I think Wolfenstein II just found the limits of The Nintendo Switch
Early on in the life of this site, I wrote an article about how impressed I was with the power of the Switch.
Yes, it's a 7 watt-or-so device that you can carry around with you. But at its heart is the same basic architecture that powers all of Nvidia's high-end graphics chip solutions, combined with the processing cores behind a lot of today's performance cell phones.
Bethesda has long been at the front of the pack as far as third party development on the machine. 2K's ports have been a mess, ranging from a sloppy WWE game to a version of LA Noire that didn't make full use of newer assets. Ubisoft has left out most of their modern games entirely, focusing on original titles...but those dried up faster than I thought they would. And Activision and EA both seem to have been caught off guard that the machine even exists, let alone has an ever-growing install base.
But Bethesda took a different approach. They decided to just go for it and port some of their biggest games to the machine, fully intact. Doom is a portable triumph. It's a little bit low in the resolution department at times, sure, but it's all there and runs more or less locked at 30 frames per second.
Skyrim Special Edition is even better. Barring the removal of some bits of ground cover and the volumetric light shafts from the other consoles, and slightly longer load times...it's the total experience. It never drops a frame and it looks great doing it. It's a clear triumph...even though it's running on an admittedly older technology base that dates back to 2011.
I didn't play Wolfenstein II when it launched. I loved the original game in this new series, The New Order, and thought the ending was so impactful that I honestly wasn't ready for there to ever be a second chapter. The ending of the original game was perfect, and very bleak, and I was completely satisfied. Eventually I decided I was ready to see what the sequel had to offer, and a Switch version was announced...with no release date.
So I thought, what the heck, I'll just wait. Doom was great on Switch, I'm sure this will turn out well too.
After months of nothing, the game launched yesterday. I've watched Digital Foundry's epic video about how it performs.
It looks...like kind of a mess?
Granted, I know it's a miracle that this game runs at all on Switch. The base game offered a number of technical upgrades to the idTech 6 engine, including the implementation of a fully dynamic shadowing and shading system, and a bunch of extra particle effects. And while everyone had hope that Bethesda, iD, and the wizards at Panic Button could get the game looking good on Switch...I'm just not sure I can go with them on the adventure this time.
It looks so blurry.
And everything took an obvious and dramatic quality hit. They even had to build in new pieces of geometry to obscure long draw distances in certain areas, something that surely couldn't have been easy to do and probably contributed to the long delay in the release...but ultimately I'm not sure the Switch was a good fit for this game.
Further complicating the decision is that the Switch version launched at a full price of $59.99. The game has had numerous discounts on other platforms, and in fact as of this writing it's available in the current Steam Summer Sale for just $24. And just $40 with all the DLC.
So, Bethesda has inadvertently launched their new full-priced barebones Switch port against one of the largest discounts that the game has ever had.
I do think it's remarkable that they got something running on the Switch at all. Doom felt like it was pushing the system to its limits, and this game is more intensive on the GPU and CPU than Doom.
Doom's dark corridors and simplistic gameplay helped to hide the slight downgrades made across the visuals. But the blur and rough edges seem to pervade every corner of Wolfenstein II on Switch, and it's all right in your face. Why should I pay full retail price to have this blurry version when I can pay much less and play it in full glory on my laptop or desktop PC?
I know that not everyone has the luxury of this choice. And I know that Skyrim and Doom also launched at full price on Switch. But those were a little easier to swallow because I think they held up better compared to the full experience. And they were both feature complete versions of those games...almost. Both included all of their respective DLC, and Doom was only missing the Snap Map feature from the other systems.
If Wolf II included all the DLC on Switch, its $60 price would be easier to accept and I might still go wallow in its blur cavern.
But I can't do it.
And I hope that soon, more developers will put the time in that the Switch deserves, giving it proper bespoke experiences that shine the way that Nintendo's games have. Ubisoft gave it one shot with Mario and Rabbids. That should probably be the rule rather than the exception.
Only wait before they do that I'd love it if Bethesda would port over Fallout 4 and then if Blizzard would port over Diablo III and then...
Fans like me saying crap like this, and the massive sales of ports like Skyrim, are why developers are stuck in a tight spot. But I still think that blurry Wolf II wasn't the answer.
Have you been playing a lot of Switch games? Do you think I'm being too hard on this Wolf II port that I'll probably pick up down the road on heavy discount? Let me know in the comments!