RiME Should Not Have Been Released on the Nintendo Switch

UPDATE 2/24/18: RiME has been updated to version 1.0.2. As such, many of the issues pointed out in this article have been patched. Click here for our updated article and opinion.

When Tequila Works announced that RiME would finally be released after four years of rocky development, course correction, and reworking, I was instantly intrigue. That they were drawing inspiration from the likes of The Witness, ICO, and Journey had me almost positive it would be a game I’d love, but when they surprised us all by announcing that the game would be coming to the Nintendo Switch, I decided to hold off from buying the game on any other console. At that point, the Switch had already embedded itself in my rotation as the only console I played, and I was sure that RiME would only give me more to love. Unfortunately, I was wrong, and now that RiME has come to the Nintendo Switch it has only highlighted the platform’s obvious but previously inconsequential weaknesses.

RiME on PS4, credit: Tequila Works

As a whole, RiME has accumulated a decent response from critics. Most of the game’s praise is about its visuals, its game world, and its puzzles, but its criticism laments that the game has nothing new to offer, that it’s derivative of the games from which it draws inspiration, and that it has performance issues that detract from the experience as a whole. On the PS4, XBOX ONE, and PC this problem seems but a small complaint, but on the Nintendo Switch it’s so much worse that its critics are actually urging consumers to play it on any other console.

I didn’t want to believe this news myself, but on the day of RiME’s release on the Nintendo Switch the chorus of cautionary reviews became so great that I couldn’t justify the risk. In a video laying out all of the problems with RiME on Nintendo Switch, Alex from Nintendo Life offered footage of the game running on an XBOX ONE to demonstrate just how badly it runs on Nintendo Switch while docked, and how ugly and blurry the game looks in handheld.

If you don’t have eight minutes to spare for his video review, here’s a screenshot of RiME on the PS4:

RiME on PS4, credit: Tequila Works.

And here’s that same shot on the Switch:

RiME on Nintendo Switch, credit: switchplayer.net

Tequila Works have acknowledged this issue, but their response is… interesting, to say the least. During a Reddit AMA, they admitted that the game didn’t run as well as they would like on any platform, but that in the case of the Switch version “we were faced with the choice of adding loading screens throughout the stages, rebuilding the game completely to be more closed in (undermining the product vision in the process), or living with these small hiccups to preserve what the game was intended to be. We chose the latter.”

What’s so alarming about this response is not their subtle admission that their game was built on a crappy engine, but rather the stats that they throw out beforehand: “Rime [sic] runs at 30fps in 720p throughout most of the game while docked” and an even lower resolution while handheld, but it’s not their fault because “it’s incredibly difficult to get these level segments small enough to not cause a hiccup in performance.”

On their own these comments could make sense, but since there are other games on the Switch that we can compare RiME to, the argument they’re trying to make becomes less of a reason and more of an excuse. After all, Super Mario Odyssey, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Splatoon 2, ARMS, and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, to name but a few, all run on the Switch at a dynamic 900p-1080p while docked and a dynamic 600p-720p while handheld, all the while maintaining 30-60fps (with a few exceptions here and there, of course). The Nintendo Switch is an under-powered system, but the conclusion to be drawn here is that the game and its engine, rather than the console itself, is to blame for RiME‘s poor performance.

RiME on Nintendo Switch, credit: switchplayer.net

In RiME’s defense, it’s important to remember that Tequila Works is an indie developer and therefore simply doesn’t have the same resources as the first-party titles mentioned above. It’s also important to note that even games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild suffer from similar, albeit less prominent problems (which have been lessened after several patches). But these facts alone simply aren’t enough.

I refuse to buy RiME on the Nintendo Switch, let alone any other console. Don’t get me wrong, it still looks like a great game that I might have even loved, but the developers’ treatment of it has me incredibly leery. Tequila Works doesn’t really seem to know what they’re doing, they don’t seem open to learning, and in the end their self-proclaimed efforts to “preserve the experience” by all but destroying it simply don’t add up.

If Tequila Works believed what they’re saying, RiME for the Nintendo Switch would have been canceled. Any other studio would be faced with nigh-catastrophic reputational consequences for putting out a game that runs as poorly as RiME on the Nintendo Switch. That’s exactly what it’s done to me and my opinion of Tequila Works, but this would never have happened if they’d simply wisened up, put the project on hold, or canceled it altogether.

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