The Witcher 3 next-gen update brings PC game back to life
Expect the Witcher 3 to push your PC all over again
➡️ The Shortcut Skinny: A prettier Witcher 3
📆 The Witcher 3 next-gen update is out now
🥵 The update is extremely taxing on PC hardware
😍 The game has never looked better
🤔 More testing is needed, there are a lot of reports of GPU issues
The Witcher 3 next-gen update became available this week 7 years after the game first launched in 2015. It was incredibly ambitious and one of the best PC games of its time, pushing even the best GPUs to the brink at 1080p.
The next-gen update launched yesterday, bringing all-new ray tracing tech to the aging game, and honestly, it looks brand-new. The update brings the game up to the standards that games like God of War: Ragnarok and the recent Assassin’s Creed games have imposed on open-world RPGs. Even the controls are better.
The Witcher next-gen update is also on consoles, so check out our frequent PS5 restock updates if you still need a PlayStation 5
But it’s not all sunshine and happiness. While I do plan on going all-in on the new update and playing the game all the way through for the fourth or fifth time on the RTX 4090 – check out my RTX 40490 review at Gizmodo, btw – it’s going to be a bit harder to run, especially with the new eye candy enabled.
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So many graphics cards
To be honest, I already had the Witcher 3 installed. With the recent GPU launches like the RTX 4080 and the AMD Radeon RX 7900 XTX, I like to have games to play to test out the new hotness. And let me tell you, the game just got a lot more difficult to run.
I first tried the game out on the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090, and honestly, it runs extremely well at 4K, with all the eye candy enabled – provided you enable DLSS. With DLSS on performance mode, I’m able to get an average of around 70 fps with the RTX 4090. That’s more than enough for this kind of game, it’s not like I’m competing against real people or anything. Although, I am playing it on Death March.
However, I kept seeing reports of the game being difficult to run on older Nvidia graphics cards. In fact, some outlets like ExtremeTech are saying that performance is terrible. That hasn’t been my experience with it.
If you’re wondering “what is a graphics card?” I’ve got you
Going down to the RTX 3090, I did see a massive cut to performance, but I was able to get over 60 fps at 4K by moving the DLSS slider over to “Ultra Performance”. That does mean that the game was rendered internally at 720p and then upscaled to 4K, but honestly, it’s hard to tell the difference between Performance and Ultra Performance.
The performance didn’t tank by any stretch of the imagination until I got down to the RTX 2080 Super. With that graphics card, ray tracing just meant rough performance no matter what resolution I tried to run it at. Even going down to 1080p with DLSS Ultra Performance, I was only getting around 35-40 fps, and I’m too much of a spoiled PC gamer to put up with that.
However, turning off ray tracing and going back up to 4K made the game look great, and there have been a lot of improvements made to the game outside of the ray tracing. Honestly, I’d say if you’re running on first-gen RTX just keep ray tracing off and enjoy the texture updates. It’s absolutely still worth re-downloading to check it out.
More than graphics
The next-gen update is way more than just graphics, though, and that is why I’m kind of excited to jump back into the game. CD Projekt Red has made a bunch of quality-of-life improvements, by incorporating popular mods into the official version of the game.
The developer also changed the default camera angle to one that feels a lot like what you would expect in a modern AAA third-person action game. It sounds like a minor improvement, and it kind of is, but it makes so much of a difference when you’re exploring the world and fighting monsters. It kind of makes this update feel like a remastered version of the game.
There are also some new quests that have been added, but I haven’t had the chance to actually play those. Apparently, they work in content from the Netflix show, but it’s whatever to me. I’ll play the new quest, but I’m kind of just hoping that it fits into the game naturally so that I don’t actually notice that it’s a new addition.
Finally, CD Projekt Red added cross-progression, which is a huge deal in a game this big. Being able to play it on multiple platforms is a big deal, especially now that the game is available on Switch. You can totally bring your Switch on the train and do some world exploration while commuting. I know that’s what I’ll be doing – just as soon as I buy the game on Switch.
More testing needed
Right now, I’ve only tested the game on 4 Nvidia graphics cards, and with how many reports of bad performance I’ve seen, it’s something I want to investigate more thoroughly. I’ll be putting several more graphics cards through the ringer, just to see if this is a widespread issue.
And, if you’ve run into any problems running the new update, please leave a comment, DM me on Twitter or email me at email@example.com. Let me know your PC specs and I’ll try to recreate the problem.