It’s common that, when reviewing a game, it shows up a week or two prior to the release date. That’s why, when The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt showed up early, I was confident that I’d be able to power through the main story, experience some of the side missions, and get a good feeling of what the game offers in order to relay my thoughts to you wonderful readers. Unfortunately, I was wrong. As you glance at today’s date and notice that the game has been out for a month, you understand that it’s taken me this long to accomplish all those objectives because this game is massive.
Massive in terms of story, quest lines, character development, hell even the world itself is enormous. It’s so big to almost be overwhelming, but not in the negative sense. You can’t ever discredit a game for lack of content, particularly when the content is of such a caliber that every adventure is pleasurable. Top to bottom, from combat to character voices, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is magnificent.
For those who never had the chance to play the previous Witcher titles, the game is based on a fantasy book series. You play as Geralt in each game and in this installment developer CD Projekt Red does a good job of allowing players to venture down their own path, experiencing this new story without worrying about what’s happened previously. References are made to previous titles, but are done with enough explanation to fill players in, or are so superficial that explanation isn’t necessary. This time around, Geralt is on a quest to find Ciri. She’s the daughter of a king, but adopted by Geralt, and possesses magnificent abilities which have earned her the right to be trained as a Witcher, a title historically allowed only to men.
In a jigsaw puzzle of flashbacks and playable experiences, you’ll learn about Ciri, develop an emotional attachment to the strong woman, and begin to fully realize why she’s so special, both in combat and in character. She’s deadly and defiant, but beautiful. Not to the point where her lady bits are hanging out, which sometimes oversexualizes strong female characters, but her personality and convictions make her likeable. That’s not to say that some characters aren’t oversexualized; Geralt has multiple opportunities (and in my game, took some of them) to have relations with female characters which leads to graphic nudity accompanying adult language. Yes, this game is for adults only. Strangely though, even the sex scenes are done with taste and add to the plot rather than act as an opportunity for gratuitous boobs.
The world of The Witcher 3 is enormous. There are five areas, but two of them are fairly small and are used at key points in the game or as a sort of tutorial grounds. The three main areas, each of them with dozens of areas to explore. Underground caverns, towns, abandoned areas overrun with monsters, and other curiosities lie around for Geralt to explore, each of them rife with loot and new experiences. Within each town is a board where citizens can post “help wanted” ads. Instead of a summer job at $10 an hour, Geralt is instead tracking down vicious beasts or saving kidnapped children. The rewards are always modest, no Witcher works for free after all, but at times Geralt has the opportunity to haggle the price. Sometimes you’ll run into stingy negotiators, sometimes they’ll agree to your price straight away.
In any fantasy RPG you’ll place a lot of weight on gear, potions, and inventory management. In The Witcher 3 it’s no different and there’s an impressive array of items. Potions work differently than in other games you may have played. Instead of amassing an enormous stockpile of potions that you never use, Geralt will search out and find formulas to make potions and improved versions of them. You’ll have anywhere from three to five of any type of potion at one time and when you use it, it’s gone until you meditate. That rest will replenish your potions, but cancel any effects you may have active. Witcher potions are toxic to normal people and, if you drink too many too quickly, can poison you as well. It’s an easy system to understand, but if you’re not careful it’s easy to overdose, too.
You’ll find a massive array of items out on your travels or as rewards, but crafting is another means to upgrading your equipment. Blacksmiths can break items down to get their raw components (or you’ll find them), which can then be used to craft magical or legendary artifacts for Geralt to exploit in combat. The biggest issue lies in the inventory management system. For every potion you create or item that you want crafted, you need the components. Couple that with the ability to loot damn near every body or container in the game and you’ll find yourself running out of inventory space quickly. Near the end of the game, with the appropriate potions and items equipped, you’ll have the ability to carry nearly 150 lbs. Because of the components you have with you, you’re near that limit constantly, meaning going to the merchant is a chore to undertake every time you can. There are no containers for you to keep your unused items in, so you’re forced to sell it, drop it, or deal with the weight. It’s one of the most frustrating parts of the game, the other being the insanely long load times that plague the Xbox One version.
To discuss all the nuances and subtle improvements made to the game this time around would make this review unreadable. What CD Projekt Red has done since The Witcher 2 is nothing short of incredible. Combat is more fluid than ever, quest lines are more than just simple “Do task A, get a reward,” that we’ve grown accustomed to, and the variety in the content is phenomenal. Some tasks may grow tedious, but there’s so much more to do that you’ll never find yourself growing bored. Hell, they even created their own in-game card game called Gwent. It’s fun, addicting, and poised to be it’s own stand-alone app if it chooses, though the developers have not confirmed that at all.
If you’re looking for a title that will give you a wonderful experience and tons of content, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is it. Summer is typically the slow time for gaming and, with what comes in the game, plus the free DLC packs that have are consistently released, this game could be exactly what you need to fill those gaps or to be that game you return to throughout the summer, when we’re usually outside more than not. Either way, you won’t be disappointed. Top to bottom, The Witcher 3 is fantastic experience.