The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Review – Sex, Herbs and Dodge & Roll

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt_20150518150541

Developer CD Projekt RED’s long awaited role playing game The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has been released to the masses and we have been playing for a week. Is the game living up to the hype, or is it best left wandering in the wilderness? Read our review to find out.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt concludes the story of the witcher Geralt of Rivia, the series’ protagonist, whose story to date has been covered in the previous versions (playing the previous games isn’t necessary to follow Geralt’s story). Continuing from The Witcher 2, the ones who sought to use Geralt are now gone. Geralt seeks to move on with his own life, embarking on a new and personal mission whilst the world order itself is coming to a change. Geralt’s new mission, following the trail of his ward Cirilla, comes in dark times as the mysterious and otherworldly army known as the Wild Hunt invades the Northern Kingdoms, leaving only blood soaked earth and fiery ruin in its wake and the Witcher is the key to stopping their cataclysmic rampage.

Main Menu

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a story driven, action RPG with a story that is determined by the players actions and interactions with non-playable characters (NPCs) throughout their gameplay. Discussions with NPCs usually offer the player a choice where as they can decide to help someone, not help someone, maybe fight someone, maybe kill someone, maybe come back later, or disregard the NPC altogether. These decisions are what determines the outcome of the game, and with more than thirty endings (actually more than thirty variations of three endings) the replayability of this game is incredible.

The graphics for the game far exceeded our expectations and we are very glad that the developer improved upon their own engine for it. The open world style works great, with environments that feel and look alive. The ever changing weather and time of time of day gives an obvious passage of time to add to the overall effects of the game, with trees and grass swaying in the breeze on a blustery day or everything being almost motionless with a quiet sunrise. Jaw dropping views are created with an incredible draw distance that allows you to see ice and snow covered mountains in the distance, or gloomy islands across a vast sea.

Ard Skellig

The sights and sounds of the game add to the overall ambiance by hitting the proper tempos at the proper time, and by smoothing out where they should. The music for the game is also well done and goes from pleasant to violent at the appropriate times, and can be light and playful to sultry and sexy of the mood hits. This is a soundtrack that can be listened to outside the game for fans of this genre of music and the collector’s edition even included a CD full of the music, among other awesome items.

The game gives you several difficulty options, but even on the lowest difficulty the game can kick your behind in a hurry if you try to rush through the story. Enemies all have levels that get progressively higher as you move through the story and unlock all of the mapped regions, and as a general rule, if you come across an enemy that has a red skull by his name, run like hell or prepare to die. The game doesn’t really allow you to rush through it and that’s not a bad thing. This leveling mechanic is what will have you doing side quests just to reach a level high enough to face off against enemies that lie in the story’s path.

White Orchard

Of course, if you are going to be fighting monsters and such, you’ll need some serious gear to keep you alive and help out in battle. Geralt always has a couple of swords on his back for when the fighting gets hot and heavy, one steel and one silver, but those swords are a little weak to start out with and are in dire need of an upgrade. The armor he wears starts out just as weak, but luckily for us his weapons and armor can be replaced and/or upgraded to make them both stronger and more effective.

As you progress through the game, there are boxes, bags, chests, and dead people that you can loot for better items (use your Witcher Sense to find lootable items: L2 on the PS4), as well as diagrams or blueprints to be found that will allow you to pay an armorer to build better items for you. Starting out with an apprentice armorer means your equipment will be limited at first, but your armorer can be upgraded to a master armorer by bringing him the items he needs. Another quest you say? Yes, please.

White Orchard

Of course if you want to find better stuff or hire an armorer, you’ll have to locate all of that first, and the playable area for The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt is HUGE. You could just wander aimlessly checking everything out, and stumbling upon all of the  discoverable locations, or you could head to a town center and check out a local message board for a better way of finding things. These boards have information about locations of guarded treasures, monster nests, hidden treasures and other side quests posted by local inhabitants. Message boards are marked with what looks like a letter on your game map and are yellow if they have available side quests.

