The Witcher 3 Review
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is an adventure that is paced out very evenly for most of the journey. It’s not anything like its predecessor which started off at an extremely fast pace. The Witcher 3 in fact wants you to take your time. This is not a negative. In fact in this case, it’s the best choice that the developers could have made. This RPG is full of so many quests, tasks, explorables and general opportunities that you won’t want the game to feel as if it’s pushing you to complete it quickly. If anything, it’s telling you to take your time and enjoy the world that it’s depicted in. It’s encouraging you to enjoy the open world and interact with as many objects as possible. In fact, whilst the story is great, you’ll be more engrossed with everything but that. I’d rather spend countless hours swimming the river beds and collecting as many items as possible. I’d rather just gallop around effortlessly by just holding A to let my horse follow the path automatically, just so I can enjoy the background scenery and occasionally dismount to pick a fight with someone. I have played the game for well over 60 hours and I am literally nowhere near its completion. If I reviewed this game after completing it fully, I’d be publishing it just in time for The Witcher 4 to arrive!
It’s the sheer level of depth to this RPG title that makes it such a huge appeal to us gamers. If you enjoyed what its predecessors had to offer, you’ll be pleased that Namco Bandai’s new iteration is equally as dense with RPG elements. The world of Witcher 3 is initially very intimidating. I’m the type of gamer who doesn’t want to miss anything and gets quite frustrated if I do. In these situations, you cannot help but feel intimidated with the open world in this game. You can literally travel anywhere on the map and get lost. The map is massive and it’s full of life in the form of animals, creatures, small towns or just greenery. What makes the world even more intimidating is the dynamic weather system, which changes as the day progresses and night falls. Heavy rain makes the world feel more dangerous and rough, but when the sun is setting and you’re on your horse near the river, there is no game on the Xbox One that will give you a more beautiful sight.
I’m not a hardcore RPG fan. I need some sort of assistance, and this comes in the form of a minimap that tells you where your next objectives are should you choose to continue. You can click the right stick to change the objectives and carry out another quest. The minimap will just give you a dotted path to tell you its recommended route, but very early on I learned to find my own route and just go towards the destination. You’re more likely to run into something new this way.
One of my greatest worries is that Witcher 3 exposes the Xbox One for its limitations. That’s a frightening prospect considering the console is still in its youth. The game is upscaled to 1080p, however I often found slight drops in frame rate and there would be relatively long load times after dying or when travelling between maps. It’s not hugely detrimental to the experience. I don’t really mind load times as long as they don’t last minutes, which this doesn’t. I managed to pull through MGS4 so this is nothing in comparison! Nonetheless, it’s worth mentioning that the best experience would probably be on the PC with some top of the range hardware.
The story is in fact the least interesting aspect of the game. If you’re very much driven by the plot, you’ll need to compensate all of the other extras that you can do around the map in order to focus primarily on what is quite a dull script. Your character, Geralt, is almost always too serious and his mission takes far too long to complete. I spent ages trying to find out where his girlfriend and daughter were. I was made to travel across the lands repeatedly and run jobs for other people in order to get a little bit more information on where I can find the two women. There really isn’t nothing more to the story. There is no dark mystery that lies beneath the surface and there isn’t much depth to the main character. You do occasionally get to witness some flashbacks that give you an idea of what is motivating him to pursue such quests, but I never felt emotionally connected with him.
If it weren’t for the redundant quests that seem to have been forced in to prolong the game’s campaign, perhaps I could have felt more connected with the character. Just when I thought I may be getting close to my destination, a quest would come that would completely throw me out of the way and lead me to take a different path. At times it got frustrating, but it’s at these moments when I stopped playing the campaign and just started exploring the world for a bit of meaningless fun. What’s interesting is that Geralt over time also expresses anger and frustrating for not being able to reach his goal sooner than he would have liked. It’s almost as if the developers are mocking us!
If you’re new to the franchise, then worry not. The Witcher 3 has been massively promoted and it is very likely that you haven’t played the first two. Even I didn’t play the first game and I never got a chance to finish the second one. If you did play the old ones, you can transfer your game saves to Witcher 3 for progressive stats. Your decisions in Witcher 2 for example will define who you interact with in Witcher 3, which is a great little touch. Some of these people will even offer you quests. I didn’t have the luxury of doing this, but I like the idea that people who have played the prequels can have a more bespoke and personalized experience with Witcher 3. I’m sure many of these quests are probably more enjoyable than the standard ones for the main campaign!
My favourite quests involved hunting and slaying monsters. A lot of these are actually side quests, but the main campaign does contain its fair share of creature action. Very early on as an example, you get to fight a huge griffin bird that runs rampant on innocent humans from time to time. Geralt can choose to take on contracts whenever you feel comfortable enough to take on what lies ahead, which will most likely depend on how high your level is. The variety in monsters is truly remarkable. The developers have exercised their creative abilities here by giving us some very interesting monsters ranging from wraiths to Foglets that require special abilities and tactics to kill them. You need to take some of these contracts on if you want to get paid well. Currency is still very important since it allows you to upgrade your weapons and armor.
The campaign also only gives you a slight insight into what the world of Witcher 3 is really going through. The land is torn apart by war, but you don’t always feel that in the campaign mode since you don’t interact with people just for the sake of it. However by carrying out side quests, you get to undergo challenges that emphasize better the impact of war and the various factions that are tearing the land apart. What’s interesting is that Witchers themselves, including you, also added to the cause. The game doesn’t force you to take a specific moral stance. Kill however you want or be as merciful as you want.
