The Magic of Hogwarts Legacy Comes to the Nintendo Switch
The words impossible port, punching above its weight, and even black magic are thrown around often when it comes to games on diminutive hardware. With Hogwarts Legacy, now launching on the Nintendo’s Switch, it could be another time to wheel out those tropes… but not quite. Hogwarts Legacy is not a miracle port, despite squeezing onto the Switch (quite literally, with a 7.4GB install size compared to 22.1GB on the Xbox One version). It manages to be better than feared, yet in places still rough as expected.
Hogwarts Legacy on Switch offers only a single performance mode, with few options to choose from. This is a step down from the Xbox One version, which has motion blur, film grain and even an unlocked frame-rate toggle. To be clear, this is a last generation game through-and-through, as we discussed in our original performance review. This already reduces the pressure on this Switch port, but further reductions are required in order to mitigate the drastic reduction in CPU and GPU power, as well as lower memory size and bandwidth. On Switch, we have similar levels of performance to the Xbox One version, though some areas are worse. These mostly seem to be memory and/or CPU-bound sections of data streaming, keeping the world fed with data and cleaning up behind as it goes. The result is a game that can run pretty well at 30fps in non-stressful areas outside of battles and loading sectors. But during these moments it is often closer to the 50ms frame time, meaning we see frame rate around 24-25 fps for prolonged periods. That’s not great, and the sluggishness can be felt without a frame analysis.
Textures, objects, and walls pop in as you explore the halls of Hogwarts Castle, causing stuttering and lurching.
The biggest issues though come from general instantiation (creation) of objects and removal of others, which can cause huge 100-200ms spikes, resulting in lurching and pausing as frame rates drop into the low teens. Hogwarts Castle itself is the biggest culprit of these. Textures, objects, and walls pop in as you cut classes and explore the halls, causing stuttering and lurching. It’s worth noting that even the current-gen consoles and PC sometimes suffer from these same stutters and pauses, but the Switch is affected the most here, especially in dense areas, like among trees, in the castle, and when animating characters, with frame rates often below 30fps. The average across 10+ minutes of tested sections is still 28.3fps with a 95% frame time of 50ms, which is not great but certainly far from the worst game on Switch, and the amount being pushed here is impressive considering the hardware.
The single biggest challenge for this port is the tiny memory pool of the Switch. 4GB LPDDR5 RAM is all that’s available, and the game likely gets around 3.5GB, which is half that of the Xbox One, at most. Video capture is disabled in the game, highlighting the choices made to use all the RAM possible. The result is that the game has been redesigned quite extensively for this port. Loading is long in the last generation versions and by and large this is the same here. This impact is no more apparent than in the increased sector points exclusive to this port. Entering Hogsmeade used to be an open stroll up the main high street, whereas on Switch this is around a minute or so to load. Entering shops in Hogsmeade used to be seamless, whereas now we are met with a load for each door you enter and the same for the way out. All this, alongside the existing extra loading the last-generation versions added, means the Switch is competing with Starfield for the award of most Loading encountered in 2023.
As expected, resolution is a big cut, targeting 1280×720 in docked mode with very little to no anti-aliasing coverage, with dynamic resolution scaling giving a counted low of approximately 1024×576. This is a good result, as handheld mode is often 960×540. It may and likely does run DRS, but expect this as the best case or average result. Due to the small 720p screen it never looks bad here, although it is still very noisy with shimmer and blurry textures. Aside from the very low pixel counts, the other huge cut is texture quality.
Shrinking the Magic
Hogwarts Legacy was always going to be an uphill battle trying to fit onto the Switch, but the team achieved it. Loading, resolution, and performance all take a hit, but generally they are on the right side of playable, especially compared to such big games as Pokemon Scarlet and Violet last year, with Hogwards certainly pushing much more demanding visuals, quality and scale. Although the world, detail, and quality…