Stepping away from tabletop games a little for this one, but it’s definitely worth the mention! Having just finished the main story for this game with a large handful of side quests, I think it’s time to talk about this. Simply put, The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt is stunningly beautiful, masterfully created and emotionally gripping to the very end. This is actually the first installment of the series I have played, but I will without a doubt be back tracking to play the other two. The start of the game plops you down into the middle of a plot, searching for the sorceress, Yennefer. It’s shocking how quickly the plot blows up and becomes this elaborate story that captivates you in every way imaginable.
Looking at the overall gameplay I can honestly say that until this point, I had never played a game that had such an interesting and genuinely challenging combat system. Playing this game, you rely on patience, exploiting your enemy’s weaknesses and counter attacking to come out on top. With that said, it’s also pretty realistic in relation to real sword fighting. There’s some things (like exposing your back/spinning) that remind you that this is a fantasy game, but as a real sword fighter I can immensely appreciate the attention to detail that the game designers paid. On the subject of realism, The Witcher 3 actually has the best animation to date for horse riding. The environment is highly immersive, with a large amount of books to read, lore to discover and small conversations to eavesdrop on. Phenomenal graphics also help make this game a world to escape to from our own. I was amazed at the first close up of Geralt of Rivia, the main character. You can see each and every hair follicle on his face. It’s simply amazing. What really cements this as an immersive game though is the voice acting. During cut scenes and conversations, I found myself almost forgetting that this is a game. It feels like a film. For me, it’s really what made me love the story and connect with the characters. In most video game RPG’s I play, I find myself making decisions with my own opinion. In the case of The Witcher 3, I found myself more slipping into the skin of Geralt of Rivia, trying to think and act like a witcher. It made my end result not my personally preferred, but the way it happened made sense for me.
With the characters themselves being well acted and believable, it helped make the rest of the world as such. Taking it a step further, the monsters themselves are totally off the wall. Each beast is unique, even the ones based off of stories that we may have been told throughout our whole lives. The realism of their physique really gives this game a gritty atmosphere and makes you understand why humans need witchers in the setting. The first beast you run into in the game is a griffin. I was simply stunned when I saw it because it was so beautifully animated and textured. Better still, the game continued to amaze me as I discovered what other creatures lurk in the dark places of the world. Every now and again, games capture the human nature of asking the question, “Why?” The Witcher 3 brought this forth by making the implication that the monsters in the universe are actually studied scientifically. That they have habits, specific biology, mating/living practices, much like how we classify and understand creatures in our world.
Lore usually is what sets the quality of an RPG. No good lore, usually the setting is disappointing. The Witcher has some of the best lore I’ve seen. It’s almost like the setting is supposed to be placed in actual European history. The architecture, the small amount of non-humans, the prejudice and eradication of oddities really makes it feel like medieval Europe, giving it that element that maybe it’s a history of our own world we haven’t discovered. I love it! You see soldiers walking around with English bill hooks, which totally blew me away. Not exactly a weapon that is commonly used in fantasy settings. The fact that sorceresses are hunted by kings, witchers are seen as abominations that humanity still needs, that Ciri is the last of a prophesized bloodline of power and importance really makes this game feeling the shifting of an age.
A big problem with video game RPGs is usually the scope of story choices. I can’t help but feel limited when there’s only three or so choices for every situation. I didn’t feel that anxiety with this game. Every choice I wanted to make was available to me. Sometimes the text for the choice was a little misleading causing a result I didn’t intend, making me load the previous save and try again to convey the message I wanted to. A minor issue, but it’s still worth mentioning. Other than that occasional hiccup, this game is amazing as far as making you feel like you’re in control, definitely on-par with, if not better than, Dragon Age: Inquisition.
In conclusion, this game blew me away in every way imaginable. I will definitely without a doubt go back, read the books and play the two other Witcher games. Yet again, there’s a fantasy setting that I can’t get enough of. Hopefully someday we’ll get a peak into what witchers were like in their hey-day. Until then, this game is more than enough to keep me satisfied.
Stay Metal \m/