Don’t Mess With The Witcher


The Witcher

Yes, I’m angry too

The Witcher and The Witcher 2 get high praise from PC video gamers as being complex, immersive, adult-oriented RPGs. By the way, I always find it amusing when these games are called ‘RPGs’—roleplaying this is not, and despite the occasional moral decision or choice of endings, they hardly come within an orc’s roar of the possibilities of real roleplaying games. Anyway, I digress. My message here is to Mac video gamers.

I first attempted to play The Witcher via Valve’s game distribution system Steam, and the game did nothing but crash my computer. I tried all kinds of technical mucking about to get the thing to work, doing the usual trawl through forums and websites and following arcane instructions, but no luck. I also discovered that the game wasn’t even a proper port, but simply stuck in some middle-man emulation wrapper. Though they happily take my money, Steam take no responsibility for anything they sell actually working; but after complaining enough I eventually convinced them to credit my purchase (it was only $10) and bought Faster Than Light instead (a fun little game by the way).

I know, I should have learned my lesson, but the release of The Witcher 2 for Mac the other day tempted me to try once more. This time—since I’ve vowed never again to use Steam—I bought and downloaded it from for a bit over $20. Lucky it was cheap, because despite the fact it actually does work and play this time, I’m not happy with its performance. On my brand new 2.6Ghz quad-core Intel Core i7 MacBook Pro with retina display, 16Gb RAM and 1024Mb NVIDIA GeForce graphics card, I can’t get anywhere near a decent frame rate with high quality graphic settings; a particularly annoying quality when you’re trying to make quick clicks with a stuttering mouse cursor during combat. It’s certainly playable, and can still be graphically impressive, but I have to set the screen size and quality settings to ‘low spec’.

Low spec? That’s just ridiculous. While PC gamers scoff at Mac graphic cards, it’s not because the Mac isn’t capable of handling games like this. I played Call of Duty 4 on this machine, full screen at 2560 x 1440 and 16:9, with every setting completely maxxed out, and it looked incredible and played smoothly, even in the most complex battle scenes. Why can’t The Witcher 2 work as well?

Another annoyance is that you have to completely quit the game and start again if you want to tweak the graphic settings—making the process of optimising your game far more time-consuming and difficulty than it should be.

So if you’re a Mac user and you’re tempted by either of these games, take my advice—forget the first one, and take a long hard look at your Mac specs before buying the second. Anything less than a top-of-the-line Mac and I think you’ll be greatly disappointed, and even then the really good graphic settings seem out of reach. I predict we’re about to see a lot of complaints about the practical playability of this new port. Personally, I’m fed up with publishers taking advantage of Mac gamers by releasing sub-standard Mac versions—no doubt relying on enough quick sales to justify the effort before word gets around.

5 Comments (+add yours?)

    Dec 07, 2012 @ 12:31:02

    I wish I would have done my research before purchasing this game from steam (at least I got it for cheap). I don’t even come close to any gameplay on my MacBook Pro that I purchased back in 2010. I guess I can buy it for my Xbox.


  2. GP
    Dec 20, 2012 @ 16:36:10


    I came across this page while running a search on how to access the game manual, strategy guide and bonus features after having downloaded the Witcher Enhanced Edition from steam on to I-Mac. So far am able to run the game at 2560 x 1440 with most settings maxed out and the optional ones enabled. The frame rate has been mostly very good although as with many games these days seems to drop a little during some cut-scenes. (I still haven’t found the manual and bonus materials though…!). However, I do not for a moment think I would be able to do this with The Witcher 2 and I do sympathise with your problems.

    I concede Mac ports of PC games are often far from perfect but it is worth bearing some of the following points in mind for future purchases as your problems with the Witcher 2 are much more of a tech problem than you think as opposed to simply the results of a sloppy port.

    Using your max-setting performance for Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare as a benchmark for the graphical grunt available to you in respect to recent games won’t be much use to you; you are talking about a 4 year old port of a 5 year old game. Just a couple of years difference can mean a lot in terms of gaming performance and the necessary tech for it.

    If your Mac Book Pro is the latest then I presume you are running an Nvidia GT 650M…? For the rest of the post, allow me the liberty of assuming you are.

    You may already be doing this but don’t forget to check out the minimum vs. recommended system requirements at the bottom of the product page. According to the Witcher 2 product description, your 650m (if that is indeed what you are using) is of minimum requirement standard to run the game on low settings at 1440×900 resolution… – let alone the Retina display’s native res of 2880×1800. This is why you are having to compromise on screen size. Maintaining high resolution at full size screen requires a lot of graphical muscle.