You’ll also come across sign-posts that will allow you to fast travel from post to post, which really is the best way to travel since it would take you quite some time to run or ride your horse Roach all the way across the map. Fast travel will also allow you to move from region to region once you have all of the regions unlocked. There are several different regions, each with their own set of side quests, so be sure to visit them all to get the most bang for your buck.

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Your armor and weapons aren’t just upgradeable as they can also be enhanced with potions you can learn how to brew with recipes that can be found or bought from local herbalists. Monsters and creatures have weaknesses that can be exploited and reading up on an enemy in your Bestiary that is included in the menu system for the game. Creatures are added as you encounter them or find books about them, just make sure if you find a book or note lying around that you actually go into your inventory and read everything. Book shelves usually hold readable items so make sure you are looting everything in sight as you’ll find quests and information readily available if you follow that method.

As a Witcher, Geralt also has five magic signs available to him that he can use against his enemies. Each sign has its own properties and is more effective against certain enemies. Read through your Bestiary to see what needs to be employed against them. The five signs are Ard, Axii, Igni, Quen and Yrden. Their effects range from a fire blast to being able to make your opponent fight for you, and are all upgradeable and enhanceable. As you upgrade these signs, their effects can be changed to make them more effective and alter their overall attacks. Hidden around each region of the map are Places of Power that will give you an upgrade point the first time you activate one, and then enhance the sign labeled on it for thirty minutes. It is possible to have all five signs enhanced at one time, and there’s even a trophy for just that, so anytime you are preparing for battle, keep in mind that these places of power are there for you.

White Orchard

One of our favorite things to do in the game has nothing to do with swordplay and everything to do with card play. Gwent is a collectable card game that simulates two armies meeting on the battlefield. As defined by the game, Gwent is a card based mini-game invented by dwarves and perfected over centuries of tavern table play. Gwent is a game of initial simplicity and ultimate depth, something beloved by both road-weary travellers during long nights around the campfire and elegant nobles looking to liven up dragging dinner parties.

Gwent cards can be found just about everywhere and can be bought from some shop owners. You can also win cards by playing the game with NPCs and shop owners, just be sure you have a decent collection before taking someone on. The game uses a turn based system that will have you playing cards in one of three areas, determined by the type of cards you have in your possession. The Gwent system is deep and robust and can provide hours of fun all by itself.

White Orchard

The inventory system for the game starts out OK, but once you start looting and end up with a bunch of stuff in your saddlebags, it can become very cumbersome to use. You are limited by the size of your saddlebags to a set amount of stuff you can carry without being overburdened (You can keep picking stuff up, you’ll just walk very slow once you go over your max. Quick tip: Your horse doesn’t care if you are overburdened and still moves fast). Larger saddlebags can be purchased from shop owners so keep an eye out for them but as you fill up those saddlebags, your inventory becomes harder and harder to manage due to the larger number and small text that identifies each item. Of all the things the game does right, this is where the game could really use some improvements.

Your horse can be upgraded to make him more efficient as you progress along. Blinders are available to keep your horse calmer if you encounter enemies along your path and there are saddle upgrades to allow your horse to sprint farther without getting tired. The saddlebag upgrades are very important since your inventory max is determined by their size. Shop owners can take items off of your hands if you reach your max, and as long as they have the coin on hand, they’ll keep buying up stuff you have picked up along the way. Armorers and Blacksmiths can disassemble items for a price, or buy your swords and armor outright, so picking up everything in sight is generally a good idea. We have found ourselves playing for an hour, and then making a trip to an armorer to unload our bags so we can go pick up more stuff. This is a great way to make more coins as well as gathering the necessary items to have better armor crafted.

Nilfgaardian Garrison

Developer CD Projekt RED has created a game that not only looks incredible, but plays just as great. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is one of those games that will define not just a genre, but a generation of gaming on a console.

Save early, save often, play for a long time, but most importantly, enjoy this masterpiece of a game.

9.5