Witcher 3 Review: Is the Witcher 3 Really The Best RPG Around?

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The Witcher Returns in His Most Epic Adventure Ever

WAKE THE WHITE WOLF

In this review, we’ll examine whether the Witcher 3 is really the best RPG available right now. Released on May 19th, 2015, this game from CD Projekt Red is one of the most talked about RPGs since Skyrim and has sold nearly ten million copies worldwide.  What is it about this game that makes it so popular? In this article, we’ll examine all the little pieces that make up this amazing game.

The premise of the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is that Geralt of Rivia has recovered his memories and is searching for his lost lover Yennefer. Once he finds her, she tells him that their adopted daughter Ciri has been spotted for the first time in years. She’s being chased by the Wild Hunt, an otherworldly group of warriors who ride on pale horses through the sky and kidnap children from their beds. Yennefer takes you to see Emhy Var Emreis, Emperor of the Nilfgaard Empire, who hires you to find Ciri for him so she can become his heir.  You, as Geralt, must find Ciri before the Wild Hunt does. And that’s just the beginning. 

Geralt enters Emhyr Var Emreis' throne room in Vizima to ask for help in finding Ciri.

The story of the game is incredibly strong. From the moment you start, your objective is clear: Find Yennefer. And once you’ve found her, “Find Ciri”. And all along the way you meet, help, and get help from a huge number of Geralt’s friends. Overall, the writing and acting for the game is much improved from previous entries, and will always keep you immersed in the world.

Characters

All the main characters in the game are superbly written and feel like real, actual people. Geralt is his usual snarky self. Triss is much stronger than in the previous game. Yennefer, making her debut in the games, is in my opinion the best new character. Each character is very well acted as well. You will become attached to these characters, guaranteed. 

Ciri approaches the ancient Elven tower of Tor G'valch'ca to put an end to the Wild Hunt for good.

World

The world of the Witcher is big. Really big. If Skyrim was the standard set for the new decade, the Witcher’s map size is probably two to four times as big, with six times the depth.

There are three main areas: Velen, Novigrad, and Skellige. Velen is a wartorn no-man’s-land; Novigrad is the city of thieves and whores, run by mob bosses and religious zealots; and Skellige is the “Rated M For Manly” viking analogue.

Geralt surveys the Witcher Fortress Kaer Morhen the evening before the battle with the Wild Hunt.

And it looks beautiful, although there’s not much in the way of different biomes. Expect to see grasslands, forests, mountains, and swamps. And as far as weather goes, the weather engine is great. When it rains, it pours. The terrain reacts realistically to strong wind and rain, but the one weak point that I found was the snow effects. While, yes, the snow on the ground or the mountains looks good, when the snow falls from the sky it doesn’t look so great, coming off more like small feathers floating down.

As far as fast travel goes, you can only travel to and from signposts that you’ve already discovered. This is to encourage exploration and while some people might hate that you can only travel from certain points, I didn’t mind because the world is so beautifully rendered that I preferred to take the slow way. 

Geralt rides his horse, Roach, through a small farm town in Velen on his way to the Free City of Novigrad to meet up with Triss Merigold.

Adventure

Geralt’s adventures can involve simply fetching a shipment of beer for some dwarves, or changing the entire political makeup of the North and Nilfgaard, or anything in between. You can explore ancient and beautiful Elven ruins, old crumbling sewers, monster infested caves and abandoned castles. You can choose whether to help or hurt several different factions based on what you think of what they want to accomplish.

For each of the three main areas of the game, there is an overarching storyline. In Velen, it’s the warlord “Bloody Baron”’s search to find his family. In Novigrad, it’s helping Triss Merigold save the city’s magic users from the witch hunters. In Skellige, it’s helping the Lord Regent Crach an Craite’s children in their quests to prove themselves worthy of Skellige’s throne. But don’t let that make you think the game is short. You can easily spend upwards of fifteen hours in each area and still not finish all the different quests.

Geralt passes a magical obelisk, a source of power and in-game powerup, while riding to Kaer Trolde in Skellige to find Yennefer.

Cinematics

With the exception of the opening cutscene, all cutscenes in the game are done in the actual engine. The graphics are incredibly realistic, in fact there were times when I saw a screenshot online and almost thought it was a real photo. 

Rather than having wide, sweeping shots of the world in the cutscenes, the Witcher 3 prefers to focus on the characters up close to help get the players attached to them.

