The Witcher Complete Edition review (Nintendo Switch)

This review was originally published on Koru-Cottage.com, which I also write for.

I’m not really sure what alchemy and magic potions CD Projekt Red & Saber Interactive have evoked to enable one of the finest action RPGs of this generation – The Witcher 3 – to run on Nintendo’s handheld console the Switch but, my God, they’ve done the seemingly impossible and made it happen.

I’m not going to give a history lesson in this review retelling the story of Geralt of Rivea, a genetically enhanced mercenary who is the star of this game series based on the books by Polish author Andrei Sapkowski, suffice to say this game – the third in the series – has Geralt tasked with searching for Ciri, his understudy many moons ago who has returned, along with an oppressive evil called The Wild Hunt that wants to destroy everything in its path.

 

The Witcher, It’s a miracle

The fact that Saber Interactive has even got The Witcher running on what is essentially a tablet chipset is a miracle and what’s even more astounding, though, is isn’t some pared back version of the same game that appeared on PC and consoles: It’s the complete edition (just as it says on the tin), with all the DLC (including the Blood & Wine and Hearts of Stone expansions that were released). Sure, it’s a compromised version of The Witcher but it’s feature complete – and that is a miracle.

Geralt of the RivieraWhen it was rumoured that The Switcher was coming to the Switch I didn’t quite believe it but here we are: It’s real and it’s wonderful.

I’ve played The Witcher games right from the beginning and The Witcher 3 on both PC and PlayStation 4. So I know a thing or two about the series, and yes, Nintendo’s version takes a dramatic hit visually. With environments more washed out and fuzzy than its console and PC counterparts (especially vegetation). At times, when a sunset bathes the game world in golden light or light shafts stream through a forest, it really does look beautiful. Also, from all accounts NPC counts and character models are comparable to other versions. Besides, The Witcher 3 was a demanding game on PC at the best of times if you cranked all the bells and whistles up.

Some advice, though: If this is your first time experiencing The Witcher. I advise you don’t start with the Switch version. If you have access to either console or PC versions, play one of those versions first. That’s the best way to play it. Also, I don’t recommend playing it in docked mode (if you have a Switch Lite you can’t anyway). Why, you ask?

It’s really for on the go

Played in docked mode on my Samsung 40-inch 1080p TV, the visuals are frankly a mess and hurt my eyes. Things are blurry – as if a thin layer of petroleum jelly or such was smeared across the screen [especially ground vegetation which is lifeless and flat] – textures take ages to load in sometimes [detailing on Geralt’s shoulder armour took an insanely long time to sort itself out] and to be honest, it just doesn’t look nice.

It’s clear the Switch version is designed for handheld play first and foremost. The 6-inch screen hides all the imperfections and compromises better. Yes, you still notice flat grass and the like, but portable mode is best for this edition of The Witcher. Play it on the bus, on the train. Heck, play it sitting on the toilet. It doesn’t matter where you play it because handheld mode is where the magic shines best.

The Witcher and Roach on the move How does CD Projekt Red & Saber Interactive get the seemingly impossible game onto a console that is dramatically underpowered when compared to its siblings? By using a dynamic resolution to ensure stable performance, that’s  how. The game will drop as low as 540p in crowded and demanding places, but you know what? You don’t notice it that much in portable mode due to the small screen [at least, I didn’t notice resolution drops but then I have old many eyes]

The game seems to hold a relatively steady 30 frames per second (Digital Foundry has done a great performance analysis on things), although dips are noticeable in crowded areas and some cut scenes where it’s abundantly clear that the Switch is being pushed to its absolute limits to keep things running, and like many games ported over to Switch I still found on-screen text ridiculously hard to read at times – even with my glasses on. It’s also a battery hog. Be warned: During one 2 1/2 hour play session, my Switch’s battery went from 100% to 34%. So have a power bank ready to go if you plan to play for extended periods.

That damn horse again

Any niggles? Of course. One is the game’s automatic pathfinding when you’re riding Roach, your horse. Which I’d hoped they might have fixed in this version. When I set a way point and held down the appropriate button for automatic canter to our destination. He’d lose track of where he was going, forcing me to manually steer him back onto the right path. It’s not a game breaker: It’s just annoying that it’s still here. Another is given the small size of the Switch’s screen [and the default quite dark gamma settings for the game], sometimes enemies are harder to spot, which makes combat challenging at times.

