Each time an open-world sandbox game is released, they seem to push the boundary of the vastness that the experience gives the gamer. “The Witcher III: Wild Hunt” pushes those limits even further in terms of having the most massive open world that I have ever experienced in any game. It also manages to give an experience that rivals amazing titles like “Red Dead Redemption” and “Skyrim.” It took me a while to figure it out but “The Witcher III: Wild Hunt” has become the best gaming experience I have ever had.
I usually pump out a review pretty quick when I check out a game. I get enough gameplay and exploring done to give a fair review. Usually, that takes a weekend of play through. “The Witcher III: Wild Hunt” was released almost an entire month ago, and I am just now confident enough to write a review that touches the surface of an experience that has to be played through to be believed.
Simply put folks, there is 12 tons of things to do in this world and just when you think you have completed all of those things the game gives you another 12 tons of things to do. Choice has never felt more present than with this game. If all you wanted to do was play through the central story and ignore all the side quests, treasure hunts and Witcher contracts, you are allowed to do just that. But, it would take away from the total experience of the game.
Treasure hunts, bandit camps, monster nests and more
If you are a completionist then you will find yourself searching the vast landscapes for all of the hidden eggs and accomplishments. While these things can be the most monotonous part of the game, after you have been grinding for a few hours, it is also a rewarding one. Even when it gets repetitive you have to remind yourself that you are getting experience points, armor, potions and, most importantly, bragging rights.
You are Geralt of Rivia and you are the professional. One of the best things about this game has to be the Witcher contracts. Geralt is a badass and the one that people trust to get rid of all sorts of beasts and monsters. Hunting them down and determining how to defeat them is where the real fun is. Chopping the head off of a griffin that took you a while to defeat is very satisfying. Everything about this aspect of the game is brilliant. Each contract pits Geralt against some amazingly designed beast that (if you are playing on a hard difficulty) actually poses a challenge.
This game is huge. Each time I would discover a new area I was constantly blown away by how much more there was to do in the game. Honestly, there is almost a feeling of joyful anxiety that sweeps through when you realize that the last area you spent 40 hours on was a very small tip of a larger iceberg. Each region has it’s own design as well. The vastness is not done in vain. Every second of time spent in this world is more immersive than the last thanks to the careful attention to detail and the ability to surprise gamers with unexpected battles and quests.
There is a lot to be said about a sound design that is so amazing that just standing in a forest with the wind blowing through the leaves and branches is a standalone hit all on its own. I am constantly amazed with how good this game is based on sound alone. Most games would focus on the battle/magic sounds or focus on the game score. In “The Witcher III: Wild Hunt,” every attention is paid to detail of sound in the game.
Geralt is searching for his daughter Ciri. It feels very akin to the Steven King’s “The Gunslinger,” in the way that you are basically chasing an invisible figure. For most of the game you are chasing her from point to point, you only grasp a clue or two that tells you she had just been where you are but has moved on. This is like being able to play through “Game of Thrones” and “Conan: The Barbarian,” the world is brutal and the story is written raw. The main story gives a satisfying ride from beginning to end and is enough reason on its own to play this game even if you do decide to skip all the side quests.
Choices and failures
One of the coolest aspects of the game is how there are certain conversation-based choices that you are given that are akin to the choices that Tell Tale Games has made famous with their releases. As a completionist the hardest thing for me to accept was that certain missions could be failed outright. Contracts can be pulled off the table, characters can die, the world is shaped by your choices and some you cannot play through again. Some choices that I made in a specific conversation actually made someone hang themselves later in the game. With most games you could just hit the reset button or load from a previous saved file but with this one your decisions over the course of the game add up to a defining moment. So you would have a hard time going back 6 hours in order to change a decision that may actually lead to a worse event occurring. I love that the game never allows you to be in control of everything. It has a very real world opinion of itself in that manner. All choices aren't always for the best but they are still choices that need to be made no matter the outcome.
The horror and the variety
The design of the monsters in the game is poised with brilliance and a vivid attention to detail. That detail is the best, at the best of times and the scariest at the worst. Side missions give you a variety of things to do and there is much of that variety. For example, one side mission lead me to a tower wherein the inhabitants had all died of a mysterious plague that was believed to be a curse. However, you find that a princess had taken a dose of poison that made her appear to be dead in order to fool the people of the kingdom who had come for her life. Little did she know that the rats wouldn't be fooled. Tons of rats ate her alive while she was sedated, leaving her tormented ghost in the tower to suffer, that is until Geralt comes in and frees her soul. It turns out to be a bad choice considering the first thing she does, when she is freed, is murder the man she loved, who had also left her behind in the tower.
Or, there is the aborted fetus that becomes a “botchling” demon until you aid its father in properly disposing of the corpse to set its soul at peace. More than not, the stories and mythology that the game carefully constructs are damn right horrifying and tend to give you a jolt and gooseflesh when and after you encounter them.
Satisfying battle and brimstone
The battle system has a couple of glitch hiccups but once patched is beautiful. I recommend playing this one on a harder difficulty level. Playing on normal, I imagine, would make the experience feel very hack and slash and would take a lot away from your enjoyment of the game as a whole. The difficulty factor makes you have to utilize all elements of the game. For example, while doing battle with certain enemies, you will be forced to use potions and oils in order to defeat them instead of just going in and tapping the X and Y or Square and Triangle buttons.
This is the first game that I have ever needed to apply all mechanics in order to succeed. Potions and oils are made from collecting herbs and other ingredients. You can make more decoctions by mixing potions and other special items. There is also a level of toxicity that occurs when you use these potions. In order to rise above being poisoned by your own potion you have to build up your characters toxin resistance in a separate menu. The game is amazingly well-balanced at making every corner of it’s mechanics into a chain that all needs to be worked on.
First time Witcher?
Feel free to jump in if you haven't played the first two games. You won’t be lost. The game does an awesome job of giving long-time fans of the series what they want, while also being accessible to newcomers to the series. If there are things that don’t come together right away, they usually fill in the gap with some expositional context, without making the game suffer because from it.
The best game I have played
This is true. The last time I enjoyed a game to this extent was back with “Red Dead Redemption” and “Skyrim.” “The Witcher III: Wild Hunt” takes all the pieces of my favorite kinds of games and creates a new and beautiful decoction of its own. The characters, world and gameplay all exceed the games that I have played before. I’m not saying that there won’t ever be better games or that the games previously mentioned don’t matter. I am saying that right now this game is the best in my opinion. It doesn't get old, it doesn't get repetitive (outside of grinding) and it always manages to feel cinematic. Great care was taken in every single department involved, and I love CD Projekt Red for doing that.
CD Projekt Red has also been really cool and generous with the releases of free downloadable content in the form of side missions as well as full blown story missions. They have also put out a few patches. These patches actually matter too, They have improved features and functionality of the game that some of other developers might have put on the back burner.