Prepare for the biggest, toughest, most graphically impressive adventure RPG yet created! The Hunt begins!
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Have you played this series before? No? No problem! Neither did I! The game does an amazing job of showing you the ropes without being condescending and while some details of the story may go right over your head at first you’ll get the gist of it pretty soon.
You are Geralt of Rivia, a famous- or infamous- witcher. Witchers are professional exterminators of supernatural vermin. Ghouls, wraiths, werewolves, griffins and more! Their secret? They are mutated at their academy so they have superhumanly fast reflexes, greater strength and superior senses allowing them to track their prey. Like all professionals providing a service though, they charge for it. So you play as a medieval Bobba Fett hunting magical beings in a gritty setting reminiscent of Game of Thrones with beautiful visuals that make you want to stick your head inside the screen. We are off to a good start.
The story so far
Starting the game we are treated with an animated short of a doomsday preacher that does a fine job of telling us what we need to know. The land is being invaded by a powerful empire, the existence of magic and monsters is the result of a cosmic event called “the Conjunction of the Spheres”, people don’t like witchers more than they like said monsters and things don’t look pretty. Next, beginning a new game, we get a proper pre render cutscene that details the epic escape of a sorceress from the middle of a battlefield and the awesome way that Geralt tracks her. It reminds me a lot of a scene in The Two Towers, where Aragorn does pretty much the exact same thing and I’m sure it was a heavy inspiration for this short movie.
Intense, right? Up next, we have the tutorial. We see the basics of movement and revamped combat in a very story friendly way. I love when tutorials are justified in-story, and in this case it’s that you’re helping train a young lady that seems to be a daughter figure of sorts for the protagonist. When it’s done, we learn that the woman’s name is Yennefer and she is an old flame of Geralt. After some minor sidequests that teach you more game basics, you find her and she reveals that the girl, Ciri, is in trouble. She is the daughter of the emperor that started the war, and apparently you’re not on the best terms with him, but you must team up to find Ciri before it’s too late: the Wild Hunt is after her.
If you’re knowledge of folklore isn’t up to snuff, the Wild Hunt is a tale of spectral warriors riding in the heavens looking for prey. It seems to be inspired in the hunts of the Greek goddess Diana and her dogs. Only now, the dogs are hellhounds and the hunters are skeletons clad in heavy armor riding equally spectral horses. In the Witcher’s lore, the Wild Hunt is held as an omen of war- you know, like the one being waged right now- and they abduct young people for unknown and possibly nefarious purposes.
The story is pretty well executed, you can tell the team went to great efforts to make every quest and sidequest worth it, the writing is nice and the characters seem real. Geralt is an asshole, but he is a likable asshole and you can empathize with him not to mention that you can influence him in subtle but noticeable ways that help a lot with his character’s development. The NPCs are very repetitive though, which probably couldn’t be helped considering this is an RPG. For some moments, you forget you are in a videogame and really feel inside an epic adventure.
Is there a contract on that monster?
The game supports a gamepad and force feedback- i.e. vibration- but I don’t think you want to turn that on. You get far better camera control using a mouse, even though the game is clearly a console port. The quick access menu is radial and the other menus- save the inventory and character menus- are clunky. Even then, the inventory can get cluttered very fast and the lack of sorting options hurt.
You have craft and alchemy systems that are incredibly detailed and dense, but you’d do well to learn how to use them because they can have a lot of impact in the game. Many people will hate them, many will love them, it depends largely on how much a fan you are of these kinds of customization. Combine that with the messy user interface and you’ll need a lot of patience for it.
Onto the combat. You have fast and strong attacks, and you can use a quickslot item like a bomb or crossbow. You have signs, which are small spells that are very useful when used wisely. You can parry an attack and if you time it right even make a counter, but some attacks can’t be parried and it’s generally a better idea to roll away or do a sidestep. It heavily punishes random hacking and slashing, you have to fight with your brain as well as brawns here and it’s here where the PC shines over the console versions.
Every enemy is unique, and you can learn more about it in the in-game Bestiary that helpfully tells you what are the enemies weakness’s. There are also potions you can brew and bind for quickly consumption that enhance your abilities, and several objects in the world that can grant you temporary buffs to skills and weapons. Overall it’s one of the best features of the game.
You’ll be required a lot, and not nearly enough in my opinion, to use the Witcher senses to advance a quest. This is very similar to the Arkham series’ detective mode, except it requires a lot more player input. You need to examine each track and you sometimes will think you have a dead end and need to examine the area again. It’s a brilliant mechanic that can tell you the story without breaking the pace of the game and engaging the player. In one early sidequest you have to banish a wraith and need to determine how the person died in order to exorcise it, in doing so you learn a lot of the circumstances of the village’s life and get involved both emotionally and in the game. I wish more of the game was like that.
Can it run
Crysis The Witcher 3?
The world in this game is huge. Someone calculated that it has roughly 52 square miles or 136 square kilometers. That is more than half the size of the world in GTA5 and more than three times the size of Skyrim. The game devs said that it would take you about 100 hours to finish the game, splitting 50 for the main quest and 50 for the sidequests, but I believe that to truly explore what this game has to offer you need more time.
You walk and you see varied plantlife everywhere. You look at it with the witcher’s senses and detect numerous crafting ingredients. The arrangement seems natural. If you turn the graphics to the max there are no areas that look empty, the drawdistance is that good if your PC can take it. Even then, in lowered graphic settings the game still is stunning. Sadly, when inspecting it closely you see that leaves are flat bisected textures that try to mimic 3D.
The facial animation is a little stiff, but the characters are very detailed- even minor NPCs. The hair animations lack fluidity, but they get points for trying- realistic hair is one of the biggest hurdles in animation even beyond videogames.
The animals behave in a natural way, the corpses and defeated enemies look properly gross, when you track something the tracks are subtle enough but they are there and if you don’t use your super senses you can also notice them.
The weather system and dynamic day-night are excellent, and the sounds completely immerse in the game world.
Visually, this is one of the best games I ever saw even though it’s not the incredible leap of technology some expected, it still blows other games out of the water.
Finding shortcomings for this game comes to nitpicking. This is the
RPG game of the year or I eat my hat. Go buy the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt!