The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015) [PS4]

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“Show a little more respect…

For Faerie Tales…”

-Sydney Losstarot, Vagrant Story

 

 
ava The following is a contributor post by the Bizzaro Mage.”

From my initial exposure to my first video game RPG in 1998 (Final Fantasy VII, of course!), the genre has very much been front and center for me. I love to play a game which has a big, meaty narrative at its core and a roster of unique, intricately designed and written characters with which to fight and bond with over a good, long story.

Over time, I have found less and less time in which to play long form games like these, just like many people I know out there and maybe even yourself, dear reader. Yes, we have become adults, maybe parents, “grown ups” with grown up things to do like work, pay taxes and keep on top of the dishes. It seems like we have less and less time to dip our toes into a good tale or take part in grand quests across fantasy worlds.

So it is, then, that we must pick and choose which RPGs we are willing to absorb our hard fought free time into. So far, there has been only one game in this current generation has has been able to command so much of my time, to an almost obsessive degree perhaps, to the point where I would go to bed and actually dream about aspects of its universe.

I am speaking about CD Projekt Red’s 2015 game, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.

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The third entry in the Witcher franchise, of games, carried with it a great deal of hype amongst fans of the previous games and fans of sword and sorcery stories, in equal measure. Not only did it come off the back of 2 previous entries, it also had a massive written universe to fall back on, being based on the famous works of Polish fantasy author Andzej Sapkowski.

The Witcher games and books are set around the adventures of a professional monster hunter, Geralt, subjected to various potions and chemicals as a child to heighten his strength and senses. The first two games are self contained adventures and the third entry more tightly connects the events of the games to those of the books that spawned them.

The first 2 games were both good RPGs, though not perfect at the time and perhaps showing a little wear and tear when played alongside similar games in this current generation. Both games had fairly large, open areas in which the player could complete side quests and fight all manner of foul monsters whilst also working their way through a main story quest. Whilst the towns, forests and mountains that main character, Geralt, could explore were of a decent size, the player was bound to each area in turn, moving on only when enough progress had been made with the story to warrant doing so. CDPR promised something more impressive for their third entry, a large open world that the player could roam at will, with very little in the way of limitations. The world would also be fully populated by all manner of NPCs for Geralt to interact with, monsters for him to slay, quests to be completed, plenty of items and weapons and even a fully formed card game that could be indulged in.

Did they deliver, though? Let’s find out!

 

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visuals Visuals: 8/10

This game is big, very big. So, taking the time to give it plenty of visual polish is something that maybe some studios would take shortcuts on. Yet it seems that CDPR devoted plenty of time and effort (perhaps a little too much, given recent news) to make The Continent into a living, breathing and, most importantly, believable location. Trees whip around during bad storms, rain drives in great squalls across the land and snow falls gently atop the mountains of Skellige.

The Continent can be a rather windy place…

The beauty doesn’t stop at environmental effects either. There are plenty of little villages dotted around the world map and each one has been designed to be unique. I recently read an article on Kotaku in which author, Riley Macleod, took Geralt on a tour of all of the taverns of The Witcher 3 and scored them as if they were writing a travel guide. This novel approach really helped to nail home for me just how much effort was put into not just making these villages look genuinely grungy and fitting with the high fantasy theme, but also gave each one an identity of its own. The bigger towns, and the city of Novigrad, are more impressive still. Between having a good few NPCs going about their business on screen, the complex and varied street plans and well rendered and sculpted buildings and fortifications, these urban areas could almost be mistaken for mock ups of real world medieval towns. There are several areas in the game that really made me happy that my PS4 has a screenshot feature; areas of outstanding beauty crafted to be just so. I challenge anyone to climb to the top of Kaer Morhen, look out over the misty forests and not wish, just for a second, that you were there in Geralt’s place. Or with him, playing Gwent. Whatever your fantasy, really!

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Geralt’s got his boots wet…

Each of the game’s main areas have their own flavour and stand far enough apart for you to just know where you are without checking the map. Velen is wooded, swampy and dirty all over, a real slice of a medieval rural area that reminded me quite a lot of scenery from Game of Thrones. Novigrad is a large city, full of wending alleyways and grand buildings, not to mention a ton of intrigue. But the most beautiful, breathtaking place of all is Skellige, a series of wind blasted, untamed islands that reminded me a lot of the highlands of Scotland or the valleys of mid Wales in the winter. Skellige seemed so real to me that I could almost feel the cold wind blowing between the trees.