Geralt of Rivia, Triss Merigold, and Yennefer of Vengerburg plan their final assault on the Wild Hunt aboard a Skellige longship.

Gameplay

The gameplay is very well implemented, with one or two exceptions. When moving outside, Geralt runs at a speed that we as gamers have come to expect from our RPG heroes: somewhere between a walk and a sprint. Inside, no matter what the context, Geralt walks incredibly slowly and navigating halls, doors, and stairs can be very awkward and sometimes infuriating. One notable example is during the quest “A Dangerous Game”, while chasing down the quest villain, you must chase him through a building. As soon as you enter, Geralt goes from his jog to his walk. And to go along with this issue, I noticed in cities especially it’s sometimes hard to navigate the back allies. My only explanation for that is that the game was clearly made with wilderness exploration in mind rather than urban adventures.

The basic combat is simple, which might be disappointing if you’re used to something like the Arkham Series with its freeflow combat. There are two main combat buttons, a light attack and a strong attack. You can augment these attacks with certain skills as you level up, slotting them into your character to provide damage bonuses in most cases, as well as special attacks like Whirlwind(a deadly ballet dance using light attacks) and Rend(raise your sword, slam it onto someone’s skull). 

Geralt about to open up a can of whoop-ass on a group of corrupt Redanian guards.

In addition to his swords, Geralt has some low-level spells called signs that can effect combat or dialogue depending on how you use them. He also has a crossbow, but that’s useless, you’re never going to use it so it doesn’t really matter unless you’re underwater. He also has the ability to brew potions, make bombs, and craft oils. The potions can heal or strengthen him, the bombs are slightly more useful than the crossbow, and the oils give a damage bonus against certain types of monster.

However, the hand to hand combat mechanics are not so good. The boxing in Wild Hunt is very slow and clumsy, not at all what we’d expect from a fast fighter like Geralt. But even then, in a one on one fight, it’s fine. But go against two or more, and chances are you’re screwed because you can only block one guy at a time, and most times you find yourself in these situations, the game won’t let you use potions or signs.

Official gameplay trailer for the Witcher 3, showcasing both in-game footage and cutscenes.

Questing

The Witcher’s quest system is this: There’s always another quest. Always. There are four different types of quest. Main story quests; Side quests; Contracts; and Treasure Hunts. 

The main quests are probably the most linear of them all, in that one leads into another in sequence. But even then, you have a huge amount of choice within the quests, and can even leave a main quest in one area to go do others in another. For example, once you have the money to buy a ship to Skellige, you can go there whenever you want, regardless of level or progress in the Novigrad questline. They’re all well-thought out quests with strong writing and execution.

The side quests are just that. Side stories that aren’t always connected to the main plot, like Dandilion’s cabaret or the Gwent tournaments. And speaking of Gwent, holy crap… Gwent is a minigame that involves collecting cards with various abilities and power scores. In a Gwent game, you try to get a higher score than your opponent, and as a bonus objective, try not to punch the screen when your opponent plays a scorch card to destroy your highest level cards.

Contracts are special side quests that are basically the Witcher’s main source of income. Someone will post a notice on a signboard asking for a Witcher, or for someone to kill a monster.  These are a good source of income and help develop Geralt as a Witcher instead of a straight up fantasy hero.

Geralt looks at a signpost outside an inn somewhere in Velen, hoping to find some honest Witcher's work before heading to Novigrad.

Treasure hunts occur when Geralt finds a map, either from a merchant or in the wild, that leads to either some fancy treasure and crafting materials, or diagrams for Witcher specific armour, like the Ursine Armour.

Final Verdict

I am giving this game a 9/10.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is an absolutely fantastic game, offering the best RPG experience in years. The game looks beautiful, it plays well, the quests and storylines will always keep you immersed in the game, and there’s always something else to see or do. The game gives you choices and, unlike a lot of games, actually lets them mean something further on.

Though it does have flaws, they are very minor things like the crossbow being useless or not being able to sprint indoors.

It sells on Steam for  $49.99 right now, or 74.99 if you want the expansions which offer new stories, new enemies, new weapons, and maintains and even improves on the high quality of the base game.

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Gamer Since: 2003
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: Fallout 4
Top 3 Favorite Games:Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - Blood and Wine , Dark Souls 3 , World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor
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