Winter is coming in the form of The Wild Hunt and it’s bringing sheer destruction in it’s wake and pursuit of Ciri, Geralt’s ward and daughter by choice.
The Witcher 3 Wild hunt, developed by CD Projekt Red and published by Bandai Namco, is a game where beauty and brutality go hand in hand. Lush landscapes, gorgeous and glamorous women and a side of dead rotting corpses, people being burnt at the stake and the notion that all your problems, big or small can be handled with a simple swing of your sword.
A massive open world RPG, my first impression of the game was surprise at how different the graphics looked from all the shiny screenshots I spent months scouring over while waiting for the return of Geralt. After playing the most interactive porn game I’ve ever experienced and watching Geralt slaughter his way through every obstacle he came across, I was hooked.
Some of the cutscene’s looked beautiful
The graphics looking slightly different didn’t bother me as much as you’d think, having played many RPG’s some of the best haven’t looked all that great but the quality of the content always stands out, not that the Witcher looked bad at all just different from what I expected. Some of the scenery encountered in the game is nothing short of magnificent with some of the most interesting, thought out enemies I’ve ever had the pleasure of chopping to bits.
The story starts with Geralt dreaming about Ciri back at Kaer Morhen, a school for Witcher’s. Witchers are mutants, devoid of humanity after being subjected to rituals and vigorous training when they are young, giving them cat eyes and a desire to hunt monsters. They carry two swords, one silver for slaying monsters and a steel one for everything else. The beginning sequence re-introduces some of the characters while at the same time providing a short tutorial on running and combat. Not to be outshone by it’s predecessor, The Witcher 3 also starts with something that’s very frequent in the Witcher series, a beautiful half naked woman in the form of Yennefer.
Geralt and Yennefer are finally reunited
The dream doesn’t last long and you are back with Vesemir, the oldest Witcher alive and a friend and mentor to Geralt. Geralt and Vesemir attempt to track down Yennefer while stumbling into your first challenge and contract in the game, the Griffin.
A man is screaming by the side of the road, while the Griffin devours his horse, the Witcher’s scare it away and continue with their journey to an inn where you are taught the game of Gwent. A strategic card game that consists of two rounds. The goal of the game is to have the highest force on the table. This is done by playing your unit cards that are separated into three categories. Close combat, Ranged and Siege. Cards are placed down and have a number, obviously the higher the cards you are dealt the more chance you have of winning but with low cards all is not lost, special weather cards that sets all cards to one, scorch cards which burn the strongest card on the table and spies which add to the other players total but grant you two more cards from your deck can be played.
Gwent is definitely an addictive card game, I haven’t wanted to catch them all this much since Pokemon and spent a huge chunk of my Witcher playing time building up my deck and watching in amazement the strategy of some of my opponents. A card is gained every time you beat a unique opponent be it a merchant, friend or in a tournament. By the end your deck and strategy can be nearly unbeatable and you never know what fate is going to deal you.
Sometimes you get lucky with your cards which makes winning easy
Back to the Griffin, a little into the story you are given a contract to kill it, one of many contracts on unique and tough enemies in the game that will require some preparation to defeat depending on difficulty. Witcher’s are skilled in alchemy and can make a plethora of potions and oils that help them fight the good fight, swim under water and heal their many wounds. They are also capable of crafting deadly bombs which do devastating damage and for the first time will wield a crossbow to deal damage from afar.
Geralt uses his Witcher senses to track enemies, akin to the likes of Eagle vision in the Assassin Creed series. The screen dims and highlights objects of interest, be it chests to plunder or a mutilated body to look over. You’ll spend a lot of time in the game investigating areas using this ability and it can come in handy. Your contract has a few stages first you can haggle to up your reward although ask for too much and you’ll annoy people, next is talking to witnesses or survivors or checking out the scene of the last attack and following its scent. Once you have gathered all the information you can, you can check out your bestiary to see what your prey is vulnerable to and use it to claim victory, brutally cut off it’s head as a trophy and claim your reward.
Come out, come out wherever you are
The land around Geralt is war-torn, with the much hated Nilfgaardian Empire conquering and invading the North. Geralt meets with the Emperor, voiced by Charles Dance. Ciri is his daughter by birth and has Elder Blood running through her veins. She is extremely powerful and this is why the Wild Hunt chase her down so relentlessly. The emperor tells Geralt that Ciri has returned and he makes it his mission to track her down with the help of a few familiar faces from the series. Not playing the other Witcher games won’t hinder your experience massively but having played the other ones will make it feel all the more extraordinary.
Seeing old friends and old loves (there are a lot of them) will bring a smile to your face as you prepare to save Ciri and butcher your way through quest after quest. The Witcher 3 is nothing short of epic, and I don’t use that word lightly. A lot of RPGs are massive but few maintain such a captivating intriguing story while keeping the side quests just as good. It’s normally world/side quests first and story second but everything about the Witcher 3 is outstanding.
