The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Review

Platforms PS4/XB1/PC
Developer CD Projekt RED   Publisher CD Projekt RED
Genre RPG   Platform Played On PC

What an incredible journey! And I’m not even talking about Geralt of Rivia’s last adventures in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, but those of the entire franchise. The first entry in the Witcher gaming saga is a PC exclusive, and, although it had originally attracted a substantial number of fans, it still remains, to this day, a somewhat overlooked title, mainly because of its platform exclusivity and challenging nature. Fast forward a few years, and the second entry makes a debut, improving on virtually every last aspect of its prequel. Console gamers were also first introduced to the series through an Xbox 360 port of the sequel. Thus, Geralt’s troubles had started becoming more and more popular.

Finally, after numerous delays, the most anticipated role-playing game of the eight generation of consoles has arrived. I’ve always agreed that reviews should be viewed as subjective opinions of those whom write them. Yes, the reviewers should be objective when it comes to the “meat” of said titles – i.e., gameplay – but anything else could be loved by someone and downright hated by others. Well, in my opinion, The Witcher 3 is the best game I have ever played in my entire life, and I’ve been gaming since the late nineties.

First and foremost – this going out especially to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One owners – you do not need to play previous games to fully understand the entire universe of The Witcher. I have finished both of its prequels, and I can tell you that Wild Hunt makes a perfect job of introducing anyone to its universe, history, locations, and characters.

In this last entry, the Northern Kingdoms are ravaged by famine and war, due to its continuous war with the empire of Nilfgaard. Worse, still, it is also constantly terrorized by the titular Wild Hunt, a conspicuous army from another world, which seeks to capture Cirilla Fiona Elen Riannon – or Ciri, in short – and use her Elder Blood to bring about the end of the Continent (that’s where the Northern Kingdoms and Nilfgaard reside). Once again, players take on the role of Geralt of Rivia, a witcher now tasked by the emperor of Nilfgaard to find Ciri.

Naturally, this humongous task takes players across the entire world of The Witcher 3, where Geralt will need to solve riddles in underground caves alongside witches, break macabre curses, help mages escape the clutches of fanatics, attend balls, help others ascend thrones, find magical crystals, and even play hide-and-seek. Yes, you can choose to be that desperate, although it’s kind of fun, despite the fact that the whole affair takes place in a creepy swamp, housing disgusting creatures whom I shall not name for the sake of spoilers. Simply put, I am astonished by the fact that, in a 150+ hours RPG, each and every last quest has received so much care, making them unique, so players will always find something new to deal with; something requiring more thank just killing. Additionally, if you were hoping for a happy ending – i.e., one in which Geralt finally finds peace and stability – believe me, among those supposed 36 finales, you will not be disappointed.

The game offers players a huge world to explore, and, besides the linear sequences in which Ciri becomes the center of attention, there are also other such levels, which see Geralt teleported to entire new worlds. They’re brief, but fun, simply because of their extreme environments.

Characters from previous games also make their appearances – provided they still live – although only Geralt’s constant love-interest Triss Merigold, and his mentor Vesemir are given more prominent roles. Besides Ciri – whom I shall not speak of because of spoilers’ sake – one other main character making her debut here is Yennefer of Vengerberg, Geralt’s long-lost love, with whom he, Triss, and Ciri were kind of a family. In short, their history is complicated, but, oh, so fun to explore.

One of Wild Hunt’s immediate improvements which will sure be noticed by fans is Geralt showing more personality and emotions in the game’s tutorial than in the first two entries. His ironic answers and inquires are once again a delight to bring into play, although his love for Yennefer and Triss clearly showcase a more soft-side, while his respect for Vesemir and dedication for finding Ciri showcase just how different he is from other witchers. His though-guy voice aside, Geralt is a complex character, mostly because players get to shape his actions the way they feel like.

