Review: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Is A Masterclass In Everything
Can you survive the Hunt?
- Worth The Time?Every single second you spend with it.
- Things LovedThe world is huge and filled with personality, activities, interesting locations, lively NPCs and little stories. Not an inch is wasted and everything feels like it has a purpose. The quests, the main storyline and even the monster contracts are worth your time and extremely gratifying to do. Gwent, the optional card game within the game can be a game within itself and is hugely enjoyable. The stories are masterfully written with some of the most human and striking stories ever conceived in gaming. The combat has an element of strategy involved that keeps everything lively and fresh. The game hardly holds your hand and treats you like an adult. Massive amounts of lore that immerses you further into the world. Wide variety of enemy types, especially monsters of which there are a significant amount of. Beautiful visuals complimented by a great soundtrack. One of the most expansive and worthwhile RPGs to ever come out.
- Things HatedThe inventory system leaves much to be desired. Graphical glitches that take away immersion. Glitches that causes quests to bug out and prevent progress. The AI, both friendly and hostile, can be a bit dumb or don't function properly. The horse riding feels a bit stiff and restrictive. Relies a bit too much on player knowledge with regards to events in previous games at times.
- RecommendationThis game should be in your disc drive or on your hard drive right now. If it's not, go fix that please. Be warned that it can be a gigantic timesink, even if you just play the story missions so if you don't have enough time for games then steer well clear of this one.
- Name: The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt
- Genre: Gwent Simulator
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: No
- Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, PC
- Developer: CD Projeckt Red
- Publisher: CD Projekt Red
- Price: R500 (PC), R750 (Xbox One, PS4)
- Reviewed On: PS4
CD Projekt Red, those lovable people up in Poland, have won our hearts and minds with their rendition of the story of the Witcher, a tale straight out of Polish folklore and a staple of the country’s culture. They released The Witcher series of games that lit everyone’s imaginations ablaze and showed us how RPGs can be done by introducing adult themes along with mythology and the supernatural. What CD Projekt Red managed to achieve was something truly special.
For the longest time, games held your hand, afraid that you’ll steer too far from exactly what the developers want. Everything became more and more simplified, watered down and there was an increased focus on pandering to an ever expanding mass audience. CD Projekt did away with that with The Witcher series bringing in hardcore RPG fundamentals along with a more adult focussed narrative. What transpired is a series that is something special within the gaming landscape.
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The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings was a triumph in both RPG narrative, combat mechanics, visuals and character development. One would easily believe that it would take something momentous and groundbreaking in order to top it. With the release of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, that has taken place. What we are dealing with here is something out of our wildest dreams. Something that will resonate for years to come and will set the template for what constitutes an excellent game. Bold claim, but can we prove that? You’ll have to read on and judge for yourself.
The Story of Geralt of Rivia
The Witcher 3 follows on after the events that transpired during The Witcher 2. Everything is laden in spoilers and even more so if you have not played the previous game but essentially, you still play as Geralt of Rivia, a Witcher in charge of killing monsters that appeared after a cataclysmic event known as the Conjunction of the Spheres. He and his fellow Witchers are capable of amazing feats that would not be possible if a person was a normal human. They can drink hazardous potions to give them an edge in combat, their senses are finely tuned, they can use simple spells and as such they are masters at tracking and combat. This, of course, makes them perfect for paid contracts for monster slaying.
Geralt’s story is a special one. One shrouded in equal parts mystery, tragedy, intrigue, passion, betrayal and the list goes on. The plot for The Witcher 3, however, mainly focuses on Geralt’s ward Ciri, who has disappeared and is being chased by The Wild Hunt, an otherworldly horde of ghoulish monstrosities because of her special powers and bloodline. That would constitute the main motivation for the things Geralt ends up doing during the course of the game, but once you get going it becomes immediately apparent that this is but the framework for a much broader story that Geralt is involved in. A story that involves nations, thousands of people, political shifts, wars, kings and so much more in between. The game lets you feel that you’re a part of something massive while also telling a deep personal narrative.
