Review: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (Computer)
- Release Date (NA): May 19, 2015
- Release Date (EU): May 19, 2015
- Release Date (JP): May 19, 2015
- Publisher: CD Projekt RED
- Developer: CD Projekt RED
- Genres: Action RPG
- ESRB Rating: Mature
- PEGI Rating: Eighteen years and older
- Also For: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Single playerLocal MultiplayerOnline MultiplayerCo-operative
The Wild Hunt begins
If you haven’t managed to get any information on the game, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is CD Projekt RED's third game in the critically acclaimed Witcher series. The first two games came out with little heads up to gamers around the world, but the third game in the trilogy is quite different. Both games were well received, though felt somewhat unfinished as many features could be improved in one way or another. One thing led to another and now CD Project have pushed out the newest game in the series. Kudos to the developers for supplying me with a review copy of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt via GoG.com.
To be honest, when I started playing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, I first thought it’s quite linear and straightforward. I was skeptical when CDPR stated the game would have enough content to play for over 200 hours. Now around 100 hours into the game, I can say I don’t doubt them one bit anymore. As for the final verdict on the game itself, read on!
The game is set in the grim, dark fantasy world based on the Witcher book series by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. As with the previous games in the trilogy, CDPR have made the game world as close to the source material as possible. If you’re familiar with George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones, you’ll get the main gist of how brutal a world can be. You traverse the world of the Continent populated by many different races among them humans as well as other races such as elves, dwarves, vampires and werewolves. The actual game world, which opens up for travel after the short tutorial, is vast with no loading screens appearing while travelling.
The game setting begins with the empire of Nilfgaard and Redania being openly at war with each other. At the same time the mysterious and ancient Wild Hunt invades the Northern Kingdoms sowing death and despair at their wake. To add more uncertainty to the mix, various races, groups and factions have their own agendas and in many cases hate each other. This friction between everyone is a tough call for the protagonist, witcher Geralt of Rivia, who aims to be impartial in politics and only work according to the witcher’s code. The main quest is to stop the Wild Hunt as they wreak havoc across the region.
A story of legends
Many people will be put off by the thought of the game being somehow distant to everyone who hasn’t played the first two games in the series, The Witcher and The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings. Luckily this is not the case, as the main events of the previous games don’t have that much of a story impact. Of course you will have more background on Geralt himself after playing the prequels, but the lore of the world is very well detailed and explained as you play.
As I mentioned before, the game has a massive amount of quests and things to do. Surprisingly, the developers have managed to make a compelling offering of characters, regardless of their possible value and status in the main quest. You can find heartbreaking sorrow as well as comforting pleasure by conversing with NPCs around the villages and towns of the Continent. The storytelling and interactions make even the notorious fetch quests, which often plague open world RPGs, feel nothing like parts of the main quests with interesting character design as well as future consequences.
The quests from different parties will affect the game in many ways. As you have no predefined order you need to play the game, you may end up getting different results than your friends for the main story line. This translates into some NPCs even being actually killed during another quest and thus the first quest may become something completely different. This approach by CDPR works in a fantastic way, and I've yet to encounter a quest or interaction that affects the rest of the adventure in a game breaking way.
The main story proceeds in the pace you want it. The game has a swarm of side quests and random encounters in the world, which may result in you going farther in the world than you would expect at times. As you hack and slash your way across the war-ridden land, you will discover destroyed villages, monster lairs, new port town and odd encounters. Everything is bundled into a set of events that follow each other naturally and may help or hamper you on your way. In many cases the best tactic may even be to just run away and hope you will be able to fix the situation at a later stage of the game.
A world of marvel
Regardless of your platform of choice, you will be amazed by the detailed world of Witcher 3. CDPR have left no stone unturned in trying to make the most of your hardware with the new REDengine 3. You will find a detailed and dynamic world with natural events such as daytime cycles and weather changes affecting your characters looks, the world as well as how people react in the world. If it happens to rain, most people will go inside and some will even complain about the bad weather. Geralt’s clothing will look wet as he emerges from a dive in the water areas.
While all these features look fantastic on a modern rig, they will take their toll on your hardware. As a reference for all the screenshots, I am running an Intel i5-4690K with an NVidia GTX 970 (3.5G/0.5G GDDR5) and 16 GB RAM at 1080p and most options at Ultra. Even this is not enough for everything though. Requirements of stable 1080p with high fps and all settings at Ultra leaves previous benchmark games such as Crysis to second place. If you are planning on running the game with the NVidia HairWorks enabled, be prepared to hit a SLI configured dual GPU setting. If you’re going for 4K, forget 60 fps with a single card. The patches, which have been made available after launch, help quite a bit with the hardware requirements, so I really suggest anyone on the PC platform to download them. The original release version had very bad stability issues for some people including yours truly. I had the game crash to desktop every 30 minutes or so, but the patch available a few days after launch fixed it.
Some discussion has been going on over the internet regarding the performance differences between AMD and NVidia GPUs. The issue is not specifically a Witcher 3 issue, but an issue related to NVidia GameWorks and its features such as HairWorks, which are NVidia propriety code. As such, CDPR and AMD cannot work together to fix the issues as AMD cannot be given the code for debugging purposes unless NVidia permits this. So far this hasn’t been the case, so your gaming experience may differ a bit on the PC platform due to this issue. If nothing else helps, turn off HairWorks on AMD GPUs for the time being.