NPCs are also varied in appearance, ranging across various species (though humans remain the dominant race) and wearing all manner of different clothes and weapons. You would be hard pressed to find any two average civilians that are exactly the same, avoiding that jarring moment in some older or inferior games where two clones having a chat in the corner completely ruins your immersion.

Monster designs are mostly all fantastic also, boasting a good level of detail and taking some rather gross and terrifying shapes. From huge, feathered gryphons to the warped and grotesque Hags of Brookback Swamp, CDPR really did make an effort to make every denizen of their world unique and suitably awful to behold.

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Get over here and die already…

Then of course, there is the man himself, Geralt of Rivia. The amount of detail in the Witcher’s face is very impressive and his emotions are clear to see during dialogue or cutscenes. Every sword that he wields on his adventure has a unique look to it, as does every single item of armour that can be worn, though the best detail is saved for the unique Wwitcher’s gear sets that can be unlocked throughout the game. The player can also make small cosmetic changes to Geralt, changing his hairstyle and even sending him to get a shave, for his beard actually grows in real time, something which genuinely blew my mind when I first saw it and made me wish that I could grow one as well!

The physics in game are also worth a mention. Geralt’s blades can wreak all kinds of horrible damage, carving bandits and nekkers apart, taking off heads and hacking off limbs like he’s chopping logs. The game has a mostly great sense of weight and gravity to it that adds to game’s grim, out of place realism and aids in drawing the player further into the game’s world. Also worth mentioning is the fact that rain actually makes Geralt and other characters look wet, their clothes and skin glistening in the light.

That said, I did happen upon the occasional weird glitch whilst out hunting beasts. On more than one occasion I approached Geralt’s trusty horse only to find her floating a couple of inches above the ground and at least one flying monster had some clipping trouble around cliff edges at points. There were also a few moments where some buffoon of a peasant would come striding through the middle of a dialogue section, like an extra in a movie that didn’t hear the set instructions.

These, however, are issues that crop up in most open world games and overall CDPR have done a good job of keeping these experiences to a minimum. The graphics are overall pretty impressive and easily do the game justice.

audio Audio: 10/10

First off the bat here, I must heap praise on The Witcher 3’s soundtrack, which I found simply stellar. There isn’t a single piece of music in this game that feels out of place, and the team of composers really made every note, every instrument, help to paint a picture of Geralt’s current surroundings and situation. The music itself sounds very fitting with a fantasy themed game. The battle music features an almost tribal rhythm of the drums, all the while backed up by a hurdy-gurdy style instrument and some truly brilliant chanting vocals. I mention this battle music in particular (Commanding the Fury, on the soundtrack CD) as it really helped to sink me into Geralt’s mindset whilst attempting to take down a particularly irksome gryphon and, as silly as it sounds in telling, that track pushed me onward, even on my last sliver of health with no more potions in reserve, and aided me in slaying the monster at the last second. Whilst this is but one example, the whole game’s score is packed with authenticity and has been constructed with such love and to such a quality that it wouldn’t be out of place in Game of Thrones or The Lord of the Rings.

The voice acting is similarly very strong and is pretty consistent across the board, from Geralt himself all the way down to the lowliest peasant on the streets of Oxenfurt. Special recognition goes to Doug Cockle, the voice behind our Witcher protagonist. He delivers Geralt’s lines in that typically gruff, “tough guy” style so often seen in other video games and movies (I’m looking at you, Batman!) and yet somehow also injects plenty of humanity also. I guess what I mean by this is that one can tell when Geralt is happy, sad, drunk or losing his temper. He can also be pretty funny in a dry kind of way, which can be pretty disarming at times, especially when he’s cracking some eye wateringly bad dad jokes during dialogue.

Be warned, the following video clip has some naughty words in it. Don’t worry though, Geralt teaches them a lesson!

