A world so beautiful, yet bearing the horrors and scars of all out war and death on an unprecedented level. Chilling, eery and horrific at times is The Witcher 3’s universe of the Northern Realm, yet it is a world full of life, colour and hope. A world full of relentless suffering, pain and heartbreak, it makes the world of The Witcher 3 fascinating and makes me so keen and eager to explore. From scorched forests and villages, mud-filled battlefields with the dead strewn across it to dead bodies hanging from posts and trees left, right and center, it sets the tone for what is undoubtedly a dark and unforgiving land.
You see, The Witcher 3 makes it so easy to spend hours getting sidetracked, trying to understand what is happening and the struggle facing the people who inhabit this wretched land. That’s what I love about The Witcher 3. Never before in an open-world RPG have I wanted to explore as much as I have in Wild Hunt. As I make my way to a new quest, I find myself time and time again stopping at every village, town and battlefield, exploring the lives of every peasant in need, my curiosity getting the better of me.
I have never played any of the other entries in the series. It was a franchise I didn’t pay much notice to but that is one of the things which makes The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt so great is the fact that despite having a 3 in the title, you don’t need to have played any of the previous games or even have a starting understanding of the world or universe to be able to enjoy The Witcher 3. Those who have played the previous two entries though will be familiar with the characters and the background of the game, but this can be researched when talking to various people throughout the world.
You play the game as hardened and rugged Witcher, Geralt of Rivia who is tasked with finding Ciri, the Emperor Emhyr var Emries’ daughter who he once started witcher training with. Except it is never that easy as the Wild Hunt are also pursuing her, so it’s a race against time. Geralt has a deep connection with Ciri who he had trained from a young age in becoming a witcher and had viewed her as a daughter. He’s not interested in the Emperor’s rewards for finding her for her safety is his reward.
When you look at Geralt, he is your typical masculine, tough-guy, however beneath his tough appearance is a complex, sincere and extremely likeable character. In-fact, I would go as far as to say he is one of my favourite playable characters ever. It is easy to judge him by his looks, as do most of the Northern Realms peasants and inhabitants, but once you scratch the surface you uncover a protagonist who is charming, witty and compassionate. The way you play Geralt is up to you despite how he shrugs of the stereotype and how you perceive him is ultimately down to you, but Geralt of Rivia is a well-rounded, well-thought out character with a deep personality whom I feel more connected to than many of the other characters I have had to play in other games.
In typical open-world RPG fashion, you can buy armour, weapons, food, potions and a whole host of other materials and items which you will need throughout your time in the Northern Realm. Alchemy is a key skill Geralt possesses as it allows you to craft potions and buffs which come in extremely handy, not to mention the Swallow potion which will heal you when drunk. While Geralt can not craft any weapons or armour himself, he can visit blacksmiths and armourers and pay them a small fee to craft what you desire instead. Accessing your inventory is straight forward, however after a few hours of gameplay it is likely you would have accumulated a lot of stuff. With only a few categories on offer, your inventory can quickly become swamped, making it harder to find what it is your really looking for. A few more categories would have made life easier.
As a witcher, Geralts primary job is to slay monsters and beasts which stalk the land. He has two swords, a steel sword for slaying humans and a silver sword for killing monsters, along with 5 magic spells to use and a host of different ranged weapons such as bombs and crossbows. Combat is fluid and dynamic, with button mashing not cutting it when it comes to tougher enemies. Knowing what spells to use on what opponents comes in extremely handy and can save you a lot of time, and vitality. Having played The Witcher 3 on PC, I can say that combat is well suited to a keyboard and mouse, allowing you to quickly adjust the camera angle as needed as well as changing the directions of your attack and dodging. The only downside is that the game does have lock-on and while it works great when facing two or three enemies, anything more than that can lead to some problems with it not always be quick enough to switch to the enemy you want to attack sometimes leaving you open to attack.
The Witcher 3 is a gorgeous game, there’s no denying that. However those expecting the game to really push the boat graphically will be left a little disappointed, especially when compared to the early trailers of the game. The weather effects are stunning, especially the way the sun sets, paving way for night to set in. In rain or after a swim, Geralt’s clothes look wet and damp, almost realistically so. Unfortunately foliage lets the games graphics down with its 2D leaves, especially when creating thick bushes it becomes apparent that they just aren’t up to the standard of the rest of the game. Other than that, the rest would be just nitpicking. With a game the size of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt however, compromises are to be made, but the game still looks much better than other open-world RPG’s on the market such as Skyrim and Dragon Age. Overall, The Witcher 3 is a beautiful, gorgeous game and you’d be too busy exploring and following the story with eagerness to be worried about some 2D leaves.
When it comes to fantasy RPG’s, you won’t find one executed better than The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. It captivated me in a way no other RPG has done. The world, its inhabitants and its story had me eager to play more, I couldn’t put the game down. Not only is the main story brilliantly written but the amount of side quests on offer will always keep you busy. Not only that, but each one seems different, interesting and meaningful, even if after a while they all follow the same core principles of fetch this or slay that.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a must-buy for any RPG fan and is one of the stand-out games of 2015. It will probably be a while before we see a game-world which draws you in like The Witcher 3 does. Sure it has its faults and areas which could have been worked on, but no game is ever perfect. But The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is pretty damn close!