The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt


Introduction

The Witcher 3 is an open world RPG developed and self-published by the Polish games development company CD Projekt Red. It is rated 18+ and is currently on Xbox One, PS4, and PC. It is the 3rd instalment in the Witcher series, and the final instalment with Geralt of Rivia as the main protagonist. The game has won 256 Game of the  Year awards, breaking the world record for most GotY awards and amounting to over 800 awards in total.

Geralt (left) and Ciri (right) sitting by a bonfire at an elven camp.

Genre/ Story


The Witcher 3 is an action role playing game that is single player. It is set in Andrzej Sapowski's Witcher universe in Velen, Novigrad and the Skellige Isles. Geralt has recovered from his amnesia in the 2nd Witcher instalment and the game picks up not long after those events. It starts the game in such a way that it makes it easy for newcomers to understand what is going on in the world at the time. You are tasked with searching for Geralts surrogate daughter named Ciri, as she is sought after by the wild hunt for her elder blood genetic. The wild hunt are inter dimensional beings that bring blizzards and death wherever they go, they seek Ciris elder blood because it gives her immense control over the use of magic in the witcher universe. This sort of power if mastered with the elder blood would give her the ability to teleport large armies to other planets in the universe or even summon upon storms that could ravage worlds.

Geralt is tasked with this by the emperor of Nilfgaard, as Geralt knows her better than anybody else and is renowned throughout the land as the most legendary of the witchers. Considering witchers have heightened senses and various mutations and extensive training in tracking, swordplay, alchemy and a multitude of other skills, this makes him a perfect pick. If you don't find the main story enthralling, well then you have an exceptionally large amount of side quests that include monster contracts, card game tournaments, heists, hunting down a serial killer, fighting in an underworld arena, dungeon delving and some quests that are genuinely funny. There's plenty of content in this game to satisfy even the most experienced and picky RPG players. Geralt is like a medieval batman, yet he also comes of as master chief at times, and at other times he reminds you of solid snake or big boss from the metal gear solid series. If you are in any way fond of dry wit or sarcasm, then you will enjoy the humour in the Witcher, Geralt has easily taken my spot as my favourite video game character. Usually people prefer to make their own character, but if you play this game, you won't have a problem playing as Geralt.

During loading screens when loading from a save or fast travelling to a different region (there are multiple maps in this game due to the story, because some sections of the game take place in lands far from each other, I will refer to them as regions) you will experience a graphic novel like sketch with a narration over it. This narration will inform you of what's currently going on, has happened or will happen in the main quest line. It's quite informative and comes in handy if you haven't picked up the game in a while, but its a double edged sword. If you enjoy exploring and doing side quests, any time you go through a loading screen like that, you will be forced to listen to the same narration every time, until you progress in the main quest line. There may be a patch out for this where you can deactivate it, but this is a review on the vanilla game on release.

WARNING FOR ANY PARENTS THINKING OF BUYING THEIR KIDS THIS GAME!
There are a large amount of sex scenes in this game due to romantic relationships, brothels and simply just heat of the moment scenarios. Violence and vulgar language is wide spread, this game is intended for a mature audience.

The Protaganist Geralt of Rivia

Geralt wearing Feline school witcher armour.
Despite being given a set character in this game, you really do get to decide what decisions he makes and what sort of a person he is. Geralt is an anti hero at heart, he always has been. A lot of your decisions weigh heavily upon the outcome of the world throughout the game and at the end. Some of your decisions are genuinely moral bending, there's not much black and white. Its a huge area of different shades of grey, most of the time its picking a lesser evil, even then the best outcomes can impact you later on in ways you wouldn't have guest. The game is very similar to game of thrones, as it is grim, unforgiving, unpredictable and realistic, its not your typical fantasy game, this is definitely a darker side to the fantasy genre. Entering the capital city Novigrad, I was met with herbalists and sorceresses being burned alive on pyres by a religious cult because a king didn't trust them, despite fighting a war with an unrelenting empire. This isn't the only problem though, as their is widespread racism directed towards dwarves and elves in the game, while witchers are shunned by all races, they are seen as monstrosities, but are needed to kill off the monsters that have entered the world through different dimensions.


