CD Projekt Red releases its magnum opus with, quite possibly, one of the most immersive RPG experiences of all time. Fans of dark fantasy stories such as Game of Thrones, will be right at home in the world of The Witcher, which originated as a series of books from Andrzej Sapkowski. In the last several years, CD Projekt Red has grown into a significant development powerhouse through the success of The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings after it was released on the Xbox 360. Now, the franchise goes multi-platform for the final installment of CD Projekt Red’s Witcher trilogy, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
Set some six months after the Assassin of Kings, Geralt of Rivia and his mentor and comrade Vesemir are on the trail of Geralt’s long-lost love, Yennefer of Vengerberg. The northern realms where Geralt of Rivia tends to reside are in turmoil because Emperor Emhyr var Emreis of the southern kingdom Nilfgaard is waging a bloody campaign to conquer the north. However, after reuniting with Yennefer, Geralt learns that his adopted daughter, Ciri, has returned to the land. She is being pursued by a band of malevolent dark riders called the Wild Hunt, who were previously thought to be mythical. Geralt goes on a mission to save his chosen daughter and quash the Wild Hunt once and for all. Along the way, he may or may not take contracts to slay monsters, hunt for various treasure, romance some comely lasses or even play a game of Gwent.
What I enjoy the most about The Witcher 3 is that in many ways, your play style dictates how the story evolves. CD Projekt Red gives players the option to be merciful or tougher on bystanders or some monsters who have been afflicted by a terrible curse. The outcome of many chapters is decided by various dialogue and character driven options. As Geralt, I decided to be tough, but fair. I was also compassionate in certain cases. If an impoverished family wanted to pay me with their life-savings, I would turn that money down.
The game offers a stunning amount of variety in the amount of story missions, secondary quests, treasure hunts and monster contracts. There is a great array of sword play, combat with enemies and monsters, horseback riding and races, gambling with the card game Gwent and even local boxing matches. The developers at CD Projekt Red have truly outdone themselves with the sheer amount of gameplay The Witcher 3 has to offer. This is not a game in which you can just breeze through a single-player campaign in just six hours. Not to mention, there are various alternate cut scenes and endings that can be unlocked.
The open-world sandbox in The Witcher 3 is a true sight to behold. The gameplay offers tons of unique terrain to traverse and explore. It is very easy to get lost in the world of the game is one that is very easy to get lost in. You can spend hours just exploring new locations, quelling wayward bandits and monsters or just chatting with the various locals.
I really enjoy the combat system for the game. As a highly trained and experienced monster hunter, Geralt of Rivia is no slouch with the sword. Geralt also has a number of magical abilities, and even more that can be unlocked to put a hurting on the gradually advancing enemies. Once I got a handle on mixing my sword attacks with the magical spells, the combat became incredibly satisfying. The sword fights have a great clash and bang style. You do not want to just hack away at an enemy. You want to parry and block certain blows, and then Geralt can literally slice his enemies to ribbons. When you pull those moves off, the experience is highly satisfying. The Witcher 3 does a great job of mixing in hack and slash combat with a deep, immersive RPG style.
That said, the game is not without its flaws. The crafting system is a little too overwrought and complex. Over the course of the game, it seems that whenever Geralt finds or crafts a cool new weapon, that weapon quickly becomes obsolete because a more durable weapon that does greater damage more quickly comes along. I would have preferred sticking with certain weapons and having the option to upgrade those weapons instead of constantly ditching them. You cannot keep every item you pick up because carrying too much metal and iron slows Geralt’s movement. That is an element of realism for the game, which is good, but I would have preferred a more streamlined crafting system. Not to mention, Geralt starts with one of the coolest armor sets in the game, but it quickly becomes obsolete. Many of the later armor sets I picked up looked downright ugly. There are certain armor sets, the Witcher school sets, later on in the course of the game that are upgradeable, but those are few and far between. In addition, in terms of gameplay, Geralt is in constant need of coin for upkeep and maintenance of his gear and weapons. He needs coin to get new weapons, new armor or even new saddles and bags for his horse. Those can get quite expensive, but the game can be pretty hard on the player because it does not want them to carry around lots of money. It is no that surprise players were looking for quick and easy exploits to build up their funds.
The Witcher 3 is not without its share of bugs and graphical imperfections on the PlayStation 4. There is nothing game-breaking I found in terms of bug and glitches, but there were some recurring issues. On more than one occasion, Geralt’s faithful steed Roche would just start taking off in the air and running in the sky, which is not supposed to happen. Pop-in was another graphical issue. Besides that, The Witcher 3 has some great character designs. The world is massive and filled out in the most pain-staking details.
The Witcher 3 is a game that often forces its protagonists, Geralt and Ciri, to pick the lesser of two evils. Even though Geralt and Ciri are not overtly malevolent and want to do the right thing, sometimes the only choices will not offer desirable outcomes. This is truly a serious, dark and compelling fantasy story. The game boasts top notch voice-over work and also a tremendous orchestral musical score. The music that fires up during the battle sequences makes the game that much more epic.
Warts and all, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is still the best game I have played so far this year. It could quite possibly become one of my favorite games ever. The sheer variety of gameplay, fun combat and compelling immersive story content make The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt a groundbreaking, revolutionary game for the ages.