The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Platform: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC
Developer: CD PROJEKT RED
Publisher: CD PROJEKT SA
Genre: Action & Adventure, Role Playing
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is easily one of the most highly anticipated titles of this year, and with good reason. The third entry in Geralt of Rivia’s saga looks to not only please long-time fans of the series, but also bring the franchise to the attention of mainstream and casual gamers. With overhauled combat and a massive open world to explore, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is easily the best Witcher title yet, but is it as good as the hype led us to believe?
The Witcher 3 casts players as Geralt of Rivia, the protagonist of the Witcher series of novels and video games. Geralt of Rivia is a phenomenon in Poland. He’s even a bigger deal there than Batman. The Witcher series of written works spans three collections of short stories and five novels. There was also a movie and TV series, but the TV series unfortunately suffered from poor production values. It’s safe to say then, that CD Projekt Red, being a Polish game developer, would be more than familiar with Geralt of Rivia, and The Witcher written works.
CD Projekt Red have a remarkable talent for creating game worlds and delivering compelling narratives, and this is no truer than in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The game opens with a dream sequence. Geralt awakens to Yennefer, a woman with whom he has shared a great deal of experiences – including romantic ones. After being reminded that he is late to train Ciri (Cirilla) he makes his way down stairs. After a quick tutorial on combat, Ciri is attacked. Geralt completely immobilized by fear, fails to act. He wakes up, accompanied only by friend and mentor Vesemir. He then embarks on a journey to find Ciri, the child in his prophecy, and stop the Wild Hunt.
For the sake of avoiding spoilers, we will not be mentioning any more events from the main storyline in The Witcher 3, so relax already, dear reader! We will say this though, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has one of the best stories found in a role-playing game in years. While most games are obsessed with presenting a very obvious and deliberate moral compass to the player, The Witcher 3 presents a complex protagonist with a rich history of his own. The consequences of your actions won’t be immediately clear from the start, which is realistic and ultimately, quite refreshing. The moral ambiguity of The Witcher 3’s protagonist and non-playable characters allow the player to react in a more genuine way than we’re accustomed to with RPGs.
There are of course, multiple side stories for the players to experience as well. These are so cleverly integrated into the main story and exploration of the game’s environments that you will genuinely forget about the main quest – and that is definitely a good thing. They’re also extremely varied from each other, which, when combined with how detailed and well-executed each side story is, will give you a new-found appreciation of side quests in games. These aren’t simple fetch quests or collectathons like in other games – they’re enthralling tales that will stay with you long after you’re done playing the game.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s main story is certainly impressive, though it does come second to the main draw of playing the game: the world itself. This is a rich world, devastated by bloody conflict, and one that is littered with memorable locations, creatures and characters for the player to discover. While other RPGs attempt to deliver a world of this quality, the fact is as far as living, breathing worlds go, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is unparalleled. Seriously, it makes a great number of other open-world games that came before it look as bland and as copy-pasted as the scenery in DayZ.
If you were put off by the (at times) awkward combat from The Witcher 1 and The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings, then don’t fret – CD Projekt Red have overhauled the combat. So much so, that is as addicting and rewarding as the main story itself. Geralt is well-versed in combat, though he isn’t as overpowered or as ridiculously nimble as other game protagonists. While he can dodge, block, parry and counter his enemies, it will take a skilled player to escape some of the battles without a scratch. There is also a decent amount of strategy in the combat, as different situations, enemies and environments often shake up the repetition. Do you use signs (spells) to wear your opponents down (or expose a supernatural enemy’s weakness), or will you use bombs and swordplay to defeat them? There is often quite a few different approaches you can take, though the combat is always a decent challenge.
It would be a disservice in this review, to not mention The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s visuals – the game is gorgeous! Not only are its cutscenes amazing looking, but the in-game characters, environments and especially the lighting set a new standard for games this generation. Whether you’re on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One or a PC, The Witcher 3 is sure to make your jaw drop because of its good looks.
Okay, so we love The Witcher 3, but where does the game fall short? Well, truth be told, it doesn’t falter in many areas, but there are a few things present that mar the experience. For one thing, maneuvering Geralt in confined spaces can become a chore. I (and some acquaintances I know) found that combat, exploration and horse-riding can be rather troublesome in small areas. Geralt can become stuck on and behind small things, like fences, tree stumps, and he can also have difficulty simply turning to walk through a door in close proximity, or ceasing to run when approaching ladders. I was investigating a haunted well early in the game, and I kept managing to run past a ladder, only to fall into the water at the base of the well. It happened quite a few times before I learned to tap left and right while moving forward to position Geralt in a way that meant I could climb the ladder and exit the well.
There are also times, where Geralt’s dialogue and voice acting can come across as rather hammy. He might be doing the right thing or at times, being romantic, but he will always come across as a grisly, hardened warrior. Yes, he is a grisly, hardened warrior, but some of his dialogue feels as though he is overcompensating for appearing vulnerable or for being deeper than what he is. For the most part though, the voice acting is adequate.
There are very few games that I would consider to be “must-haves” this generation, but I cannot recommend The Witcher 3 more for fans of RPGs, action games and decent narratives. It has an entertaining story that blends with its characters, combat, refreshing approach to morals and expertly crafted world that no other game this generation has even come close to achieving.