I recently had the opportunity to experience the hype of The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt firsthand, and take an in-depth look into its vast expanse of gameplay, its massive open world and its breath-taking story.
The Witcher 3 once again follows Geralt, this time on his quest to destroy the Wild Hunt, a group of spectres that remind me of the four horsemen of the apocalypse (they are even referred to as the “Red Riders”). As well as this overarching story you attempt to find and save your adopted daughter Ciri, (which, interestingly, you get to play as in some flashback scenes). On top of all of this, each village has a wealth of side quests and plotlines that have their own interesting quirks and decisions that either aid or hinder you later in the game.
The Witcher series has always done well to try and push the limit on graphics, and The Witcher 3 continues this trend. The graphics are stunning, and if your computer is able to handle Nvidia’s HairWorks, then it is even better. Unfortunately the graphics have not been optimized for AMD and can be quite disappointing at times, with frame rate drops and some graphical glitches. Recent patches have fixed some of the errors, however I have found myself turning down some settings, when on other games I could easily handle the gameplay.
The fighting mechanics of the game take a while to adjust to, but once mastered work really well for the PC (it took me about 10 minutes to climb a ladder at first!). The motion is responsive, and with the flexibility of the mouse 360-degree fighting works wonders. Sometimes selecting spells mid-combat can be frustrating, and I found myself often spinning the spell selection screen round several times, before highlighting the right spell, however with the vast wealth of mods already available for the game, custom key binds being one of them, the more useful spells can be allocated to mouse buttons, so I ended up using that selection rarely.
Enemies also feel unique when you fight them. Although your combat options are limited to dodging, parrying and a couple of different attacks, the tactics required to kill different foes felt distinctly different for each one.
The Witcher 3 certainly is immersive and although minor tweaks could improve some quality of life instances, the game as a whole flows really well.
There is lots of customization throughout the game, ranging from the skills you choose, to alchemy you imbibe and gear choices. All of these change the way you play the game, and how you choose your fights. Having different sets of armour and weapons feels almost essential, as without properly geared items, some fights can be almost impossible. This can be both a blessing and curse. It is nice that you can gear up for a particular challenge, rather than walking around in generic kit, however spending hours in a bank vault choosing gear, or carrying around five suits of armour for each scenario, can also be tedious at times. This becomes even more apparent when you become over burdened by carrying a lot of items, as finding out whicj items are heaviest involves checking every item individually for its weight. It would be nice to have a list-style inventory that displays attributes like that.
The skill tree feels less extraordinary. There for four sections based on different aspects of Geralt’s skillset: Combat, Signs (magic), Alchemy and General. Upon levelling you earn a skill point, though it doesn’t add anything special, just increases a stat here and there, be it extra health or more damage. It would be nice if there were more bonuses for specialism, such as a special sign or a different form of attack. Otherwise, levelling is not especially exciting.
The crafting system feels very generic unfortunately. I was excited when I heard that different effects depended on how much alchemy you used throughout the game, and possible inventions, but the majority of recipes come from scrolls and blueprints found in the game. Much of it felt quite grindy and time-consuming. I frequently discovered that the weapons and armour you can craft ended up being worse than weapon and armour that can be found, and ended up just plugging in some gaps, such as if you had been unlucky in finding something for a particular worn inventory slot. During the late game some of the best items can be crafted, but this has a lot of random chance which means even more grinding. This might be of interest to some peoples interest, but I found it to be quite infuriating.
The most striking feature of this game, however, is how huge it is. I spent almost three hours doing quests in a little village that had nothing to do with the main story, and a) it didn’t feel like wasted time, and b) most of the quests felt different enough to not be a grind. Interactions with NPCs are fresh and I am still finding new dialogues 40+ hrs into the game. Many of them have a huge backstory themselves that you discover as you help them, making the game really come to life.
There are still sections of the map I have yet to visit and adventure in. There are plenty of other interesting things in the game in which to invest your time , however. One of my favourites is a collectable card game called Gwent. Many merchants, innkeepers, peasants, nobles and others play this game, and it has become a bit of an obsession of mine to collect all the cards. In a similar vein to Final Fantasy VIII’s Triple Triad, the cards are all from people or monsters in the game, including Geralt himself. There are 150 currently in the game, however I would not be surprised to see this number expanding. The rules are simple, but require some strategy when playing, and I can see this coming out as a board game in the near future.
Throughout your travels you are faced with many decisions, some of which do not seem to affect much at first. However, as the game gets closer to its conclusion, you realize that the smallest decision may have affected you more profoundly than you first thought. This decision tree adds to the replayability factor of the game, as you could fight with one set of allies in one play-through, and in the next find yourself on the wrong end of one of their swords!
My greatest love of this game though is that you always feel challenged. You are always in danger. Even during your flower-picking adventures, monsters can come out of the river, the sky, and even the ground, and if you are not prepared they can pose a significant threat. This made the game exciting for me, and always had me full of adrenaline.
stands on the top level when it comes to PC game prices. APriced at £50, The Witcher 3 is one of the most expensive games currently available. However, with the amount of gameplay that is included, the outstanding graphics and the outstanding immersion, I think it is worth every penny. The game is far from polished, and still has numerous bugs and glitches that need to be fixed, but the team at CD Projekt RED have done incredibly well to tackle them quickly, and the worst issues were fixed within a week. The UI could do with some more tweaking, but with the modability of the game, there is something to correct most annoyances I found within the game.
All in all, this game deserves the hype it received at launch. There is plenty to do and if you are an RPG-aholic like myself, you will find connection with the game. It certainly rivals Skyrim and I would be surprised to see a better open world RPG out this year. We have already seen one patch coming and announced monthly DLC, as it still is a little rough around the edges, but if you enjoy fast-paced gameplay, unique enemies and a stunning storyline this game is for you.
Editor note: Alex has already turned The Witcher 3 into a co-op game date experience while playing with his girlfriend as he mans the combat and leaves the dialogue to a joint effort and the card game entirely to his girlfriend. Who said we can't have a nice evening in with the Wild Hunt?