Basics

Absolutely stunning game from Polish studio – CD Projekt Red. It’s an open world adventure based on gritty fantasy novels by A. Sapkowski. A fantasy world that bears similarities with the likes of Game of Thrones. It’s a third instalment of the Witcher saga, that follows the journey of Geralt of Rivia, a witcher. They are monster hunters, a highly trained, mutated warriors. They are feared, hated, but also necessary in a world teeming with monsters. The main story is a very simple one – Geralt is looking for Ciri, a young girl, his surrogate daughter, trained by him to be a witcher. You are basically most of the story on her trail and you find out from different people along the way what happened to her.

The World

The world is huge, it’s actually quite difficult to convey how vast this world is. I’ll try – there’s an initial map, which is quite substantial (White Orchard), then there’s an absolutely massive map, that you spend most of the game in (Velen), with 1 big city in the North (Novigrad), also there is Skellige another massive region that’s a collection of islands, apart from from all of it there are few other smaller regions.

Every region looks different, feels different, almost smells different! In Velen you’ll find thick forests, sticky, smelly marshes, little towns with farmlands, battlefields with hundreds of rotting corpses, stuffy caves, lavish manor houses, with fancy gardens and hedge mazes. Novigrad has huge temples, busy marketplaces, small winding roads, dockyards. That’s all just Velen and I could go on!

There’s a day / night cycle, which actually changes the surroundings, going through a thick forest feels a lot different in the night! Additionally there are different weather conditions. The settings make you stop and take them in, sometimes I’d stop and just watch a sunset from a hill top… Yet in this vastness and after 100 hours into the game I’m still eager to press on, to explore, to hunt.

Witchering time!

Quests are divided into Main Missions that progress the story, there are also Monster Hunting Contracts – the true heart & soul of this game, Treasure Hunting locations – that take you to ruined towers, or deep caves, to find better gear for Geralt and a plethora of Secondary Missions that add depth into the world. They are basically everything that’s not the other ones, so small fetch quests, a big long missions, that feel like the main ones, they are the meat of this game. What I love that most of these have been well written with their own small plot twists, nothing is straightforward, the game keeps surprising you with its storytelling. But coming back to Monster Hunting quests, after receiving the quest and bargaining on the salary, Geralt first has to find out about the monster, speaking to people about sightings, finding clues, in case of ghosts – learning the cause and backstory of the death, than following trails and finally disposing the creature. Yet even in this the storytelling shines, there are occasional twists, turns, revelations, that nothing is what it seem at the beginning. The witcher get to hunt huge griffins, cunning shapeshifters, centuries old vampires, ghosts with unfinished business and loads more.

Apart from all of these missions the huge map is littered with question marks, these can hide monster layers, bandit camps, treasure chests, places of power and many many more various things. There are also recurring activities to partake in, like horse racing, fist fighting and Gwent. Ahh, Gwent, it’s a in-game card game, you play mainly with merchants, but also you can enter tournaments. You gather cards of 4 factions (Northern Kingdoms, Nilfgaard, Monsters and Scoiatel) and create your own decks, it’s a very strategic game and at a lot of fun, it has a little Magic the Gathering feel to it.

So it’s safe to say that Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt feels never-ending! It will be a truly sad day when I’ll explore every single question mark and finish every single quest, believe me when I say this day will come! And I strongly believe that this journey will not be boring, it hasn’t been thus far – talking about value for money!

Decisions, Decisions

Geralt has to make a lot of decisions along the way and what’s amazing most of them will actually have an impact on the world, sometimes a seemingly insignificant decision might have a huge impact later on. There is no paragon / renegade divide to your choices, like in life it’s just a various levels of grey. I believe the developers have managed to create something that Bioware has been promising to deliver for a long time – a near perfect responsive world (to date).

The entire game is superbly voice acted (even Charles Dance, or should I say Tywin Lannister has a small but powerful role). Some of the decisions involve romantic options, you can either carry on with your relationship with Triss from previous game or pursue your long-lost love – Yennefer from the first game. Also it wouldn’t be a Witcher game without adult scenes, Geralt’s heart decisions don’t have any problems with having intercourse with willing women along the way or even visiting brothels. The scenes are quite explicit, so I would strongly stick to the Pegi rating and not show this game to any under-18s.

Steel and Silver

It’s easy to spot a witcher, he always has two swords on his back, a steel one to fight humans and animals and a silver one to fight all manner of magical creatures. The fighting mechanics, have been greatly improved from the previous games. Geralt feels fluid and nimble using his swords. There are some great finishes.

Signs are a powerful tool at Geralt’s disposal. It’s now totally valid to build a Sign-focussed witcher. He has his Jedi knockdown (Ard), that can lead to insta-killing grounded enemies; an armour-melting fire blast (Igni); a magical trap (Yrden), that mainly materialises ethereal enemies, but it has other uses; a temporal force shield (Quen), that can explode around you when broken; and a mind control sign (Axii), that stuns enemies, or can turn enemies against each other, but also has use in dialogues – another Jedi trick.

A Night to Remember Trailer

To reiterate the awesome monster hunting abilities Geralt possess, watch this stylish cinematic launch trailer as our witcher is fighting an invisible opponent.

Progress

Character progression have been simplified, plus mutagens have been made much more useful than in previous games. There 4 places you can invest your experience points, Combat, Signs, Alchemy and General Abilities. I found there is not much point investing in alchemy branch, unless you rely on oils and potions. Having said that, oils and potions are now much easier to use and apply, because they replenish the stock while you meditate, so once you create a specific oil or potion, you’ll always have it.

Polishing the routes

The game in places is hilarious! Geralt has a very dry sense of humour. There’s a lot of references / Easter Eggs to literature, culture, other games. Notice boards in towns and cities are particularly full of these, so when you decide to do some in-game reading, it’s usually quite funny. Also it being a Polish game, based on Polish books, it has a lot of references that only people raised in Poland can fully understand, which I think adds to the spirit of the game and it staying true to the source material. By the way, I highly recommend to read the novels by Andrzej Sapkowski, they’re available in English.

Interface

Interface of the game is mainly simple, with slightly confusing inventory screen (there are already few patches that made it slightly less confusing)

Verdict

The game will provide you with 100s of meaningful hours of gameplay, with it’s simple main story and elaborate, thrilling journey. Set in magnificent scenery. Where you’ll be hacking and slashing through hordes of monsters in a truly exciting fashion. You know what, if you’re into role-playing games, good stories set in gritty fantasy Game-of-Thrones-y worlds and like a challenge (and have loads of time on your hands) just go and buy it!