Geralt’s fellow major characters are equally as well voiced, from the plummy tones of Yennefer of Vengerburg to the broad Scottish accent of Zoltan the dwarf, they all sound like real people would and certainly wouldn’t be out of place on a prime time TV series. Special mentions go to the actors who voice Ciri and the Bloody Baron, two very strongly realised characters that owe quite a lot to their excellent voice actors throughout the course of the game. Many of the NPC characters in the Velen and Novigrad regions of The Witcher 3 speak with regional English accents which I found quite homely, being from the north of England myself, it felt much like being at home in that respect. In comparison, the citizens of the isles of Skellige sound Scottish or Irish, in fitting with their more Celtish aesthetic and culture. Then there are the people of the invading Nilfgaardian Empire, rocking European accents to sound different again to the other areas that Geralt will visit in the course of the game.

It’s not just the human(oid) denizens of The Continent that are a treat to the ears, either. The beasts of The Witcher 3 also emit some fantastic noises. Drowners hiss wetly, gryphons shriek as they swoop in for the kill and the sounds that a flock of sirens make as they descend upon our hero are truly a cacophony that will send chills down your spine.

narrative Narrative: 9/10

No RPG has ever conquered the gaming world without a good yarn at it’s core, and The Witcher 3 is no exception.

CDPR chose to pick up the story of the Witcher where Sapkowski ended it with the first game back in 2007 and the second game continued this arc. The third entry supplies gamers with a conclusion then, or rather one of a few, as there are multiple endings based on the actions the player takes throughout the adventure and how Geralt reacts toward his friends and enemies along the way. The events covered in the first two games, which also featured multiple endings, are handily worked out in a very early conversation, in which Geralt is interrogated by the Nilfgaardian court about his actions and the answers that you choose will shape the overall plot in this game. For instance, if you chose to spare a powerful enemy from The Witcher 2 then he will appear in a quest in the third game and offer Geralt aid later in the story. There are many examples of this throughout the game and for anyone who has played the previous games it is a genuine delight to see some old characters coming back in quests this time around.

I highly advise picking this book up as an entry point…

But what if you haven’t played those previous games and Wild Hunt is your first foray into this universe? Well, not to worry, as the developers have supplied the player with an exhaustive glossary of characters, events, places, monsters and lore that can be read through at one’s discretion. If reading meaty documents isn’t your bag, then there is still hope, for the story answers a lot of the big questions as it goes along. A few of my workmates also picked this game up on release based purely on marketing and never once struggled to understand the story. Despite featuring characters from both the previous games and the books, as well as paying lip service to past events, the story of The Witcher 3 is mostly self contained and the main quest arc is explained via conversations and an early flashback sequence.

The story in question is also picked up from the end of the books and features the character of Cirilla, a princess in exile who was raised to be a Witcher by Geralt. Following the events of the books, she is on the run from both the Nilfgaardian Empire, who aims to marry her to their Emperor (voiced by the ever wonderful Charles Dance) and the eponymous Wild Hunt, a mysterious troop of flying horseback warriors who hunt her throughout the events of the game. Also on her trail is Geralt himself, with the goal of saving her from both of these forces. During certain points of the main quest Ciri becomes a playable character and these sections do a great job of explaining both her absence in the earlier games and why she is so sought after. Geralt also has a few other concerns along the way, including dealing with an ornery spymaster who he’s clashed with in the past and resolving a long standing love triangle between himself and two powerful sorceresses, Triss and Yennefer.

Fans of games with plenty of story will definitely feel at home with this game. There are tons of quests and each and every one features it’s own little story loop, all centred around a grand, twisting main quest that provides hours of riveting content set in a lush world full of lore, drama, violence and a rather dry sense of humour.

gameplay.png Gameplay: 9/10

The Witcher 3 is an open world title and has many of the trappings of this style of game. A series of large maps to travel over and between, interesting ways to do so, quests galore and plenty of villages, caves and forests to explore in search of treasure to find and monsters to carve experience points out of.

