by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Riding into town
We rode into town like a couple of hombres, the sun warming the steel upon our backs. The townspeople stared at us wide-eyed, as we sauntered past, whispering to their friends. There was a certain smell in the air, but I couldn’t tell if it was the smell of fear, or just the pigs in their pen, wallowing in their own filth. We hopped off our steeds and wandered up to the local establishment. Tavern patrons were likely to be the best avenue for information and the wench serving the drinks was not hard to look upon either. We walked in but found our path blocked by a couple of muscular types. We were not wanted here, it seemed. That happens quite often. We’re Witchers, and people often dislike things that are different. But our quest will continue regardless…
For the uninitiated, The Witcher 3:Wild Hunt is a large-scale RPG from CD Projekt Red. Set where the previous instalment left off, the Northern Realms are under attack by Nilfgaard and any land not already taken is preparing for war. Our hero, the Witcher Geralt of Rivia, receives a mysterious letter from his former lover, the sorceress Yennefer of Vengerberg, requesting his aid. He sets off on a quest to find both her and the his adopted daughter and protégé, Ciri, who turns out to be on the run for the legendary Wild Hunt.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is huge. The campaign spans several territories, most of which large enough to make most open world games blush with modesty. And with that comes a seemingly endless large number of quests to complete. Despite their number, the tasks are varied enough to stay interesting, even when you are questing outside of the main storyline. Sure, there are the usual ‘talk to Guy A, then to Guy B before returning to Guy A for your reward’ types of quests, but these are not as prevalent as you might expect. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt varies the use of Geralt's abilities in such a way that none seem overused and every quest giver is fully voiced. And almost every character you encounter is interesting. The writing is top-notch and even a nameless old woman who was parted from her favourite pan has a story of her own that is interesting enough to listen to. And if you're in need of a little break from intrigue and action, a deck building min-game Gwent will see to you traipsing around collecting as many cards as you possibly can and defeating players both big and small.
There are dozens of notable characters, each with a back-story or information that will reveal some of the history of the Northern Realms or lore that may have transpired in the previous Witcher titles. And, if you're so inclined, some of the female characters can become much... friendlier - insert obligatory Game of Thrones style nude scene - with Geralt.
Naturally, Geralt's primary tools of the trade are his trusty swords and special Witcher abilities, but he is also somewhat of budding Sherlock Holmes. He applies his Witcher senses to track both people and creatures, to examine crime scenes for clues to what happened and to search for specific items. Often, he will learn some important details about some of the creature he will need to destroy, making the task considerably easier. The secondary quests are non-linear, allowing players to roam freely across the Northern Realms and completing quests as they appear and when they feel ready for it.
Wielding a sword
The game is a little more action-oriented than previous instalments. Combat is laid out perfectly in the tutorial, easier to learn than in its predecessors while leaving enough of a curve to allow the player to become competent against quality opposition. Base level creatures are fairly simple to deal with and can be put away with some simple sword swinging, but the boss characters do provide a fair bit of resistance. Combining the special Witcher abilities with swift strokes of steel or silver often grants enough time to determine which strategy will work best against specific foes. Indeed, it even took me a couple of attempts to defeat the first griffin in the Prologue as I came to terms with using Geralt's abilities in combination with swordplay to find the griffin’s weaknesses. Knowing what you are fighting makes all the difference, and Geralt’s detective abilities are a wonderful tool to learn all you need to know.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is an RPG, but some of its RPG elements feel somewhat simplified – in a good way. The game is simple enough for newcomers to the series to gradually work their way into the game without needing to know the value of every character stat. Much of Geralt's progression comes through upgrading and crafting weapons, using blueprints and the correct materials which are normally found in the field. Potions can be brewed with the appropriate ingredients which are relatively simple to find with the mini map highlighting areas where ingredients can be collected. Of course, Geralt’s Witcher abilities can be improved whenever he levels up too.
Wonderful story, great gameplay and beautiful visuals
What, that late already?