Recently, CD Projekt Red has been keen on revisiting their finished titles. After its launch, Cyberpunk 2077 has been recieveing iterative work and starting meet the expectations set prior to launch.

Similarly, the publisher has released a free update for the title that put them on the global map — The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.

With this update I went back to the Xbox One X (XBO-X) version and compared it to the Xbox Series X (XSX) upgrades. I did not have an Xbox Series S, so I was not able to see some of the updates there. Please be aware this is not a review of The Witcher 3 — I’m only discussing the upgrades. For a full look at the game as whole, you can find our initial coverage here, a second opinion here, and reviews of the DLC content, Hearts of Stone as well as Blood and Wine.

Now, the next-gen upgrade.

Basic improvements are immediately apparent when booting up the title, as the load times are massively improved from getting to the main menu and into game, though one still has to wade through the obligatory legal screens. In the last generation of consoles, there was narration over the loading screens that informed the user of their progress. These moments of narration barely have time to finish on Xbox Series X before entering play, which is a relief as those loads could be beefy.  

The Quick Resume feature is a blessing too. Going back to the XBO-X and loading up my save to play for 15-20 minutes felt like I was wasting my time, as this is a game that takes a while to get going and dipping in and out for a single mission is not how it begs to be experienced. On the XSX version there was a brief load and a save data sync, and then I was right back where I left off. It’s a strange thing to be praising, but that speed allowed me to collect a few herbs, kill a couple of monsters and track down an errant side quest without feeling like there was a huge obligation to dump hours in because getting through the loading time was such a commitment. The knowledge that I could more quickly get in and out had me going back more regularly.

Now for the more obvious upgrades — the visual fidelity.

Personally, I thought that a lot of the non-metal texture upgrades were nice, but not groundbreaking. Things like horsehair and burnished leather are improved from the slightly flatter-looking XBO-X textures, but aren’t enough to merit a replay. The armor fares worse, as the shiny effect feels like a little too much given how grimy the rest of The Witcher 3 is, and it’s distracting. That said, some of the work done on the level of detail at long distances and the lighting are great. On XBO-X, The Witcher 3 looked impressive as I would crest a hill and look down into a valley littered with houses and trees, but on the XSX the draw distance takes it to the next level thanks to more incidental detail in everything and beautiful lighting — the sunset and sunrise are breathtaking, and the effect in small chalets adds a warmth to the surroundings as if bathed in a deep amber hue. In the bigger city, the effect is even more noticeable with rays coming down through buildings and enriching the pageantry and pomp.  

The character models have all received a bit of an upgrade, though some more than others. Geralt is now more heavily detailed and the supporting cast are all improved, but it doesn’t hide some of the more robotic NPCs who have dialogue. NPC modeling has apparently not gotten much attention, though I’m not sure it would make sense considering how many NPCs there are in a game this big.

Other than that, there’s not much more to say — the mechanics and storytelling seem untouched. If someone bounced off The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt previously, this update won’t pull them in and for fans who’ve exhausted the content available and want a fresh reason to dive back in, this won’t be enough. However, for those already wanting to return to the world of The Witcher or for those who haven’t yet been, this is the perfect time.

AJ Small
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