Geralt’s main way of getting around is on his trusty horse, Roach. Whilst horse riding in this type of game isn’t exactly unique (everything from Assassin’s Creed 2 to Red Dead Redemption offers gamers plenty of equine action), Roach comes with some customisation options that make her a little more interesting than the average horse. Geralt can equip her with better saddles to increase her speed, blinkers to keep her from being spooked and even saddlebags to increase the Witcher’s inventory capacity. Roach is also, however, a bit of a handful at times. Whilst she happily follows the game’s roads and trails toward the next objective most of the time, there are times when she decides, instead, to careen off the trail and grind to a halt in the middle of a field like a car with a broken drivetrain. Whilst this isn’t always the end of the world, for rejoining a trail isn’t exactly the apocalypse in horsey form, the game does feature several horse racing quests in which one of these glitches can completely scupper any chances the Witcher has of becoming the next top jockey. Geralt can summon his temperamental horse by whistling for it, a feature often seen in this type of game, and the game world spawns Roach close to Geralt’s location. Once dropped, she will run to join Geralt so he can hop aboard. Most of the time. At times Roach will instead spawn in some very unusual locations, including rooftops, the middle of rivers and atop nearby cliffs.

Well played, CD Projekt…

This bug became such a big deal that even the developers themselves threw shade at the enigmatically irritating horse.

Kaer Morhen

Roach, down here! Roach! ROACH!!!

Apart from Roach, however, The Witcher 3 is mainly a joy to play.

Geralt’s main job, apart from tracking down Ciri, is hunting down and savagely murdering beasts, so naturally the combat had to feel good in order to do the Witcher universe any justice. Thankfully this is very much the case. Enemies in the open world of The Witcher 3 are level based, meaning that if they are below Geralt’s own level then they are easy work, yet if they are above it they are tougher. It’s a system as old as time in open world sandboxes and it helps to steer the player along a relatively set path and keep them away from areas that aren’t supposed to be experienced until later in the narrative. Whilst lower level engagements are usually over quickly (and make Geralt feel like an absolute powerhouse), higher level battles can last for a long time and generate a huge amount of tension as the player attempts to keep Geralt out of the enemy’s line of fire for long enough to whittle down their health bar until they drop. More challenging fights also often require Geralt to down home brewed potions to boost his stats and provide much needed healing should he take a hit, though consuming too many can result in the Witcher poisoning himself.

Wolves: Not Even Once.

Geralt has five types of weapon at his disposal throughout the game. The two most commonly used are steel and silver great-swords. Steel is to be used against human and animal enemy types whilst the silver sword is for slaying monsters. There are a large variety of swords in these two classes to be found, plundered or crafted throughout Geralt’s adventures and many of them boast extra bonuses in combat, such as added poison damage or armour piercing perks. Geralt also has access to a crossbow, which is relatively weak compared to his blades but, if used at the right times, can be used to stagger some enemy types and knock flying enemies out of the sky. Bombs also add some variety and tactical skill to the Witcher’s arsenal. These throwable weapons come with all manner of effects from area of effect damage, poison bursts and eye searing flashes that stagger enemies and allow Geralt to get up close and personal to deliver a critical blow.

The final tool in the Witcher’s arsenal is his limited usage of magic. Whilst not a spell weaver on par with the powerful sorceresses, Geralt can use a few rudimentary spells to even the odds in battle. Aard produces a wave of kinetic force that pushes enemies backwards, Quen summons a one shot protective field around Geralt and Igni lets loose a blast of fire. There are also spells to summon magical traps for catching ghost type enemies and another that essentially gains control of weaker minded enemies. All of these spells can be upgraded as Geralt gains levels, allowing for new variants that can spice up combat considerably. It is also worth mentioning that different enemies require different tactics. Monsters are best dodged until a moment to press the attack presents itself whilst human enemies can be parried and countered. All of this, when added to the sheer variety of enemy types each with their own tactics, strengths and weaknesses, really builds into a robust, challenging and engaging combat experience.

Yet combat is nothing without some downtime and the denizens of The Witcher 3 have their own way of passing the time, the noble game of Gwent. This is a card game, played across 3 rounds, that Geralt can challenge many of the game’s NPCs to throughout his adventure. There are 4 deck types and collecting cards can get pretty addictive. It’s also very much necessary if you want to challenge the Gwent champions, though this is never compulsory and it’s possible to complete the game playing only one or two games should you wish.

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Gwent, so popular it got it’s own video game!

Quests in this game are separated into 3 different categories: the main quest, side quests and contracts.

