This review was due in a few days ago (maybe a week) but I have just about managed to drag myself away from my PC, since release I have racked up nearly one hundred exquisite hours of gameplay. In most games these days you complete the main story in a handful of hours, might be on a second or third play through. Repetitively hitting multiplayer matches like flogging a dead horse for a mild slither of enjoyment but not in the Witcher, I have barely scratched the surface.
I set out on my Witcher quest a little over a year ago, the franchise is what drew me into the world of PC gaming and instantly I started playing the first instalment followed by the second as you can carry saves over from each. These saves are based on the decisions you make in-game and have a drastic outcome to your own personal experience (in the Witcher 2 one decision saw you either on the attacking/defending side of a castle). This is something I find truly impressive, especially as most decisions effect an outcome many hours after they have been made so reloading a checkpoint isn’t even an option.
Wild Hunt is the third and last instalment for Geralt of Rivia the main protagonist in the series, he is a Witcher a genetically enhanced monster slayer with a wide array of talents, tricks and skills at his disposal backed up with two swords slung across his back. One is steel used for eviscerating humans and a silver sword for slaying monsters, the skills he has can me improved, enhanced and moulded however you want. You fighting style, alchemy, magic signs and a few passive abilities like which weight of armour you wear is at your disposable via attribute points gained by levelling up.
The Witcher 3 first had my interest a very long time ago, I watched YouTube videos, read articles and updates by the developers (CD Projekt RED). The highlight being able to attend a Dev Session at EGX London in September last year where I watched actual gameplay with commentary followed by the opening cinematic blew my mind. When the release date arrived I downloaded my steam copy and waited at my door for the PlayStation 4 Collectors Edition (the reason behind both is PC Collectors Editions had sold out and my girlfriend really wanted to play it as well) we both set out on our adventures on the same day but sadly at first I was slightly disappointed.
The graphics for me at first were jumpy, flashing and a few glitches/bugs distracted you from this great game but with CD Projekt RED being as good as ever a few patches were released tackling performance, stability and game optimisation and it was incredible what a patch can do. Instantly the game transformed and running on ultra at over 60fps this vast, stunning open world role-playing game comes to life. The world is beautiful and set across a handful of areas all unique and diverse, just standing on a lowly pontoon jutting out into a river or lake watching a sun rise/set is a jaw dropping experience. The sounds are exquisite as wood pecker hammer against trees, bird sing, trees rustle as wildlife friend and foe scamper across densely packed woodland.
It’s hard to ignore the way the game looks and sounds but the true masterpiece is the gameplay (maybe not swimming as that’s a mild challenge) and the rich, intoxicating story line and quests. Getting into combat is a smooth, free-flowing bloodbath as swords clash, rend armour, dismember limbs, fire shooting forward burning flesh and surrounding vegetation as poison soaks into you foes. It’s a beautiful and well constructed art form but you must be prepared for any foe, each has a weakness and exploiting that is the key to defeating you adversary. Drinking the right potions, equipping the right bombs, applying the correct oil to your blade and using the correct magic sign will devastate your opponent even if there a slightly higher level.
Levelling up Geralt is totally your choice and he can be adapted in a load of different ways, my personal choice is light armour, fast attacks with a small bit of poison/oil a and sign abilities whereas my girlfriend uses medium armour and specialises in signs and alchemy. There is heavy armour and a few defensive skills which I might utilise on my second play through on the hardest setting. The sheer scale of this game is groundbreaking, it’s like a better version of Skyrim and that’s not something I say easily. You can be totally absorbed in gameplay for hours (now sitting on one hundred and six hours and not completed the main story).
My only issues with this game although they pale into insignificance are Geralt can battle anything from a four feet high dwarf to dragons, griffins, vampires and trolls and be the victor yet can fall off a few feet high ledge and be instantly killed. The swimming/underwater parts are a real tedious chore and some quests do seen to drag on a little but these are honestly mild things I’ve just noticed myself and won’t even hamper your experience in this fantastic title.
Although I prefer and play on PC because it runs smoother, the PS4 version looks just as good to be honest. I sit a foot away from 24′ Ultra Sharp PC monitor and my girlfriend sits about eight – ten feet away from our 40′ TV so the quality due to the screens used is another factor. Although my loading times are considerably quicker. My girlfriend and I are both addicted, we talk about it nearly every day about what items we found, how we tackled certain enemy’s and decisions we made on certain quest paths as there are main key dialog options which can really affect the outcome at the end.
The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt has Game of the Year written all over it and for a fan of the series or a newcomer to the franchise it will not disappoint you, everything about this game will put a massive smile on your face. The fact it costs the same as every other generic title on the shelf and a few old game sprinkled with 1080p dust for £49.99 that you can complete in an afternoon is slightly sickening, this game has had me hard at it for over two weeks and i’m not even close to being bored. I am limited to only 10/10 but if i could bend reality it would be hundreds out of 10. For a Witcher, RPG and Open World fan this turns the dials up to 11, and even my review scratches the surface of what can be done in this game.
There are also sixteen (not a typo 16) free DLC’s which will land over the next few weeks and two planned expansions for later this year and early next which will offer an additional thirty hours of gameplay. Also if your that way inclined check out Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski who wrote the books which the game is based on, many have been translated into English and I am currently near the end of the first book and they give you so much more knowledge, insight and lore into the world of The Witcher.
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