WITCHER 3 REVIEW
It has been a year since the Witcher 3’s release, so this review is slightly behind the times. But better late then never right? This game has gotten a lot of attention and for good reason. It is simply epic. EPIC I SAY!
The Witcher 3 is an open world third person action RPG experience developed by CD Projekt RED. It follows a man named Geralt, who is a “witcher” slash monster hunter slash assassin slash badass slash hunk-a-saurus, as he searches for his lover and her daughter. The plot and lore is as heavy and convoluted as it gets, so for someone like me who hasn’t played the past games it was slightly overwhelming. However if you watch a few YouTube summaries or read a couple Wikipedia articles the basic story can be generally understood (at least that’s what I did).
The main story of the Witcher 3 is decent, but honestly the side quests are the meatiest part of the game. The central plot in the beginning tends to consist of Geralt investigating his family’s whereabouts by meeting people who have information on them. However, for these people to give him any Intel he has to basically do tons of shit for them, such as killing gryphons or finding their lost spouse, or even delivering a missing goat to its owner! I found this sort of “errand boy” act got a bit lame, which is why I leaned towards the side missions, which contained much more variation. Now I am not jabbing at the main storyline as it is wonderfully written, it just starts off too slow for my liking.
This is one of the best-looking games I have ever played. The environments are colorful, detailed, contain movement and are just overall inspiring. There are small quaint villages, lush country sides, cliff-side mountains, and epic castles, and the lakes and oceans textures are incredibly well done. The days go by in real-time throughout the game, so as you are running around the sun will be setting or rising, and the entire environment’s color scheme will change. There will also be entire days that are just raining, or just sunny, and this “weather system” aspect added another level of realism to the entire experience. The environments are also vast, which can be a bit daunting, but you can use fast travel locations (as you discover them), or even call on your handy horse Roach to help you get around. Just like in Zelda’s Ocarina of Time, you can just whistle and your horse will magically appear to help you cover more ground. Now that’s service.
The combat system in this game is super fun. Basically you hack away at your enemy, while you wait for your Witcher’s “signs’ to reload. You can change these signs with a quick select menu, and use different abilities in combination with your weapons. You can shoot bursts of fire, control your enemy’s mind, create a shield for your character, etcetera, however it only lasts a few seconds. Dodging and parrying are easy and fluid, and the whole system just feels good. Geralt will also get a crossbow to add to his weapon roster, although I did find it a bit clumsy and slow. The only time it’s really useful is when you are underwater and it’s your only form of defense (generally against drowners who are basically a freaky creature-like versions of a mermaid).
I really only had a few issues with this entire game, mainly being the long-ass loading times (however it is an insanely large world so I can forgive them for that), and also the lack of consistent auto-save. I would often get wrapped up in a mission and forget to manually save, or wind up fighting some monster who was way more OP then me, and get killed, and then – oh wait? No save? Too bad. So all the loot I collected or locations I discovered would be gone with the wind. The game is decent about saving the main missions but even then sometimes if you die or turn off your console you have to redo pretty big chunks of stuff. This is pretty much nitpicking though, as overall the game is near perfection for me.
Another critique I have is the leveling up system, which, although effective, is a bit strange in my opinion. Basically as you level up and discover “places of power” you gain ability points, which you can invest into skills on your character’s tree. However you can only have 12 skills at maximum “equipped”, so if you invest in more than 12 types of skills you can’t always have all of them in effect. So basically you pick and choose what type of skills you need for different missions or bosses. I guess this kind of makes sense; I’ve just never really encountered a leveling up system like this, and would prefer to have all my ability points being used at the same time.
In the Witcher 3 Geralt has enhanced senses, which is portrayed in a sort of “eagle-vision” type of way. By holding down a specific button you can see objects of interest, things to loot, doorways etc. as well as footprints or scents of people you may be looking for. I used this almost constantly to make sure I had looted an area completely, and it is used for a lot of missions when you are searching for something in particular. Overall this is a very cool gameplay mechanic, and makes looting a breeze.
Weapons in the Witcher 3 are really badass. You always have two weapons at a time – a steel weapon for fighting guards and bandits, and a silver sword to fight monsters. Both of these can be upgraded, or you can craft completely new weapons at any blacksmith (providing you have collected or bought the raw materials and have the weapon’s schematics). I looted every solider slash bandit slash werewolf slash drowner slash creature I ever found to make sure I could make the best weapon and armor possible. However, like in fallout 4 this game has an “overload” aspect. You will acquire so much loot in your travels – some of it useful, some of it junk, that you can become “overweight”, which means your character can no longer run. You can still get on your horse though (the poor thing), and go to a merchant and sell off some stuff, or dismantle old swords or armor at a blacksmith. Like fallout I get that this is practical life lesson for the player, but it always seems to happen at the worst time! Either way, just watch your weight meter in the pause screen, and if need be you can even equip a larger saddlebag to allow you to carry more stuff.
There is an alchemy section of the pause screen, which can be used to brew crafting elements as well as potions and oils. Potions give you different effects, like replenishing your HP points, or making your attacks stronger, and can be equipped to your quick select keys to use at ease. A great tip I learned is if you “meditate” (basically you pick the time of day you want the Witcher to “wake up” at”), and you have alcohol in your inventory, all your potions will basically refill themselves. This is a quick and dirty way of making sure you always have supplies to keep you alive, and its pretty much fool proof as you ALWAYS collect dwarven spirits wherever you go (as long as you are a looting freak like me). You can brew oils as well, which you can rub onto your weapons when you are fighting particularly strong foes. There are oils that are helpful against beasts, cursed beings, and more, and I overlooked these at the beginning. They can be incredibly useful and through your looting goods you usually have the materials to make a lot of the basic oils.
Time for the verdict. Now I’m not a massive crazy open world RPG gamer, but I really dug this game. It makes the RPG genre, which can be quite daunting to those unfamiliar with it, more approachable, as it has decent tutorials for everything and eases the player into it. Along with this I found the first map Geralt is in acts as a type of “warm up” to the other sections of the world. It’s much smaller, and the enemies are fairly easy, which allows Geralt to level up enough to approach the sort of “real game”. As you get into the game the cutscenes get pretty frequent, but I guess that is what an RPG is all about (plus the game does give you the chance to skip through them if you really want to). The combat system is fast paced and fun, and feels more “hack and slash” combined with some strategy then a traditional turn based RPG. Overall I loved this game, and I totally understand why it warranted so much attention. The game has 36 different endings, so its replay ability factor is exponential, on top of it just being a badass videogame you will want to dive into again and again.
Go buy this right meow people.