The main quest is, of course, Geralt’s ongoing investigation into the whereabouts of Ciri and his attempt to save her life from the Wild Hunt. Side quests range from requests for help picked up from village notice boards to run ins with the Witcher’s friends and acquaintances who need a hand and solving intrigues and mysteries. Contracts are monster hunts, which usually involve picking up the mark’s trail, tracking it down and killing it for a pre negotiated amount of gold.

A lot of open world games in recent years have featured a glut of side quest filler and there has been a lot of criticism over how cookie cutter they can be in some games. The Witcher 3 doesn’t have this problem, however. Each quest is different to the last, each having it’s own self contained story and, quite often, an unexpected twist. The only gripe that I would have with the side quests and contracts is that they too often rely on using Geralt’s “Witcher Sense” ability, a skill that highlights tracks, clues and other such things used to track enemies through the game world (think Batman’s Detective Vision from the Arkham games). Whilst the ability is undoubtedly handy for picking out small details in an often busy world, CDPR have maybe relied on it a little too heavily in places to flesh out quests.

The final pillar in The Witcher 3’s Pantheon is its dialogue. Geralt, whilst a taciturn fellow at times, is often pitched in some pretty fun bouts of verbal sparring, with the player choosing his responses as he argues, cajoles and threatens a huge variety of characters on his journey. Sinking enough points into the Axii magical spell will also allow Geralt to subtly alter the minds of more obstinate NPCs (“these are not the droids you’re looking for” style) which can often yield very good outcomes and even bonus items and coin. Just make sure that your Axii victim doesn’t have backup, however, else they will spot the ruse and things will turn sour very quickly, which is an excellent touch.

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Armageddon? Let’s just play a round of Gwent first…

themes Themes: 10/10

Being based on a cult Polish fantasy series, it’s only logical that this game is going to have some pretty heavy themes to tackle, even more so when we consider the fact that Sapkowski weaved a fair few cynical reflections of our world into the mix.

The Continent is a complicated, incredibly dark and oddly humorous place in which to have an adventure. It’s world has been at war for many years, with the factious Northern Realms dropping their squabbles all too late to team up against the massively powerful and hostile Nilfgaardian Empire. Add to this the wildcard islands of Skellige and the neutral city of Novigrad and we have a world that sounds at once both fantastical and somewhat familiar to anyone with even a passing knowledge of European history. From a certain point of view (where are all of these Star Wars references coming from?) the Northern Realms can be seen as Western Europe, the Empire of Nilfgaard as a rapidly advancing, technologically superior Germany and neutral, wealth filled Novigrad as something of a fantasy themed Switzerland.

Novigrad

Buying Roach a treat in Novigrad…

Geralt’s universe is also one filled with more personal troubles than the thunderous bickering of nations. Dwarves, elves and magical folk are under great persecution, forced into ghettoes and treated like second class citizens under the dominant yoke of humanity. Witch hunters swagger the streets of the big towns, torches in hand and on the prowl for suspected sorceresses, dragging innocent and guilty alike to the pyres. Even Geralt himself is more often than not the victim of racial abuse, called a mutant due to the rites of passage that twisted his DNA on his way to become a Witcher, a bespoke monster hunter powered on potions and armed with magical artefacts. Bitterness and paranoia are everywhere in this world, fuelled by an almost constant state of warfare between great powers, and it would weigh heavily upon one’s enjoyment of the game were it not for some of the excellent characters that Geralt meets and interacts with upon his journey.

Whilst the Witcher acts aloof to most people he meets, there are some whom he loves dearly. In terms of romance, he is stuck in the middle of a tug of war between Triss Merigold and Yennefer of Vengerburg, two powerful magic users that have both, at one point or another, laid claim to his heart. There is also Ciri, a powerful and valuable girl that Geralt sees as a daughter figure, having raised her from a young age in the Witcher’s fortress of Kaer Morhen. Geralt is also lucky enough to have a rather motley crew of friends, including the dwarf Zoltan and his unlikely best friend Dandelion the bard, characters who he has plenty of history with and goes out of his way to help during the course of the game. The final group of allies that Geralt can call upon are his fellow Witchers, Lambert, Eskel and their master Vesemir. They often frown upon Geralt’s actions yet always have his back. This ensemble cast initially reminded me of the Fellowship from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, a disparate group of people, often with conflicting motivations, that will nonetheless drop everything to aid the Witcher in his quest to find Ciri and put a stop to the mysterious Wild Hunt.

