No other RPG has reached the precipice of what The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s achieved. The stunning visuals, huge alive open world, and stellar story all make up for an adventure that you’ll never forget.
In this third entry, you play as Geralt of Rivea, who is a magically enhanced being called a witcher. In this game, there is an ominous force called the Wild Hunt, who are after a long lost ally of Geralt, Cilla. This woman is called the child of prophecy with the Elder Blood in her veins; with it can bring the end of the world, and it is up to Geralt to find her. Among this central plot, there are various interweaving stories that occur within this deep RPG, which are all well written and fit the time period that this game is in. The writing is also layered with the misogynistic nature of men at the time, and even though they speak certain slang from centuries past, they are easy to understand.
The writing’s authentic, yet makes sense to a casual gamer. The humor’s spot on too, especially with the conversations between the witch, Keira Metz and Geralt. The characters are also three-dimensional as they reveal certain emotions and their past endeavours in life. One character by the name of the Bloody Baron, at first has the impression of a ruthless ruler, but he’s greatly humanized as the story moves forward.
Your decisions and accomplishments alter the world too. Say you decide to save a woman with a Swallow potion, and later on in the game, you meet her lover who is at a garrison far away, not knowing whether to thank you or hate you for saving her, due to the Witcher potions having side-effects. Who knew that a small act such as this can have a reaction on the other side of the open world? You can also decide whether or not kill the guards outside, or run away through the back door. If you go outside and kill all the guards, a main character in the game’s story mentions it. These two incidents are incredible as it really immerses the player into the world, but sometimes after trying to talk to these characters again, they give a generic response of a normal NPC, which is a great shame.
What adds to the immersion are the random conversations that NPCs have in the game. Characters fart, slander Geralt, speak to each other with some hilarious conversations, and so much more. It’s amazing to see how much thought and detail CD Projekt Red put into this game, and due to this, Wild Hunt feels like a living, breathing world that you can adventure in and reacts to your actions. Shopkeepers can even die from a sudden wolf attack that you are unable to react to until it’s too late.
However, Wild Hunt manages to break the immersion at very rare occasions. Some NPCs have strange collision detection with the ground as they fly up in the air, horses become invisible, and at one time the character flickered like a ghost in a gray colour and then returned to his normal self. It’s not much of an issue as it occurs very rarely, but it’s worth mentioning.
Despite some very rare technical faults, the game impresses with its beauty. The weather’s phenomenal with rain pouring, the daylight peering into the sky, the sunset skies, and the realistic sway of the trees during a heavy storm. The grass and the water as well look realistic too, with the swaying of the wind and waves. With the rain, you see wet skin, clothes, and the raindrops falling between two characters in conversation. The facial expressions are also remarkable and accurately portray happiness, sadness, amusement, and other emotions. In addition, the particle effects from flames and the sparks from two swords clashing are superb, and add so much to an intense battle. Another cool attention to detail they have added is how spells affect the light bar from the controller. The light-bar even pulses with the use of the pulse spell sign, Aard.
The battling and the visual spectacle of Wild Hunt come hand in hand as your enemies aren’t just regular cronies. Each enemy type in the wilderness is noted in the bestiary, which displays which spells and oils are effective against said creature. Trapping spells weakens the wraiths, and the water beasts, the Drowners, are weak to fire. This addition of strategy adds to the game’s combat system immensely and once again makes Wild Hunt feel so much more immersive than its peers. Unlike other action titles that will be left unmentioned, enemies attack in packs rather than initiating battles one by one. It makes the game more challenging and has the player focus more on spells and spacing to succeed in battles.
The controls feel solid in battle, but maneuvering’s much trickier exploring and using Geralt’s Witcher Sense. When you’re trying to initiate the collection of objects or an examination of an area, moving Geralt feels awkward given the delay between moving left and right. Moving Geralt’s easy most of the time, but it’s still frustrating when you have to stand at a particular point on the map to get a highlight to press X.
While nothing particularly new, the Witcher Sense allows players to investigate an area for clues on where to find items, people or monsters. It’s interesting to see the story unravel as Geralt becomes a detective and interrogates people involved about what he finds, but this feature is used very often in both main story missions and side missions. As a result, there is a overlying presence of repetitiveness throughout the game’s missions. The end result of finding what the Witcher Sense gives you, in terms of story or loot, is worth the monotonous nature of the task, but perhaps having alternate paths to take depending on what evidence you find may have gone a long way to making this feel less linear and repetitive.
Another monotonous facet of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt are the lack of varied activities in the open world. You can defeat bandit camps, find different locations, get treasure, or retake abandoned areas swarmed with bandits or monsters. While this may be a completionists’ dream, CD Projekt Red could’ve implemented more activities in the world to make it feel less repetitive to just go out explore, forgetting the main missions and side missions. Plus, if you don’t save manually often and get killed after finishing multiple open world activities, you have to reload a previous save due to the game not autosaving at these critical moments; it’s frustrating to re-do these sections and deters from exploration.
The side missions, on the other hand, are far from general. Each one has a set of fully voiced characters who have their own story to tell. Even though the Witcher Sense is used often, each story is different and does not feel recycled in the slightest. You may be trying to save a girl from death with a potion, defeating enemies while protecting a group of ritualists, or lifting a curse from a tower. Once again, these side missions have consequences, and help determine which side you are on. The main missions and side missions are of the same quality in terms of writing or attention to detail. Some are even more interesting than the main story missions themselves. The side missions are so gripping that when I planned to play the game for 30 minutes, I ended up playing for 3 whole hours!
Overall, the sound design and soundtrack are stellar, but there’s one major issue which plagues the game from being an epic adventure experience: The lack of exciting music while exploring the world. The overworld theme is drab, and adds little personality to Wild Hunt‘s. With Skyrim’s “Far Horizons,” the melody of the trumpet, choir and violins (in the main chorus) gave a mystical and epic adventure feel to the game. In Wild Hunt‘s field theme, there are a quiet set of violin string sets, drum beats, and a dull melody. The music itself does not inspire exploration or adventure. It may set the mood of the game’s world, but it’s dull and depressing to listen to.
On the other hand, when the battle theme – “Silver For Monsters” – kicks off, the acoustic guitar, the powerful percussion in the background and rock-like singing in the background pumps you up for battle. The soundtrack fits the game well, as it is primarily made with ye olde instruments and vocals, and it mostly sounds fantastic when you excuse the dull field themes. The sound effects are also immaculate. Hearing the sparks off struck blades, the waves of the ocean, and the spells is wonderful.
The scale of Wild Hunt’s gigantic, and one of CD Projekt Red’s own claims that it’ll take over 200 hours to beat. With different outcomes in the story for you to replay, many places to explore, and a lot of fully-voiced side missions to complete with in-depth stories, there is a lot that Wild Hunt offers to those who love the genre.
Wild Hunt’s the type of game that will keep you addicted for months. Its well written story, in-depth world, interesting side missions, stunning graphics, and strategic combat system will keep you coming back time and time again with over 200 hours to enjoy. Despite a few issues like repetitive mission structure, the lack of auto-save in the open world, and dull music in the over-world, Wild Hunt’s of the greatest RPGs ever made. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll get myself soaked up in this game for many hours to come.
This review was written with the use of a PS4 review code provided by CD Projekt Red.