Step into the gnarled, monster hunting boots of Geralt of Rivia once more in what is his greatest adventure yet, and one of the best open-world RPGs ever.
Polish developer CD Projekt RED must have had quite a rollercoaster ride in recent years. Based on a series of novels, the Witcher games have gone from a fairly obscure PC game to a AAA, highly publicised powerhouse release in a matter of only three games. What the studio have achieved in only a few years really should be applauded. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has had as much hype as any other videogame, and Geralt of Rivia, the main character across the Witcher titles, is now one of videogames’ most recognised heroes. All in all, it’s pretty impressive.
So, with this third game in the series, players once more sheath both their normal steel sword and their special monster-slaying silver sword in preparation for an open-world adventure that is massive in both size and depth.
As the title may suggest, this time around Geralt is concerned with the Wild Hunt, a spectral phenomenon which many consider to be an omen of misfortune and death. However, the appearance of the Wild Hunt this time around is very personal to Geralt, as they appear to be after someone he considers to be family, Ciri.
Playing the previous two games will no doubt flesh out Geralt’s world for the player, as would reading some of the literature surrounding the games, but it is in no way necessary. The Witcher 3 does an incredible job of not only introducing a new player to the world of a Witcher, but also of explaining what is going on and who is who. The narrative in the game flows smoothly, and it doesn’t take very long at all to feel at home in this medieval, monster-inhabited world.
As an open world game, the player is free to explore as they wish, with the main story line always lurking in the background waiting for the player to continue. But stepping off the beaten path of the main story and picking up side jobs, such as those offered by settlement notice boards, is where the player will find the game world really comes to life. Catching little snippets of conversation between locals, or accepting a quest from a minor lord and having that little story grow into something quite substantial, all go towards building this magnificent fantasy world of possibilities. The many, many hours of gameplay found in The Witcher 3 are made that bit more enjoyable by the incredible variety of the side quests, which nearly always develop into more than what they first seem, and the life that seems to be carrying on throughout the world, whatever Geralt happens to be doing.
It really is a living and breathing world that Geralt has to travel through on his quest, and this feeling of life is amplified by the varied environments and really impressive visuals. While complaints could be raised at the seeming downgrade of graphical prowess from certain trailers, there is no doubt that The Witcher 3 is a beautiful game on the Xbox One version I am playing.
But the depth of the narrative and gorgeous visuals are only part of the package that makes The Witcher 3 so damn enjoyable. Geralt himself is a good reason to keep coming back. Geralt of Rivia is a Witcher, a mutant of sorts who, whilst being reviled and mistrusted by most normal people, is trained in the killing of monsters and needed by those same prejudiced people for the dispatching of said monsters. It doesn’t seem a particularly thankful life, but luckily Geralt is very good at his job and there seems to be no end of people who need his talents.
And what a range of talents they are. As a Witcher, Geralt is not only quite capable of dealing damage with his swords, but he is also quite handy with a crossbow. The combat in The Witcher 3 is considered and not suitable for button mashing, at least not once the game ramps up the difficulty. There is a quick attack and a heavy attack, and these are rounded out with dodges, rolls and counters, making for quite involved combat which requires more studying of attacks and looking for an opening whilst avoiding damage, than running in with swords swinging.
Then there are the magical abilities, spells which can be set and cast quite easily during combat for a variety of different effects, such as causing fire damage or shielding Geralt from damage. These spells are quite easy to set and use, and come in very useful during combat.
The Witcher also has abilities that can be used outside of combat, such as the Witcher sense which highlights clues or trails in bright red, making them easy for Geralt to follow whether he is tracking some monstrous beast or trying to locate a missing person. Geralt also is a competent Alchemist, able to collect items from the world and then combine them into potions and oils that can be invaluable for facing the variety of nasties in the world, or bombs which can also tip the balance in Geralt’s favor.
There really is very little wrong with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Sure, the combat does take a little getting used to, perhaps more time than the game allows for the average player. And yes, there are the occasional glitches and bugs, some of which are quite hilarious. But with this huge, living and breathing world to explore, filled with incredible narrative and varied events, all with an enigmatic protagonist, these issues are easily overlooked.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a massive game that really manages to draw the player in. There may be a few minor problems, but the end result is an RPG that players will be able to sink many hours into, and come away with more than one story to tell. Grab what is one of the best games of the year without any delay, and start your adventure with Geralt of Rivia.