How do you even review a game like The Witcher? At this point it isn’t so much as a game as it is a way of life. I don’t remember the last time a game has sucked me in so deep and I had to consume everything Witcher related while most waking thoughts were of “When can I get some time to play The Witcher today and what should I do in it?” This should serve as a testament to what CD Projekt Red has accomplished with The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt. This by far the most fun, immersive and largest open world game I have ever played. I have forty plus hours in on my (first) playthrough so far and I have barely scratched the surface of what The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has to offer.
For those just jumping into the world of The Witcher, the character and world is based on a popular series of Polish Books (after playing the game I’ve now started reading the books) by Andrzej Sapkowski. The titular Witcher is Geralt of Rivea whose goal at the opening of the game is to track down his lost lover through a war torn country full of corpses, monsters and shady citizens. But to limit the story synopsis to that would be a crime. The story quickly branches out and every side quest and character you meet along the way is so intertwined and detailed, you will have a hard time losing interest. Side quests can found in towns on message boards, as exclamation points on the map, by exploring a random cart on the side of the road, or even just overhearing a conversation in passing. There are also countless areas to explore with some places offering up quests or just a chance to take out some bandits and get some gold. To give you a small idea of how much there is to do in this game, let me give you an example. I was tracking a main story quest when I decided to start checking out all the “question marks” and places that looked like towns on my way. I found no less than five side quests, some ranging from five minutes to an hour or so. If you think that is daunting, don’t. Each quest and encounter is so varied and detailed that it never feels stale or boring. Like I said, the writers did a tremendous job bringing you into the world. Since this is the third game in the series, you may be hesitant to jump in, but don’t be. There are very few points that deal with previous games and information on characters can be found in a pretty in depth glossary section.
The gameplay in The Witcher 3 has been refined in this installment of the series. Combat is simple, yet deep. You have two main attack buttons and two main ways to avoid attacks. Not to mention an array of spells and a crossbow at your disposal. Each enemy you encounter requires a different approach keeping each battle fresh. Monsters all have different weaknesses forcing you to do your research and making sure you are equipped correctly. There is a learning curve when you first start and I’m not going to lie, you’re going to die a bit (a lot) but once you get it you start to feel like the badass Witcher you’re supposed to be. Armor and your weapons gradually break down and lose effectiveness, double if you use the wrong sword on the wrong enemy. Some armor sets can be upgraded and higher level swords and armor can be equipped with signs that increase the strength of your magic. You can craft potions, oils, bombs, etc. but for armor and weapons or if your items break you will have to see a smithy. The leveling system is divided into three main categories for you to dump skill points in. Combat, Signs, and Alchemy. Spending a skill point allows you to unlock a new ability or upgrading an existing one, but just because an ability is unlocked doesn’t mean you can use it. To use a new ability such as parrying arrows, you must equip it. Abilities are not locked and you can swap which ones you are currently using at any given time. This once again adds to the depth and the notion that different areas and enemies require different tactics. Points can be earned by merely leveling up or finding places of power stones littered throughout the world.
The sound design in Wild Hunt is absolutely incredible. From the very beginning you are treated to some of the best voice acting that isn’t Troy Baker. The actors (including Charles Dance) breathe life into each character. The music really gets you into the combat and I find myself wanting to listen to it in random parts of my day. If you’re lucky enough to have a good headset or sound system you will rewarded with the subtle sounds of wind rustling branches, wolves howling, drowners off in the distance, creaky floorboards, all the details make this game come to life. We reviewed this on consoles and it is the most graphically impressive game of the year. An even more impressive feat considering the size and lack of load screens. The lighting effects are stunning and help create a living, breathing world. Character design again goes the extra distance to make each encounter feel fresh.
The Witcher is not without faults. The AI for your horse, Roach, can be frustrating at times especially when whistling him to your location. Just hope that when you need him there isn’t a small fence between the two of you. Interacting with objects and fast travel signs can be a pain as well. The camera has to be just right for you to be able to interact with objects and it seems that near every chest or crate there is a minimum of fifteen candles that you can light or extinguish while trying to focus on getting the loot inside instead. The developers put out a patch that helped with this, but you’ll still find yourself extinguishing candles from time to time when you meant to open a chest. Another curious issue is the inclusion to start a conversation with every NPC character in the game but when you try and interact nothing happens. I am way more than willing to overlook this trivial things given how much fun I’m having with this game. Take in to account the sixteen free DLC packs including new missions and clothing and the fact that paid DLC will hover around thirty hours each and I’ll be okay. What CD Projekt Red is doing with DLC is refreshing given that others in the industry seem fit to charge you money for nothing more than a different costume. I love this game and for the first time in a long time I don’t find myself looking for a new release to pick up. This is a game that has longevity in spades and at this point in the year will be very tough to take my attention away from.
PS4 and Xbox One review code provided by CD Projekt Red