I usually tend to reserve judgement for games after I’m a fairly decent way through them. I definitely don’t consider games “Game of the Year” worthy after only playing them for a short time. However, only a few hours into The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, I knew that this game was amazing and that it is already on the short list for best games of 2015.
The third in the series (duh), The Witcher 3, follows Geralt of Rivia as he tries to find his ward, Ciri. He has to do this while the main villains of the game, a band of riders called The Wild Hunt, want to find her in order to harness her ability to teleport between worlds.
The previous two games, while also great, were not the gem that Wild Hunt is. The first Witcher struggled to find its footing at times, and sloppy gameplay hampered it from being the exceptional game it could’ve been. CD Projekt Red changed things up in The Witcher 2, and the change could be noted immediately. However, in The Witcher 3, it seems as if CD Projekt Red wasn’t okay with just polishing over their mistakes. Instead, they decided to give them complete makeovers. Many of the problems seen in the previous titles are nonexistent or have been fixed to a point where you wouldn’t even know they were a problem before.
Veterans of the Witcher games will notice that not much has changed in the way of fighting. Building on The Witcher 2‘s upgraded mechanics, the combat is still very much “attack, dodge, attack, rinse and repeat,” although this isn’t a terrible thing. Since you are a Witcher, you still have the ability to conjure certain spells in battle, ranging from a quick spark of flames to hurt your enemies, or a slow moving spell used to slow down tougher foes.
Enemies can get pretty tough, so you’d be wise to try and master everything in your arsenal if you want to make it through the game in one piece. You still have the ability to conjure spells in combat. This is still a bit flawed at times, but doing this was smooth more often than not.
There’s so many things that make The Witcher 3 great, but I couldn’t start on any of them without the world. The game’s world, as you might have guessed, is massive. I often found myself staring at the map and getting lost as to just what I was supposed to do. There’s so much to see and interact with, you can easily lose yourself for hours just wandering around. While some may see this as a bad thing, I see it as a game that packs a ton in for its price. This game can easily stretch on for hundreds of hours if you try to explore each and every inch that it has to offer.
The game, as you might have noticed in screenshots or videos, is pretty great looking, and that doesn’t just go for still images; the scenery and world of the game is gorgeous. While there were some hiccups and bugs during my playing on the PS4, I can only imagine that on a higher end PC, the game would look even better. This doesn’t stop with just the environment, though. Everything in the game is pretty to look at: animals, the little villages you come across, and above all else, the people, which speaking of, is what makes the game truly memorable.
The Witcher games were always heavy with lore, but it seems as if The Witcher 3 takes it to an entirely new level. Each and every character you come across feels like a real person, and in my conversations with them, I found myself wholly invested in not only the outcomes of their quests, but what happens to them afterwards. There are many moments where you will finish a side quest and return to the area later, and learn that the choices you made had real consequences in the world. It’s not often that games manage to pay attention to every little detail like this, but it’s worth the work when the pay off is as big as it is here.
While the main campaign of the game has its moments (it’s often spent with you going from village to village, looking for people to talk to about Ciri), it’s in the optional content that The Witcher 3 shines. Every character you meet and every area you explore leads to another large adventure for Geralt to partake in. The voice acting in the game isn’t always amazing, but it’s good enough to get you easily invested in what’s happening, and often make you believe that you’re actually a part of the world you’re playing in. Those kind of chance encounters the game presents you with are often far more entertaining than the actual story itself.
The only downside to the near limitless amount of people to meet is that you might not know who a lot of them are. While it is possible to play through The Witcher 3 without knowing what happened in the previous games, a lot of the NPCs you come across are returning from other Witcher games. I’d recommend either playing the other two or brushing up on your Witcher lore before jumping into the game.
Realistically, I could have summed this review up in a much shorter way by just telling you all to go out and buy the damn game. When it’s all said and done, CD Projekt Red has crafted a truly classic game, something that will most likely stand the test of time as one of the better RPG’s to exist, and as a prime example of what other studios should do when they look to create a product that grabs customers and never lets go. If you’ve ever enjoyed any type of RPG, you’d be doing yourself a disservice by not playing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
This review is based on a digital copy of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt for the PlayStation 4 provided by CD Projekt Red.