Title: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC (reviewed on Xbox One)
Developer: CD Projekt RED
Publisher: WB Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: Out Now
Price: $59.99/59.99 Euro
Tagline: Two swords, engrossing story and a huge world to explore and enjoy
Family Friendly: Click here to read more
Verdict: Buy It Already
The Witcher series as a whole has been one that is steeped in complex narratives, deep character development and a strategic hack and slash combat system that can be somewhat dense for the first time player coming into the series. I mean, it is not a series that you think of as being mainstream, but CD Projekt RED have gone all out to push The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt into the mainstream consciousness. It was a bold gamble for a small company out of Poland, but The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt works on the quirky nature of the series and turns it into a fun, enjoyable romp that looks to walk a balance to make both new and longtime fans of the series comfortable. It is a complex task, but after many, many hours, I think The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt may be one of the best games to drop in recent memory.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt once again has us revisiting our favorite genetically mutated amnesiac, Geralt of Rivera. It is an interesting fellow, as he can shoot spells (called signs) from his hands while wielding not one but two different swords depending on what he is planning to do battle with while roaming the countryside. Geralt is an interesting character that is played completely dry, but when needed, he can drop a surprisingly large amount of humor when needed. Introducing us to Geralt is done with far more care this time around, as we have the option of a long tutorial that will teach you the ins and outs of combat and survival, which is a large change from the prior game which dropped you head first into the game with a raging attack by not only a dragon, but a legion of enemy troops as well. The tutorial can be skipped for those that want to get right to the main quest, but having a true defined tutorial makes understanding this game a much easier task this time around.
Of course, after you get all that training and start your way into the main storyline for The Witcher 3, there is a glaring problem and it comes from the idea that the main story does not really give you much of a reason to push forward. If you are new to the series, a lot of the characters introduced in earlier games mean nothing to you but can show up here and find out more about them with long, arcing stories that fill in most of the blanks. Your main quest in The Witcher 3 is to follow the trail of Ciri, a girl that Geralt has taken under his wing throughout the Witcher series. Ciri is not a full blown Witcher, but her powers have put her in the crosshairs of a group called The Wild Hunt and she has gone on the run.
The main story does not do The Witcher 3 justice from the outset, but it is more about the tales and quests that you come across that fill in the blanks while trying to track down Ciri that make up for the lackluster and sometimes confusing narrative. Here is where The Witcher 3 really shines and shows what can be done with side quests in an RPG. Side quests take on a life of their own and are allowed to breathe and flesh out both Geralt and the quest givers as well. Most side quests will start out with a simple goal, but then take you down a deep rabbit hole of twists and turns, adding multiple quests that continue to give more narrative and backstory. Each of these side quests provide ample opportunities to flesh out characters that seem so simple and one sided at the start. Even when some of these tales seem like fetch quests, they never feel generic. They instead have a purpose and shine new light on characters that might seem one dimensional in the beginning. CD Projekt RED have set a new standard on how side quests should be designed and I can see others looking at this game as the new model for character development.
While getting lost in plot lines and character conflict, you might also find yourself getting lost in the beauty and splendor of the world that is displayed in The Witcher 3. The Witcher series has always been known for creating beautiful worlds and characters on PC, but with the power of these new consoles, that beauty is presented for console players in all its majesty. Trees and grass sway with the breeze, mud forms during the rains and even characters have flowing clothing and highly detailed features. Problem here is that while for the most part, it looks fantastic, it does have moments where things get choppy when there is a ton of details on the screen. It is not detrimental to the game’s presentation, but it is there enough to wonder if there is quite enough power in this new generation of consoles to meet the demands of The Witcher 3’s graphical engine. Patches have smoothed things out for the most part, but it is not perfect. But when you sit on top of a hill and enjoy the spectacle of a beautiful sunset, you can look past the occasional frame issues.
Yes, I know, you are probably sitting there and saying, “but what about the combat?”, and yes, combat is a large part of The Witcher 3. Combat has had a subtle makeover from the prior games in the series. It is more accommodating to new players, but that does not mean it is easier. Mechanics are in place to help people adapt to a system that asks more of its players. Combat has a feel of hack and slash, but it also has quite a bit of strategy mixed in to give it more purpose. By all means, you can button mash your way to victory, but more often than not, this is a quick path to getting Geralt killed. Instead, you have to put thought into your movement, defense and attack. Defend and parry are necessary skills that you need to learn. Preparation and study of your monster guide also assist in making your combat experience more successful. Planning each sword swing along with using potions, oils, signs and defense make you a better Witcher and in return, far more successful when you must turn to using weapons. Enemies do not let up, as they will come at you in groups, and even low level monsters can quickly turn a battle around and put a player in a bad spot, so planning is always key with any battle. It can make for a frustrating start with The Witcher 3, but with a little time and effort, you will find a system that rewards you for planning and strategy in combat.
While frustration in combat can be overcome with forethought and planning, The Witcher 3 can deliver problems for players with its general bugginess. I have put about 80 hours into The Witcher 3 and it has been boggle of technical issues. Twice now, I have had to delete and reinstall the game to my hard drive after it refused to start, returning me to the Home Screen interface after clicking on The Witcher 3 icon. This was even after hard restarting my Xbox One twice after each instance of the game not wanting to start. Collision detection in the world is frustrating, especially when on horseback. More often than not, I have been trapped on a fence with my horse, or when trying to climb up a building and then had my character inexplicably fall for no apparent reason. I also had a weird issue where the sound would break up when it seemed that the game was loading something in the background, cutting off dialog or making it inaudible to hear due to its choppiness. I was running the game off of a Seagate external drive that runs at 7200RPM, so I am not sure if that makes a difference, but I had no more room on my internal drive. I have not had this issue with other games, so it might be something that CD Projekt RED will have to address in the future.
And yet, even with all of these technical issues, I find myself completely enthralled with The Witcher 3. It is a game that delivers so much content for its entry price. It creates a solid narrative for all of its characters and delivers on fulfilling stories for its side characters and content. Put that together with a refined and mechanically sound combat system and you have a game that has not only set the bar for its competition, but has made itself an early contender for game of the year.
What Rocks! :)
- Gorgeously detailed world that is fully realized
- Combat that is designed with purpose and focus
- Side quests never feel like filler material, but have long drawn out sequences that deliver on added plot
What Sucks :(
- Seems to push consoles to their current limits, causing occasional frame rate issues
- Choppy audio occurred during loading background loading sequences making dialog hard to hear
- Collision and clipping issues with the environment on a far to frequent basis
Let’s just sum this up with a firm no that there is no family friendly content in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The game features dismemberment of humans and monsters, burning people alive at times, nudity, sexism and far more topics than you could shake a stick at. Keep this one firmly in the hands over the age of 17.
This review was done using retail Xbox One code provided by the developer.