Once again, just like in previous installments, Geralt finds himself in the middle of others’ businesses, far too often, much to his displeasure. A staple of the Witcher franchise is that your actions’ consequence are not always immediate, and this couldn’t be truer for The Witcher 3. Let an apparent wronged spirit loose in the world, and later on, you’ll realize that it has destroyed an entire village, driving its people mad. On the other hand, those whom you’ll go out of your way to save will later-on reward you, when you least expect. One of the game’s characters states that, in their world, nothing is black and white, this perfectly summing up Geralt’s adventures. This is why Wild Hunt’s story is so much better than those of past games. Everything is personal here. Sure, politics still describe the ever-lasting war between South and North, but Geralt barely comes into contact with the royalty. As such, he gets to witness and meddle in the common folk’s problems. After all, they’re the ones suffering from one war or another, not the pompous citizens who prefer hiding behind thick walls.

But The Witcher 3 is so much more than contracts about killing monsters or lifting curses. Sometimes, you just want to kick back and enjoy a good-old fist-fight, making some gold in the process. Get a haircut. Have a romantic dinner in the woods. Participate in horse-races. Enjoy a game of cards. Or simply get drunk and play stupid games with your friends. These small pleasures of life further reinforce the fact that Geralt is still a human being, because, contrary to popular belief, his emotions and desires haven’t been erased since he was made a witcher (well, except for the fact that he can’t cry).

As I’ve mentioned above, this is a RPG that can reach the 200 hours mark when it comes to replay value, so it’s pretty clear that side-quests are abound, from using your witcher sense to track-down the suspect whom has burnt down a smithy to liberating an area by killing the monsters around it so it can be repopulated, to smaller tasks, such as breaking into someone’s house and getting the lady’s most-desired frying pan. The game never ceased to surprise me, as I fond myself investigating the scene of a murder – akin to Rockstar’s L.A. Noire – piecing the clues together until the entire puzzle lies ahead of me, or even tracking down werewolves or burning corpses so monsters don’t eat them. Each settlement usually includes a board bursting with new opportunities to kill and get rich, in the process. Besides settlements, Geralt can find others in need just by strolling around everything from highways to backwoods and cities, encountering so-called knights whom need to be put in their place when it comes to blindly “defending” someone’s honor, elves needing saving from non-humans haters, restoring shrines, performing ancient rituals, and so on, so on. Furthermore, these side-quests also have an impact on one of the aforementioned 36 endings, further encouraging you to take your time. And time you will indeed need.

What’s also great is the fact that most of these quests can end in different ways. For example, to get a discount for a certain object, I had to protect several people from monsters. I did that, although one of them died, so the original quest-giver refused to not only offer me said discount, but to sell the object altogether. Now, I had to obtain it from someone else. Another example is how patience and just a little bit of curiosity can turn a potential slaughter into a peaceful resolution. Geralt had to see an important person in his quest for finding Ciri, although others wanted to hurt said man for befalling some kind of sickness on one of their friends. The most obvious route would have been to simply kill them, but there were other ways. If you upgrade the Axii sign, you could just compel them to go away. But, in case you haven’t, you could simply listen to why they wanted said man dead, find out about the sick guy, and then tell them the cure, in exchange of the person of interest’s life.

Not only that, but, in Wild Hunt’s open-world, every last location of interest is mapped with a question mark on your map – provided you read or hear about it – so there’s always something new to either kill or simply explore; a bandits’ camp to clear; a swamp’s monster to overcome in order to search for some well-deserved spoils; a monster’s nest to destroy, and so on.

As advertised, many times, monsters and quests don’t scale to your level. Because of this, you might find contracts worthy of level 33, for example, while you’re still at five. This is another feature that adds to the overall realism of the game. You could try and finish the mission, but the odds are greatly stacked against you. To add to this, items like swords and armor can worn out over time, if not constantly repaired, adding another layer of depth to gameplay.

Even the overall gameplay has received some well-thought changes. For example, Geralt can now drink potions while in combat. It’s a great change from previous installments, simply because you don’t always know if the fight ahead is worth consuming potions. You might end up drinking several, only to easily kill everyone in sight, essentially wasting them. Now, in case things get truly rough, you are certain some drinks are in order. The combat has remained largely the same as in Assassins of Kings, meaning it’s fun, and requires a certain finesse and rhythm. Spamming will certainly not cut it (pun-intended), as dodging, rolling, and paring are crucial, especially on higher difficulty settings. However, one gory aspect The Witcher 3 improves upon is dismemberment, of which I never get bored. You can even attack your enemies while riding Roach, your horse, although once his fear-bar fills up, he’ll panic and drop you off. To avoid this, you can calm him using the Axii sign.

