The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is the latest title from CD Projekt Red. It continues the story of Geralt of Rivia as he travels through the war-torn country, attempting to find Ciri and avoid the Wild Hunt. The developers pushed away from the previous title by creating a much larger environment for the player to explore and adventure through, and therefore the game has adopted more RPG elements than before.
The main story is probably where The Witcher fails the most. It is particularly difficult to be emotionally involved with Geralt in his quest to find Ciri, as she doesn’t mean a lot to the player from the beginning. As things progress, Geralt finds himself among extremely interesting characters whom he can ignore in order to simply complete the fetch quests. Geralt does seem to suffer slightly from ‘Commander Shepard Syndrome’, he is quite emotionally repressed and this allows the player to project their own personality onto him. Obviously, it is due to his mutations that his feelings often don’t show as well as they could, but Geralt has never been much of an emotionally involved main character, and this is probably the main weakness of the game.
Despite this, Geralt is an inherently likeable character, he has a very wry sense of humour, and handles dialogue with other characters in an unconventional manner.He also manages to toe the moral line throughout the game, trying to keep out of highly controversial matters, however he does have a heart, and this sympathy towards the stuggle of others often leaves him caught out.
Side Quests are where this game shines. The player can talk to a huge number of NPCs around the massively open world and gain small, but richly rewarding quests. These quests often help to build an understanding of the vastly complex political situation, as the player is given the chance to understand the motives of certain characters from a different perspective. This helps to further blur the line between good and evil that the game portrays, showing how morally perfect actions often don’t exist. There are hours of questing that are avilable to the player, and the unique stories that go along with them outshine other RPGs like The Elder Scrolls.
The previous Witcher game had some issues with the combat, often it felt very clunky and this made it difficult to transition between fighting and back to NPC interaction. Those issues don’t exist in The Witcher 3. The fighting is fast and fluid, Geralt is able to launch a stream of attacks both physical and magical, allowing for much more depth of choice. The strikes are very responsive and the player feels extremely in control of Geralt’s actions.
Previously it was much easier to simply play the game through as a regular warrior-type characters, with the signs being of little relevance or interest compared to the much more powerful swordplay. Now signs feel like an integral part of the combat due to the upgrades that the player can make in order to increase the strength and reach of Geralt’s previously limited magical ability.The Witcher 3 also displays brilliant finishing moves, with enemies often being decapitated or chopped clean in half by a finishing stroke. This really highlights the brutal world that Geralt is a participant in.
As any good RPG should, The Witcher 3 provides countless areas in which a player can customise and upgrade ‘their’ Geralt. The levelling system allows choice as to how they want to play the game, whether it be combat focused, using signs, or relying more on alchemy. Each of the three distinct paths blend together nicely, and allow for a unique way to take on the game. There is also the general skills tree and mutagen upgrades. These mutagens allow the player to really augment their experience by giving a large power boost to a certain type of skill group.
Interaction with the environment and the NPCs is relatively hassle free, the game keeps a minimalist style to its dialogue menus and avoids cluttering to help keep the player focused.This third instalment in The Witcher series builds upon the legacy of fantastic character modelling and impressive scenery that the series has come to be known for. The landscapes are worth stopping your quest just to admire.As usual, the level of detail that goes into the faces of the characters really helps to immerse the player into the world, and one can start to understand the emotional struggle that a lot of characters are going through. When in combat, the game retains its visual fluidity, making the player feel involved in the moment and almost at one with Geralt. This seamless gameplay transition continues into the Witcher sense, where Gerlalt can see important items, quest objectives and enemy heartbeats.
The developers have managed to use the fantastic graphics and design choices to keep the game constant, it doesn’t break immersion when you transition from fighting to travelling or inventory management, every part of the game feels natural to use and this is what really helps to make the game polished and playable.
Voice acting is of its usual high quality, Geralt is still confusingly American, but the other minor characters are brilliantly medieval in their tone and accent.The environment effects also help to bring the player into the world, with many NPCs going about everyday tasks creating noise, while torrential rain and streams add to the background charm.
Overall The Witcher 3 is a brilliant installment in the franchise. The story, while a little thin is still very involving the deeper you look into it, with the numerous interactions adding great replayability. It has kept many of the good gameplay mechanics from the previous title, and the development team have improved the combat so that it has the same feel as the Batman Arkham series and Shadow of Mordor. The game is really a graphical feast, with a lot to offer players on high-end gaming computers, however there will be framerate limitations for console users. Ultimately this is one of 2015’s biggest titles and was worth waiting through the extended release deadline, providing players with hours of quality gaming.