The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt feels like a series that’s ending too soon, as now all three major platforms are now finally capable of playing a game of this magnitude, scale, and beauty are only being seen at the end of Geralt’s story. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is the best action-adventure RPG I’ve ever played. It is a vast improvement over its predecessors not only visually, but in terms of accessibility and approachability. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is one that which we will fondly call, a “classic”.
You play as Geralt of Rivia, the series mainstay, and a Witcher. Witchers are mutated humans that specially trained to slay monsters, for a price – as it is their profession. From the moment you take control of Geralt, you feel inclusive. Most games build their world around the game, this feels like the game was built around the world. This is helped due to the game having novels written before the first game.
When I came across my first sunset in the game, I audibly gasped. The art direction is stellar, with the way sunlight comes through the leaves, as trees sway, and the day/night cycle in conjunction with the weather system are so natural. There are oddities with sun rising at 3am, but all in all, it’s gorgeous at any time of day.
The game’s story is a twisting mystery, focused on finding the daughter-like character, Ciri. She has gone missing, and the titular “Wild Hunt” are searching for her. They are a dangerous group of foes, similar to the “Four Horsemen”, they signal the arrival of an apocalypse of sorts. And with everything they touch, the leave snow and ice behind. You get glimpses of Ciri throughout the story, either as being a playable character or in cutscenes. And in all honest, Ciri needs her own spin-off or to be the focus for the series going forward.
Though, if it wasn’t for the game explicitly telling you what are main and side quests, you’d be amazed at the immense quality that the secondary quests contain, as they are more fleshed out than other RPG’s main quests. It sounds like a bold statement, but they are just so thoughtful and well executed. Then there are the notice boards, where you will add questions marks to your map and Witcher contracts to complete for some major coin. These contracts will get you to see some varied and wild creatures as you investigate their whereabouts like a detective. You can’t help but feel compelled to explore, discover, and participate in everything there is to offer.
There are moments full of surprise encounters and stories to tell. For instance, I had a particularly tough fight, and unbeknownst to me, I had consumed all of my food items. And during this battle, things were getting swirly and I thought I was taking too many potions and getting myself poisoned, It turns out I started to consume alcoholic beverages, and I eventually beat the boss completely hammered.
There are some rough themes throughout The Witcher 3, most notably a questline involving “The Bloody Baron”. It’s early in the game, but touches on physical abuse, abortion, and alcoholism among the supernatural elements it takes to resolves portions of this. Things like this are all over the multiple regions the game has to offer.
This is an RPG after all, so after reaching experience thresholds, Geralt will level up, and points can be spent. The upgrade system is unique, in that there are more skills than there are slots. So it takes a bit of strategy at what you want equipped at any given time. This can be changed as often as you’d like, but it is something you need to be mindful of.
Through looting, purchasing, or crafting, you as Geralt will acquire new weapons and armor. Getting sword and armor upgrades makes little context in the story, he’s been around for a while, so why wouldn’t he just have the best stuff? It’s a silly thing, but one I couldn’t help thinking about.
The wildlife is dangerous, and among many codex entries that gets entered as you discover them, the bestiary is meaningful. It doesn’t just tell you about the creatures with a cute backstory, if you manage to kill one, it will tell you how to beat them. This makes the entries something meaningful, rather than something to read just because. It’s a smart system you almost have to pay attention to, or you will likely die in subsequent encounters due to not being properly equipped.
Women in this multi-region world are strong, independent, and a force to be reckoned with. This does not stop with the other playable character, Ciri. There are plenty of other NPCs that make themselves impactful on the world.
As with many RPGs of this nature, dialogue options are key. What you may not be used to, is that these decisions will have serious ramifications and unknown consequences. It’s entirely possible to make a decision, and not really know the outcome. Some are felt immediately. For instance, in a sidequest, I had decided to free the ghost who was imprisoned in a tower, and wanted to be with her love once again. As I walked away, feeling accomplished for reuniting them, the wraith had killed her former lover and was now free in the world. And even to this date, I have yet to come across that same wraith, and I may never. She may kill again, and it will have been my fault. These types of consequences happen again and again. There’s never a solid feeling of doing “the right thing”, as there will always been a consequence.
With the world being so big, you have fast travel to ease the pain of doing everything on foot. Thankfully though, this is eased by Geralt’s horse companion, Roach. This horse doesn’t do much more than help you traverse the lands and give you an opportunity to do combat while atop of him. He gets spooked quite easily, and with a press of a button you can cast Axii, a spell that will calm him so that he doesn’t throw you off.
What if I haven’t played a Witcher game before?
The Witcher can only be played on PC, The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings can only be played on PC and Xbox 360. They should be played however possible. Though The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt does a decent job at catching you up at the things that have transpired over the prior games, it doesn’t capture what made those games so memorable.
The Witcher 3 is what The Witcher and The Witcher 2 have been leading up to, both in story and developmentally. Those first two games felt like it wanted to be bigger than it could be, and The Witcher 3 is that dream realized. Your time playing as Geralt and those who surround him is never wasted, never insulted, and most of all: never a let down. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is clever, funny, daft, gorgeous, explicit, and one of this year’s best games.
A GOG code was provided by the publisher for review purposes