Ah, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, a most excellent game I must say. At first you get the idea that this is merely about a man, Geralt, who is basically looking for the love of his life. The woman who he loved so much in a previous Witcher game, only to lose his memory, hook-up with another woman and then finally gets his memory back and is now stuck in a love triangle. Well, you’d get that impression if you played the first two Witcher games, but if you didn’t, it’s ok as the game brings you to speed real fast. Anyway back to the recap, so now Geralt is looking for that lost love who doesn’t actually seem to be lost and is most likely keeping her distance. Oh course all that nonsense ends real fast when Geralt is informed that someone who disappeared a long time ago has resurfaced and now has to work with former friends, foes and a new set of characters in a new epic story.
You’d think that after playing the first hour or so, however, it’s much more than that. The Witcher 3 is a much more complex game under the surface it would seem. At the top is the main quest which is broken down by several quest-lines that must be completed to move on, however as you go about those quests you are greeted or come upon smaller or secondary quests that may peak your interest or even reward you with items that you normally would have to buy or steal. It’s about the journey, which is the best way to explain it. And in fact the system is very similar to another epic Action-RPG title, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, to be exact.
The beauty of The Witcher 3 is that you aren’t forced into any specific role. This game is all about choice and those choices decide how the game unfolds for you. If you want to be the noble hero, helping everyone for free, then you can do that. At the same time if you want to be that guy who who’s all about himself and the coin, well you can be that guy as well. It’s an interesting open-world format, one that I’ve enjoyed (and still am) as I can basically be or do what I want and it’s fun. What’s more, the decisions you make during your game play will influence how your story unfolds.
Interaction is a major function and this game and you won’t get far without talking to the locals or NPC’s in the game. In fact you’ll find quests and items this way, a bonus to say the least. For example, as I was leaving one area to turn in a quest, I came upon and old lady who basically wanted an item back that was stolen. Upon doing this for the lady, not only was I rewarded with some coin but I came across several crafting recipes, more coin and several other items.
The combat is swift and while you only have access to two different attacks; fast And strong, you are able to mix it up during combat with the addition to your Witcher skills which are handled by using the right trigger (if you use a controller), which include a fire based attack, a trapping effect that stuns, a shield based spell, and even a spell that blast sends foes flying once hit similar to what a Jedi from Star Wars uses. But there’s more to The Witcher 3 than combat. You also accumulate levels which allow you to upgrade your character using a ability based system. Here you are able to focus multiple traits that range from upping your attack speed, attack power, spells and much more. The more experience you gain, the more levels, the stronger you become. And trust me you’re going to need to level your character if you want to survive everything that this game as in store for you. In addition to this you also have access to a crafting system that allows you to create different items such as potions, bombs, weapons and armor.
And while you may think that there is no real need to do that, as there are access to vendors, they don’t always sell the best items and the crafting system is a way to get around that while providing better quality items and equipment while expanding your knowledge of the craft. And while the crafting system may seem deep, it’s quite easy to get involved and be come a master at, once you’re given it some time to get familiar with it. The only issue I have with the crafting however is that the system is heavily dependent on the inventory system, which is clunky to say the least.
There’s even a mini-game called Gwent that resides within the game. Gwent, which is a card based game is quite deep and is similar to how the card game, Magic The Gathering. It’s a nice break in the game, relaxing and I’ve found my self playing many a game. But it’s more than just a simple card game as you’ll be able to play against various NPC’s throughout Witcher 3, which also affords you the chance to earn and collect other games to improve your deck. Sadly since The Witcher 3 has no multiplayer functions, Gwent is confined to just single-play, but it would have been nice to play against other players.
And for the explorers, you’ll be happy to know that the world of The Witcher 3 is vast. If nothing else, you can jump on your trusty stead and just do nothing other than explore. There’s plenty to see and hear while doing so and it’s a nice change of pace. Just be careful when doing so as higher level NPCs and mobs will attack and kill you if they catch you.
Since I’m reviewing this on the PC, I have to mention that there are tons of options that allow you to tweak the game and get it running at an optimal level, though there’s no setting to dial up or down, just on and off. While it’s not a game breaker for me, I prefer to have the ability to dial my settings myself. Thankfully, while I was writing this review, it was announced that a patch will be released that addresses several issues and fixes for the game, including the ability to mess with the ini files to tweak. There’s even an option to set the maximum fps for either 30 for 60. Be forewarned however, unless you have a really beefy PC and I”m talking Titan X / SLI 980’s, then you’re going to want to turn off the Nvidia-specific HairWorks. Yes, it does look pretty but at the same time it cuts your ftame rate almost in half, so you’re going to have to decide; pretty looking graphics or an acceptable frame-rate. I’m sure many of you will go with the later. And I’m not just saying that as I’ve played though the game with an SLI GTX 970 setup and played it at 2560 x 1440 at ultra and high settings. The moment I enabled HairWorks, my frame rate tanked. Regardless of what settings or resolution you play at, the game looks simply stunning. From the fields, cities and other locales you’ll end up in to each and every NPC.
And that’s just on the visual front, but the audio is just as impressive. Just about everyone you meet is voiced, everyone! From the workers, guards and various of NPCs you encounter, to quest givers. There is no simple text here, nope. Going further the music and sounds are equally impressive, sword clashes, damage that is inflicted, the cries of the common folk and more. It’s clear that CD Projekt Red put a lot of effort to make this game come to life and there’s not other way to truly convey the experience, short of playing it that is.
All in all, CD Projekt Red has crafted not only the best entry in the Witcher series to date, but have also succeeded in creating a truly epic Action-RPG. Spanning over 100 hours of game-play, fleshed out characters and a massive world, The Witcher 3 easily earns is spot as a forerunner to Game of the Year for 2015. This game ranks right up there with Elder Scrolls: Skyrim and in many aspects, it even surpasses it. From the combat system, to the crafting system and most importantly a full fledged questing system that wraps the game up tightly while giving you total freedom on your game-play.
The Witcher 3 will delight the causal gamer, the hardcore game and even those who are starving for a long winded RPG. And while this game signals the end of Geralt and his tale, with 100 plus hours to entertain, not counting the many side quests and Gwent, the Witcher 3 won’t be ending any time soon for anyone who picks it up. Throw in the planned DLC and multiple play-throughs that will change based on your decisions, you could very well be playing this game for months and months to come.