The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt came out a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been living in its world since.
There’s a fun story about how I came to acquire my copy of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. I was in the market for a new graphics card and I saw a deal online that included a digital download of the game. I figured I might as well take advantage of this offer. After all, who turns down a free game that comes with something they were going to buy anyway, right?
If you’ve been keeping up with the goings-on here at GiN, you probably already know that I’ve make it my goal to clear a considerable amount of games from my backlog this year. In that backlog of games is The Watcher 1&2. Unfortunately, I haven’t beat either of them yet. I’ve put right around 10 hours into the first game and none into the second. This means I’m going into The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt with little knowledge of the series.
The first disadvantage I’ve run into jumping into this game series on the third installment is that I knew little to nothing about these characters or their backstories. This meant that I had to clue together a lot of pieces from the previous games’ stories to understand what was going on here. It wasn’t anything too difficult, but I felt I would have appreciated the game a little more had I completed the first and second games.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt puts players in the shoes of Geralt of Rivia as he searches for his missing lover Yennefer. A short way into the game players learn that Ciri, Geralt’s ward that went missing several years ago, is being pursued by The Wild Hunt. The Wild Hunt is a ghostly army that has started ransacking its way through this world in its efforts to find Ciri. Geralt agrees to track Ciri down before The Wild Hunt can and the real game begins.
What I really love about The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is how much detail it gives to its story. Along with the main goal of tracking down Ciri, players also have to deal with an ongoing war that has consumed the land. This war will put Geralt in direct conflict with both sides and it’s the player’s choice on who to throw their cards in with. What’s really great is that many of these decisions are presented in a negative and positive light. However, there is no karma system that affects how a player is viewed because of their actions. This means that players have a lot more free choice during every conversation without having to worry how the world will see them.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s world is massive. Players that are looking for an open-world game that will take up hours upon hours of their lives need look no further. The main story will take players across the world, but there are so many other areas to see where side quests are available. I haven’t done anywhere near all the side quests in the game, but I’ve still put a lot of time into it outside of the main story.
One of coolest features of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is taking on jobs to hunt large monsters. The game does a good job at setting players up with how the system works by having them track, hunt, trap and kill a griffin that is pestering a small village at the start of the game. From here, the large hunts become even more fun as the game lets go of the player’s hand completely.
My first large hunt after the griffin was to track down a man’s missing wife. Along the way, I discovered a small amount of blood. Using my Witcher senses, I tracked the blood down to a general area where I believed more clues would be. It was here that I found the man’s wife torn to pieces. I inspected her body and came to the conclusion that it was the work of a werewolf.
Here’s where things get really fun. I tracked the werewolf down with the help of its scent that I got from some fur stuck on a tree limb. After going deep into the woods, I discovered a small cabin that was its den. Under the cabin was a large cave where the werewolf rested. Knowing I needed to take care of the werewolf, I meditated until night. This is when I got my backside handed to me. I thought I could take this guy on with little to no preparation, but I was wrong. I died several times before I finally admitted I couldn’t handle the quest.
After tasting defeat for the umpteenth time, I decided I should head back to the local village and see what I could learn about werewolves. I read a book to learn that they are weak to fire, a couple types of bombs and a cursed oil that I could coat my blade with. After scouring the countryside while completing other quests, I found the ingredients I needed to make the cursed oil and bombs. This preparation made all the difference and I was able to defeat my foe. All this work to take down a werewolf left me with a huge feeling of satisfaction. One that I don’t believe I’ve felt in other open-world RPGs before, such as Skyrim. Todd actually has a wonderful piece that goes into detail over the differences in these two games.
Combat in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is fluid. Players will really have to master the ability to parry and attack at the right times if they want to progress in the game. If they don’t, even a group of low level enemies could gang up on them and do some serious damage. The various spells available in the game also require players to know their enemies to be used effectively. Experimenting will help in battle as some enemies are only weak to certain types of magic and attacks.
Seeing as The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is an RPG, it only makes sense that players would earn expereince when they defeat enemies. Collect enough and Geralt will level up. Wild Hunt has a unique level up system. Rather than force players to make permanent choices on how their character will play, this game lets them adjust their builds at any time. There are still skills that players put points into, but they have to be equipped for them to go into effect. Players are limited to the number of skills they can have quipped based on their level. This means that some fights may be easier won with some adjusting to their characters’ skills, instead of just their armor and weapons.
The graphics in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt are amazing. Each character has a lot of detail in them and its great to see them moving about the world as if it’s actually real. Faces are easily one of the most detailed parts of the game and this exta care allows players to really see expressions. This is good since a large portion of the game will have players talking to other characters as they collect information about Ciri, their jobs or the general happenings in the local village.
The world in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is also great. I’ve already mentioned that it’s huge and it also has a lot of life to it. It’s great to be riding through the forest on Roach, my faithful stead, and see small animals, such as rabbits, moving out of my way. This world is also filled with interesting locations that can lead to fights, adventures and unique dialog options.
The music in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt really stands out. Travelling around the world offers players soft, comforting music for their journey and jumping into a battle will result in a clear, but not cutoff, transition to epic battle music.
The voice acting in the game is also great. My only qualm is with Geralt. His raspy monotone voice can become a real bore after spending so long in the game. However, I will say that its better than it was in the first Witcher. Other characters are voiced very well and I’ve got no real complaints about them.
The sound effects for everything happening in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt are great. Nothing comes across as louder or quieter than it should. Every action has an accompanying sound effect and they all feel right. Small details like this really help move a game forward without distracting the player.
Unfortunately, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt isn’t perfect. There are some graphical glitches in the game that can result in some funny, but atmosphere breaking, experiences. I personally had one where my sword wouldn’t draw from my back and I ended up beating enemies with an invisible one. Big incidents like these aren’t all too common, but other smaller ones can also pop up to annoy players and make them lose their immersion in the world.
Graphical glitches aren’t the worst things I’ve run into. I also had the game freeze on me a few times while playing. This is always a real mood killer and immediately throws me out of the game’s world, literally. I also noticed some frame rate issues when HairWorks is enabled. Despite having plenty of power to run the game at its recommended settings and then some, the frame rate would still drop when too many characters or creatures were on screen at once.
Overall, I’m loving The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The game offers players a huge open-world experience that is sure to suck them in and not let them out until hours later. The story is great and the grittiness of the world is a fresh breath from the typical fantasy setting. It’s beautiful, sounds great and is worth the money. Even if I hadn’t got this game for free with my new graphics card, I’m sure I’d be adding it to my shelf shortly after.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt earns 4.5 GiN Gems out of 5!