Game Play

Geralt fighting a Royal Griffin using the igni sign.

Moving on from story, which is easily one of this games strongest points. The combat in the Witcher 3 is probably the best to date in the series, some would argue that the Witcher 2 had better, but I for one don't think that is the case. The Witcher 2 had slightly clunky combat that was a bit hard to get the grip of. While the witcher 3 has a pretty good combat system for an RPG title as the majority have some boring systems like Skyrim for example.

The sword play allows for heavy and light attacks, accompanied with rolls, sidesteps, parries and blocking, this is very similar to the Dark Souls franchise (an excellent series to some what base your combat on). Then you have an array of magical signs to use in combat, these are simple spells that can change the tide of battle, examples of these signs are quen which is like an energy shield from halo, except it takes only one hit unless you upgrade it (I will outline the leveling system in "Replay Value"). Aard which is like a Jedi force push, igni which sprays fire from Geralt's hands. You can also use your alchemy skills to help you in battles with bandits or monsters. Geralt can craft himself bombs that can freeze enemies, blow them up, pepper them in splinters of silver or light them on fire. You can also create various oils to put on your blades to do extra damage against certain enemy types, and concoct potions for Geralt to drink and enhance his abilities and performance, some potions will regen your health, increase your speed, turn your blood to acid (to make it easier to fight vampires). Geralt is also equipped with a crossbow to make it easier to shoot down flying enemies like griffins or forktails, there are various crossbow bolts that you can use. Geralt is known for having two swords, each doing more damage to certain enemies, one silver and one steel. The silver is for monsters, while the steel is for humans and normal animals, but Geralt would argue the point that humans are monsters too, and some monsters show more humanity than actual humans. This is an example of how you can have conflicting views in this game as you get to see how destructive the human race is and how they treat anything that is different to them. Continuing on with game play, Geralt can wear 4 pieces of armour, torso, legs, boots and gloves, you can find special sets of armour that are from the witcher schools and these are upgrade-able.

People will sometimes complain that Geralt is too slow for a witcher but I'm sure the reason for this is to add difficulty to the game, as nobody wants a game to be a walk in the park, if he was anything like he is in the books, the game would be too easy. You much prefer a game that can give you a sense of achievement after you finish a task or complete it. There are 4 difficulty levels in the game, the lowest is for people who only want story, while the highest one requires that you use a lot of alchemy and strategically plan out your fights as you will be killed quite easily. The combat system almost works like Dark Souls (which I mentioned earlier) as it is 3rd person, you can lock on to targets, simple mistakes will cause you a great deal of damage and you can end up fighting multiple enemies at once. There are over a hundred monsters in the bestiary so it gives you a huge range of different approaches to most fights, these enemies aren't simple and not just damage sponges like some from most RPG's to date.

The world is very large, boasting over 35+ square kilometres of land to explore, so naturally you need a way of transport. Luckily Geralt has a horse named Roach that you can call for by whistling for him. Although he is easily the buggiest thing in the game and has become a community joke, roach can trot, canter or gallop depending on what speed you want to move at. You can find nearby boats to cross large bodies of water or get to small islands in the middle of the lake, as their is a large amount of treasure hunting to do in the game. There are also sign posts set throughout the world to allow you to fast travel from one signpost to another, this is required in some cases as the world is split into regions, 2 large regions with 3 smaller main quest related regions. Both Velen and the Skellige Isles offer plenty of area to explore and enjoy while playing the game, I generally prefer travelling by horse since the scenery is amazing in the game, but I'll cover graphics later.

