Hogwarts Legacy – Nintendo Switch Performance
Phenomenal cosmic power, itty-bitty framerate.
Phenomenal cosmic power, itty-bitty framerate.
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Review gameHogwarts Legacy – Nintendo Switch PerformanceComments
When discussing games on small hardware, phrases like “impossible port,” “punching above its weight,” and even “black magic” are frequently used. Now that Hogwarts Legacy is available on the Nintendo Switch, it might be appropriate to pull out those clichés once more, though not quite. Despite barely fitting onto the Switch (with an install size of 7.4GB as opposed to 22.1GB for the Xbox One version), Hogwarts Legacy is not a miraculous port. Though in some areas it’s still as rough as expected, it manages to be better than feared.
With limited options, Hogwarts Legacy on Switch has just one performance mode. Compared to the Xbox One version, which sports an unlocked frame-rate toggle, motion blur, and film grain, this is a step down. As we mentioned in our initial performance review, this is unquestionably a last-generation game. Although this eases some of the strain on this Switch port, more reductions are necessary to offset the sharp decline in CPU and GPU power as well as lower memory size and bandwidth. While some areas are worse, overall performance on Switch is comparable to that of the Xbox One version. These appear to be mostly CPU- and/or memory-bound data streaming segments that keep the world supplied with data while clearing out the trail as they go. As a result, the game can function fairly well at 30 frames per second in non-stressful areas other than loading screens and battle areas. However, it is frequently closer to the 50 ms frame time during these times, so for extended periods of time, the frame rate is roughly 24–25 frames per second. That is not good, and even without a frame analysis, the sluggishness is apparent.
As you move through Hogwarts Castle, textures, objects, and walls suddenly appear, causing lurching and stuttering.
The primary problems, however, stem from the general instantiation (creation) and removal of objects, which can result in large spikes of 100–200 ms, causing lurching and pausing as frame rates fall into the low teens. The largest of these is Hogwarts Castle itself. Stuttering and lurching are caused by objects, walls, and textures that appear as you cut classes and explore the hallways. Although the Switch is most affected in this instance, particularly in crowded areas like among trees or in the castle, and when animating characters with frame rates frequently falling below 30 frames per second, it’s important to note that even current-generation consoles and PCs occasionally experience these same stutters and pauses. Although it’s not the best game on the Switch, the average across more than ten minutes of tested sections is still 28.3 frames per second, with a 95% frame time of 50 milliseconds. The amount being pushed here is remarkable, given the hardware.
The switch’s small memory pool is the single biggest obstacle for this port. The maximum RAM that is available is 4GB LPDDR5, and the game will probably only receive about 3.5GB, or half of what the Xbox One can offer at most. The decision to utilize all available RAM is highlighted in the game by disabling video capture. As a result, the game has undergone a significant amount of redesign, specifically for this port. In general, loading times are lengthy, just like in previous generations of the software. The increased sector points that are unique to this port best illustrate this impact. It used to be possible to walk freely up the main high street into Hogsmeade, but on Switch, it takes about a minute for this to load. It used to be easy to enter stores in Hogsmeade; however, these days, there is a line at every door and another line to exit. With all of this combined with the additional loading that the most recent versions of the Switch added, the Switch is up against Starfield to win the title of most loading encountered in 2023.
The resolution is significantly reduced, as predicted, with a counted low of roughly 1024×576 and a target of 1280×720 in docked mode with little to no anti-aliasing coverage. Given that handheld mode is frequently 960×540, this is a good result. It might and probably does run DRS, but consider this to be the average or best-case scenario. It never looks bad here because of the tiny 720p screen, but it is still very noisy with shimmering and fuzzy textures. In addition to the extremely low pixel counts, texture quality is also severely compromised.
Even with such a drastic cut to texture assets, we still see low-quality mip-maps and extremely low texture filtering in the game—though the opening prologue is far better. The game can have trouble loading mip-maps from its Unreal Engine 4 base. On the game’s open map, however, everything has mushy, soupy textures. Massive reductions in light are also observed; the sun even seems to have moved. Interiors employ less light and fewer sources of shadow casting, and shadow maps are significantly shorter in cascade and quality. With the layers reduced to base albedo and specular, the core physically-based materials have also mostly disappeared, giving us a look reminiscent of the Xbox 360 and PS3. The significant decrease in the number of object triangles supports this. In contrast to the Xbox One, objects have a more hexagonal appearance and are less round. Additionally, areas have been rearranged to conserve performance and space. In order to reduce geometry load and spare valuable CPU and GPU time, Windows now has animated objects with simple textures and walled-off views.
The most affected characters have stiffer, more robotic mouths and facial expressions.
The most affected are the characters, whose faces and expressions, as a result of the decreased detail, can alter the way their faces appear and move. Moreover, a significant reduction in the animated bone rigging underneath results in mouths and expressions that are far stiffer and more robotic. When speaking, shadows on faces can pop and flicker due to their extremely low resolution. The Xbox One and Switch versions differ significantly from one another in terms of lights, shadows, details, hair cards, animation, textures, and world detail. Huge reductions have also been made to the quality of the trees, grass, NPCs, and world clutter. Along with the removal of motion blur and SSR, numerous sections that previously had rain have also been reduced or eliminated. Only projected cube maps are used for reflections in water bodies, which makes sense given that this effect can be GPU-intensive.
The sound quality exceeds my expectations. As anticipated, there is a significant loss of clarity and quality. To make up for this, you can turn up the volume on the switch. However, this may be a memory-related bug, as you also experience fewer sound effects and occasionally even miss any music. Although all the voices, music, and sound effects are present, you might experience more pop, fizzle, and compression problems than on any other version if you have a good TV setup.
It was always going to be difficult to fit Hogwarts Legacy onto the Switch, but the team succeeded. Even though Hogwarts pushes much more demanding visuals, quality, and scale than previous year’s big games like Pokemon Scarlet and Violet, loading times, resolution, and performance all suffer. Nevertheless, overall, they are playable. The world, detail, and quality have all been severely reduced, but it has been done so in a way that makes sense, as evidenced by the heavy use of blockier objects, more billboard trees, and plain textures for details. Recall VHS tapes more than movie theater prints. Scale, material accuracy, color clarity, fine detail, and overall quality are all severely compromised, but with enough imagination and squinting, you can still see the same wonder.