The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is an action role-playing video game set in an open world environment, developed by Polish video game developer CD Projekt RED
The Witcher 3 delivers, and it is jaw dropping. (SPOILERS INSIDE)
The Witcher was created by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski, and has spanned over 5 books. It focuses on Geralt of Rivea and his journey through the world as a Witcher, a monster hunter who, at a young age, is trained and have their bodies modified in order to fight monsters.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt picks up almost directly after the The Witcher 2, and introduces a world at war with the Kingdom of Nilfgaard trying to gain order over the Northern Kingdoms. Geralt however has no interest in the goings on of politics and kings and just wants to get on with his old life and locate Ciri before she is captured by the group Wild Hunt.
As Geralt you are not only tasked to find Ciri, but also help the local populaces as you traverse the many different lands of the Northern Kingdoms. As you arrive in any town, there will either be quest markers for people for you to talk to and complete a quest for, or there are notice boards that will set up markers on your map for you to go discover and complete. The amount of markers will not always be appropriate to your current level however, and even something directly for your level can still be very challenging. For instance. when you first come to Velen and go to the notice board, you are most likely only level 4 or maybe 5. The board will give you many new quests and points to visit that are very close to where the town is, so basic RPG rules would mean that those are starting quests and you can go ahead and knock those out for experience and items… this is not the case at all. I decided to take the above approach and go visit a mark on the map… only to discover a group of 6 bandits that were double my level and quickly killed me and laughed at how stupid I was. This was a hard lesson to learn, but I never made it again. This was a very smart move on CD Projekt Red’s part in order to keep the player guessing and thinking throughout the game, and not just plow through it forgetting that this is a living, breathing world.
Every decision you make in this world has consequences: some of these decisions turn out quite well for Geralt (sometimes they involve forest dinner dates that turn out very well for him) or turn out horrible as you see villagers get murdered for how you helped them. One of the best examples is the task you take to help out a certain Baron to find his wife and child who disappeared one night without a trace. You quickly find out through dialogue options and investigations that the Baron was an abusive drunk whom drove his family out after one of his drunken beatings caused the miscarriage of his pregnant wife’s child. You still decide to help the man due to the fact a Witcher still needs to eat, and the coin is too good to turn away. This story line spanned approximately 6 hours of gameplay interwoven between main story quest-lines and side story quest-lines in order to bring it to a very dramatic close. The characters were well written, the quests were fun and engaging, and the decisions you make ultimately decide the fate of one of the main characters to the quest-line, so stop and think next time you are about to blow through dialogue, because that could mean the life or death of a character you are talking to.
The world in which you quest is a beautifully realistic and engaging place that you may find yourself stopping to watch the sun cascade through the trees and on Geralt as he walks through the woods. You will see wolves hunting deer, or random peasants tilling their fields and talking among each other. The world itself is gigantic, originally boasting it was over “20% bigger than Skyrim” as far as open world goes, and I believe them.
Now one thing to point out is that it is not 100% open world and more so split into zones which have massive open world aspects to them. The two main places that you will do most questing through are Skellige and Velen, and these zones hold multiple towns, lakes, dungeons, castles, towers, and more monsters than you can imagine roaming the countrysides. You will never run out of little things to find, treasures to gather and interesting quests to stumble across.
The combat in this game is much more fluid and cohesive than the previous two games. Your primary weapons are two swords, one silver, one steel. Essentially these swords translate to one for monsters, one for people. With these swords you have the ability to slice and stab with quick attacks and powerful down stroke attacks depending on the type of enemy you come across. You also have the ability to parry, block and dodge out of the way while fighting as well, and this is something that you will need to learn to do because you can’t simply take the hits in this game, you just defend yourself appropriately or see yourself killed by a couple of monsters half your level.
Since you are a well trained, modified human, you have the ability to cast “signs” – basically magic: some are to harm, some are to defend, and there are also abilities to influence the monsters and men you meet. You also get some bombs, different oils to coat your sword so you do more damage, potions to increase your stats, and a crossbow to attack your enemies from afar or take down something flying in to take off your head.
Since release, I have played about 30 hours of the game, and I feel like I haven’t accomplished a thing. I have managed to save some farmers, help a priest, make love to a witch in a forest, and accidentally kill a guy by sending his ex lovers ghost after him. As far as the main story goes? I’m not even close as far as I can see. I’m level 11 and I still get my butt kicked by groups of lesser monsters and can’t seem to figure out why falling 6 feet kills me (honestly the fall damage is overpowered). I can’t seem to put down the game though – I have a Skyrim level obsession with it and that’s not a bad thing. Cd Projekt Red has been able to take everything that was wonderful with the previous two games and deliver in a grand way in The Witcher 3. You not only get a great story with Geralt who is a fun protagonist to play as, but you also get to see the world fully fleshed out as it has always meant to be.
There are things that need to be fixed though, especially on console who was not gotten any updates yet. Since release, PC has gotten two updates addressing and fixing issues with the game, and so far console has not. There have been times where the controls have stuck, unresponsive, the map has frozen, random stretching and glitching out of textures, and NPC’s acting wacky. There is also an issue with the frame-rates dropping for no reason and random loading screens when you are doing nothing but talking to a quest giver. There is also an issue with the text size chosen for the game, which is borderline rage inducing when you are trying to read what is on the screen. The text may be fine on a computer screen when you are two feet away, but having the same size text on a 40 inch TV 6 feet away requires you to either stand up and walk closer, or squinting to read item details. Luckilly CD Projekt Red is great at taking customer feedback and fixing whatever issues there are quite quickly, but they have to put up with all the red tape that releasing on a console comes with. Generally console gamers will get the update about a week later than PC gamers will.
Besides these issues, the game as a whole is a wonderful experience and I can finally say I have a truly current-gen game that fans have been promised for so long. Almost every game that has come out for XBO or PS4 has been a port from a previous console, or was developed for the older gen and retrofitted to be released for the current gen of consoles, giving the gamer a less than stellar experience in what a current-gen game should be. If this is the future of gaming and what can be expected over the next few years, I will be more than happy to keep my controllers charged and my headset plugged in.
+ story is well thought out and immersive
+ great combat system
+ giant world to explore
+ interesting quests and side quests
- frame rate drop
- controls freezing
- graphical glitches