The bottom line here is that yes, The Witcher Complete Edition on Nintendo Switch doesn’t look as good as its console and PC counterparts and purists will recoil in horror at that, but The Switcher is an outstanding port of one of the finest action RPGs of all time that is feature complete and I just can’t put it down [I’ve played for hours and hours over the past week]. It’s just perfect for when my better half is marathoning her soup operas and I need something to occupy me.

I tip my hat to all the talented individuals involved. Who have shown that magic and alchemy can indeed get a game like this running on Nintendo’s system.

Thanks to Stephen at Namco Bandai in Australia for the review code.

The Witcher 3: Blood & Wine DLC: Geralt goes out in style

Well, Geralt of Rivea, it’s been quite a ride.

Through three games on a variety of formats, the mutated monster hunter from developer CD Projekt Red has carved a name for himself as a hero and likeable character. Yes, a likeable character as well as a bit of a rogue.

CD Projekt Red have made no secret that this is the last adventure of Geralt of Rivea, and if this indeed the case, it’ll go down as one of the most satisfying and wonderful final appearances ever.

Pwooar, look at all those bright colours. And sunflowers. And Geralt. It's lovely!!

Pwooar, look at all those bright colours. And sunflowers. And Geralt. It’s lovely!!

Where The Witcher 3 was quite dark, both in colour and theme, Blood & Wine is bursting with colour, especially in the opening moments as Geralt rides into Toussaint, a region based on the south of France that is bursting with vibrant colour: Yellows, greens, blues – and that’s just in the armour worn by some of the region’s military. Geralt even gets his own vineyard to chill out in between slaying monsters and chasing beasts.

But make no mistake, this is a Witcher game as Geralt must use all his weapons skill and magic to defeat a foul beast that is terrorising Toussaint and leaving slaughtered corpses in its wake (essentially vampires). Here’s the trailer to give you an idea what to expect:

CD Projekt Red suggests players be at least level 34 to tackle Blood & Wine – and they’re right. It’s a challenge that will keep you on your toes but if you haven’t reached level 34, and you’re happy to discard the character you spent countless hours to craft and refine,  you can use a pre-created character that starts the game at level 34.

Like The Witcher 3, I opted to play Blood & Wine on PC using my ageing but still capable (it seems) nVidia Geforce GTX660Ti. It does an admirable job but I lock the frame rate at 30 and play at a resolution of 1080p. It seemed to be rock solid, with perhaps only the odd frame rate drop from time to time.

Blood & Wine opens, pretty much, with what is a fairly easy battle against an angry troll but it seems to wonderful taking place in a brightly coloured paddock, with blue sky ahead and sunflowers nearby. It almost seems un-Witcher like but things soon take a turn to familiar territory with all manner of foul creatures wanting to rip Geralt a new one.

As if was a while since I’d played The Witcher 3, it took a bit for me to get to grips with the controllers again but soon enough it all felt familiar. I liked that some of the boss fights were far removed from the original game, meaning things felt fresh.

Knights. With brightly coloured armour. And armoured horses. Huzzah!

Knights. With brightly coloured armour. And armoured horses. Huzzah!

There are new weapons, armour, equipment, mutations and even Gwent cards. There’s even the ability to dye pieces of armour to add a bit of individuality to Geralt’s armour (if it’s worn). If this is the final time we’ll see Geralt, I actually think I’m going to miss his dry wit and charm and with Blood & Wine then the developers have gone out all singing and all dancing, which is a great thing.

If you’re a fan of The Witcher and the deep world that CD Projekt Red have created, Blood & Wine is a no brainer. Really, it is. It’s a fitting send off to a magnificent world and a memorable character.  Hopefully, though, this isn’t the last we’ll see of Geralt of Rivea.

 

 

Time to revisit The Witcher 3, perhaps

It’s hard to believe that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt came out a year ago (my Gog.com account tells me I last played it a year ago). It was such an awesome game and the latest trailer and screens for the next DLC, Blood and Wine has me contemplating actually firing the game up again.

The_Witcher_3_Wild_Hunt_Blood_and_Wine_A_nice_day_for_a_walkThe_Witcher_3_Wild_Hunt_Blood_and_Wine_Sleep-tightOut on May 31, Blood and Wine (PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4) is, says CD Projekt Red’s game director Konrad Tomaszkiewicz, lead character Geralt’s final mission. With more than 90 new quests, and more than 30 hours of new adventuring, he says it’s something that he believes gamers will remember for a long time.