The Bestiary is very helpful in showing your enemies weaknesses and background
Your journey will take you through snow covered mountains, serene lakes and thick forests laden with mighty foes for you to defeat. Curiosity early in the game can get you killed with hard to defeat enemies being just an unlucky encounter away, some will annihilate you with one hit before you have a chance to flee others fly above you with a skull above their head, a warning that attacking them may not be the smartest thing to do…yet.
Completing quests earns you experience which levels you up. These points can be put in trees but abilities have to be activated in a small number of slots available to you so choosing your strategy and abilities is not something to be taken lightly. Mutagens can be acquired from monsters for each colour of the tree and be applied to make you even stronger. The trees are split into three categories, combat, signs and alchemy, with an extra category that has misc abilities such as extending your health bar or making you more efficient in different types of armour.
You can unlock abilities but only a few can be activated at one time
Choosing which style you like will help in applying your skill points. The many Signs that Geralt is equipped with help in combat and can be upgraded. Igni deals fire damage, Yrden is a magic trap which stops enemies in their tracks (helpful for wraiths and other enemies that look to disappear and move around quickly) Quen prevents the next hit you receive from hurting you and gets rid of any poison/fire effects.
Aard is a telekinetic blast which pushes enemies back and knocks some down allowing you to pull a gruesome finishing move on them and Axii can control the minds of enemies and turn them into your puppet, killing all their allies.
This way of doing things does make the game a little hard as you’ll only become proficient after a lot of leveling up, all depending on what difficulty you play on. If story is your thing, playing on the easiest will make your experience an enjoyable one. You’ll feel like a god smashing puny foes with your big sword and although running into higher level enemies will still be a challenge and certain death the game doesn’t punish you and making potions and oils won’t be required as much. It’s a great difficulty for gamers who don’t really venture into RPG’s but see the Witcher as a game just too good to miss, and it is.
Enemies await you at every turn
Harder difficulties will require a lot of preparation and potion making, meditating no longer regenerates your health and for a game which takes hours upon hours to complete, it will take a lot of dedication, skill and patience to defeat the game.
The enemies in the game were a joy to confront with Drowner’s attacking you in groups, diving under the water and emerging to viciously attack you. Seeing a Leshen for the first time skulking through the woods with crows around it was intimating and I thought twice before venturing over to get a closer look. Water hags, Vampires, Beautiful and yet ugly Sirens circle above and below you wanting nothing more than your grisly demise. Trolls, Gargoyles, Nekkers, White wolves and humans will all at one point have to face the Witcher’s Blade.
Such variety is a huge reason why RPG’s have always been more of a joy to me than following a soldier with a name over his head in a straight line. The hours will fly by as you explore your surroundings on your not so trusty steed Roach. I had a few problems with this horse, especially during races where he would just stop every five seconds which caused a lot of frustration. I want to win damn it. Roach can be called to you whenever you need to get somewhere fast but has a fear meter when surrounded by enemies, if he gets too scared he will kick you off and leave you to fend for yourself.
At many points during the game you will control Ciri in her bid to escape the Wild Hunt
During the game and your hunt for Ciri, you will witness memories and take control of her. Unlike Geralt, potions, signs and bombs will not be at your disposal. Instead holding down RT will make Ciri dash through dimensions and slash at all the enemies surrounding her dealing massive damage. She can also dodge quite quickly due to her powers. Her scenes are short but sweet and really help build her character and let you take a break from controlling Geralt.
Although the Witcher has many outstanding qualities, I experienced a lot of problems on my epic adventure. Flickering on the screen, floating enemies and Dwarves. Slow loading screens and the game crashing on me on several occasions. The environment slowly loading in on me as I walked around and my quest waypoint changing it’s mind every five seconds so I’d have to keep turning around. One of the most frequent and frustrating issues of them all which probably took up a lot of my time, was quest givers very slowly loading into where they should be.
I’d see the yellow circle where they should be but nothing was there. I would painfully run back and forth to get them to appear and then it wouldn’t let me talk to them so it was another minute of running in circles until I could talk to them. This was an issue that bugged me a great deal and happened all too frequently during the hundred hours I poured into the game.
Standing on the floor is for losers
Overall the Witcher 3 is up there as one of the best games I’ve ever played. Problems aside and there are a lot of them it still captivated me in every way possible. Epic quests, epic enemies and battles against the Wild Hunt with allies in tow set amongst exquisite landscapes and an exceptional soundtrack that set the mood for the game. I’ve heard it compared to Red Dead Redemption but in my experience the only time that comparison is made is when riding your horse around, helping strangers and picking flowers.
It is an RPG at it’s core with side quests aplenty, fights and races to participate in, love affairs, graphic sex scenes that will make you blush and hours will fly by building up your gwent deck. If you aren’t an RPG lover, try it and you may be surprised at just how good it is. Other games this year have a massive standard to live up to and despite the delays, was definitely worth the wait.
The Witcher 3 wild hunt
- Huge open world to explore
- Various diversions to keep you occupied
- Epic battles and enemies to fight
- Captivating story
- Horse is a little crazy sometimes
- Flickering and environment loading in
- Quest givers no where to be seen so having to wait for them to spawn
- Game crashes or doesn't load during cutscenes occasionally