The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

The third installment of The Witcher franchise is now here, by polish developers CD Projekt RED and their incredible efforts to make their best game yet. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt brings us Geralt of Rivia once more, offering us one of the most adventurous stories of the current gaming generation. CD Projekt RED feature a new REDengine 3 game engine, specially made for open world environments, due to the complexity of the game and its multi-thread story.

Based on the novels by Andrzej Sapkowski, the story of the white wolf continues one year after the events of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. War between The Northern Realms and the Nilfgaardian Empire are now showing the aftermaths of the clash, civilians and towns being affected, but alas, the war is still to decide who rules. Geralt of Rivia, in the mist of battle, searches for her “kind of a daughter”, Ciri, before things get a whole lot more complicated as she is persecuted by the scary and legendary Wild Hunt, an army or black armored knights powered by the destructive force of The White Frost. With monstrosities in the way, Geralt, with help of his allies, sets to find Ciri, at all cost.

Due to the extensiveness of the game’s duration and the amount of features and experiences it offers, I will cover the basic roots in terms of gameplay, visuals, soundtrack, and general ambience. Also, I will hide the name of current quests in the pictures to avoid spoilers. So, let the hunt begin!

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THE VAST, OPEN WORLD

In The Witcher 3, we actually get an open world to explore freely. The region is divided into 3 zones: the Skellige Isles, Novigrad & Velen. The amount of detail put into each one, and each of its specific locations, like cities, is outstanding. You will have the opportunity to visit them all, filled with contracts and missions that open up and unveil the plot and lore. During our travels we even find famous franchise characters like Vesemir, the oldest and most experienced of the Witchers from Kaer Morthen and father figure to Geralt. Triss Merigold, the Maribor sorceress and love interest of Geralt, and Yennefer, another sorceress and romance option for Geralt, as well as a mother figure for Ciri.

Travelling is made easy thanks to our trusty, yet clumsy horse, Roach, which supposedly is the name Geralt gives to any horse. Whistle to call in for Roach’s help, we can travel fast through the planes of these enormous zones, try your speed at races, challenges, and most importantly, quest NPCs move at your pace. You can also travel by foot, of course, if you don’t like portals. Exploration is a key factor to this game; it generates an ambience that resembles the magical and fantasy lore of The Witcher. Nevertheless, although not really fair to mention this, the loading times can get tiresome. Yes, the game is huge, probably as big (or bigger) than Skyrim from The Elder Scroll’s franchise. But the loading times can break immersion and how fluid you are into an objective or a mission climax.

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A WILD GAME

As usual, Geralt is heavily equipped to face of any sort of adversaries. Thanks to his Witcher mutations, infectious immunity and his two main swords; the steel sword will give you an advantage over human and animal enemies, while the silver sword will bring havoc upon monsters. A main feature in this game are your Witcher Senses, these allow you to look for lootable or interactable objects in the environment, mostly marked in yellow for casual loot, and red for hints to hunt down something or as pieces to solve an investigation.

Combat is now more fluent than ever! As always, you can buff yourself with potions that you can craft, many oils and other items can sharpen your swords for higher damage, and to top it all off, use bombs for AoE damage or de-buffs. All these are mostly used for specific encounters, per say, flying enemies or to stun giant beasts. Usually against flying beats, you can knock them from the air if you shoot them once with your crossbow, so be sure to stock up on bolts. Each time you kill a new monster, you gain its entry, which means a detail text about its lore and what its weak against, this helps you coat your silver sword with the appropriate potions for extra damage.

To make combat more diverse, you also have the famous Witcher Signs, these are the special spells that can change the tide of any battle; 5 different Signs, each with a special ability.

  • Aard: A telekinetic force that staggers opponents, leaving them open for your next attack.

  • Yrden: Basically a Magic Trap were enemies are slowed if inside it.
  • Igni: A blast of fire that damages enemies in a cone area.
  • Axii: Confuses enemies by charming their minds, making them vulnerable in combat.
  • Qven: A damage absorbing shield, totaling 5% of maximum Vitality.

You can use these abilities accordingly to the situations, some may be more effective than others depending on the menace you are facing, so use the Stamina meter wisely! Let it be sure these abilities can also be used outside of combat; open up passages, obtain intel by persuasion, or simply blast through a blocked area. The controls are a bit sluggish; you feel like you’re dancing while spamming a sequence of attacks into groups of enemies, swirling and spinning. The only counter to this mechanic is increasing the game difficulty, which essentially forces the player to work and develop on combos. Usually you will encounter enemies who will block you a lot until you evade their strike, find an opening and do a counter. As for monsters, applies the same only that you will get a couple hits before they counter you for a third of your health bar, not always of course. Alchemy is an interesting, yet bland option in terms of gameplay. Basically you can regenerate them with just alcohol via meditation, like some sort of magic. If you have such an enormous world with such vast flora, finding ingredients only once for each potion seems like a waste.

You can also change your armor, forge it or make it stronger, it’s not very clear at first but you get used to its development and level scaling. There are also many scavenging quests to find diagrams who blacksmiths will craft for you, given also you have the materials. Collecting a set are particularly entertaining and rewarding, not to mention some pieces of equipment will be rewarded by completing special missions, as tokens of gratitude from the NPCs you helped, these weapons can sure boost your damage output.

