By Jordan Jarvis
The Witcher 3 is the capstone of CD Projekt RED’s 3rd person action/adventure Witcher trilogy. Based on Andrej Sapkowski’s Witcher novels, it features a deep role-playing system of mechanics, alongside tense and tactile combat encounters, with a detective mode-style ‘Witcher sense’ that allows for many mysterious investigations. It is set in an expansive, if not sometimes overwhelming open-world, allowing for endless exploration and a massive cache of hidden areas to discover.
Personally I feel that when it comes to gameplay, The Witcher 3 is absolutely unmatched. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t even close to perfect. Especially with a horse that doesn’t know how to find Geralt, our main protagonist, most of the time; or with Geralt’s sometimes stilted character animations (don’t even get me started on how his jump looks). Exploring the world map of this game can become overwhelming with all the hidden areas to discover. But have no fear, seeking out these hidden spots can yield some of the best loot and gear available in The Witcher 3.
With those things aside, the combat is truly the crown jewel of this game. Witchers are essentially monster hunters, and the veritable palette of monster and human opponents you face in this game will keep you on your toes. CD Projekt has done a tremendous job of adapting Sapkowski’s novels into a video game, and the combat is one of the main reasons why. It takes pieces of Witcher lore from the books and converts them into game mechanics that not only deepen the world-building, but also widen the spectrum of important functions for the player to take control of, further engrossing the player in the role-playing elements of the game. Take for example the pre-battle preparations. Geralt can meditate, restoring alchemical potions and character buffs, while also fast forwarding time, possibly to catch a certain nocturnal monster in the thick of night. There are also many sword oils and decoctions that can greatly strengthen Geralt against certain types of creatures. Besides that, the actual swordfighting is quite a pleasure. Dodging and rolling around enemies feels tight, and gives the player an excellent sense of control over combat encounters.
The sheer amount of options keep the enemies guessing: Geralt has two types of sword attacks (light and heavy), as well as signs (minor magic spells), a crossbow for staggering foes, and several kinds of bombs to help with many situations. The diverse skill trees and mutagens (skill modifiers) show that The Witcher’s character building system are equally as important as the combat system. These role-playing elements truly engross the player into the character of The Witcher. With all of these systems running at once you might think The Witcher would crash and burn technically, but you’ll be happy to find that The Witcher 3 is a beautiful game that is able to run at 30 frames per second without many hitches at all.
Those that aren’t familiar with the previous Witcher books and games might have a tough time keeping up with all the characters and settings of this epic. However, CD Projekt has done a great job keeping new players in the loop with subtle nods to previous adventures, as well as a thick tome’s worth of character and enemy glossaries that not only helps newcomers, but can also offer secret advice in how to take down your rivals.
The story of the main campaign bridges many years worth of tales told throughout both the games and books. It includes two characters making their first appearance in the games: Ciri and Yennefer. Ciri is the semi-adopted daughter of the constantly quarreling lovers Geralt and Yennefer. Not only that, but Ciri is the Child Of The Elder Blood, meaning she has blood in her veins from an ancient races of elves, that makes her extremely powerful. Due to her special lineage, Ciri is being chased by the Wild Hunt, a group of very powerful elven spectres which ride their boats and horses through the sky bringing bad omens and misfortune to the people of The Witcher’s world. Therefore, most of the game Ciri is on the run from the Wild Hunt, and Geralt is on her trail, trying to catch up with her before the spectres do, so that he might save her.
The story spans about 40-50 hours and encompasses much of the world map. Throughout, you’ll play as both Geralt and Ciri, meeting new characters and rejoining with old ones. Of course I don’t want to spoil too much, but this is a sprawling, epic conclusion to Geralt’s story that can be greatly enjoyed by old fans and new.
Combining all the elements of this game: a world that is fun to explore, a deep combat system, and character progression that draws the player in, I think the Witcher succeeds in almost everything it attempts. Sure it has its shortcomings, but these don’t detract from an epic RPG, the likes of which has never been accomplished before.
-Exploration is a blast (and well rewarded)
-Some of the best swordfighting and combat I have ever had the pleasure of playing
-Character progession and game mechanics which allow the player to feel more involved in the role-playing aspect of this experience
-The size and thickness of the game’s world map can be overwhelming to some
-Stilted character animations
-AI can sometimes be pretty buggy
With that being said: I believe this game has gone BEYOND the realm of exceptional, and has achieved the highest honor which can be bestowed in a Controlled Interests Review: IMMACULATE