As any Switch owner knows, one of the biggest selling points of the console is the ability to seamlessly transition from docked to portable mode and play your games wherever you like; it’s the USP that Nintendo pushed from the beginning and has given players the freedom to take their AAA titles on the road – as well as enjoy them on a big-screen television in the comfort of their living room.
Combine this with some impressive third-party ports for titles like Witcher 3, Alien: Isolation, Wolfenstein II, DOOM, GRID Autosport, Dragon Quest XI, Dragon’s Dogma, Dragon Ball FighterZ, Cuphead and Hellblade, and there’s little wonder that many Switch owners are perfectly happy to call the machine their primary console; while external publisher support could always be better, there’s no denying that Nintendo’s hybrid has been blessed with a wide array of killer third-party titles to complement those produced by Nintendo itself, as well as those created by its second-party studios.
Even so, using Switch as your ‘go to’ console does throw up one tricky dilemma… you’re arguably getting an inferior experience in terms of visuals and performance
Even so, using Switch as your ‘go to’ console does throw up one tricky dilemma, especially if you’re lucky enough to also own a PS4, Xbox One or PC. While playing titles like Witcher 3 on the go is a massive boon – we’re still flabbergasted that developer Saber Interactive was able to shrink that massive open world into a machine as dinky as the Switch – you’re arguably getting an inferior experience in terms of visuals and performance. As amazing an achievement as Witcher 3 is on Switch, it’s clearly not on the same level graphically as its siblings on other systems.
With a few exceptions – Dragon’s Dogma and Cuphead spring to mind, as they’re pretty much like-for-like when compared to versions elsewhere – you can almost always be certain that if a multiformat title comes to Switch, the versions available elsewhere will be superior – at least in terms of presentation. Which leads us to the ‘sacrifice’ element of this discussion; when you pick to play on Switch even though a ‘better’ version is available to you, you’re willfully accepting a downgrade – usually because the benefit of portability is so significant.
This has really hit home for me personally in the past week or so. After bouncing off it several times in the past (and on other systems, I should add), I’ve finally become hopelessly addicted to ‘Switcher 3’. Every spare moment I have is spent in Geralt’s leather boots, finding quests to partake in or simply exploring the massive world in search of new villages or monster nests. During my time with the game, I’ve become painfully aware that while it’s undoubtedly a towering technical feat, it has some very rough edges. The visuals often become fuzzy, character and environmental detail are reduced and the frame rate has a habit of dropping dramatically at busy times.
Now, if I decided to play this game on my PS4 or Xbox One, some of those issues would evaporate immediately (but not all; it’s worth noting that Witcher 3 has its performance wobbles even on other hardware). I’d also be saving myself some cash, as – at the time of writing, at least – the Switch version is considerably more expensive than the PS4 or Xbox One editions, which have been out for years. So why aren’t I playing it on any other system than Switch? Simple, I’ve made the aforementioned ‘Switch sacrifice’.
I’m aware that I can’t possibly speak for everyone, but as a father of three, my time with the main TV in our home is limited, and when I do eventually get control of it at night, I find that the last thing I want to do is park myself in front of a large, glowing screen and embark on an epic quest. I’d much rather lie down on the sofa and play in handheld mode – something I can do literally anywhere in the house, at any time of day.
I don’t think enough is said about how Switch makes gaming almost ‘frictionless’; it’s so easy to scoop up the console at any point of the day and drop into a game in seconds
Also, I don’t think enough is said about how Switch makes gaming almost ‘frictionless’; it’s so easy to scoop up the console at any point of the day and drop into a game in seconds. In contrast, turning on my PS4 often means waiting ages for updates to download and then booting up a game from a cold start – and then having to turn it off again when a family member decides they want control of the TV.
Again, I know I don’t speak for everyone – a large proportion of you may have your own personal TV, located in a room that only you have access to for most of the day – but even so, when I have the option of playing on the television, I still tend to choose the Switch, largely because it just feels so effortless to drop into a game for 10 minutes. Maybe I’m lazy, but that ‘drop-in, drop-out’ nature really appeals to me – and it extends to anywhere I might find myself in a typical day.
If I’m in the Nintendo Life office, I can just take my Switch with me and experience the exact same game there. On public transport? That doesn’t mean my adventure has to end; I’ve got my Switch with me. This might sound obvious – heck, it’s been Nintendo’s hook since the day the Switch launched – but I’m mindful that, by choosing to play titles like Witcher 3 on Switch, I’m ‘giving up’ something at the same time: I’m sacrificing playing the game the way the original developers intended.
The waters become even muddier when you consider that, unlike other platforms, Switch seems to have gotten the bum deal when it comes to patches and updates. Titles like GRID, Witcher 3 and Bloodstained have been subject to a series of massive post-launch updates, mainly to get them to a state where they play and perform as closely as possible to versions available elsewhere. Bloodstained is a good example; as a massive Castlevania fan, I played it at launch – which was arguably the worst time to experience it, as it was something of a trainwreck on Nintendo’s console and has since been updated to bring it more in line with the PS4, Xbox One and PC versions. It was never going to be a like-for-like comparison, but I’d arguably have enjoyed the game more had I played it on my PlayStation at launch, rather than on Switch. Again, that was the sacrifice I made in order to have Bloodstained at launch and by my side, 24/7, whenever I fancied dropping into a game.
I wouldn’t say that my enjoyment of Witcher 3 is being sullied by that niggling feeling that I’m somehow ‘missing out’ on the ‘full fat’ experience, but it’s definitely something I’ve considered over the past week or so as I’ve gotten deeper into the game. It’s a situation that is only going to become more obvious once PS5 and Xbox Series X arrive at the end of the year, and the gulf between rival consoles and Switch becomes even larger.
Will the ‘Switch sacrifice’ become even harder to make in 2021? Time will tell, but for now, I’d still take comfort and portability over the ‘big screen’ experience every single time.