Even while it seems that the whole world seemingly hinges on Geralt’s decisions and actions, he can still become involved in the personal stories of other people. Whether it be saving a village from a giant monstrosity or helping some poor soul with their situation. The game features literally hundreds of side-quests and if you’ve been a fan of RPGs whatsoever, you would know that side-quests have the tendency to become rather boring after a while because of the repetition and lack of substance. We are, of course, talking about fetch quests and things that feel more like busy work than anything else. You don’t find that in The Witcher 3.
Each quest that you undertake is interesting in some capacity and more importantly, completely worthwhile. The monster contracts that have no right to be good are often these great little narratives that a player can enjoy and this coming from what would otherwise be a simple “kill the enemy” side-quest. Then you get side-quests that span multiple hours and would be considered so good that they genuinely could have been the main plot for another game entirely. These quests are so brilliantly written and thematically complex that they become instantly unforgettable. And there’s a whole bunch of them. The really good ones usually stem from your required story quests and some take place from innocent looking notice board entries.
The point is, the narrative in The Witcher 3 is something of legends. From the stellar main story with multiple branching paths to the side-quests that bloom into Goliaths of storytelling, it feels like there is no wasted space to be found. The brilliant writing remains consistent throughout the entire game and it never slows down, which makes for one of the most enjoyable games that will last for a very long time.
Combat, Witcher Style
Combat in The Witcher series has always been interesting. It doesn’t conform to usual combat norms and it has a great reliance on player skill. For all intents and purposes, the combat system in The Witcher 3 remains as complex as ever. Geralt is a Witcher, which means he has some added tricks in his arsenal. He can drink potions that enhance his abilities, oil his swords to inflict increased damage and use magical signs that do various actions. The progression and levelling system caters to three aspects that can be upgraded, namely swordfighting, signs and alchemy. Each provides their own set of advantages and you can choose what you are most comfortable with.
The combat itself requires your full attention and can be devastating if you do not pay attention to what you are doing. If you rush in with no thought or plan, you will die. The enemies in The Witcher 3 are not idiots so they won’t come for you one-by-one, but will exploit the battlefield just like you do. This means that a group of enemies is much more menacing than one strong enemy. You need to control the battlefield, making sure you use your skills to their full advantage. The signs can be excellent tools. You can set your enemies on fire, push them away with a force push, activate a protective shield that will take damage for you, stun or control an enemy and place a magical trap. If that’s not what you like, you can delve into enhancement potions to give you an edge on the battlefield, but this also requires strategy since drinking potions increases toxicity that can end up hurting you if you go too far. Or, you can attempt to master your swordfighting so that you know when to block, dodge away and control the battlefield. And if you’re really good, you can combine all three and become a killing machine. It’s your choice how you want to fight.
The combat feels involved, visceral with heavy hits and dismemberment, strategic and enjoyable. There is never a dull moment, even if you’re fighting enemies much weaker than you. There is also a learning process involved where you will feel like you’re struggling at the start, but through mastering the things available to you, you suddenly become much more proficient at what you’re doing and then in turn, making everything more enjoyable.
A Whole Wide World for Witchers
The Witcher 3 went open-world, a departure from the moderately open-world but still quite linear approach of the previous games. And they went open-world in a big way. The world map is massive and the scale is almost overwhelming at first glance. There are quaint little towns scattered all over the place, swamp lands, green fields, battle zones and gigantic cities for you to get lost in. Open-world games get a bad rap these days thanks to their activities feeling hollow and nearly worthless to a player. However in The Witcher 3 everything feels worthwhile to do, simply because of the quality.
You can choose to stick with quests but you can also explore the landscape and find interesting things that way, and the world is chock-full of interesting things to see and do. There are monster caves, nests, guarded treasures, ravaged villages and a host of curiosities that you can stumble upon. Sometimes you even stumble across fully fledged stories. I have found myself simply exploring the world and an hour later I’m wrapped up in this interwoven and complex quest and this because I stumbled upon some random cave or overturned carriage. You can also stumble on a host of interesting creatures, some friendly and some not so much. Even after 60+ hours, I still found new enemies to fight or new creatures that I’ve never seen before. It makes you excited to explore and your time is never wasted, which is central to what makes The Witcher 3 so amazing.