One of the main reasons why I usually despise RPG titles is because the menus for character progression and equipment upgrades are always too intimidating. For those who aren’t so accustomed to being hurled with hundreds of different options all of which make no sense, it’s important to present us with a clean interface that allows us to choose our equipment in more readily accessible manners. Wild Hunt does this very well. The art of making new potions, upgrading weapons and unlocking new abilities is relatively straightforward. There are various degrees of potions in terms of power and effect. The more powerful the potion, the more complex the ingredients. As you progress through the game, you learn more about the power of potions and how they can really help you take on very tough situations in battle.
Ultimately, the combat is one of the most essential aspects of this game. It is after all, based on a character that takes on contracts to hunt and kill creatures or other enemies. Wild Hunt’s combat system is extremely fluid. There is a lock-on system if you want to target a specific enemy. The freedom to time your attacks, parries, blocks, counters and cast magical powers is beyond anything we have seen in previous franchises. You are practically given free will to fight how you want. Those who love a more traditional close quarter fight can perfect their timing skills by parrying attacks and dealing very lethal counter blows. Sometimes you can lure enemies into magical traps which leave them confused and vulnerable. The combat system makes your character feel like a genuine Witcher who is trained with a unique set of skills that help defeat even the toughest of foes.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is currently the best that the RPG genre can offer on current generation consoles. I’m sure at this year’s E3, we will witness some announcements of brand new RPG titles from franchises that are very well established. Until then however, Wild Hunt’s 100+ hour campaign will provide you with an experience that you simply cannot miss irrespective of whether you’re a fan of RPG titles or not.
Prima Games Official Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Collector’s Edition Strategy Guide Review
There often isn’t much sense in purchasing a strategy guide for a game that, for instance, belongs to the sports genre. I believe that RPG games however, are the most difficult to complete, especially when they are packed with the amount of content that Witcher 3 possesses. It’s not just about wanting a guide to complete the campaign. Good RPGs don’t give you 100% completion after you have finished the story mode. In fact, you may only find that you’ve completed less than 20% of the game!
The same applies for Wild Hunt and for that reason, a well-detailed and content-packed strategy guide is a perfectly justifiable purchase especially for a game that will give you over 100 hours’ worth of gameplay if you want to complete it fully. The hardback collector’s edition of this strategy guide is particularly outstanding.
As someone who doesn’t have enough time to spend countless hours stuck at one point (plus, I’m no good with RPG titles anyways), the official strategy guide became my holy grail to help me escape tough situations. Although we now live in a digital era where people can just YouTube ways out, nothing beats a strategy guide that is developed in liaison with the official developers of the game. There is no content in the world that packs the amount of information that the official guide has in just one book.
Not only does the official strategy guide have walkthroughs for the story missions (which are always complimented with detailed maps and diagrams), but it also has 100% complete walkthroughs for every single side quest available.
As mentioned in the game review, combat is a huge component of Wild Hunt. Its in-depth mechanics and complex crafting abilities (for items such as powerful potions) require a lot of patience to learn. The guide however, makes this considerably simple by giving you an entire section on the combat system and training you to become a master. There are so many items you can craft, a huge number of abilities and tasks that you can do in the game. It’s all very overwhelming for a novice like me. The guide makes all of this manageable.
The Witcher 3’s map is huge. It’s so big in fact, that you have a horse following you everywhere that you can ride from A to B, and even that can take a while! The strategy guide contains a full atlas of every location in the game and the various regions that make up the map. I particularly found this useful. Although the game has a built-in navigation system, I often used the map to determine the direction I need to follow to get towards a certain place. It is also very easy to get lost in the game. Having an atlas ensured that I have at least touched upon every small town at least once.
The variety in enemies is also huge. They range from large dragons to packs of drunken bystanders. Obviously a lot of the enemies are relatively easy to kill, however there are still a large number of foes that require special abilities to be slayed in the most efficient manners. The guide will explain in detail what each enemy type’s weaknesses are. This allows you to prepare in advance by crafting the right potions, unlocking the correct abilities and even purchasing the most appropriate set of armour.
Finally, this guide also gives you access to a copy of the electronic version of the guide, which is adapted to suit mobile phones and tablets too. As mentioned before, we are in a digital era and I love that the guide comes equipped with a digital version at no extra cost. I didn’t use it much whilst playing the game since I always preferred the traditional approach of using the paper guide, however I often used the electronic guide when I was away from my console, just to read up on what lies ahead.
All of the above also comes in the standard edition of the strategy guide. If you’re only after the essentials, you can do with just the standard edition. The collector’s version however, is for the truly hardcore RPG fans who most likely have enjoyed the prequels and have been waiting countless years for Wild Hunt. This hardback copy also comes with a 96-page book that gives you an incredible amount of information about the world of Witcher 3 including the history behind the enemies, the general population and even about specific lands. It’s beautifully designed and makes you feel as if you’re reading some sort of ancient relic.
The collector’s edition also has 30 pages worth of artwork that gives you a glimpse into what the designers of the game had in mind when coming up with some of the concepts behind the game. It’s nice to look at them, however I don’t see many people giving the artwork a second look.
It’s worth noting that the collector’s edition guides are truly limited. By this, I mean that Prima Games will not be producing any more of these guides. If anything, this will only enhance the resale value should you ever decide to get rid of the game and guide together. The collector’s edition does come at a RRP of £19.99 however a quick search online shows that major retailers are selling it for less than £15, making it excellent value for money.