The words impossible to carry, punch above its weight, and even black magic are often used when it comes to gaming on small hardware. With Hogwarts Legacy now launching on Nintendo Switch, it could be another time to break out these tropes… but not quite. Hogwarts Legacy is not a miracle port, despite its compression on the Switch (literally, with an install size of 7.4 GB compared to 22.1 GB on the Xbox One version). This manages to be better than expected, but in still difficult places as expected.
Hogwarts Legacy on Switch only offers one performance mode, with few options to choose from. This is a step up from the Xbox One version, which offers motion blur, film grain, and even an unlocked frame rate toggle. To be clear, this is a last-gen game, as we discussed in our original article. Performance Review. This already reduces the pressure on this port of the Switch, but additional reductions are necessary in order to mitigate the drastic reduction in CPU and GPU power, as well as the reduction in memory size and bandwidth. On Switch we have similar performance levels to the Xbox One version, although some areas are worse. These are mostly memory and/or CPU bound data streaming sections, which feed the data world and clean up as they go. The result is a game that can run quite well at 30fps in non-stressful areas outside of battles and loading sectors. But during these moments, the frame time is often closer to 50ms, meaning we see a frame rate of around 24-25fps for extended periods of time. It’s not great, and the slowness can be felt without frame analysis.
The biggest problems, however, come from general instantiation (creation) of objects and deletion of other objects, which can cause huge spikes of 100-200 ms, leading to lurches and pauses when the frequencies of images drop into the teens. Hogwarts Castle itself is the main culprit. Textures, objects, and walls appear when you clear courses and explore hallways, causing stutters and lurching. It’s worth noting that even current-gen consoles and PCs sometimes suffer from these same stutters and pauses, but it’s the Switch that’s most affected here, especially in dense areas, like among trees, in the castle and when animating characters, with the frame. rates often below 30 frames per second. The average over 10 minutes of sections tested is still 28.3fps with a 95% frame time of 50ms, which isn’t great but certainly far from the worst game on Switch, and the The amount pushed here is impressive considering the hardware.
The biggest challenge for this port is the Switch’s small memory pool. 4GB of LPDDR5 RAM is all that’s available, and the game probably gets around 3.5GB, half that of the Xbox One, at most. Video capture is disabled in the game, highlighting the choices made to use all possible RAM. The result is that the game has been significantly redesigned for this port. Loading takes a long time in the latest generation versions and it’s generally the same here. This impact is no more apparent than in the increase in sector points exclusive to this port. Entering Hogsmeade used to be an open walk down the main street, whereas on Switch it takes about a minute to load. Entering stores in Hogsmeade used to be seamless, whereas now we’re faced with loading for each door you enter and the same for exiting. All of this, plus the existing extra loadout added by last-gen versions, means the Switch is competing with Starfield for the award for largest loadout encountered in 2023.
As expected, the resolution is a big cut, targeting 1280×720 in docked mode with very little to no antialiasing coverage, with dynamic resolution scaling giving a minimum of around 1024×576. This is a good result, because portable mode is often 960×540. It can and probably does perform DRS, but expect this to be a best case or average result. Thanks to the small 720p screen, the picture is never bad here, although it remains very noisy with shimmering and blurry textures. Besides the very low number of pixels, the other important aspect is the quality of the texture.
The game can struggle with loading mip-maps from its Unreal Engine 4 base, meaning that even with such a drastic reduction in texture resources, we’re still seeing low-quality mip-maps and texture filtering incredibly weak, although the opening prologue is much better. However, on the game’s open map, we see soft, fluffy textures on everything. Additionally, we are also seeing massive reductions in brightness – even the sun appears to have moved. Shadow maps are much shorter in terms of cascading and quality, and interiors use less light and fewer shadow casting sources. The base physics materials are also largely gone now, with layers reduced to base albedo and specular, giving us a generational Xbox 360/PS3 look. Supporting this is the massive reduction in the number of object triangles. Objects are less rounded and have a very hexagonal appearance compared to the Xbox One. The areas have also been modified to save space and performance. Animated objects in viewports are now simple textures and views are partitioned to save geometry overhead and save valuable CPU and GPU time.
Characters suffer the most, with faces and expressions affected by the reduced level of detail, which can change the appearance and movement of faces. The animated bone rigging underneath is also greatly reduced, leaving mouths and expressions much stiffer and more robotic. Shadows are very low resolution and may flicker and appear on faces when you speak. All of these things add up to a marked difference between the Xbox One and Switch versions, with reductions in lights, shadows, details, hair maps, animation, textures, and world details. Additionally, we’re also seeing huge reductions in grass, tree quality, world clutter, and NPCs. Even motion blur and SSR are removed, as well as many sections where it was raining are now removed or reduced. Water bodies rely on projected cube maps only for reflections, which is understandable as it can be a GPU-intensive effect.
The sound is better than I feared. Quality and clarity are severely compressed as expected, with the volume turned up on the Switch to compensate and you also get fewer sound effects and even miss music sometimes, although this could be a memory-related bug. All vocals, music and sound effects are included, but with a decent TV setup you may notice more pop, fizz and compression issues than on any other version.
Hogwarts Legacy was always going to be an uphill battle trying to adapt to the Switch, but the team managed it. Loading, resolution, and performance suffer, but they’re generally on the good side of playable, especially compared to games as big as Pokemon Scarlet and Violet last year, with Hogwards certainly pushing visuals, quality, and scale much more demanding. Although the world, detail and quality were reduced significantly, it was done intelligently, showing heavy use of simple textures for detail, more display trees and larger objects. Think more about VHS copying than cinema film printing. Fine detail, material accuracy, color clarity, scale, and overall quality are heavily sacrificed, but you can make out the same wonder if you squint and use your imagination…and a little magic.
Gn En tech