The Wild Hunt themselves bear a mention too, as they have some interesting roots that they share with many of the monsters and races that the player encounters in that they are all inspired by, or straight up taken from, famous fairy tales and myths from around Europe. The idea of a Wild Hunt is one common across western and central Europe, the idea of a troop of spectral horsemen that gallop through the sky and act as something of a harbinger of war or disaster. Whilst in myth the leader of the Hunt is thought to be Odin, their Witcher counterpart is Eredin, a powerful elf from another plane of existence that is hell bent on getting his hands on Ciri, to use her terrifying powers for his own agenda. Other examples of fairy tale inspiration involve Leshens from Scandinavian folklore, werewolves, vampires, and Botchlings, the undead form of a dead infant that can be found in Slavic myths and legends.

The Witcher 3, much like its earlier entries and the books, also challenges the often black or white aspect of high fantasy. Is the dashing prince always the hero? Must the damsel really be in distress? Do all monsters need to die? There are a handful of quests in the game where the player is tasked with tracking down and murdering monsters, only for him to spare them upon hearing of their predicaments. One such example is Johnny, a childlike creature known as a Godling that Geralt happens upon during his hunt for Ciri. Whilst first impressions may paint him as a monster to be slain, the witcher instead converses with him and learns that he is, in fact, a benevolent if mischievous creature who is willing to aid the player. Likewise, some of the most abhorrent monsters found in The Witcher 3 are, in fact, human beings. My most memorable example of this is Whoreson Junior, an influential gangster in the city of Novigrad who has a run in with Ciri in a flashback sequence. By the time Geralt catches up to him in the main quest the full debauchery and psychopathy of the man become apparent and, in my case at least, made the decision to kill or spare him a lot easier.

Andrzej Sapkowski’s unique mixture of high fantasy, political intrigue and real world satire, all shot through with a rich vein of dark humour, really do make The Witcher 3 stand apart from it’s contemporaries and give it a deep rabbit hole of lore all of its own, as well as creating a living, vibrant world that seems almost real when experienced through Geralt’s eyes.

replayability Replayability: 9/10

There is a lot to do in The Witcher 3 and most quests have at least one decision to make before they’re over, be it killing or sparing monsters, romancing certain characters or staying chaste for your favourite sorceress (Yennefer forever!) or backing one side over another in a conflict. Other decisions are larger and heavier, such as choosing the line of succession for the Skellige Isles or damning or redeeming a vicious but troubled warlord whilst helping him to find his missing wife and daughter. The game also boasts several endings, wrapping up the ultimate fates of Ciri, the sorceresses, Geralt himself and even the warring nations that have all been impacted one way or another by your journey.

All of these points weigh heavily toward giving this game another try, as does the allure of trying a new path up Geralt’s skill tree, perhaps leaning more toward magic or potion crafting in a second playthrough over sinking all of one’s experience points into swordplay and HP buffs, for instance.

On top of all of this there is also a New Game Plus mode, so hammering through the story as a fully levelled, tooled to the nines version of Geralt can be experienced for the power trip that it is. Add several difficulty levels and a chance to play through such a sumptuous story again and how could you not give this game another crack of the whip?

uniqueness Uniqueness: 7/10

Fantasy themed RPGs aren’t exactly rare these days and there is small chance of there ever being a final fantasy either (sorry, I couldn’t resist!). Elves, Dwarves, knights and magical weapons are ten to a penny in the world of video games, as are horrible monsters and seductive and powerful beings for our heroes and heroines to go all weak kneed over. The Witcher 3 has all of this, yet manages to remain largely apart from fare such as Dragon Age, mainly due to it’s use of monsters familiar from pre-existing mythology, a political topography that mirrors that seen in our own history and maintaining a dry sense of humour throughout. Geralt himself, whilst surprisingly charming, is also based heavily on a classic Noir detective styled character. Hard bitten and slow to trust, he is at his best when bouncing off the characters he meets out in the world, often rising above the “cold hearted killer” trope that he may initially appear as.