“There’s also a massive amount of features we’re giving gamers with this expansion like a dynamic Point of Interest system, a new Gwent deck, new endgame mutation mechanics, and even a place Geralt can call home …. And it’s all happening in a new region as big as No Man’s Land in the base game,” Tomaszkiewicz says.

The_Witcher_3_Wild_Hunt_Blood_and_Wine_Thanks_for_reaching_outI didn’t play the first DLC but I’m really keen on checking this out. From what’s been shown in screen shots & in the trailer, the game world looks a lot more vibrant and colourful, which is something that I like (I’m sure there are dark moments with horrific monsters but yeah, I’m liking the vibrancy here).

It looks like Blood & Wine will cost $20.47 (it’s currently 10% off). It’s something that I’ll seriously look at.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Expansion for The Witcher 3

I haven’t played any The Witcher 3 for some time now – I just haven’t had the time to invest into it – but Bandai Namco have released a trailer for the expansion for The Witcher 3. It’s called Hearts of Stone. Here’s the low down:

Step again into the shoes of Geralt of Rivia, a professional monster slayer, this time hired to defeat a ruthless bandit captain, Olgierd von Everec, a man who possesses the power of immortality. The expansion lets you choose your own way through an adventure that includes recruiting a crew of break-in artists, spending a night partying with a ghost and outsmarting the most bizarre creatures Geralt has ever faced.

The expansion launches October 13 and promises more than 10 hours of new adventures and introduces new characters, powerful monsters, unique romance, and a brand new storyline shaped by gamer choices. The expansion also introduces a brand new system of Runewords that significantly affects gameplay. Each Runeword will impact a different aspect of in-game mechanics and will allow the players to experiment with various strategies and tactics.

Who’s keen to check it out?

 

Watch The Witcher 3 running on my Geforce 660Ti

OK, so I last night I used nVidia’s Shadowplay video capturing software to record just under 10 minutes of game play from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. I just wanted to show you how the game looked on what is considered the minimum specced GPU for the game.

As I said yesterday, I’m running the game on what I  consider to be an ageing GPU: A Geforce GTX660Ti but it seems to handle the game OK.

Every thing is set to medium and I have locked the frame rate to 30FPS so I can ensure a consistent  experience. Things look nicer on medium settings than on low, especially the grass and other foliage. It’s just a pretty game, to be honest.

Sadly, I forgot to activate the FPS counter while I was playing so can’t see what the  frame rates were doing but everything seemed smooth and very much playable. There was no combat so I can’t see what happens during heavy combat but if I get the chance over the next day or so (work commitments dependent) I’ll record some more footage with the FPS counter running.

Any questions, post a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer. Thanks for watching.

The Witcher 3: Monsters!

I’m excited about The Witcher 3. I’ve even pre-ordered the game from nzgameshop.com – that’s how excited I am for this.

May 19  can’t come soon enough but to help pass the time here’s another developer diary from CD Projekt Red.

This one’s about the monsters in the game and how the developer wants them to be as believable as possible (believable as monsters can be) and not be impossible things that can defy the laws of physics.

Enjoy.

The Witcher 3 Hype Blast continues: Gameplay footage incoming …

You’re probably sick to death of me going on about The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (“Oi, stop going on about The Witcher 3,” you’re probably muttering), and you’d think I was paid by BandaiNamco Games given the amount of information I’m posting about it (I’m not, by the way, but I’m always open to the possibility of receiving mystery bags of cash in the post … joking) but a 35-minute game play video has been posted on The Witcher 3, and it’s left me kind of wishing I hadn’t watched it.

Not because the game looks like it won’t be any good – it looks as though it’s going to be an amazing experience – and not that I won’t enjoy it, but I can’t help but wonder whether I’ve learned a little more than I want to about things before I play the game.

Apparently the video is set several hours into the game, but part of me wonders whether just a little too much information about three witches called The Crones and the ashen-hair woman being sought by Geralt of Rivea is revealed in the video.

I’m sure, though, in a game as large as The Witcher 3 a 35-minute video is nothing, and, of course, things will change depending on the decisions you make, but I’ve decided that from tonight I’m likely going on a Witcher 3-free diet for the next few months until the game is out in February: I don’t want to spoil my enjoyment of what will no doubt be a strong contender for one of 2015’s best games.

Anyway, here’s the video: Let me know what you think in the comments section.