The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was quite possibly the most anticipated title of the first half of 2015, and it delivers on its promises. We check out CD Projekt Red’s massive RPG that promises to be the final chapter in the Witcher videogame franchise based on Geralt of Rivia.
The success of the previous Witcher games is in no small part due to its developer’s attention for detail and dedication to quality. Sure – that’s somewhat subjective – but no Witcher game has ever seemed rushed and gamers everywhere accepted it when Wild Hunt was delayed (and delayed again) because of their faith in the final product. Now that it’s here, it’s easy to see why they needed the extra time and that it was time well spent. CD Projekt Red has crafted a living, breathing world where everything, from side quests to NPCs, seems to be connected – and it’s easy to sink a hundred hours or more into this game.
A lot of that has to do with the fact that there are hardly any loose ends in the game. Sure… most every RPG these days has a whole lot of side quests for you to explore, but they unfortunately rarely amount to more than a time-consuming way through which you level up your character before proceeding with the main story. Even more so – quests like that often repeat themselves, and the word “grinding” come to mind. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is vastly different in this regard. Each and every side quest has some kind of relationship with the main story, or can even affect the outcome or direction thereof. It’s an incredibly intricate and deep experience, and the richness of the story is an even stronger asset to the game than the quality of its writing.
Which, by the way, is still excellent – but hinges on a certain knowledge of the Witcher universe to truly appreciate everything that’s going on. Playing the previous videogames will help newcomers out immensely, and reading the books add even more depth to your understanding of the game and all its characters. To those unfamiliar with the source material, the experience will no doubt be different – and to them I can only recommend playing the previous two games before embarking on Geralt’s final quest.
During his travels, Geralt’s path is fraught with danger and potentially devastating choices that shape your character as well as the outcome of your adventure. Sure, you can pursue a life of lust and peril if that strikes your fancy, but your adventure as well as your relationships with other key characters in the game will turn out vastly different. It’s a staggering prospect, because your initial playthrough can exceed over 100 hours of playing time and there is so much opportunity to go through it all again and do things differently. Mainly because of the storyline branches that are available to you, but also because of ‘standard’ RPG aspects that include leveling up your character’s skill set in a variety of different ways.
Over the past two years, we’ve seen The Witcher 3 in action during pretty much all the major gameshows – and it’s always looked gorgeous. Now that the game is finally here the game is still very pretty to look at, but the immense size and complexity of the world has taken its toll on the game’s graphics. Playing the game on its highest resolution and settings is extremely taxing on today’s PCs, and we noticed some slowdown in certain areas of the game as well. Areas that are lush with vegetation were especially prone to framerate hits, but the game is very scaleable on PCs and performance will no doubt improve over time with newer hardware.
So what sets The Witcher 3 apart from other RPGs and open world games? It’s not the core gameplay, because the combat and movement dynamics are things we’ve seen in other games many times before. It’s also not the audiovisual presentation, because that’s a domain where FPS tend to excel. No, it’s the consistently high level in which all of these elements are executed – combined with one of the richest storytelling experiences ever encountered in a videogame. Well done, CD Projekt Red.