Developer: CD Projekt RED
Publisher: CD Projekt RED
Release Date: May 19, 2015
Platform: Xbox One (Reviewed), PS4, PC
Genre: Fantasy, RPG
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is one of the best games I’ve ever played, and stands as a strong example of how RPG’s should be.
Just playing the game is an adventure in itself, as it takes you on a sprawling journey through the heart of dark fantasy and a world riven by war, culminating in a series of engaging stories that entertain from start to finish.
The experience carries with it the weight of perfection, that profound certainty that it’s something special, something beyond the casual-friendly timesinks that the genre has devolved into.
The Witcher 3 is a gem in the rough, a bright beacon of light that cuts through the darkness to remind us what true mastery is.
With the final installment in the Witcher series, CD Projekt RED has crafted a truly magnificent magnum opus that pushes the boundaries of what video games can be. With grace and precision the developers have created an experience that transcends gaming, letting players cross into a new realm full of myth, magic and true gritty realism that’s splashed with authentic historical overtones.
Of Witches, War and Hallowed Revenants: Story
The realm of Temeria is on fire.
A brutal war has riven the land, plunging the known world into chaos. Blood soaks into the crops and ashes salt the earth, banners soar the skies, and monsters clean up the rest. Death has been busy feasting upon the realm, leaving behind remnants of civilizations and husks of proud nations.
The Southern Empire of Niflgaard has invaded the Northern Kingdoms, bringing a monstrous clash of powers that’s divided the entire land itself. The war spreads like a terrible disease throughout the realm, affecting everyone from nobles and peasants alike. Invaders reign over villages and towns whilst the Northmen rally their troops to defend their ancestral homeland.
Amid this strife and war, our hero, Geralt of Rivia, rides on. As a witcher, a mutated superhuman soldier bred to defend against terrifying monstrosities, Geralt is sworn to no flag; he’s a one-man army that fights for a cause rather than a nation.
A mercenary who pays his debts with the blood of monsters, Geralt solves problems no one else dares to tackle, riding from city to city like a ghost that sets right whatever’s broken. In many ways Geralt is an opportunist.
Although he is neutral in the war, these times prove to be quite profitable for his trade. But rather than seek the desperate to exploit them, he acts as their salvation, bringing an end to their suffering.
But instead of searching for coin or the latest towering monstrosity, Geralt is looking for Ciri, a powerful half-mage, half-witcher who carries the blood of the Old Ones in her veins. The old magic is strong within Ciri, and as a result, a horrible host of spectral riders known as the Wild Hunt seeks her out.
Knowing that she brings doom to whomever is around her, Ciri left the confines of Kaer Morhen, one of the witcher’s ancient citadels. She seeks her own path whilst the Wild Hunt forever follows in her footsteps. Every time she wields the power, the shades are called to her, and she must move on.
Geralt follows in her footsteps, piecing together stories and clues from those that have encountered Ciri. The ashen-haired girl is like a daughter to our grizzled witcher, and he’ll do anything to keep her safe. Even if it means trekking across the known world to find her, and facing the Wild Hunt once and for all.
Epic RPG Mastery: Game Mechanics, Skill Trees and Environments
There’s so much to like about The Witcher 3 that listing everything could very well fill a book. Everything is as it should be, from the combat mechanics to the item and potion management system and the RPG skill tree. Characters come alive in memorable ways thanks to the game’s superlative quests, telling intimate stories that flesh out the very world around us.
Combat is fluid, intuitive and quite dynamic. Players are given a huge skillset to optimize and tweak as they see fit, utilizing a variety of magical Signs in conjunction with strong swordplay to give a tremendous sense of power to the player. The wide range of tonics, oils and dedoctions give further control over the battlefield, giving Geralt a much-needed edge over tough mythical creatures.
Geralt has a wealth of abilities at his disposal, from the extremely helpful defensive Quen shield to the amazingly efficient Yrden dps field that slows and even damages opponents. Combat isn’t also straightforward though, and you’ll often have to mix up your tactics to take on certain baddies.
Every monster has its own strengths and weaknesses, and checking out bestiary entries is often a must to figure out how to tackle hard bosses.
Igni might work on everyday soldiers and werewolves, but it’s not so good against spectres like the terrifying Woodwraiths that are weak against Yrden. Players need to constantly pay attention to what it is they’re fighting and adjust their strategies accordingly, and many times you’ll find a few extra tactics along the way.
