Title: The Witcher 3 – Wild Hunt
Platform: Steam, Windows, PS4, Xbox One
Reviewed on: Windows
Genre: Action RPG
Players: Single player
Written by Whistler 25th May 2015
The sun rises, a lone ashen haired man with two swords upon his back searches for his mystical daughter before a band of spectral riders take her while upholding the Witcher code amidst a nation wide war.
The Witcher series holds such a strong presence in the RPG world, whilst I admittedly never got around to playing the first nor second I always held a lot of respect for CD Projekt’s one and only beloved franchise. As an adaption of fantasy author Andrzej Sapowski, The Witcher has always focused on presenting a strong story with memorable characters inside an immersive world.
So does The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt expand upon this or does it pale in comparison to its predecessors much like Dragon Age: Inquisition did last year?
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a dark fantasy RPG and is the last chapter in the saga that picks back up from Assassin of Kings with our monster slaying, master swordsman and all-
While Geralt’s quest is clearly of the utmost importance you’ll find there is a lot to take in, for one the world itself. Your journey will see you traversing no man’s land Velen, Novigrad and the Sellige Isles along with some small surrounding regions, a playground dwarfing that of Skyrim or almost double the size of GTA V’s San Andreas. However where other titles failed to fill in the space, Wild Hunt populates it’s impressively sized map with rich landscapes and a variety of detailed locales.
But what is a giant world to play in without monsters to slay and kingdoms to save eh?
Much like Skryim and Dragon Age: Inquisition you’ll be hard-
However unlike DA:I, Witcher 3 achieves something RPG’s seem to have a hard time managing these days, as with the grand scale of the world it hasn’t cut corners by making side quests obvious boosts for experience points and gold. Instead blurring the lines between your primary and secondary quests (secondary quests will crop up relating to the main quest line) and creating truly organic experiences.
The multitude of short side narratives all had me engaged with their tales, whether it was helping a baron find his wife and daughter or lifting the curse over a swamp I was never skipping dialogue just get my rewards faster. No instead the biggest rewards were the narratives themselves, much like the writings of an epic novel or the workings of an engaging film I wanted to press on to understand more of the world I explored, not grind to take on the next primary quest objective.
It’s these narratives coupled with the surprisingly lifelike world that draws you in more, ever chanting the mantra of “one more quest”. It’s surprising how disturbingly miserable the kingdoms whilst weaving a fine tapestry of various races, lore, mythos, factions and classes that gives them this beautiful aura, it drew a more apathetic side to myself and had me caring far more for its people, saints and sinners alike.
But of course the story cannot alone hold a game aloft and goes hand in hand with the gameplay.
True to its predecessors Geralt, a master Witcher is armed with two swords; a silver sword for all things otherworldly from werewolves and wraiths to trolls and griffons, and his steel blade for humans wishing to meet an early end. In addition to his swordsmanship Geralt has five magical abilities known as Signs such as a protective shield and the ability to send flames from his palm along with an arsenal of crossbows, potions, oils, bombs and potions.
The combat is simple enough to learn and does tend to lean towards the dull side as sadly you don’t gain much in the way of new weaponry or tools besides adding more digits to your attacks through the course of a playthrough. Whilst I did at times wish it had played more akin to Shadow of Mordor silky smooth combat, Wild Hunt’s combat wasn’t necessarily game breaking but did lack something.
That being said though the combat system does punish mindlessly slashing away, following a set of rules likened to that of Dark Souls that sees fights as a slow dance of methodical steps as opposed to a flurry of steel and action.
Not only referring to the main antagonists of the game, the Wild Hunt refers to what I feel is one of the highlights Witcher 3 has to offer within the sub quests, that being the Witcher contracts.
Some are integrated into the main storyline but for the most part these contracts are gathered from the numerous community boards scattered throughout the world map.