Additionally, crafting potions/bombs/oils and a few other ingredients, in addition to forging new weapons and armor has been streamlined, making it easier to keep track of everything. For potions and co., all you need are parchments telling you what ingredients you need to collect. Forging new weapons and armor is a tad bit more complicated, as it requires blueprints, materials, gold, and a smith. What’s different here is the fact that more complex items require more talented smiths, the game once again encouraging you to explore it and meet new people with better skills.

Leveling Geralt up means assigning points into various categories, including combat, signs – i.e., magic – alchemy and “general.” When it comes to combat, Geralt can be improve his light and heavy attacks, as well as his defense, stance, and crossbow. Speaking of the crossbow, Geralt’s newest weapon might not deal great damage, but it’s useful against flying beasts, as you can essentially bring them to ground, in addition to being the only weapon you can use while underwater. Each sign can also get stronger and can be upgraded to new types – e.g. instead of a small burst of fire, Geralt is able to maintain a stream for several seconds – while dumping points into alchemy means potions created by our hero are more potent, in addition to lasting more. Finally, the more general attributes include permanently increasing your life, toxicity level, stamina, and so on.

Since I have yet to upgrade my PC and to achieve 60 frames per second, I am running the game at medium to high settings, in addition to all special effects being turned on. Even so, I have honestly never experienced an open-world title more gorgeous than Wild Hunt. From the constant wind blowing through forests to the sunrises which are nothing short of extraordinary, everything presented here is an absolutely sight to behold. Not to mention that breathtaking atmosphere during the rain, when the wind seems to be ready to pull the trees out of the ground, as Geralt strolls through the woods.

Not only that, but the entire game oozes of life. People around you have their own lives and problems to deal with, be them changing one’s name to suit the Nilfgaard empire, chatting about a local boy who got himself killed either by a creature or a supposed witcher trying to kill the creature, washing their clothes, babbling here and there, and so on. The world feels so alive that, just like in Red Dead Redemption, I would most of the times choose to simply stroll to my next quest, instead of fast-traveling. Of course, The Witcher 3 isn’t all about woods and highways, as there are also several cities to visit, all bursting with life, from markets to taverns, crowds gathering for a witch-burning, and so on. Not to mention the top-notch voice-acting, be it from the lowliest peasant to the emperor himself (how could it be otherwise, seeing as he’s voiced by Charles Dance?).

The aforementioned variety in quests also translates into the game’s environments. During his adventures, Geralt will spend a lot of his time in No Man’s Land, a territory filled with burnt fields reaking of corpses from the on-going war, but also gorgeous fields and forests, in addition to swamps. Besides cities, other locations Geralt will visit are the Skellige islands, oozing with Viking-like traditions, all encompassed into a chilly weather.

And because of the day-and-night cycle, just like in any other normal society, most people head to bed when night falls, taverns get quieter, although this is also a time for organizing dance-nights in the streets, while brothels are, of course, most popular. Come morning, however, everyone’s up and about. It’s truly a living, breathing world.

If The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings was a huge improvement over the original, then The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a gigantic one, up to a point where veterans of the franchise could wonder if they’re not playing another franchise. Another immediate improvement veterans will notice is the ability to jump. It might seem trivial, but it adds a great deal to the overall immersion of freedom. Dragon Age veterans can attest to this, through Inquisition. But, let’s be real: because of its huge and varied environments, intriguing story, incredible number of unique side-quests, fun combat, loveable characters, and absolutely gorgeous graphics, Wild Hunt is the best role-playing game at the moment. Period. No matter if you’re a PS4, XB1, or PC owner, you simply owe it to yourself to play this one. For now, RPG’s don’t get better than this.

The Good

  • Best-Looking Open-World Game
  • Loveable Characters
  • Fun Combat
  • Incredible Replay Value
  • Intriguing Main Story
  • Huge And Varied Environments

The Bad

  • What Are You Looking For, Here?

The Score 10