There are some games that you know for certain will be a success long before they reach the retail shelves (or the download store in this modern age). From the knowledge that the first two Witcher titles were widely considered to be great RPG experiences it was a fair bet that the third instalment could replicate this with the proper care, but with every trailer and every piece of gameplay footage seen, it became ever more clear that Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was going to be something very special.
Lack of fore-knowledge aside, the game does its best to keep you up to date with the main plot. Geralt is on the look out for his surrogate daughter, Ciri, who is being pursued by the dark and dangerous group of spectral horse riders known as the Wild Hunt. Along the road to finding Ciri, Geralt must travel several regions, taking on quests and contracts as they come in order to find the next piece in the puzzle for where Ciri has gone… or alternatively because this is an RPG, stupid and that’s how you level up.
The beasts you will fight also vary wildly. Simple beasts like wolves or even humans are relatively easy to dispatch, while each of the monsters and beasts will have their own weaknesses and quirks that mean you are just as likely to get yourself killed if you don’t know what you are walking into. Certainly on harder difficulties it is far more important to think through every single fight before actually entering into them in the first place. If you know you’re fighting a particular monster, then you need to prepare the potions and oils best suited for the job. Unlike other RPG’s where magic potion or food will replenish health instantly, in Witcher 3 the goal is to anticipate when you are going to need additional health so you can take the right substance to help your vitality replenish faster.
Like any RPG worth its salt, Witcher 3 will have you level up Geralt as you progress. While generally a level up will see your stats increase, it does also give you a chance to pick out special abilities that allow you to enhance your already super human abilities. What is particularly special about the way it is done however is that these abilities are not necessarily always active, and much like when you choose to take certain potions, you can customize your abilities depending on the situation you are likely to find yourself in next. Abilities that complement each other with then have a multiplier attached that will make them even more efficient.
While you are running away it might be advisable not to get too distracted by your surroundings. Witcher 3 is most certainly a beautiful game, and is possibly one of the few titles I know of where you’re likely to find yourself taking a stroll down a beach just to watch a sunset. Looking up into the sky is about as realistic as looking out your own window but with the added bonus of even grey skies looking deep and mysterious rather than bleak and dull. The one downside is that the water effects are possibly not as outstanding as the rest of the games surroundings. It can be a little jarring in a game with beautiful trees and meadows, together with a full list of normal countryside wildlife, to suddenly come across a lake that just seems… odd. It’s not that the water portions of the map look bad, they really don’t, but they just don’t quite look finished. That being said, that is simply a minor quibble in an otherwise stunning game.
At the end of the day, Witcher 3: Wild Hunt really does live up to the acclaim it has been receiving this whole time. It is a stunningly in-depth world. If you are familiar with the franchise then I am sure there are plenty of references and nods to past events that will keep you amused, but even if you are completely new to the franchise, it really doesn’t matter. Its vast world and history will give you a true feeling of being in an epic tale of heroism, and while exploring every location and taking on every quest may seem daunting, there is enough variety and narrative to keep you looking for more while you perfect Geralt into the professional monster slayer he is bred to be.
Join the hunt...
Have you had a chance to play Witcher 3 yet? Let us know in the comments below! Or alternatively go read our recent articles on the original Witcher and Witcher 2! Or do all of the above!