 If you enjoy mini games, you'll love the card game gwent, which is the first card game I've liked since yu gi oh. I got addicted to it and had to collect all the cards, easily the best mini game to date and its quite balanced, but it is not required to play it. You build your deck from the beginning and there are 4 faction decks in the game, each offering a different play style, you may want to play because money is needed quite a bit in this game. You need to repair your gear and pay blacksmiths to craft better gear for you or buy alchemy ingredients.

There are also sections of the game where you will get to play as Ciri to see her perspective of the story, but they aren't very long. All of these are in combat scenarios. So you will get to try out her combat style which consists of using one type of sword (steel), a blink teleport ability (which can be used to charge up and do a straight forward dash hitting all enemies in front of you within a certain distance) and the ability to regenerate health. Unlike Geralt, Ciri doesn't have the choice of equipping armour, swords, potions, using signs or exploring the world. These sections play a very small role and won't ruin your combat experience in the game.

Graphics/Audio

An example of rendering capabilities on PC.


Graphics

Geralt walking through the village of White Orchard

Now that I've covered the game play, I can move onto graphics and sound. This game is now the pinnacle of graphics in my opinion and many others, because if you want to boast about your high end PC, you have to run the Witcher 3 on ultra settings.

The 3D modelling of the characters, monsters, items, buildings and natural environments are outstandingly well done and realistic. The creativity to them is also excellent as it is original and so alien at times, I haven't encountered a fantasy universe that makes it seem so grim, realistic and believable. The games lighting is perfect, as sunrise and sunset are almost realistic, the night time is also great, as it appears dark and the torches and other lighting used is very well detailed and gives a perfect glow.

The fire animations are some of if not the best I have seen (the dark souls series being the only other game I can think of with almost as good), speaking of animation. The entirety of the games animations are outstandingly well done, from the trees swaying in the wind while a lightning storm rages nearby, Geralt's hair bouncing as his horse canters into the large city Novigrad, or you become a whirlwind of steel in the middle of a battle with 5 bandits as you dodge, deflect and parry them like you were controlling a real life swords master. You can even look into the sky and find flocks of birds crossing the sky in formations that would only be seen in real life.

Audio

Priscilla playing the lute (best scene for the soundtrack).
The sound in the game is sort of underrated in my opinion, its one of my favourites since my days of playing Morrowind, the Metal Gear Solid series, the Halo games made by Bungie Studios or Oblivion. As it has an excellent music score filled with epic songs for combat, to tranquil ones while going through a forest, or an upbeat song you would hear in a mead hall or tavern. There's even a song that hits you quite hard about one quarter through the game, but I wont spoil that for you.

The developers really didn't leave anything out, they covered everything possible, from small flies passing your ears every so often as you gallop down a mountain ridge on your horse, chasing a griffin while you hear its screech in the distance, or walk into a tavern and hear the banter that would be heard in most pubs, or the voices of people around you having sometimes interesting or funny conversations.

The voice acting is also brilliant in the game, as the inhabitants don't seem like the same 4 or 5 actors (I'm looking at you Skyrim), and the accents vary from region to region (they're very accurate accents too). Not to mention the voice actors for some of the main characters are absolutely brilliant, they give their character a personality that is believable and suits them. Characters like Lambert who is easily the funniest in the game, or the Bloody Baron, who resembles Robert Baratheon from Game of Thrones, he even acts a lot like him too. It makes you begin to like them as characters even if it was your first game in the series to play, reading the books and playing the previous games only adds to the enjoyment of playing this game and encountering past characters or areas. Doug Cockle does an outstanding performance as the voice actor for Geralt with his gravely solid snake/master chief like voice with a sense of humour but also a lot of knowledge and experience to it as well. Most people don't know that Geralt is actually estimated at being 80-96 years old in the Witcher 3.

Replay Value

Geralt looking over the valley in Kaer Morhen.