    To quote from this link, “We do not recommend installation of this game for users with low-end or middle-end graphic cards… A high-end graphic card like the GeForce GTX 580M or a Radeon HD 6990M is necessary to run the game on high details and active Anti-Aliasing. Ultra high details and a Full HD resolution (1920×1080 pixels) with Super-Sampling is too much for any currently available notebook graphic card. Even expensive dual-GPU systems have to give up at these settings.”

    These stats are from Windows laptops so sloppy PC to Mac porting is of no consequence here. The closest equivalent to your Gt 650M in their list is the Nvidia Gtx 660M which is basically a slightly souped up version of the 650 (the tech is the same, the 660 is just marginally faster). In order for an average of 30+ frames per second to be maintained, the 660M is still limited to 1366 x 758 res with only medium settings.

    The fact is the Witcher 2 is known to be a graphically very demanding game and even DESKTOP PC gamers with all but the highest spec graphics cards from this and the last generation may have problems running it at full screen at high settings, high-res and high frame rates at the same time…

    “We found the Ultra Spec quality preset to be extremely demanding when testing The Witcher 2. In fact, there is no single graphics card that will provide playable performance at resolutions above 1680×1050. At that resolution, the dual-GPU GeForce GTX 590 and Radeon HD 6990 flop delivering a flimsy 36fps and 21fps”.

    The cards quoted here are the absolute top end of the last generation of DESKTOP GPUs and are still faster than the top end single GPU cards of this year’s generation.
    Your GT 650M and the Radeon 6970M in the 2011 I-Mac that I am typing this on now are “laptop cards” and are not as powerful as their equivalent in a desktop. So for example an Nvidia Gt 580M (laptop card) will not be nearly as powerful as a desktop Gtx 580 in a PC, they are simply different products.
    Moreover, although the Gt 650M can be considered near the bottom of the high end laptop cards class in general as far as those in common use go, by this and last year’s standards for gaming it is mid range at best. Even with my 2011 I-mac’s Radeon 6970M card I would be looking at 1920 x 1080p on medium settings for the Witcher 2, not the native res of 2560 x 1440.

    Sadly with newer more technically demanding games you will have to compromise on some settings and disable some of the optional ones entirely if you want to run full screen at higher resolutions and still get reasonable frame rates. Even then you may have problems. (There is some scope for improvement as Nvidia release further graphics card driver updates though). You should still be able to play some of the the other newer games with reasonable frame rates on high settings at lower resolutions though 🙂

    If you haven’t already, try dialling down the resolution several notches first before playing around with the other graphical settings. The aforementioned and other websites often run tests rating and cataloging laptop GPU performance on major titles and it’s worth checking them out to get a better idea of how your card might handle the game you are considering buying.

    Hope this helps and best of gaming luck in the future!


  3. universalhead
    Dec 20, 2012 @ 16:49:00

    Thanks for that long and detailed post, it’s much appreciated.

    Not being much of a technical boffin, I guess I just come down to a few basic factors – I have the most powerful Mac laptop on the market, so why does the game only run at the *lowest* specs available?

    Beyond that, I don’t know why the latest MacBook Pro comes with such a substandard graphics card, and I don’t know why even the medium settings of The Witcher demand so much. It’s just one of those things – but it strikes me as weird that a game is released for the Mac, that doesn’t run on the *very latest* MacBook Pro at better than its lowest specs. At the very least, it would be nice if the publishers worked out the best combination of specs for some basic Mac models (like mine) and made them available.

    Anyway, I’ve given up on the game. Life’s too short to muck around with graphics settings all day! 🙂

    I think I’ll stick with the Xbox 360 when it comes to my gaming!

    Thanks for your great post!


  4. Edward
    Oct 10, 2013 @ 09:27:18

    I bought Witcher and Witcher 2 to run on my Mac Pro (bootcamp).

    Witcher 1 ran fine on my original Mac Pro (1.1).

    However Witcher 2 runs like a complete dog on my latest generation (2012) Mac Pro.

    So I think there is little hope that Witcher 2 will run in any way usefully on any current Mac under OSX.


  5. universalhead
    Oct 10, 2013 @ 09:49:37

    I trashed it and finally learnt my lesson about buying Mac ports of PC games. 🙂


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