BY DEAN MOSES
Game: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Platform: Nintendo Switch Price: $59.99
Rating: M for Mature
When taking the time to stop and consider, it’s incredible how far handheld gaming has come over the past two decades. My first personal “Wow” moment came when I was a child and I played Pokémon on the Gameboy Color. That seemingly vast open world was just breathtaking. Next, when I was a tad older and opened the then brand-new Gameboy Advance to hear Mario’s distinct voice call out from the system’s speakers I was wowed once again. Something as simple as a mere voice sample blew my mind. Now, I have experienced another “Wow” moment, and that’s with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt running on a hand-held gaming device.
On the Hunt
The Witcher 3 is not a new game by any means; in fact it was first released on Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4 back in 2015. At the time it was a marvel to behold, seeming to push the new generation of consoles to their limits. So, to see it running on the Nintendo Switch—a system inferior to the aforementioned con-soles in terms of raw horsepower—is truly rather remarkable. In case you missed it the first time around, The Witcher is a game series based on a line of fantasy books following a Witcher (a monster hunter) named Geralt on a journey to find the emperor’s daughter, Ciri. Geralt trained Ciri in the art of combat since her childhood, so she is very much like a daughter to him. Unfortunately for Geralt, he’s not the only one searching for the young woman. A band of ghostly warriors with the power to freeze their surroundings named the Wild Hunt are also scouring the land for Ciri. It is up to you to aid Geralt by finding clues to her whereabouts and completing hours upon hours of side quests along the way.
Monsters on Notice
The controls are seamlessly mapped to the Switch’s controls, whether that is on a handheld controller or the joy cons. This makes exploring the stunningly large and populated open world a pleasure to navigate, which is good seeing this edition comes packaged with all pieces of downloadable content. The rear of the package promises players over 150 hours’ worth of game time, yet I feel like this projected number is actually low. I could see players spending well over 200 hours engaging in quests. But how do we partake in said quests? Well, there are three kinds: main quests, such the ones that will progress the central overall narrative like seeking Ciri, side quests that are found by bumping into strangers who request your help with troublesome matters, and the third being Witcher contracts. These dangerous missions are posted to noticeboards throughout the land and appeal for aid in dispatching all manor of macabre monsters such as werewolves, Golems, Strigas, evil spirts, and many, many more.
To kill these foul creatures Geralt equips two swords and a whole host of magical abilities. Our white-haired hero can use Jedi like mind tricks to confuse his foes, set them on fire, and even conceal himself in a protective shield. He can also find, earn, and purchase additional weapons and armor. Not only that, there is also an in-game addictive card game call Gwent that will have you collecting cards and adding them to your virtual deck.
An Agreeable Downgrade
Geralt is not some voiceless, emotionless protagonist. He has his own carefully crafted ideals and personality, a personality that is not only expanded upon by your playstyle, but one that can also affect and chance the outcome of questlines depending on your playstyle. On your travels you will experience many branching story paths, but if you are a returning player you may also notice that your adventure does not quite look as good as the last time you played it. For The Witcher 3 to even run on the Switch a downgrade was inevitable, thankfully it is also an agreeable one. While there is a hefty fog at times and textures are almost nonexistent—a problem that is surprisingly at its worst when docked and blown up on your TV—it does dampen the experience. While it can be jarring at first, CD Projekt Red has done such a fine job with the gameplay it not only outweighs the graphical short-comings, it makes it a nonissue.
Simply put, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is one of the best games on the Nintendo Switch, and on a more personal note, has surpassed Zelda Breath of Wild as my own favorite.