and the US this game has been published in it’s entirety on a 32GB game cartridge. Firstly, excellent… Secondly, how on earth is this game compressed into such a small file size – we’ll come back to this later.

The physical edition of this game comes with a raft of goodies, including a compendium for the game, some stickers, a detailed map and lovely heartfelt letter from the developers. All in all, a very nice package and all for (at the time of writing) £49.99 at game and £45.99 at Smyth’s toy store – Good value!

The Witcher 3 has a great story, good character development, interesting game mechanics and a truly huge open world to explore. This in my opinion is the best open world game since Skyrim, and fans of that game will really enjoy this too. There are visual drawbacks and if you prefer the higher fidelity experience, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are the best ways to play this game. But, as a portable experience on the Nintendo Switch or Switch Lite, it’s currently second to none.

Overall, this is a must buy for anyone who owns a Switch. The fact this game even runs on the Switch is impressive, let alone runs with solid performance and includes all of the DLC (which is almost as big as the main game!). The bonuses with the physical release as well as the game being entirely on the cartridge are also really nice perks, especially for people like me who value physical collections and long term game preservation.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - Complete Edition Review
  • Gameplay - 9/10
    9/10
  • Graphics - 9/10
    9/10
  • Sound - 9/10
    9/10
  • Replay Value - 9/10
    9/10
Overall
9/10

Summary

This is a phenomenal game and despite having minor visual issues, the attention to detail and fan service employed here is outstanding.