The game has exceptional longevity. We are talking about 100+ hours in order to come remotely close to finishing everything the game has to offer. While you may think there is a lot of dead time between those hours, you would be mistaken. Everything you do is worthwhile. Even the travelling, which is often the most boring part of an open-world game, is made interesting thanks to the multitude of things you can do or end up doing as you’re travelling. The treasures you find contain valuable items for crafting or combat and even if you’re high level, the chests still hold value. There is no such thing as boredom in The Witcher 3. You’re constantly doing something.
There is a deep crafting and alchemy system with hundreds of different items and potions that you can make. You can race with your horse in order to get better gear for him. There are fight clubs in every major city to partake in. You can style Geralt with haircuts and his beard even grows dynamically. You can even pick flowers for potions if you so choose. Just a plethora of activities available to you and all of them worth your time.
The Witcher Contracts are an integral part of the game since Geralt is still a Witcher and Witchers are supposed to slay monsters for coin. You accept the contract from a notice board or out in the world somewhere and then go to task finding the monstrosity or investigating the carnage it has left. You often do this by using your Witcher Senses where Geralt focuses his senses to see things that an average human will never be able to see. Track prints, wound patterns, special smells and so on. By using this, you can piece together events and clues in order to arrive at a conclusion and then fight whatever monster you end up finding. These contracts are always different in some way, but most rely on the Witcher Senses mechanic. One might sometimes find the mechanic overused at times, but it can be justified since it’s the only way for Geralt to find monsters or clues and it’s not unpleasant to use at all. It’s often fascinating to see Geralt use his vast knowledge in order to deduce conclusions from clues.
Then you get Gwent. It’s a card game within the world that you can play through collecting cards from merchants or important people. And even that is damn well done. Bracken has already highlighted in detail why Gwent can be considered its own separate game. This just adds another layer of quality to an already stellar offering. Everything in the game is quality and you’ll be hard pressed to find anything whatsoever that is glaringly wrong. That doesn’t mean the game is absolutely perfect, of course.
The inventory system was probably the biggest thorn in our side throughout the whole game. There are no filtering options, it looks extremely cluttered, there’s little organization options and it’s just generally a mess. The inventory system could have been done a lot better, but this has been an issue since the first Witcher game. Still, it detracts from the experience when you have to wade through countless objects in order to get to the one you want or do not know what has the most weight or value. What’s sad is that it can be easily fixed and if we know CD Projekt Red, it probably will, but this shouldn’t be a problem to begin with. Added to that, the lack of a storage option can cause some frustration since you’re sometimes required to hold items for future upgrades, but before that happens you need to trudge along heavy equipment that weighs you down.
The other fault is the technical instability of the game. There are a multitude of glitches, visual glitches, geometry mess ups and pathfinding issues that can be found. Also, when you enter a big city through fast travel, it often takes a while for everything to load and some unwanted scenarios can spring up such as you not being able to talk to someone until they have finished loading and so forth. On PS4, there’s also the problem of an inconsistent framerate that often hits in more populated or busy areas. All of these issues, however, can be fixed through future patches and for a game this complex and on such a massive scale, we actually expected much worse. Considering the scope of the game, these issues are buried under what makes the game incredible. They’re hardly scratches on an otherwise colossal offering.
Simply the Best
The Witcher 3 is something spectacular. It has been a long time since a game of this calibre has graced us with its existence. The love and care that went into this game is something to aspire to and the quality has set a benchmark for future games to come. Through the combination of all the things the game does right, of which there is an overwhelming amount, we can safely say that this is one of the best games that has ever released in the history of gaming.
If you do not own it already, please go out and buy it. The game deserves every single piece of support it gets and will earn every penny you spend on it and it’s incredible value for money. CD Projekt Red have certainly outdone themselves on this one.