CD Projekt RED’s The Witcher 3 has become a modern classic. The immersive roleplaying game was one of the major standouts of the last gaming generation. It still maintains a healthy fanbase to this day.
Excitement filled the air with the announcement of a free next-gen update. The update promised to bring more modern features to the now nine-year-old title. In theory, this patch is a great idea, as it adds a bevy of visual touches for PS5 and Xbox Series X players.
The overall reception of patch 4.01 has been rather mixed since its initial launch in February of 2023. The promised perks are there, but user response has been less than stellar. Why are users so unenthused with this modernization of a classic RPG?
Let’s take a look at the patch notes, the performance, and everything else surrounding patch 4.01 for The Witcher 3.
The Witcher 3 4.01 Update Patch Notes
CDPR’s patch notes are rather sparse for update 4.01. What can be gleaned from the patch notes are some notable additions, however.
PC users have a fix for Screen Space Reflections, which was not working previously. There is also the addition of global ray tracing illumination. For users with a compatible GPU, the option should be readily available now. It also seems to integrate DLSS for compatible NVIDIA GPUs, which should bring more performance boosts.
Console users have a vital fix for the creation of more saves than the game is allowed. This potentially caused issues for console gamers, with faults like game crashes and resetting user settings being common. Next-gen console players also have the addition of ray tracing and more robust support for SSR like the PC version.
Beyond that, there are fixes for various quests and gameplay aspects. It is quite admirable to see CDPR still patching a single-player game that has been out for nearly a decade.
What Went Wrong With Patch 4.01?
Patching a massive game is quite the undertaking. This is doubly true when integrating new features when the software may have originally had zero support for them.
The Witcher 3 is plagued with performance issues on next-generation consoles in the month since the release of patch 4.01. It is graphically beautiful, but actual performance has tanked on performance and quality mode.
Many users have reported massive decreases in frame rate when navigating in-game areas like Novigrad and Beauclair. As these are central hubs for progressing the game’s story, it could make the game unplayable for some.
Further, the fixes intended for some quests are still not resolved. One such issue is the Battle Preparations quest, which previously had issues with gamers not being able to progress the quest line.
Patch 4.01 ostensibly took care of this issue. However, it seems to have created an entirely separate issue instead. Gamers are still reporting that they can’t resolve the quest, but at least it seems like this is an entirely different issue.
What’s Next For the Game?
In March of 2023, CDPR was quick to push out 4.02 for The Witcher 3. Most of the same issues and improvements are targeted. Overall performance gains and bug fixes are the primary focus of the patch. In practice, 4.02 is still plagued with the same issues present in 4.01 and the previous next-gen update.
CPU utilization is still quite poor on PC, with the game itself only using two to three cores while active. DirectX 12 support is still broken, with the difference in performance between the default DX11 and DX12 versions being massive.
Some users have reported a solid 60 frames per second or higher on DX11 while receiving less than half of that on DX12. The quest fixes seem to have taken for 4.02. It seems most concerns from players are centered around performance issues rather than gameplay.
CDPR has stayed committed to continuing to support its product. It has been almost a decade since The Witcher 3 was released. When the game was initially released, the PS4 was still in its first year of active support. CDPR is still standing by it after the release of a whole new console.
Why Does The Witcher 3 Have Issues on Next-Gen Consoles?
Creating a piece of software for a targeted hardware set is a difficult task. However, updating that piece of software for newer hardware is immensely difficult. CDPR is essentially adding features to an engine that wasn’t designed for those features in the first place. Now, for most older games, after support is sunset, that’s it. This has been the case for years and years, with the occasional remaster bringing the game to then-modern standards.
Realistically, The Witcher 3 isn’t that old. It still runs on modern computers and could exist on next-gen consoles, just like other previous-gen games. Modern games are monstrously complex, and adding massive features like changes to global illumination can make or break things.
This also extends to the targeted performance gains for consoles and PCs alike. Theoretically, not much has changed, but the PS4 and Xbox One versions were designed with a specific set of hardware in mind, and adapting for newer, more capable hardware could prove to be difficult.
PC games have an entirely different issue where they are designed for the widest range of hardware possible. System requirements are more of a loose guideline as to what the developers expect the game to run on.
New hardware presents new complications, as things like enhanced instruction sets can require more man-hours and money spent on an already completed project. It is admirable that CDPR has decided to stick with its game, even after the launch of its successor in Cyberpunk 2077.
Moving Forward With The Witcher 3
CDPR has been swift with its response, and a 4.03 patch was released just days ago. Initial impressions aren’t out yet, but the devs seem to be taking patching the game quite seriously. Despite its new set of teething problems, it is still a watershed game for fantasy RPGs. Gamers after an immersive world would still be well-served purchasing The Witcher 3.
CDPR isn’t abandoning the game, and all indicators seem to point to patching the game until it is at the desired level of performance. If you’re on the fence about buying The Witcher 3, it is still very much worth playing.
Patches are coming out swiftly, which is always a great sign. If you can live without the visual improvements on PC, the DX11 version still works as it did in 2014. Next-gen consoles might be due for a bit of a longer wait; until things are just right. Compared to the somewhat spotty performance on the PS4 and Xbox One, it is a marked improvement, though.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Miguel Lagoa/Shutterstock.com.