Game Reviewed: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Release Date: May 19th, 2015
Developer: CD Projekt RED
Platform: [Reviewed: PC ] Xbox One, PS4
Genre: Action RPG
Rating: M for Mature
Geralt of Rivia returns in the third game of the Witcher Series. Still hated by many who don’t understand Witchers, and loved by those who are fortunate enough to have met one during dire times, Geralt tackles a bevy of new monsters, enemies, challenges and adventures.
Hunting down an apprentice in danger, while simultaneously helping those he meets fight off all levels of ghouls, monsters and creatures, the Wild Hunt allows you to truly explore and catalog everything you see and do.
Anyone who has kept track of the Witcher series so far will know what a gem this game is, despite being at times covered in a shell that would make most gamers go “It’s not worth it.” The first Witcher game was good, but not great, and the second was bogged down with a myriad of interface issues that made the game difficult, sometimes impossible, to play.
In The Witcher 3 : Wild Hunt, this game truly shines. It as addicting as it is challenging, but what makes this game so good?
Graphically speaking, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is more of what you’d expect from the series. Lot’s of haze effects that make the game feel ethereal and warm. Lots of great detail in character and enemy textures and an overall fantastic sense of environment. While riding your horse Roach through the woods and swamps of this world, you’ll find yourself wanting to stop here and there to take in the sights. You’ll want to get off, remove your clothing and go for a quick swim in the creek, as well as get to the highest point you can go to while still being able to see the sunset.
Not all sights are pretty sights, however, as the game does take place in the middle of war time and as a result many times you will ride past a tree with hanging bodies in various forms of decay. The Wild Hunt is an extremely immersive game that teeters delicately on being overwhelmingly beautiful and incredibly depressing. There is nothing in this game, visually, that would take you out of the very intricate web that CD Projekt RED has weaved, but can we say the same for gameplay?
Gameplay in the Wild Hunt is a marked improvement over its previous installment. In the Witcher 2, which featured a revamped control system, the keys were clunky, confusing and there was just too much to keep track of while trying to stay alive. The Wild Hunt has not only streamlined, but made sense of this mass confusion. No longer is it a hassle to figure out what is what. The world is your oyster and your weapons are at your command. Instead of having to choose between using your magical abilities or forgoing them to concentrate on fighting, the Wild Hunt makes magic a part of your arsenal, just as much as your weapons and armor. The addition of a quick-wheel to select and a way to scroll quickly through your abilities, leaves only the sheer power of your memory to stand in the way of you and you soon to-be-expired enemies.
Speaking of death and destruction, combat in the Wild Hunt is both fun and strategic endeavor. After a quick tutorial to familiarize you with both the story and your use of the controls, you are literally dumped into a very dangerous world with a guide and friend named Artemis. This tutorial walks you through the use of parry, counter and evasive maneuvers. It makes you feel like a bad ass, but don’t be too quick to run into danger. Many times I’ve run in to battle wolves, excited by the prospect of loot and saving nearby villagers only to realize my health is dangerously low. Not a big deal, wolves aren’t too hard to kite, but bandits…bandits are a whole new game. Putting your parry, block, and dodge to use while simultaneously using your magic and weapons can be a bit difficult, especially when you have three guys cornering you in a bar.
This game is as fun as it is challenging, but not at all frustrating, this may not be a Dark Souls encounter, but it definitely isn’t a walk in the park. Which is, again, not something I could have said for the Witcher 2. The world in the Wild Hunt also feels a lot less linear, leaving you to explore the beautiful scenery, fight monsters that pop up occasionally, or hone your alchemy and crafting abilities at will. Between visiting vendors for consumables and ingredients, coming the world for alchemy supplies, finding hidden stashes guarded by ghosts and ghouls, and accepting quests that range from crafting potions to getting rid of powerful specters, this game likes to keep you busy. There is so much to do in this game without it being overwhelming that it’s almost the perfect amount of activity. Nothing seems added for fluff, everything is useful, but never a necessity.
A big example of this is how audio plays a big role in this game. Audio is one of the hard things to review because when it’s done well you don’t really notice it. In this game, CD Projekt RED not only does it well, they put it to work! In the Wild Hunt, Geralt’s witcher senses continue to point out useful objects as well as honing in on nearby sounds and the direction they are coming from. This is super helpful when you are in the woods and you hear wolves, but aren’t sure where they are coming from. It’s helpful for both avoiding them and facing them head on.
So what’s the downside? Really, I could only find one, and let me preface this by saying I was one of those people who was completely turned off by the controls in the Witcher 2, to the point where I did not finish the game – or really even get far into it. So what I was most impressed with in this game is how easy it is to pick up and play and fully understand what is going on without having to have gotten very far in either of the first two installments to this series. This is a game that you can play as your first introduction to the Witcher.
That being said you don’t have to play any of the previous games to play this one, but there are moments in this game that are frustrating because they so very clearly rely on having a historical knowledge of the first two games. For example, in a certain part of the game Geralt is questioned about events that are referencing the previous games. While your answers don’t seem to effect the outcome of the story, in other words they might not kill you, it is still about five minutes of tedium that throws off the momentum of the game. Up until this point the game is very transparent about what it expects from you, leaving the player to really become Geralt. This is the only moment, so far, that really makes you feel like an idiot and not at all like a bad ass dude with two swords and the ability to burn stuff with his hands.
Overall, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a great game for those who follow the Witcher Series and were either disappointed by the last installment, or are just excited to see the game continue to develop. It’s also a good entry game to the series for those just wanting to know what all the hub-bub is about.
Overall Rating: 4/5