Stocking up on ingredients is a must, and offers a great way to soak in the beautiful flora and fauna of the wilderness. Geralt can concoct a variety of helpful potions, from oils that add bonus damage against select monster types to powerful dedoctions crafted from relics of dead enemies for passive boosts.
The inventory management is as it should be, carrying with it shades from other RPG greats like the Diablo series. There are multiple slots for various equippable items, from Geralt’s twin steel and silver swords to chestpieces, boots, pants etc. Gear comes in all shapes, grades and sizes, with three different armor tiers–light, medium and heavy–which all have their own unique buffs and extra mods.
Like other Witcher games you’ll want to loot everything you come across–and I mean everything–to stock up on items. Luckily The Witcher 3‘s weight system is designed so you will rarely get over-encumbered, adding a huge amount of flexibility to gear management.
Crafting is done exceedingly well, letting players create their own gear. Since you can carry so much you’re encouraged to loot and amass a ton of mats, then splurge in a series of crafting sessions. Unwanted gear can be broken down to get raw mats to fuel your crafting obsession.
Items can be crafted after blueprints are found, encouraging players to explore the world around them. Many of the items come with extra randomized buffs, so you can often reload your save and try again if a particular item doesn’t get that Yrden or Axii bonus you were hoping for.
Questing in The Witcher 3 is more than just grindy fetch-quests. Every single quest-based interaction in Temeria is memorable and weaves its own story. At its heart, the game is a multitude of smaller stories that players can enjoy at their own pace.
There’s witches, warlocks, ghosts, harpies, griffins, werewolves and a host of other mythical creatures that are involved in so many dynamic, arching quests full of grim fantasy. This is the heart of the game’s magic, and is one of the founding pillars to its success, as it truly bridges that gap between meaningful storytelling and progression to make something wholly unique.
While players experience so many tales they’re given so much choice that shapes and affects the world around them. At the behest of the player Geralt can be a cold monster-killer for hire, uncaring about the plight of his fellow man, or he can look to help ease the suffering of those afflicted with unnatural circumstance.
The quests aren’t just solved with braun; far from it. You’ll have to use Geralt’s witcher senses to become a medieval Sherlock Holmes, piecing together clues and following trails to solve mysteries, crimes, and even set to rights an ancient evils that stir in the woodlands.
These encounters are enchanting and sculpt your sessions as a player. Rather than being crossroads for progression, the quests are weaved naturally and fluidly throughout the world and actually make you want to explore and see more.
These encounters will fuel your desire to continue onward, galloping forward into the mysterious unknown, where an untold number of strange occurrences await.
The environments are lush and beautiful, exploding with color as the brilliant hues of the vibrant world create an enchanting backdrop for everything from monster slaying to coastal horseback rides.
From the bustling city of Novingrad to the frozen wild isles of Ard Skellige, Temeria is a sweeping land teeming with life, monsters, and experiences–experiences that call to players like an alluring psiren song.
The in-game world is something transformative, something that’s truly remarkable in scope. It’s always calling to the player to roam its vast expanses, to search forgotten ruins and towers for ancient treasures or search the bowels of an eldritch fane to dispatch a revenant that haunts its hallowed corridors.
There’s so much to see and do in the game that every play session feels like an epic adventure punctuated with breathtaking beauty in a world that’s literally a flowing and changing work of art.
Conclusion: 2015’s RPG Game of the Year
The Witcher 3 represents something we don’t get to see too often: RPG excellence in nearly every regard. The experience resonates so deeply with enchanting fantasy that’s tempered so perfectly with dark, gritty realism, creating a concoction that is both delicious and satisfying.
Temeria is such a dazzling world full of magic, wonder and brutality, offering a window to a medieval reality that might have been. It captures the heart and soul of RPG fantasy while incorporating historical references from CD Projekt RED’s ancestral homeland.
The game has a pulse of its own, a life of its own that’s sculpted, changed and ultimately influenced by gamers’ hands, whisking us away for hundreds of hours of epic role-playing fantasy as it was meant to be. Apart from games like Dragon Age and The Elder Scrolls series, CDPR has created a landmark in which all other RPG’s will be weighed against.