Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is an Action-RPG from Polish developer CdProjektRed. This game is the third entry into the Witcher franchise that is based on a series of Polish novels. When Witcher 2 was released, most were blown away by just how rich the story and the combat was. This game improves upon that and adds so much more to the franchise.
The Witcher 3 still revolves around the gruff, emotionless, yet badass Witcher, Geralt of Rivia. I was immediately grabbed by the fact that this game humanizes Geralt much more than its prequels. It shows a softer side of him that we have not previously seen. The main reason for this is Ciri, a young woman whom he treats as he would his own daughter. Ciri is on the run from a mysterious group called the “Wild Hunt.” For those not familiar with the lore of the series, a Witcher is a specially mutated warrior who is trained since childhood to hunt monsters for a living. Geralt is a Witcher, and he trained Ciri to become a Witcher as well.
The story is brilliantly told through not only hours of fantastic dialogue, but also through visual depictions of what is going on. Wartorn landscapes can immediately tell the player that there is a war going on through the land. I’ve played many story focused choice driven RPG’s such as Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and Deus Ex. None of them nail character choices in the manner Witcher 3 does. What separates this game’s choices is that nothing in the world is black or white, good or evil. Geralt’s choices have much larger impacts on the game’s narrative, and rarely are they the simplistic “good/evil” choices found in other games.
You will meet many characters during the main story, and a great deal more during the numerous side missions found throughout the massive world. There is so much to this game that it is overwhelming, in a good way of course. Also, just like other modern RPG’s there are many romance options for Geralt. Of course, they could very well affect the story and how certain characters may feel about you. The biggest narrative improvement in this title over its predecessors is that Geralt is now a much more interesting character than ever before. It also helps that the Wild Hunt are a very mysterious and intriguing group of villians. The story took me about 45 hours to complete, yet there is so much more in the world for me to discover.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is the most beautiful RPG to date. From snowy mountains, to murky swamps, to lush forests, this game has it all. The character models are also fantastic, and the little details such as scars and scratches add to the realism. I also appreciated the subtle additions to their armor and clothing. The way the ocean waves move as you sail your boat between islands is something I have not seen before. Everything in the natural environment looks so real and it makes getting lost in the world really easy. I forgot I was playing a video game a few times. The last time I was so immersed in a game’s natural beauty was Rockstar’s “Red Dead Redemption” which this title has drawn many comparisons to.
The audio is another plus for this game. The sounds of the world make everything much more believable, and creates an atmosphere that is unmatched. Riding your horse at night through a mysterious island is made much more authentic and tense because of the ominous music and sounds of distant creatures in the background. I must mention that the game has occasional glitches with the frame rate, audio problems, and screen tearing. However, these were very minimal and did not hinder my experience with the game at all. Despite the game’s small bugs, it still boasts the most impressive open world I have ever experienced in an RPG. Maybe in any game.
The most impressive aspect of the game is the fantastic sword combat and exploration of the world. The combat is very easy to pick up and play compared to Witcher 2. Significant changes were made to make it a more fluid system than the 1st two games. The Witcher 3’s combat is better than most other action RPG’s because it actually encourages the player to prepare for battles with things such as meditation, oils, and potions. A unique aspect of the combat are the magic abilities that Witchers have called “signs.”
There are five signs that Geralt can use, and it’s up to the player to properly use them in the best way during the optimal situations. Geralt has a skill tree in which you can upgrade and change his abilities significantly. For example, the sign “Quen” is a basic shield that blocks one attack when it is not upgraded. Once you uprgade it, you can be healed from taking hits and even reflect damage at your enemies. All of the signs in the game have special branching abilites that the player can experiment with. The closest comparison I can think of to describe Witcher’s combat is Fable 2 or 3. With that said, it is much harder and requires much more strategy, especially at the harder difficulties.
While exploring you may find treasure chests throught the world that you can loot for better equipment or crafting items. You can use these items to create better weapons and armor, or to create potions that will help you in battle. This is where the game gets more complex, but I love this aspect because it makes it more of a Hardcore RPG, something we don’t get much of these days.
Your main form of transportation is Geralt’s horse Roach, and the controls for horse riding are done very well. It is just so fun and rewarding to ride around this huge world. (Twice the size of Skyrim for reference.) There are also parts of the game where you can play as Ciri, and they are awesome! She has her own special powers that she uses during combat, and they are arguably cooler than Geralt’s. Gameplay is king, and Witcher nails it with its fun yet challenging combat systems, and its complex but rewarding crafting and herbalism system.
Overall, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a fantastic RPG and it is the best in the series in my opinion. I have played many RPG’s in my life, and I have not been this blown by any of them. It is in my own experience and opinion that this is the best RPG of the decade and I don’t think it is close. The year is almost halfway over but The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt now has my vote for the Game of The Year so far. There is a well crafted story with fantastic writing and interesting chracters to keep anyone hooked. The gameplay is so rewarding, and there is almost too much to do in this beautiful and unique, mature world. I recommend this game to anyone even if you haven’t played the first two games. This game is like none other, and it succeeds in everything that it tries to do.