The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt review for PC, Xbox One, PS4

Platform: PC
Also On: PS4, Xbox One
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Developer: CD Projekt RED
Medium: Blu-ray/Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

It?s a bit of an understatement to say that I?ve been enjoying my time spent with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt so far. I?m actually pretty floored by how much I enjoy the game. Maybe I shouldn?t be so surprised, after all I?ve enjoyed the series since its inception, but I wasn?t expecting such a massive leap forward in overall quality from Witcher 2 to this. But CD Projekt RED has really managed to impress here, with a massively detailed open world for Geralt to explore, wildly diverse enemies to fight, and a staggering amount of substantial quests to complete.

There?s so much to do that at the time of writing this review that I?ve still got hours and hours of content left to uncover, and I?ll easily be spending another month or so with the game just to see it through to completion. I can?t overstate how jam packed this game is with content, the majority of which so far has been well worth completing. Both the main quest and side quests featured throughout have led to interesting revelations, fun callbacks to previous entries, and some really satisfying moments of exploration and discovery. In just under a dozen or so hours, you?ll hunt down werewolves, noonwraiths, bandits, cannibals, and a number of other monstrous creatures. But surprisingly the quests don?t devolve into your standard ?kill X number of enemies? or garden-variety fetch quests, instead offering up more unique scenarios and situations than what I?ve seen in any RPG in recent years.

witcher 3 001It?s also worth noting that the writing in Wild Hunt is generally well done. It can get a bit lore heavy at times, with various factions popping up here and there. If you?re not overly familiar with the source material, or previous games, I can imagine that some early sequences can be a bit tough to follow or wrap your head around. That said, there?s plenty of optional reading available in-game if you?d like to get a better understanding of various elements. I definitely think that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is remarkably accessible for new players, but I?d be lying if I said there weren?t moments that?ll feel a bit less relevant to newcomers.

In addition to the solid writing, I feel like a good chunk of the voice acting got a considerable upgrade this time around. While certain actors reprise their roles, even some of the smaller roles, like random villagers, help to breath a bit of believable life into the world of The Witcher 3. There?s not a particular character that stands out as bad here, while there are plenty that sound fantastic, like the Bloody Baron, Keira Metz, Yennefer and more. There?s just some really top-notch voice work on display throughout, which compliments the rest of the excellent presentation seen in The Witcher 3.

witcher 3 002Graphically, the game looks outstanding. Both indoor and outdoor environments are swimming in detail, utilizing both console horsepower and various PC builds quite well. Playing on a mid-range PC, I had little trouble tweaking properties in a way that allowed for a consistent framerate above 30 frames per second without losing much in visual fidelity. Your mileage may vary here, but The Witcher 3 wasn?t nearly as resource hungry on my home set-up as I thought it would be. There are so many instances in-game where you?ll want to stop and just soak in the environment, which is really a testament to how great an effort CD Projekt RED made to outdo their previous work with The Witcher 2.

But enough about the look and scope of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, let?s talk a bit about how the game actually plays. The onset of the game serves as a movement and combat tutorial, introducing new players to the fluidity of combat, utilizing the steel/silver sword set-up seen in previous entries, and the light magical enhancements that Witcher?s are known to possess. This initial opening sequence works well, both as a tutorial and as an impetus for getting the story started. You?ll learn how to parry, counter, and get a feel for the five different magic abilities that Geralt possesses.

witcher 3 004This tutorial is also where you?ll come to realize that combat is maybe a bit more straightforward than it?s been in previous Witcher titles. I don?t think this is necessarily a bad thing, there?s still moments where fighting can be quite challenging, particularly when you get surrounded by larger groups of enemies. But The Witcher 3 is a bit more hack and slash than tactical, which might put off some of the returning fans. There are some light tactical elements, like the use of your bestiary to help prepare you when facing some of the stronger beasts, but for most encounters you?ll get by easily enough by mashing the attack button and occasionally dodging out of the way.

I?m also not sold on Geralt?s sort of herky jerky movement, something that stands out as an issue with both controller and keyboard/mouse set-ups. Geralt goes from walk to run and back to walk again when attempting to move around corners or enter doorways, which leads to this weird, unwieldy feeling in the controls that?s really hard to shake, even after a few dozen hours have passed. I?m somewhat accustomed to it now, at least to the point that I don?t tense up every time I get close to an edge or precipice. But I can?t ignore that movement feels off, and not nearly as fluid as it should be considering how much polish the rest of the game has received.

witcher 3 003As far as other mechanics go, there are a lot of different activities  you can engage in that?ll likely enhance your overall enjoyment of the game. One big component, at least for me, was the introduction of Gwent. This is a card game within the Witcher universe, complete with cards to be bought and earned, various deck types to outfit and customize, and a large number of NPC opponents to challenge. Optional quest lines involve various Gwent players throughout the world, which in turn will lead you to some of the better cards you can find. It?s a remarkably enjoyable addition, and something that easily surpasses Dice Poker from The Witcher 2.

There?s a whole bunch of blacksmithing and alchemy plans to uncover and put to use as well. The world is chockful of components, particularly on the alchemy side, where the general wilderness seems to hold plants to collect every few 10 yards or so. It can get a bit overwhelming early on, but you?ll quickly learn that it?s not necessary to use or craft every potion or oil in the game, as you slowly mold your alchemy use to something that benefits your particularly playstyle. Crafting armor and weapons is fairly easy to do, but I found plans and competent crafters were a bit hard to come by. Also, you can stumble across some high level plans pretty early in the game, and it?s a bit frustrating to uncover a level 20+ plan that you won?t be able to use in the next dozen or so hours, especially considering the lack of low-level armor and weapon plans found throughout Velen and other early areas.

Still, despite some evident flaws, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a game you should be playing. It?s one of the few open-world RPG?s that manages to excel at not only giving you an expansive world to explore, but at also giving you plenty to do within that world. And those activities manage to go above and beyond what I?ve come to expect out of open-world games nowadays, RPG or otherwise. It?s also worth noting that CD Projekt RED has already shown a commitment to working on issues and cleaning up various technical problems with a few patches already out and available. So while The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt might not be a flawless RPG, it?s certainly one of the best in the genre, and absolutely not one to be missed.

Grade: A-