Originally released in May 2015, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is the third and final installment of the Fantasy series developed by CD Projeckt Red. It has been nominated for and won multiple awards and is still being nominated for awards more than a year after its initial release and still receives regular updates along with a steady stream of free DLC and 2 expansion packs. A gripping story, excellent writing and character development, beautifully designed world with lots of attention to detail combined with challenging gameplay and mechanics, it does a very good job at immersing you in the story and the world and keep you wanting more from this unique experience.
We follow Witcher – Geralt of Rivia, a legendary monster hunter on his quest to track down Ciri, who is being hunted by a group called the Wild Hunt because of her superior powers that enable her to manipulate time and space. Ciri is a Witcher just like Geralt, who took her on and trained her from a child and is sort of an adoptive daughter. The game consists of the main story quest lines, secondary quests, treasure hunts and contracts.
The story itself is very gripping and in many cases, is told brilliantly. The voice acting and animation used helps to immerse you in the story and keep you wanting to come back for more. Many of the main quests have you making decisions that will affect the world and the story itself has multiple endings based on the choices you make. The superb storytelling, voice acting and writing is not limited to just the main quest-lines, this quality is maintained throughout all the secondary quest-lines. All quests are fully voiced and unique, no two quests are the same and there is no repetition from quest to quest.
The repetition sets in slightly when you start to do Witcher Contracts and Treasure hunts although I do not see this as a grind or a problem. Witcher Contracts are quests to kill monsters that have been causing problems for villagers and tend to give a monetary reward as well as a new trophy to help boost your stats or exp gain. Treasure hunts are exploration based and are normally to find Witcher Gear, Armour and weapon sets. The repetition is well hidden and made bearable because each treasure hunt and Witcher contract has its own unique story line and monster so is usually different each time.
On To The Graphics…
The graphics in this game unfortunately were not the same as was showcased at E3 when the game was initially revealed, this was due to instability issues so the game in the end had to be shopped with a graphical downgrade. However, The Witcher 3 is one of the most stunning games released so far, even with a downgrade to the graphics the game looks beautiful and runs brilliantly even on low spec systems.
The level of attention to detail is second to none and this really helps to immerse you into the world of The Witcher. The Witcher 3 is set during a war, although you never actually see the war itself, you see it’s effects and hear about it as you progress through the story. This is reflected in the world as well, the area you are in is struck by war but it is the aftermath of the war that is seen and dealt with, bogs and no mans lands from recent battles, destroyed villages trying to rebuild. There are many times when you just have to stop and take a look at the view in front of you and admire it. When you first start the game, and get to White Orchid I remember feeling it’s the only game I’ve ever played where It felt like I was actually in a forest, the sun beaming through the trees, the wind blowing the grass, bushes, trees and the rain just starting to set in, it truly felt immersive. Even 130+ hours into the game I still stop and think “This is a stunning game”.
Even though there was a graphical downgrade, CD Projekt made up for this when they released the Blood and Wine expansion pack. They took what they learned from the main game and rebuilt the graphical engine from scratch using entirely new assets and better techniques, the result was a new area to explore, the size of the main game and even more graphically stunning and vibrant, having learned how to further optimise this to produce a better product. CD Projekt wanted to show us exactly what their game engine could do, how they wanted the game to look on release.
How does it play?
Although I game on PC I decided to use my Xbox One controller to play The Witcher 3, I found the control scheme of the controller works much better and is more responsive compared to keyboard and mouse but that’s just my preference and the way I prefer to play these sorts of games. For the most part the controls and movement are okay, there are plenty of times when jumping is a bit troublesome. Jumping over the smallest of obstacles can sometimes be too much trouble for Geralt and I often find swimming, especially when diving underwater can sometimes be quite annoying to control when the camera angles change.
One of the quick ways to get around the huge environments is on horseback. The horse mechanics leave much to be desired and can be very buggy from time to time and I initially trouble with combat while horseback and simply turning around but it is bearable once you get the hang of things. Combat mechanics on foot are done really well and is nice and challenging and there is a need for skill and tactics when in combat unlike other games of its kind where you can just hack and slash your way through.
What about the combat?
There are one or two things about the combat that can sometimes be annoying, the game doesn’t let you just leave combat, so it can be a bit hard sometimes when you want to avoid fights but have no choice but to engage in combat. Additionally when trying to avoid enemies in combat Geralt somehow loses the ability to jump over obstacles so sometimes you can find yourself stuck on walls or fences you cant get over.
There is a wide variety of swords and armour, swords can be further enhanced using runes which boost the stats of your signs and armour is enhanced using Glyphs which again enhance the stats of your Signs. You have 5 signs which you can level up and advance into alternate signs for more powerful effects and the recent addition of Mutations in the Blood and Wine Expansion allows you to use experience points and mutagens to further enhance Geralt with even more powerful stat boosts or powers such as a freezing Aard.
So, Should you play it?
Overall The Witcher 3 is an amazing game and a beautiful piece of art. The huge open world and brilliant story telling will leave you with plenty of things to do and the game offers you over 100 hours of gameplay, the Blood and Wine Expansion alone brings a new area to explore and an extra 20+ Hours of gameplay. This is one of those games that has you wanting to go back for more and when it’s finally over it leaves you wishing there was more. I’d happily play this game again from the beginning and plan to once I’ve finished exploring and side-questing. It is one I would strongly recommend playing.