A trial of strength and error
Gameplay will be quite familiar with those of you who have played the previous games or other action RPGs. You control Geralt in a third person view with movement being possible on foot, on horseback, on a boat or in water swimming and diving. The feel is something similar to Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed in general movement, but climbing mechanics are more along the lines of Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series. In general, you should feel right at home with the mechanics here, but I did experience an odd case of automatic dodge roll with a bit of jumping when I was trying to open a chest in particularly difficult terrain in a swamp area.
Combat is the beef of the game and Geralt is no novice at it. You have different types of attacks ranging from the light and fast to the slow and heavy melee attacks. To spice up the mix, CDPR have added Signs, a form of magic, as well as the trusty crossbow for ranged options. At first you will feel like melee attacks are the only real damage dealing option, but as you level up, the ranged options become more and more viable with their increased power and effects.
Speaking of level ups, you will be able to customize your character a bit with different focus areas. Each of the different branches can be leveled up separately and based on your own preferences. You can’t really ruin your game by choosing wrong skills, but you can get a bit more oomph to your favorite combat skills. Some skills will give you a few more percentage of damage to an attack, while others will give additional options to existing ones such as an exploding shield, which pushes the enemies back when depleted. The main challenge in the tier system used for level ups is that you have to invest quite a bit of points into specific branches before you get the best upgrades.
An additional benefit of leveling and collecting goods from around the world is the crafting/alchemy system. Contrary to many other games in the RPG genre, CDPR has implemented a system of restoring used potions when you rest. The system is quite interesting in the sense that you will be able to get more into the combat system without worrying about a certain specific potion that you’d like to use, but couldn't because you forgot to restock.
As for the challenge of combat in the Witcher 3, you will both love it and hate it. The random nature of exploring the areas of the Continent will result you in finding a cave or two and thinking it to be wise and explore it from top to bottom. Near the end you may find very nice loot or perhaps your next to a checkpoint with a pack of Imperial Griffins waiting to eat your guts. While this may sound annoying, it is also very rewarding. The level system tells you if a particular enemy is way above your skills and thus the encounter would be deadly. In any case, this does not prevent you from trying to defeat the enemy and sometimes even succeeding at it.
Another feature of combat is tactics and how numbers affect your choices. Many of the enemies you face while roaming the vast wilderness will be in packs and sometimes even a mixed group with a couple of flying or invisible enemies to boot. The unprepared route will result in Geralt being overrun by an AI that uses number to their advantage by attacking in a sequence instead of single attacks one after another. Another spice to the mix is the results of dodging and dodge rolling out of the way of enemy attacks. Sometimes Geralt does it smoothly, sometimes you’ll get stuck in a small piece of plant life sticking out of the ground. As such, mastering combat against the vast amount of enemies will take time, but after a while you will get used to the pace of using skills in a certain order and slashing through enemy after enemy.
Towards an epic
The Witcher 3 will take a few moments to get used to. Once you do, you will fall in love with it. The mechanics are well explained in the tutorial section which makes it fairly simple to get into the game. If you’re an experienced Witcher player, you can even skip it altogether. As you progress in the story, you will see more and more suspense, mysteries, plotting and gruesome deaths. You can’t always know of the consequences, but you will quite soon be able to see the results, both good and bad. To top it off, CD Projekt RED has promised additional content both for free as well as with DLC in the form of paid expansion packs.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is huge. I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of the game. The game has been fine-tuned from start to finish with fantastic writing and gorgeous textures everywhere. While some games are largely rehashed textures between areas, Witcher 3 doesn’t suffer from this. Each area feels unique and the experience while revisiting previous areas doesn’t feel monotonous. I could say that CD Projekt RED has made one of the most interesting games of 2015, an epic of an RPG.
+ Gigantic open world
+ Fantastic story with non-linear questing
+ Hardware crushing graphics
+ Hours on hours of gaming
- Technical issues on launch (though fixed in matter of days)
- Requires high-end, modern hardware for ultra settings
- Player movement is jaggy in some cases and makes the experience somewhat underwhelming
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is the most gorgeous game made to date. Regardless of your platform, it will run your hardware to it's maximum potential and then some. The open world is vast and diverse with a huge amount of events and weather conditions affecting the people and environment of the Continent.
The Witcher 3 has improved quite a bit over the previous games in the trilogy. Enemies will attack you in the air, ground as well as underwater, which adds to tactics being a big part of how you will fare against the brutal world. Quests are non-linear with multiple possible outcomes available depending on your choices. The story will also unfold depending on the order of quests you play and quests can influence each other in numerous ways.
The world of the Witcher 3 is huge. It has multiple options to choose from in quests and gameplay. While you can't go wrong in character development, you can, and probably will, regret some choices you make during your gaming as the consequences are sometimes very brutal.
out of 10
(not an average)
The Witcher 3 is downright the best game I've played in recent years. I can't say any reason why a person should skip the game. As the few bugs here and there have mostly been fixed, the gameplay can go forward for hundreds of hours. For the $60 you pay for the game, you will gain immense value and other developers should take note.