While not as entrenching as most secondary or primary quests, these fully fledged monster hunts served as some of my best experiences. Once you take the job on it’s up to your to investigate the matter by asking around, getting the beasts description, tracking it down then preparing for the confrontation all accompanied with engaging Arkham Asylum-
The fights themselves can also be incredibly challenging should you enter the fray unprepared (as I did early on), especially on harder difficulties you’ll find your prey is far stronger than that which you would run into in the field. Each hunt almost demands you prepare to the fullest, utilizing your hunt’s weaknesses such as moondust, a particular vulnerability to fire and a range of blade oils brewed up of all your typical garlics, wolfs banes and that one particular sunflower petal that seems bloody impossible to find.
These hunts create some genuine organic and adrenaline fuelled moments however as I mentioned at the end it is somewhat hampered by Wild Hunt’s alchemy system and by proxy, its interface.
The alchemy and crafting systems are incredibly in depth and detailed in Witcher 3, finding blueprints is easy and seeing their worth or utilizing alchemic potions or oils is easy enough to learn (wraith oil for wraiths, draconic for dragons, cursed for werewolves etc). Gathering the necessary ingredients is another matter entirely; unnecessarily time consuming and painstakingly dull without just visiting every herbalist and shop in search of them. This can elongate a single quest and it’s a shame to have to put a hunt on hold because you’re missing a single elusive herb but should you have the coin or once you eventually learn where to find ingredients it’s an enjoyable system that makes the preparation and conclusions feel all the more thoughtful and rewarding.
The interface though seems like a Frankenstein concoction of trying to appease both console and PC gamers utilizing both quick radial menus along with inventory and character menus that you would see in any other PC RPG.
Controls in general are also abysmal at worst, disappointing at best.
Having tried both the faithful keyboard and mouse set up as well as trusty controller I found handling movement and interacting with objects is painfully floaty where I would have to fiddle around so much just to set a torch on fire or talk to a shop keeper without helping myself to whatever was on his counter by mistake.
Alas a reminder that I’m sorely in need of a GPU upgrade soon, Witcher 3 sports some very impressive visuals throughout its epic scaled world. Without even reaching maximum settings with a GTX 660, Wild Hunt makes for some gorgeous sights from its highly atmospheric environments, be they impoverished villages or grand stone cobbled cities, to the awe inspiring lighting and the lively facial animations.
While I did have to sacrifice the infamous Nvidia hairworks to sustain a suitable frame rate I’m still impressed with the graphical feats Witcher 3 accomplishes (even if it isn’t the next Crysis of games some were expecting). The aforementioned lighting and weather effects are jaw dropping time and time again, so much that it really is difficult to fight against the urge to take stop and take the sights in and take a screenshot of the sun setting upon the fields for the fifth hundredth time.
Facial animations and detail to characters are dazzling, it’s clear that a lot of care has been put into each character’s motions and reactions whatever their scene entails such as Geralt speaking to a maiden in trouble he seems to truly listen and react to her pleas or when you see a character tear up you can’t help but feel for the digital blighters.
There are some visual inconsistencies however, it’s not hard to bump into some out of place or generally low quality eyesore textures especially when you take a close look up to some of the large scale environments. These don’t really hamper the experience however as the lighting and other visuals do make up for them and honestly considering how seamless transitions are you can imagine how bogged down systems would be trying to keep up with another layer of data. It’s no justification and demands to be critiqued just like the rest of them but I realize if environmental textures were also of such high quality I’d probably not be writing this review and console players would either be crying or pc gamers would be waiting an ungodly time to see their pc release after the console launch.
The essence of an RPG lies within the game’s ability to tell a tale and make it yours to experience, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a title despite its flaws in controls or some visual discrepancies holds this above all else. CD Projekt’s third chapter is an ambitious and beautiful take on dark fantasy filled to the brim with organic narratives that will have me certainly revisiting the Northern Kingdoms as an experience to be remembered with fervour.
Rich organic narratives,
Exciting and engaging side quests,
Hours of game play,
Adrenaline fuelled monster hunting,
Expansive and filled world.
Somewhat lacking combat,
Gathering ingredients for potions can be off-
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a wild ride reigning in with a 9/10.