The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015)

After playing through the entire The Witcher trilogy, I have been thoroughly impressed by the improvement of CD Projekt Red over the years. The step up from the first Witcher game to its sequel and then from the sequel to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is simply astounding. Not only was the game vastly improved on a technical level, but many of its predecessors’ issues were fixed. It is no surprise that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is being regarded as a modern masterpiece, and it certainly deserves that distinction.

1

What the series is known for is its fantasy story-telling and grim setting. Like the games that came before it, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is filled with difficult decisions. Most story related choices have consequences, and you have to think about what is the correct moral decision. Being the “nice guy” will backfire if you are too trusting. There is a plethora of “secondary” quests apart from the main storyline that are extremely high quality. Most importantly, the main questline of the game succinctly finishes the trilogy. Geralt, the monster hunting witcher searches the world for his apprentice, Ciri. War is being waged between the two main kingdoms of Redania and Nilfgaard, and the world is under threat by the spectral “wild hunt”. Ciri plays a key role in the war as she is the Nilfgaardian princess, and she also has special powers that the wild hunt is looking to harness.

2

What impressed me most about The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is its massive and immersive open world. The world is split up in 4 distinct areas: White Orchard, Velen, Novigrad, and Skellige. Each of these areas is vast and awe-inspiring. Dozens of towns pepper the map to find quests and jobs to complete. Or you can just relax and play a few rounds of Gwent, a phenomenal card game designed just for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The landscapes and wilderness are genuinely entertaining to roam as the world is crammed full of secrets and rewards for those willing to explore. I really was stricken by just how many tiny villages and towns were included. These hamlets served really no purpose other than to immerse the player and make the world feel real, and I was thoroughly impressed by just how believable the world really was. Job boards, wandering characters, bandit camps, monster nests, hidden treasures, caves, and abandoned towns are scattered across the land. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a masterclass in open-world games and gives the player immense freedom to just have a genuine adventure.

3

Not only is The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt a strong standalone experience, but it also offers 2 high-value downloadable content (DLC) packages. The first is called “Hearts of Stone” which includes a gripping storyline and about a dozen hours of quality content. The second pack, “Blood and Wine”, is possibly one of the best DLC experiences offered in all of gaming. It introduces an entirely new and vibrant area that was based on Southern France and Tuscany. Not only is it gorgeous, but there are a ton of new side quests and a phenomenal main questline. As if The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt didn’t have enough content, these 2 DLCs are definitely worth it and extend the length of the game even further.

4

While The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is obviously known for its open-world, engaging quests, and riveting storytelling, it is also technologically impressive. The character models and animations add authenticity to the storytelling. The already lovable characters become more genuine as crisp animations bring them to life. Not to mention that the stunning backdrops enhance the world building. The level of technological prowess makes the world of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt even more immersive.

5

Even though I regard The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt incredibly highly, it does have some flaws. The most apparent issue is the games combat. Do not get me wrong, it is not nearly as bad as the first Witcher game, and it is a marked improvement over the previous games. The combat is fairly mediocre as a whole, but it is not so bad that it hampers the experience. Even on the higher difficulties you can make it through the game by rapidly swinging your sword at enemies. Sure, occasionally casting some magic and parrying or dodging enemy attacks is all well and good, but combat feels more like a spectacle rather than a genuine thrill. It did not really dampen the rest of the game, but I would not play The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt solely for its combat. And that’s fine, because the rest of the game is just so damn well made.

6

Other than the combat, there are few nitpicky issues that I feel obligated to point out. These really are not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but they were minor annoyances. For starters, not being able to pause during cutscenes or dialogue is fairly frustrating, especially in such a story heavy game. Another small thing is when calling your horse, sometimes he will spawn in a bizarre location making it a hassle to get in the saddle. Also, even though the world has a ton of quests and things to do, many of those things are repetitive filler. Most primary and secondary quests are enjoyable, but witcher contracts, treasure hunts, and places of interest quickly get monotonous. Even a few secondary quests are blatant filer. None of these things are required however, so if you do not want to do them there is no obligation to do so.

7

The last issue is the overuse of a core mechanic of the game: witcher senses. This ability allows the player to tune into Geralt’s acute senses to track things. Pretty much every quest in the game has you activate the witcher senses to track a monster or person from traces they left behind. What this equates to in gameplay terms is hitting a button and some clues will glow red and you interact with them. It is a fine idea that allows the player to harness their witcher abilities, but it does not need to be used in every single quest. It starts to grow a little tiresome when you get super involved in the story or a side-quest and all of a sudden you have to tediously track something for 10 minutes. The reliance on this mechanic is a little odd, its really not anything special so I am not sure why it is infused into every aspect of the game. Its not particularly bad, its just used way too much.

8

I think that the fact the all of the issues that I mentioned are prefaced with “it’s really not that bad, just a little annoying” is indicative that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a special kind of game. When I have to mention the little things and nitpicks, it is evident that there a very few, if any, major flaws to be found. As a whole, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a masterpiece that should be immortalized. It is a quintessential fantasy game and its magnificent world could easily stand alongside the greats such as: The Lord of the Rings, A Song of Ice and Fire, and The Elder Scrolls. I’d recommend playing The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings first to get some background information to fully enjoy the experience. The first The Witcher game is fairly dated and is not necessary to understanding the rest of the trilogy, so I would recommend skipping it unless you really want to. Either way, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is an absolute achievement in many different ways such as storytelling, world building, and animation. It is for these reasons I give The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt a 10/10. This is an absolute must play game, especially if you enjoy fantasy RPGs or story heavy games.

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