Title: The Witcher 3
Where To Buy: Xbox Live, PSN Store, Steam, Local Retailer
The Witcher 3 has a huge reputation to live up to. After years of development and some incredible trailers, many saw this game as the first, true next-gen experience and I’m here to tell you that it delivers on every level.
The Witcher 3 is only available on current platforms which include Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC. I feel like this game would simply not be possible on the last generation of consoles. The Witcher 3 is one of the most ambitious games I have ever encountered and with so much content, it can at times feel daunting. The developers have not sacrificed quality for quantity however as this is one of the gorgeous video games I have ever seen. The main story quest will consume a hefty 30 hours of your time but if, like me, you want to explore the entire world of Tamriel, you could be here for over 200 hours.
The Witcher 3 looks stunning. The world of Tamriel is so colourful and vibrant; it will have you stopping in your tracks just to admire the sunset. You have a mixture of environments here which range from swampy bogs and lush forests to giant medieval cities. Although each location is visually diverse, each locale is beautiful in its own right. Day and night will pass you by in real time and with a dynamic weather system, you never know what to expect. Seeing a storm approaching on the horizon made me feel nervous and giddy. A few minutes later I would find myself being pelted by raindrops and the surrounding trees would take a beating from the wind. As large as the world around you is, I always felt it was alive too.
Combat is great fun as is finds a sweet spot between being tactical and action based too. You have standard light and heavy attacks and the ability to dodge or block. You can also utilize magic, which are called signs, which include skills such as slowing down time, mind control and shooting fire from your hands. Combine this with crafted bombs and a crossbow; you have yourself a very diverse combat system. On the easiest difficulty, you will be able to hack and slash but for the pro players, you really need to evaluate your opponent to decide what moves to use. Your sword will be able to cut clean through the majority of enemies and seeing their torso sliced in two is oddly satisfying. You will embark on a lot of fighting during your travels and quests and it always kept me engaged.
This leads on to the Witcher contracts where combat methods will help you massively against the most dangerous monsters. Witcher contracts are optional side quest which you can find scattered around the world. As Geralt, you have access to Witcher abilities and these are essential to finding clues to track the beasts down. You can find footprints, scents or dead bodies which will give you signs as to what the creature is. Once you have enough data, you can look at you bestiary to find out the most proven ways of being able to slay the said creature. Once you track the fiend, the ensuing battle feels exhilarating and will really test your skills. Once the monster is slain, you can cut off the monster’s head as a trophy and attach it to your horse to gain stat bonuses.
There is an unbelievable amount to see and do here as the size of the map is huge! Velen and Skelliga are 2 large areas where you will spend a majority of your time and both landmasses have a wide variety of things to see. You will set about snowy mountains, small villages, farmland and many more. All of these areas have secrets to find and enemies to slay. When you look at your map you will see hundreds of questions marks. These are all locations to discover and they could be hidden treasure, caves or entire villages with communities and side quests to collect. Once I found myself in a new location, I would head towards the nearest unexplored marker and never find myself disappointed by what I encountered. I’ve spent a lot of time in this world and I feel as though I have not seen half of what there is on offer. The good news is that depending on how you finish the story, you can continue to venture across the world of Tamriel to find all of the mysteries you missed.
The story contains some great moments but is not the centrepiece of the experience. Creating a loose narrative fits the idea of a modern day RPG as it allows you to be distracted by surrounding activities. The issue here is that the main story seems urgent and you cannot help but feel irresponsible when you are partaking in horse races for example. You play the game as Geralt and you are searching for his ward, Ciri. You’ll actually be able to play as Ciri in certain parts of the game and her speed makes the combat feel distinct. Ciri is running away from the Wild Hunt as she has a unique gift they want and if they capture her, chaos will ensue. The Witcher 3 will be, for many, the first Witcher game they have played. CD Projekt RED has attempted to make this entry as accessible as possible and they have succeeded. The story is fairly self-contained and you can easily dive in and appreciate the world. Fans from the previous games may feel alienated by this choice though as there are significant events which have happened prior to this game that are glossed over. Strangely, the main narrative is probably the least time-consuming activity you will encounter.
The Witcher 3 is wonderfully connected throughout as every decision you make will have repercussions and not ones that you normally expect. One side quest had me saving the spirit of a girl who had been abandoned by her boyfriend and slaughter by bandits. The spirit told me that she did not blame her lover for this act, but she could not be at peace without him knowing this. I took her bones to her former partner as this seemed like the honourable thing to do… unfortunately the spirit turned out to be a demon! It had lied to me the whole time, the demon killed the boyfriend and escaped into the forest. I had unintentionally freed this demon from the confines of the castle and caused a huge problem for a nearby settlement. There are rarely black and white decisions to be made and even when it feels like you’ve made a good choice, you could see the negative repercussions hours later.
Essentially The Witcher 3 is an RPG so you will see all the familiar concepts such as alchemy, forging weapons and level progression and it does these extremely well. What makes this game stand out is the world itself. You are surrounded by believable characters, terrifying monsters, superb landscapes and what seems like an endless amount of secrets to discover. I absolutely adore this game and the biggest credit I can give this game is that when given the choice to fast travel, I never do. I much prefer to mount my horse and ride through the glorious world of Tamriel under the setting sun and see what adventures lay before me. This is one of my games of the year and would encourage everyone to experience it.
An Englishman living in Australia. I edit and provide video/written reviews for all of the latest games.