Review by Nathan Miller on Xbox One Disc Version
Currently Available on PC, Xbox One, and PS4
When I first started to play The Witcher III, I could not help but feel the vastness of its world so vividly painted. I soon found out that I was only at the tip of the iceberg. CD Projekt Red created a game they claim to be 20% percent larger than Skyrim, and I am inclined to question if they were being humble with that statistic. There certainly is something grand about the Witcher III, and it is not just the world in it. Weaponry, armor, quests, upgrades, alchemy, combat, and player choices all have much more to them than you could imagine. Everything is very technical and precise which requires the player to embrace their role as Geralt. When you are doing a monster contract, you can run in blindly and attack it or you can read up and be prepared with spells and oils that specifically affect the enemy you are fighting. You can buy simple armor from a vendor or craft special armor that you found manuscripts for spread throughout the land. I have dedicated a lot of time into this game, and I have yet yearned to stop playing it any instance (I had to convince myself to write this review rather than continue playing it). That is not to say the game does not have its issues. Simply, it is more of a testament of how fun The Witcher III is and just how addicting it can be.
Witcher, Geralt of Rivia, is finally able to take reign over his own life and embark on a quest very dear to him. After a haunting nightmare of a familiar face, Geralt seeks the one in his dreams in order to not only rekindle their bond but to also save them from the calamity heading their way. The Wild Hunt is a mysterious army with traits that are of undead in nature, and they are invading the Northern Kingdoms on a murderous rampage. Barons, kings, town folks, and old acquaintances all seek help from Geralt for various quests, but he is only truly focused on the task at hand.
The Witcher III is a third person action role-playing game that gives players free range of swords, magic, crossbows, and bombs with the intent purpose of annihilating enemies. Geralt can parry and counter strike enemies with precision reactions (which can be done easily while locked-on to an enemy). The main storyline branches off to side quests and places of interest which includes; witcher (monster) contracts, hidden treasure locations, liberating hostile locations, and other general helping hand quests. You roam the world via your companion horse "roach" or on water you make your way by boat. The Witcher III offers player choice when it comes to interactions and quests, so it is possible to complete a mission in a nonviolent way by use of manipulation magic or even a bribe if you are so inclined. You can extend a mission or abruptly end it depending on the choice made. As for upgrades, there are four branches that each represent different aspects of focus: strength, magic, alchemy, and special traits. It is possible to unlock every upgrade because there is no level cap in the Witcher III. Geralt has mutations which grant him special abilities like Witcher vision. This view in the game gives players firsthand sight of aromas in the air, points of interest in a quest, glowing trails of blood, and shiney objects to loot to your heart's content. Seriously though, you should loot everything and anything not bolted to the ground. You can dismantle it for parts or sale it for money which both of those options are very important resources.
Open world adventures always have a tendency to lose people because of just how enormous they are, yet The Witcher III does a perfect job in pointing the player in the right direction. I had many issues with completing The Witcher II because I would get lost more often that not. In the Witcher III, I know what my mission is and there is relief that accompanies that which helps feed my desire to continue. The combat is simple, but there is a depth added with the allure of oils and magic which adds strategy to combat with common enemies. Tougher monsters create greater moments of panic as they can only be destroyed by certain means, and this pushes the player to think actively rather than swing aimlessly. Dismemberment occurs randomly usually after you parry or counter, and there is a tickling sensation that occurs when you see an enemy's torso be sliced in half. I enjoy being able to fight on horseback and underwater because who does not want more opportunities for grand moments in the game.
I am utterly impressed with the writing and lore that CD Projekt Red has crafted for the Witcher III. Even though many quests are presented as the same thing, the story associated with them completely change what you are expecting and sometimes even flip the entire quest upside down. There are times where you are on a contract to kill a monster, but it turns out to be a ruse crafted by people trying to cover their tracks or something else entirely different. Not everything in The Witcher III is copy and paste outcomes, so this leaves players interested in doing more side quests. The variation in missions not only makes time fly by while you are playing it, they create an uncertainty as to what you should expect from the game. There is a mission where a godling (troll-like child) is squatting in a house that was just purchased by a wealthy banker, and it was making it seems as if the house was haunted in order to scare the new home owner away. Geralt is given the option to either conceal the godling's presence or rat it out, and it all comes down to what type of person the player wants to be. There are many times where you can kick people when they are down, or you can be humane and connect with them at their level. I tend to be a jerk who often does not fall victim to people begging for mercy, and the time I did decide to help the beggar out, they double crossed me for their own benefit. I could have avoided falling victim to a trap, but my humanity lead me to another option. These types of examples are scattered throughout The Witcher III, and they are often a lot more complicated than the two I explained. You have to read into the characters and really take a gamble at times which to me is unlike any game I have played in recent history.
Lastly, the overall value of The Witcher III is remarkable. If you choose to completely avoid all side quests, you are still looking at a story that can take you up to 50+ hours. I would not recommend avoiding the side quests, because you would be missing out on another 50+ hours of invigorating storytelling. The thing that makes this game magnificent is the fact that nearly all of these missions do not feel like chores. You want to do them because they are fun. There is so much to do and unlock that you will have a blast searching for all the mysteries that are within the Witcher III. There is a significant amount of joy that occurs when you gather up trophies from various beasts during witcher contracts. These battles are not always easy, but they test the player and are very rewarding when completed. CD Projekt Red plans to release about 16 pieces of free DLC (which a few of them have already been released). They want you to appreciate the hard work they have done and thank you for believing in them. If more studios were as classy as CD Projekt Red, there would be less of a debate of whether or not it is worth picking up a game on day one.
There are a few graphical issues that I have experienced throughout my time with The Witcher III. A lot of weird glitches with the horse but nothing game breaking. There is occasional frame rate drops during battle, but they usually occur when there are a bunch of enemies or when you decide to blow up six enemies at the same time. I have heard others complain about issues with saving, but I personally have not experienced them. You should always save whenever in doubt though. There is a disparity in color when it comes to races in The Witcher III. Even though, it has been that way in every entry of the franchise. After playing a similar game (Dragon Age: Inquisition), it is quite noticeable the abundance of caucasians in the series. Dragon Age did a terrific job with integrating different sexes, races, and sexual orientation which all are not very present in the Witcher. It is not that they chose to ignore these things purposely, but they should do better in the future for the sake of their fans. There are many times where The Witcher III showcases sexism, but it can be argued that women's rights were not very dominant during that time period (which I know does not make it right). It is also worth noting that Ciri may change that position in possible future entries, so there is hope for those seeking equality.
The Witcher III: Wild Hunt is masterful in terms of story and gameplay. While there can be nitpicking and arguments about the aesthetics of it all, there is no doubt whatsoever that this game is a true testament of action role-playing games. It sets a new standard of gameplay and storytelling that not only delivers graphically, it cements itself as a must play experience for anyone interested in fantasy.