The game itself is also built off a familiar foundation. Open worlds which can be explored for side quests, shops and additional tasks are common these days, everything from Grand Theft Auto to Mass Effect have used similar layouts and, as I aid earlier, traversing these worlds on horseback isn’t exactly an original concept. What sets this game world apart from its peers is the attention to detail. Many open world games can be accused of reusing ideas to an almost ridiculous degree (see Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry 3, for example) but CDPR worked hard to give each quest, town, village and scary dark cavern its own flavour, endeavouring to keep repetition down to a minimum and player investment nice and high. Locations all have their own culture, aesthetic, weather patterns and musical scores and it won’t take the player long to choose their favourite map to hang around in (come on, it’s got to be Skellige gang!).

Kaer Trolde Keep

A witcher and his horse…

Even the basic story beats are familiar enough, for how often do we read about a mighty hero setting out to save a loved one from an impossibly powerful evil? Yet once again, this game twists the formula, for the damsel Geralt is trying to save is no wilting flower, Ciri is an insanely powerful, time bending, Witcher trained warrior who is on a mission of her own, and Geralt will have to draw upon all of his experience and powers to catch up to her before the evil Wild Hunt do. Even away from the central story, the world of the Witcher drips with a character and gravitas that hold it apart from other open worlds and allow it to stick in people’s minds for a long time.

mypersonalgrade My Personal Grade: 10/10

Since I first happened upon The Witcher back in 2007 its world has completely drawn me in. I have read all of the books, played all three games to completion and personally cannot wait for the Netflix TV series to release. The third entry in the game series remains my favourite chunk of Witcherverse by far, however. It boasts a powerful story, some excellent character building for Geralt and his loved ones and a truly immersive universe that I have spent many, many hours traipsing across.

Combat is technical and relies on the player mixing up their tactics to pull through. On most difficulty levels I encountered some truly harrowing battles with massive beasts, gangs of otherworldly horrors and some truly wicked beasts that pushed me to my very limits and, on more than occasion, forced me to retreat, gain a few levels and come back for more. Usage of blades, spells, bombs and Geralt’s crossbow keep the flow of battle fluid and keep it from becoming a total slugfest.

Graphically, The Witcher 3 holds up well against more recent open world adventures, even if it lacks some of the polish of, say, Horizon Zero Dawn or Red Dead Redemption 2.

Whilst the visuals may have been surpassed, the soundtrack reigns supreme. The music is varied, thematic to its universe and really evokes the atmosphere of the current moment, be it fighting a gryphon or staring out across the glaciers from atop Kaer Trolde keep, enjoying a quiet moment in the cold winter breeze.

The Skellige Isles

Games Tourism done properly…

This is a game worth checking out, be you a fan of a deep and immersive fantasy story, a connoisseur of robust combat systems, a card game ace or even a video game tourist looking for beautiful new sights to check out and take evocative screenshots of.

And if you do enjoy this game, why not check out the original source material? The books are an absolute joy to behold and will give you some extra insight into The Witcher 3’s beautifully dark universe.

Aggregated Score: 9.0

 

Stepping from the shadows into the light, the Bizzaro Mage somehow functions as an average human being most of the time, just one with a faire few retro games cluttering up his tiny house. Check out his rambling attempts at sense over at winst0lfportal.wordpress.com

 

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4 thoughts on “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015) [PS4]

  1. Great review. I do disagree with a bit of what you said about the previous two games though. I consider The Witcher 2 just as good (if not better… some times) than The Witcher 3. The first Witcher game is the oddball of the three, but I still really enjoyed that one too :).

    The Witcher 3 is a masterpiece and ticked all the boxes that I look for in open world games. Usually open world games lack a good story, but not this game. I prefer this game to Horizon Zero Dawn and Breath of the Wild. I haven’t played Red Dead 2 yet so I can’t comment on that one :).

    Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey thanks for the comment, glad you enjoyed the scribblings! If anything I was your opposite with the earlier entries, I preferred 1 to 2, though that might be because I found quest markers and the maps to be really obfuscating. That said I loved the intro, King Foltest was amazing and I wanted him to live forever!

      Liked by 2 people

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