The Witcher 3 is currently my front runner on Game of the Year and I’m going to tell you why.
I’m not a Witcher super fan. I’ve not read the books or watched the (terrible) television show. I did play the first two games in the series with varying degrees of success. The first Witcher is a strongly flawed game that I made little traction in but all accounts indicate that it’s a good experience if you can stick with it. The Witcher 2 was an affair I enjoyed. It’s a world apart from its prequel and a solid game all around that got me interested in the world, but I only played through it once.
The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt is not those games, it’s something more. Better? Certainly beyond a doubt this game trumps its predecessors. More importantly is that currently, it trumps the competition as well.
I say it trumps the competition but what is playing in its class? Dragon Age Inquisition for one is another third game in a series that was a vast improvement, but the Witcher puts it to shame. Think the maps in Dragon Age were big? Go to Velen and take a moment to breathe it all in. These are populated worlds too. The icons and indicators with their content and density are a page right out of Assassins Creed. Speaking of the Creed, you know eagle vision? Well, forget that because now you have Witcher senses, which is the same idea but better. Geralt of Rivia’s skill set makes him a proper Medieval Batman, and you’ll be putting those skills to work constantly, which leads us to combat.
The side quests you’ll do? The best I’ve ever played maybe. The quests feature people who are truly human (or aren’t as the case may be). There is a quest adjacent to the main one early in the game where you must help a local baron to proceed in the story. I won’t spoil anything but your choices in this quest and one related to it have long-reaching consequences that just keep coming back throughout the game. I also must mention the faces during dialog and the writing in this game. They are just SO good, you won’t believe the effort that’s been put into making the world so believable and lived in. The awful people are truly awful, and after a few hours in you and Geralt will feel like old friends.
You have two swords in the Witcher, one for humans and one for the various monstrous bugaboos you hunt for dosh and loot. Combat, depending on your difficulty, is going to require you to play to a style depending on the encounter. If you try to run into a group of enemies swinging early in the game they will cut you down quick, Dark Souls style. It might make more sense to toss a bomb in and pick off an enemy using one of the magic spells in your kit to give yourself an advantage. If you know ahead of time that, say, you will be fighting a giant and want to give yourself an edge, you can brew oils and potions to give yourself the boost you need to seal the deal, that’s what combat is about in The Witcher, determining how to approach a situation right. A savvy player will be able to challenge content well above their level with the right tricks. In truth, it might make more sense to play The Witcher 3 on the harder difficulties because leveling certain abilities up the right way will transform Geralt into an unstoppable powerhouse. Much like in the Witcher 2, proper use of Quen can make you invincible to an extent, you might find yourself gimping yourself for a challenge.
Or maybe you’ll mow through enemies with a gleam in your eye, to each their own.
There are also several sections in the game where you will play through the story as Ciri, Geralt’s adopted daughter, Witcher candidate, emperors daughter, destined child, etc, etc Mary Sue. Long story short what she lacks in Witcher abilities she makes up for in time and space magics. I.E. teleporting her sword into the enemy’s face. The only regret with these sequences is that you never get to fully use her skills until far late into the game.
Graphics and music knock it out of the park, there’s not much to say if you haven’t seen it yourself. Sailing around a cape in Skellige while Nordic music plays is downright enchanting. There is weather as a natural occurrence in the game and the first time you see the trees swaying violently in the wind while you track down to pray in the dark between lightning strikes, I promise you, it will take your breath away.
It’s hard for me to detract from The Witcher 3. Most of the game’s problems are things you wouldn’t even consider in other games. There have been some glitches and hiccups that are all but patched and fixed at the time of this writing. Some of the load screens are painful to sit through, but only because you’re so anxious to keep adventuring. There are some performance issues with console versions, particularly the Xbox One, but if ever there was a game that deserved a play-through on PC it’s this one. My first run-through clocked in at about 34 hours and I have barely scratched what’s available in this game, expect more than 100 hours or so. I can’t even get through everything I want to cover in this review. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt receives a buy from us, the only thing you should question is which version you want.