The game has got quite a lot of replay value to it, you may not be able to create a new character with a completely different set of skills as you are playing a witcher. Which is like a Jedi in the middle ages, but you have a large skill tree which can be played in completely different combinations as there are only a certain amount of perks that can be used at once, along with different armour sets which will either give you more protection or speed and a large amount of effects for the higher level gear.

The levelling system doesn't allow for you to be this demigod, boring blob of destruction like in Skyrim, you can only assign a handful of skills at a time (meaning you can swap them in and out of the amount of slots you have unlocked, so choose wisely, each skill has levels usually ranging from 3-6. So that means you might want to be picky with what you use your skill points on, as you only get 1 per a level up, but there are places of power around the map that you can meditate at and will grant 1 skill point. There's also the slots for mutagens, which will either increase sign intensity, damage output or max health. If you are ever unhappy with your skill point allocation you choose throughout the course of your play through, you can always buy a "potion of clearance" which will give you all your skill points back but remove the ones put into skills. That way you can re spec your skills, the potions don't come cheap but one quest grants one for free.

You also have the option of playing on a new game plus, so you'll have added difficulty no matter how many times you beat the game and it will level with you. The thing is, these aren't what will draw you back, its the stuff you missed and well, the game has 36 different endings, so you'll have a different outcome every time until you've got all 36. Not much games can boast that many endings, especially not at the production calibre of this game.

Conclusion

The remaining Witchers in Kaer Morhen with Ciri.

All in all, this is the most enjoyable game I have played to date, if I had the chance, I'd play it again with no memory of it whatsoever. The minute I finished the game, I already missed playing it for the first time. I have never got 430+ hours out of a first play through of an RPG with no mods and no grinding involved.

The main story isn't the best I've encountered but its quite good and a great ending to Geralts story, but sometimes the journey beats the destination. In this case, the Witcher 3 is one of those circumstances because the journey is absolutely amazing, especially the side quests and characters you encounter throughout the world. The combat is excellent but doesn't offer a huge amount for creativity since Geralt is a set character. The visuals and audio in the game are the pinnacle of games development, and its engine is exceptionally good.

There are quite a few bugs I have encountered, one is when its supposedly raining, it makes everything wet, yet no rain is falling but you can hear it. Another was using a fast travel sign to leave a city, and then when I arrive at my destination, I cant gallop on my horse. There were very little bugs for me and I bought the game on release, CD Projekt Red were very fast to fix any issues in the game, and as they updated the game, they really fixed up the UI to make it very easy to use. One problem for console users is the small text on some interfaces because they made this game in mind for a PC gamer who is close to their monitor.

The only thing this game can't offer is PVP and that's it, this is easily 2015's all around winner, it deserved every award it got as it came from a company who started pretty low about 8 years ago and just hit the top. They are the epitome of proper game development, as the improvements from game to game are so vast, I can't think of another company who have done it this well. Most would falter as they make more games in a series, while CD Projekt Red constantly improve, and they know when to end a series and not milk it for money. I would highly recommend picking this game up and playing it, it was worth every cent. I give it a 10/10 and its one of only 5 games I give this rating to.

Geralt giving The Witcher 3 approval.

About the Author

I played the Witcher 3 Wild Hunt on the Xbox One, 430+ hours were played and I completed all DLC included with the game (I didn't mention any of the DLC moments and never referred to any of the improvements they added as that would taint the score of the vanilla game, even though it would have still got a 10). I'm also a huge fan of the series and in the process of reading the books and beating the first game. I've played plenty of RPG's and a lot of other classic games growing up, but have grown a huge distaste towards the majority of games released in the past few years, as barely any have stood out. The majority of games are milked series with re skinned engines, boring games with little to no story, carbon copies of each other as most developers want to take from other games and add it to theirs rather than making something that works, and focus on story writing. So playing this game was a huge breathe of fresh air for me, and I would like to thank you for reading my first review, or maybe you just skipped to this part and only read it cause it was in bold. I hope this review gives you some insight into the game and maybe has convinced you its worth a play through.

Kalvin Yore
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