By now, most of you should be familiar with a little game called The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. This is CD PROJEKT RED’s third installment to The Witcher series and their largest game to date. Due to the scope and hype surrounding this game, it’s quite possible that The Witcher 3 will be your first time experiencing The Witcher universe , which is totally what’s going on with me. I have never played the first two games nor do I know any of the back story regarding The Witcher. All I know is that I was initially drawn to the game due to its massive open-world sandbox, its gorgeous graphics, and the promise of a deep, immersive story. Does The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt live up to all the hype? Read on and find out.
I’m not going to give away too much in terms of story as this is one game where you really want to jump into on your own without anyone spoiling any of it for you. I will say that after playing it for several hours a day for a full week, I’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s going on. I’m not the type to speed through a game and I actually like to slow down, take in the environment, and complete a bunch of the side quests. This of course means that I’m no where near completing the main story and I don’t think I will be any time soon.
This is what I know so far. You play as Geralt of Rivia, a Witcher who is also known as ‘The White Wolf‘ and the ‘Butcher of Blaviken.’ Early in the game, you are on a quest to find the sorceress Yennifer of Vengerberg, one of Geralt’s old love interests. It isn’t long before you’re reunited with her and discover that Ciri, a child you considered your adopted daughter, has returned and could potentially be in some life threatening danger. From here, the story turns to finding Ciri by following the trail left by her and her misadventures.
You aren’t the only one looking for Ciri. An evil army called the The Wild Hunt is also after her along with a lot of other people and have no problem leaving death and destruction where ever they go. I’ve had only a couple run ins with them so I’m not entirely too clear yet on what their end goals are at the moment. All I know is that these guys are bad news and you don’t want to mess with.
Of course that’s not the only story in The Witcher 3. There are actually tons and tons of optional side quests with their own story to tell. These aren’t just throw away missions either. These are side quests meant to familiarize you with the land and its people who have so much to share with you. You’ll get to know many of these people on a more personal level, more so than in any other game out there. The Witcher 3 has so much to offer in terms of story that you can spend hundreds of hours and still not “complete” the game.
While the story in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is excellent and the main reason why you should be playing the game, the gameplay itself is also quite marvelous and deep. This is a full on RPG where you’ll be tasked with leveling up Geralt, his magic abilities, and his physical abilities. A huge part of the game is to get stronger as there are many enemies in the world that are just too tough for you to beat early on in the game. This is also because the enemies in this game do not scale to your level so if you’re a level 2 and come across a level 10 enemy, you better run and come back later when you’re stronger.
Another major part of the game will consist of gathering loot, dismantling loot, crafting loot, and using loot. You’ll have to craft new weapons and armor by gathering materials as well as different ingredients to create potions, oils, and bombs. In order to craft some of the game’s more powerful items, you’ll have to find the plans needed to craft them. These are hidden throughout the world or can be purchased from merchants in different towns. The crafting system in The Witcher 3 is also very deep and I suggest just grabbing as many ingredients and crafting materials as you can hold. Sure you can sell some of it for money, but you’ll find better uses for those items later on in the game.
In terms of questing, there is a main storyline you have to follow. The game will usually tell you where you need to go and what level you should be at in order to complete the quest effectively. The small mini-map on the screen will show you exactly where to go. But since this is an open world game, you will miss a lot of the extras if you don’t venture off the path. Visiting new towns will usually yield notice boards with new contracts and side quests you can partake in. There are even side quests you can pick up from random NPCs roaming the land. You don’t have to do any of the side quests to enjoy the game, but they add hours and hours to the overall experience of The Witcher 3.
While the game focuses on Geralt and his quest, you do get some playtime as Ciri. These are mainly flashback type events where those Geralt is interacting with are recalling their events with Ciri. Most of Ciri’s gameplay revolves around combat with no other real RPG style elements. I don’t mind as the combat in the game is quite good and with Ciri, she seems to have a lot more vitality than Geralt does. I really like how these events are interactive and aren’t just a straight up flashbacks we watch.
This is an area of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt that has drawn much debate lately. Many of stating that the game just doesn’t look as good as it did when it was first shown off with many claiming that there was a graphic downgrade. I for one don’t really care because I’ve always been one to believe that gameplay is much more important that how a game looks. I’m not one who is interested in what resolution or at how many frames per second a game runs at. I can barely tell the difference anyways.
I think The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a gorgeous game. CD PROJEKT RED did a wonderful job crafting a game of this size and creating a world that is so alive and populated. A game I would compare this too would be Dragon Age: Inquisition and The Witcher 3 just looks so much better than that. There are way more varied environments included here that all look so much more real than they do in Dragon Age. There are more trees, denser forests and swamps, larger and more detailed cities and towns, and the sky is just amazing. It’s just all very pretty to look at sometimes you just want to stop and stare at it all, forgetting that you have quests to complete.
Let’s not also forget that this game is teaming with life. There are always people roaming the world, whether friendly or not, as well as a variety of animals, monsters, and even ghosts. Most just go about doing their own thing and only really interact with you if you come close or pose a threat. Animals will scurry away from you while monsters and other dangerous creatures will attack. They will even attack each other if they are threatening to one another. I’ve used this to my advantage before and will sometimes lead packs of wolves for instance into packs of monsters and just watch them duke it out while I sit back and pick off the stragglers. Again, this is a living world that goes about its business whether you are around or not.
Not only are the visuals stunning in the game, but so is the audio. Every character in the game now matter what their role is, has a voice. Even random NPCs have voices despite the fact that you don’t even really interact with them. You can hear them all talking to each other, going about their every day lives.
The music in the game is also quite good and never feels distracting at all. If you really want to immerse yourself in the world though, you may want to turn the music off and just enjoy the sounds of nature all around you. You can hear animals scurrying, leaves rustling in the trees, water flowing down the river, and a bunch of other assorted environmental sounds. All of this just makes for a much more realistic game that really pulls you into the world the developers have created.
The game is quite a treat for your senses.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a huge game. It’s so huge that it is quite hard to put everything I’ve experienced into words. I’ve played my share of open world RPGs before and this one so far has been one of my favorites. There are very few RPGs that I’ve gone on to complete whether it be because things just got repetitive or the game just wasn’t very exciting, but The Withcer 3 hasn’t felt like that at all. I always want to do one more quest, one more contract, one more visit to the merchant. There has never been a time when I thought the game was tedious or repetitive.
Even the quests themselves are quite varied where you’ll rarely ever feel like you’re doing the same thing over and over again. I never once felt like I was playing a re-skinned quest or traveling for the sake of making the game longer. Everything you do in the game is for a reason and it’s not to extend the gameplay. The game is already long enough as it is without CD PROJEKT RED having to resort to that.
In the end, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is an amazing experience. It’s such a beautiful game with wonderful visuals and audio, a deep and engaging story, and solid gameplay. If this game doesn’t win every award out there and game of the year, I’d be surprised. I’ve never been a fan of the Witcher series before, but because of this game, I may just go back and play the first two.
Note For Parents – While some of the game could probably be played by your kids (exploration and combat), there are portions of the game that contain lots of foul language, and of course sex and nudity. The game does carry an M Rating, which is equivalent to an R-Rated movie so you’ll want to keep that in mind.
Review code provided to us by the publisher/developer.
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