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QUESTS AND OBJECTIVES

For more games like this, it’s usual to have markers on your mini map to ease the finding of the next NPC, collective, or hunt. Unfortunately, I personally feel that this game’s scale should offer much more than a dot to follow; players should be able to HUNT their objective through the woods, valleys and mist. To avoid any sort of spoilers related to specific quests, I can only mention how deeply well written their stories are. Their lore is easily better in its structure, end user interest, and basically any other aspect in relation to regular quests from the same genre. Fortunately, it’s not always go to point A then B; the quests respond in almost an organic matter which makes them very unpredictable and original. In other words, by obtaining a big plot quest, it will make you do certain things; these things can only be achieved if you help other NPCs on smaller tasks. It’s basically a web of “a favor for a favor”, but it applies really well for this universe. By the time you helped all the NPCs, the main quest will unravel and be completed, only to open up to even more quests. Thanks to the diversity of encounters and the landscapes, the player can also craft his own adventures; freely roam the land and come back after being chased by wolves, hunting the Griffith, or sliding on the snow with style. The casual Witcher contracts on villages are always a good source of income and entertainment.

NPCs AND CASUAL INVOLVEMENT

The Witcher series is also recognized for its adult tone, not only on language but by its regular showing of adult scenes, some controversial, some ridiculous (like seriously, on top of a Unicorn?), and usually the plot has a lot of dark stories, involving rape, violence and savage acts. This also opens up the RPG element of the game, as the player can focus on being either violent, persuasive, a traitor, or gentle to progress the adventure.

A very strong suit in the narrative of the game, is how you as a Witcher hunt monsters, but also has to deal with the most dangerous monster of them all: man. When someone hires you to do a contract, they will never tell you the whole side of the story, they only want you to kill. Once you figure out what is going on, and listen to the other sides of the story, you will notice how you were lied, played, or fooled. It’s in your hands how you react and who will you aid, some people will get hurt from your actions without even knowing until the quest is done, good and bad people.

The amount of dialogues recorded for this game is astonishing; it’s a magnificent work with the appropriate filters and what not. Not to mention each NPC feels unique in terms of what they say. Nevertheless, if you think of it, each NPC you talk to is just a moving chat box, there is almost none other extension of interaction (for regular NPCs at least). This is common with most games of this genre though, but for a third installment of such a popular franchise it should have had some new tweaks.

If you’re somehow bored of doing main storyline missions and side quests, go and try the mini card game, Gwent. This famous game is simple at first, but later on you realize how in depth its mechanics are, in the sense of cards buffs and general interactions on the board. It’s basically divided into 3 lines; close combat, ranged combat, siege, and for extras there are special & weather cards and Hero Cards. There are 4 different factions, from which there are up to 150 cards divided into thematic decks! As a personal experience, I haven’t found an in-game card game as interesting since Triple Triad, from Square Enix’s Final Fantasy VIII.

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GRAPHICS & ILLUSTRATIONS

To put things simple, the game looks gorgeous. I have found many comments around mentioning how these graphics got decreased in comparison to the game’s earlier announcements and screenshots, but then looking at Bethesda’s Fallout 4 trailer and saying how gameplay should be placed on top of graphics. This by itself should be dedicated to another type of discussion to get more in-depth arguments, for another time.

Any who! When coming outside of villages, by simply panning the camera, and looking at the environments, you have wallpaper material. The illumination and shading looks incredible and fairly well optimized, it is truly well made for the engine to the extent of offering a playable experience for the player, with a lot of eye candy.

CD Projekt RED have their take on the UI design, which is simple and elegant. Unfortunately, they still struggle with the text sizes, and you can also encounter the casual environment glitches or misplaced NPCs. Yes, they do work on patches to solve these issues, can’t really blame them as they are trying to polish this huge game as fast as they can.

ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK

The game does suffer from the casual mixing, sometimes during conversations the background characters are louder than the NPC you are talking to, or environment ambience noises are generally louder than the dialogues.

Other than that, what more can you expect? We have a great soundtrack, mixed with an adventurous and strong percussion, accompanied by wind and cords that give the melody to an epic scale. The acoustics in this game really bring the sense of the era in which the game takes place, helping you to get more into the story and forget about all the boring tech stuff we are used to. The music cues are subtly applied with encounters, both aggressive and casual, making a sense of a one single well mixed and automated track that does not confuse you or make you lose focus. This is how a soundtrack is made.

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In The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, our adventure with Geralt of Rivia brings us more than just joy, but takes us to a wonderful experience filled with a dark fantasy ambience, where Geralt is the light of hope in its darkness.

5

In Short

  • + Vast and open world, filled with a web constructed quest-line
    + Choices matter, to a certain degree. A climatic and well written story
    + Easy, yet entertaining combat mechanics
    + Crafting system, while rather simple, is lore focused and developed
    + Gorgeous visuals, both on a small and large scale
    + Strong soundtrack

  • - Loading times break immersion. Casual glitches and bugs

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