Many games have made the promise of outcomes being determined by choices the player makes, and it wasn’t until I started playing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt that I realized that very few of those games did it right.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is, first and foremost, a character-driven experience that’s really dialed in on player choice. I’m not talking about purely good or evil choices either, I’m talking about difficult decisions that have far-reaching consequences that the player is unaware of when making them. I’m talking about choices that aren’t black or white. I’m also talking about critical decisions that player might not realize are critical at the time. During one quest for example, you seek out a cave that houses a spirit. You can either kill the spirit or spare it, but you are not conveniently told what the consequences of either decision are. It’s not until later that you discover them, and of course it’s too late to change it once you do. This is one of the pillars of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
Geralt of Rivia returns as the main protagonist, driven by the search for his daughter-by-choice and former ward, Ciri. You see, Ciri is special, and has drawn the ire of the otherworldly marauders known as the Wild Hunt. Geralt’s search takes him through war-torn lands, a bustling metropolis, and so much more; all while at the same time being asked to do his job. For those uninitiated with the series, Geralt is a Witcher; a human who’s gone through rigorous training and genetic mutations in order to hunt monsters of all kind. Hunting these monsters not only earns Geralt coin and renown, but also exposes players to some of the best parts of this massive game.
Combat in The Witcher 3 is fast and fluid, but absolutely requires some strategy other than “run up on monster and hit square until it’s dead”. Witchers are trained to brew oils and potions, as well as make bombs, and all of these make Witchers deadly. Coating the right oil on your blade before you fight a monster will add potency to your strikes and shorten the encounter. Potions come in many varieties, and their effects can range from restoring vitality to letting Geralt see in the dark. Bombs are also useful for disorienting or damaging groups of enemies. The effects of certain bombs can also be combined for more devastating effects. Another major contributor to the combat system is the implementation of “signs”, which are magic spells at Geralt’s disposal. The signs enable Geralt to shoot flames out of his hands, or control the minds of enemies; among other things. Couple everything above with a robust striking, parrying, and dodging system and you have a recipe for one of the finest combat experiences ever implemented in a game.
As Geralt travels through the various villages and towns peppered throughout the world, he’ll come across notice boards where concerned citizens will post witcher contracts. Witcher contracts are another pillar of this game, and they allow the player to hunt monsters that prey on the citizenry in exchange for some coin. This is not your typical follow-the-waypoint to the monster sort of hunt though. Witcher contracts usually have Geralt visit the site of the monster attack to gather information, much like in the excellent crime scene investigation bits of Arkham City. Geralt will examine wounds, blood spatter patterns, environments, and follow blood trails to discern not only the type of monster, but where it keeps its lair. Once Geralt is able to figure out the type of monster, the player can then prepare for the impending battle. These contracts don’t always have to end in killing a monster. Depending on the monster and the circumstances, the player may decide to let the monster live. The first example of this that comes to mind, is a contract in which a village sends miners to excavate a nearby cave full of silver ore. The only problem is that this cave is the home of a rock troll. The player actually has the choice of killing the rock troll, or sparing it and telling the village to stay away.
Everything I’ve just described takes place in a vast, open world that Geralt can move freely through. This world is absolutely gorgeous, with a dynamic time and weather system in place, resources to collect, and varied foliage and environments. Put simply, this world is breathtaking. I spent the majority of my time playing this game, simply roaming the world and seeing what kinds of trouble I could get into. Not only is the world vast, but it is absolutely jam-packed with things to do and people to see. It seems that everyone has something to say, and there are always buried treasures, monster dens, and abandoned sites nearby to find. Traveling this world by foot is great on its own (though I might be in the minority there), Geralt can also mount his trusty steed, Roach. Horse riding in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a lot of fun. Not only can you get from point a to point b faster, but the riding system allows for Roach to automatically stay on the road you’re traveling without steering manually. There is also a fast-travel system, but I used it sparingly, as traveling the world is just so much fun.
Speaking of fun, I wanted to touch on Gwent. Gwent is a card game that the player can engage NPCs in, and it’s a lot of fun. Geralt starts with a pretty standard deck of cards, but throughout his journey he can collect a lot of rare cards, including a Geralt of Rivia card! I highly recommend playing Gwent at every opportunity.
Everything I’ve already mentioned are what I call the pillars that hold this game up above others in its genre. In addition, players will appreciate the memorable characters, robust dialogue, and plentiful sex scenes. Well, maybe not that last one.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t issues, because there are. If you do a YouTube search of “Witcher 3 Funny Bug” or something like that, you will be treated to an endless supply of funny little glitches that range from moonwalking to NPCs standing in mid-air. None of the little bugs or issues will detract from the experience in any way, and it’s because of this that I actually recommend trying to find them and have some fun!
To sum up, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a masterpiece that every gamer should play. I’ve personally put in well over 200 hours and counting, and have never been bored. Developer CD Projekt RED have also been releasing free DLC on a weekly basis which adds new quests, items, and skins for some of the characters. Issues aside, this is one of the greatest games I have ever played, and I think many of you will agree with me.