Review-The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Every so often we get a game that rises above expectations and manages to do a good job of checking all the requirement boxes for a good game. This is not that game. This is more.
In the TW3 you play as Geralt of Rivia. Without going into too much detail, just know that Geralt is a fucking badass monster slayer. He is also a witcher. Witchers are taken at a young age and trained through the use of gene altering substances, mutations and extremely rigorous training that the majority of subjects don’t survive. However, when they do survive you get someone like Geralt. He has the ability to see in the dark as well as heightened senses similar to those of Peter Parker of the Spiderman movies, but without the stupid stuff. He also has two swords, one normal steel sword for bandits dumb enough to try and attack him and a silver sword for dealing with monsters. The other tools he has at his disposal are signs. Signs are basically special spells that witchers have. The Quen sign spawns a shield around Geralt that will absorb 100% of the damage of the next hit. The Igni sign allows Geralt to cast fire. The Axii sign, one of my favorites, allows Geralt to influence the minds of his enemies and can even be upgraded to make enemies fight for him for a limited time (Axii is quite similar to the Jedi mind trick in Star Wars). Then we have Aard which is basically a much weaker version of Skyrim’s unrelenting force. Lastly, there is Yrden which is a magical trap that Geralt can place. Any enemy that steps in this trap will slowed down and a few enemies will be weakened. Here’s a quick vid of Axii being used in a conversation:
Now that you know a little about Geralt, let’s talk about what is going on in the game. I’m not going to mention a lot about the story as to avoid spoilers except that the main plot involves Geralt looking for his adopted daughter who he hasn’t seen in a long time. Her name is Ciri and she has something called the elder blood which gives her special powers like the ability to bend time. Due to this, there are multiple organizations in the world that want to get a hold of her for various reasons such as science, experimentation, and power. Geralt’s goal is to get to her first, before the Wild Hunt does. The Wild Hunt are a group of evil wraiths from another dimension that want to take over the dimension in which Geralt resides and believe that Ciri is the key to doing so. They leave nothing but death and destruction in their wake, similar to Game of Thrones’ white walkers, though on a much smaller scale. There are tons of similarities between the two worlds, that it really seems that TW3 is the videogame equivalent of Game of Thrones.
As far as game play goes, this is an open world game and a fucking massive open world game at that. You can travel throughout the world via Geralt’s horse “Roach”. Once you discover settlements you unlock fast travel points that allow you to quickly travel to other fast travel points in the game. On the map you will be able to see all the various locations you have discovered as well as areas that are marked with question marks. These areas are often guarded by some sort of enemy whether it be bandits or monsters. More often than not, killing the enemies at these locations will result in some cool loot. Though occasionally you clear an area and it becomes hospitable again leading to NPCs moving in. There’s an insane amount of things to do in this game and as of my writing this reivew I have not done all of it. However, I did beat the main questline. Here’s a vid I made of me at a low level exploring one of the locations. I get my ass whooped a bit due to being on a higher difficulty:
Since that clip shows a good amount of it, let’s talk about the combat. This is challenging, but rewarding combat. If you go in acting like it’s Skyrim and just swinging like a madman and button mashing you’re gonna have a bad time. However, if you prepare beforehand and time your attacks and blocks you will feel like a fucking boss. There are various ways to prepare for combat depending on the situation. If you know you’re gonna be fighting monsters you can apply special oils to Geralt’s sword that give a damage bonus against that particular enemy. You can also pop a potion that increases the damage Geralt deals or the amount of stamina he has among other things. The most important rule is to always cast Quen before you start a fight. That shield has saved my life so many times I’ve lost count. You can see it save me several times in the video. I have it upgraded so that when someone hits me it explodes at them and deals some damage.
Speaking of upgrades, there are a lot of various upgrades to gear and equipment. For swords and armor there are runes which apply various bonuses/effects to them. A few examples are 20% armor piercing or a chance to set an enemy on fire, or even stamina regeneration. There’s a bunch of armor to be found in the game, but the best armor by far is the Witcher gear. To get Witcher gear you have to first find a map that shows all the locations and then go on a treasure hunt of sorts to find the pieces of the gear. The reason Witcher gear is superior is that each set of gear has several tiers of upgrading. As you upgrade them to higher tiers they perform better as well as looks more badass. Over time, your gear will degrade and you will have to repair it but it’s really not the worst thing. You can just use a repair kit if you have one, or visit a blacksmith. The other category of upgrades comes from leveling up Geralt. As you level up you unlock slots with which to equip skills. There are the typical better weapon damage, more health, higher stamina, more blocking etc type skills and then there are my favorite skills, the alternate signs. These change the way your signs work. As an example, the Igni sign usually casts a wave of fire as you saw in the video above but if you get the upgrade for alternate Igni it becomes a steady stream of fire instead of a one off thing. The alternate form of Axii causes enemies to fight for you for a short time and often results in some funny shit going down between them and the enemies that are still hostile. Bottom line here, UPGRADES ARE FUN.
Speaking of fun, that is the game’s biggest strength. Every single thing you can do is somehow fun. Exploring the world on horseback and coming across a little area you can explore or just an amazing view that you totally didn’t know was coming are some of the best moments in the game. Hell, it even has a full blown card game called gwent, in which you can blow all Geralt’s hard earned money via gambling. You can collect gwent cards throughout the world to strengthen your deck as well. It’s definitely one of the better minigames I have seen. Perhaps the most surprising thing is how fun the side quests are. Whereas a game like Skyrim would have some dude tell you to retrieve his necklace from some dungeon providing no reason at all as to why his precious necklace is surrounded by undead assholes or for that matter how they even know it’s there, TW3 always has a reason for the side quests and often times they tie in quite well with the main story line. Even something as simple as escorting a goat is fun. Every single side quest has voiced dialogue and cutscenes. There are no side quests that leave you feeling empty and wondering why you just did what you did.
The last two things I will mention are the graphics and audio. This is arguably the best looking game out there. The textures are just mind bogglingly good and the lighting is gorgeous, even when it’s storming it somehow manages to look beautiful. On the subject of storms, one of the coolest things is that you can actually watch the storm clouds roll in and see the lightning/hear the thunder in the distance. Most other games are just like boom it’s raining and storming all of a sudden. NPCS behavior will change when the weather takes a turn for the worse as well. Trees will sway with the wind and you can hear the branches cracking as the wind rushes through them. The entire soundtrack to this game is just fantastic. Whether it be during combat or just exploring an area, the music is always fucking perfect and on point.
TW3 takes every single expectation that I had for it and absolutely fucking demolishes it. It’s the kind of game that only comes along once a generation, and the game that every other RPG wishes it could be. If you have any interest in RPGs or even just fantastic storytelling/gameplay you should pick this game up. Perhaps the most impressive thing of all is that the game was made by a small studio in Poland and not some gigantic corporation like EA and it is better than all the games big publishers like EA have made. Every other game company needs to take note of this game, because a new bar has been set and I will judge every other RPG by this bar from here on out. You’ve been warned.