Almost without noticing, I’ve fallen in love with Geralt of Rivia. It’s not weird, or even sexual, so don’t giggle. If you’re playing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, chances are you’re with me. After two fantastic earlier entries of the series, it feels like CD Projekt Red has nearly perfected the art of the role-playing this now classic fantasy icon. Geralt isn’t some dark brooding hero that we get too much of. He’s a father, a man with a heart of gold, a sense of justice in an unjust world, and basically? He just wants to go home, take a hot bath, and not have there be any weird magical crabs biting his jibbly bits. In short, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt may be my new all-time favorite RPG.
When I compare Witcher 3 to another recent big RPG, I’m struck by two main differences. The first is that I care more about Geralt of Rivia than I ever cared about my own Inquisitor in Dragon Age. The second is that I feel compelled to do every quests in the game because they all tell a unique and interesting story, rather than make me feel like I’m running errands and checking off lists. CD Projekt Red may very well have eclipsed BioWare with Wild Hunt in being the top dog in RPG-land. I’m struggling to think of another recent Role-Playing Game where the story feels so immediate and engrossing. Pillars of Eternity comes to mind, but the Witcher’s visual storytelling elevates it to a level few games have achieved.
Our video review.
Visually, the Witcher 3 is an absolute treat. Though there’s some chatter on the ever-annoying internet about “downgraded graphics”, I dare you to play or watch any bit of Wild Hunt and not be blown away by the world these developers have created. I’m usually one to say stylized art is a better way to go, but Witcher 3 makes a strong case for more realistic graphics when the right art team is at the reins. I doubt Wild Hunt will look dated any time soon, and while it takes a beast of a machine to run, it feels like the kind of experience worth upgrading for. You know, one of those rare games that comes along and makes you dip into the savings for a new card or processor? This is that kind of experience.
I wanted to just watch the sun set... but then I met the Crones.
One of the most beautiful things though about Witcher 3 is what the series has always done so well: making choice in the narrative less about black and white or good and evil and more about the gray areas the real world is caught between. You’ll make choices during your time with Wild Hunt that seem like the right idea at the time, only to find out later that it had drastic and deep marking consequences. Not everything is what it seems in this game, and that’s just wonderful to experience.
Combat is satisfying on a level that wasn’t present in either of the previous games. It feels similar to the action of Assassin of Kings, but somehow tighter and overall better paced. Blocking, parrying, dodging and the proper use of your magical signs are all still essential, but perhaps it’s the fantastic finishing moves and lopping off of body parts that somehow make the action feel more epic than in previous entries. That and enemies can actually pack a wallop. You will die in Witcher 3, even on lower difficulties, so be sure to use that F5 key to quicksave often.
No game is perfect though, and Wild Hunt has a few issues to contend with. One of the first things I noticed about Witcher 3 is that Geralt still controls like a tank, and it’s especially noticeable in tight quarters like stairs and the like. The game automatically slows you down in buildings which should tell you how much confidence they have in his movement. Additionally, all versions have been plagued a bit by save bugs, crashing, and some issues brought up after patches like the console versions losing XP for quest completion recently. Additionally, mouse and keyboard lover though I am, I still find the controller to be the best and most intuitive way to control Geralt. None of these are enough to truly mar the experience for good, but they’re worth noting.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a stupendous achievement for CD Projekt Red. This is a studio rich in love for the RPG genre, and it shows. With each consecutive release, their craft has been finer and finer tuned. If Wild Hunt is any indication, the next game from the Polish band of gamers will be something to behold. Most of you are probably already playing Wild Hunt and loving it. If for some reason you’re on the fence, hop off and go to your favorite gaming retailer now. This is not one you want to miss. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt an absolute classic.
GAMEPLAY – 9 | A lovingly crafted world, wonderful quests, deep combat, and amazing story make this one of the best RPGs we’ve ever played. Point off merely for the somewhat clunky PC controls and Geralt’s tough controls in tight quarters.
VISUALS AND SOUND – 9 | No doubt about it, this is one of the most beautiful games ever made and a great reason to upgrade your video card if you’ve been waiting to do so. The only downside is that music can be a tad repetitive, especially the combat score.
LONGEVITY – 10 | There are several dozen hours in the main quest, and another hundred or so packed into all the nooks and crannies of the game world. If you played Skyrim for hundreds of hours, get ready for another game that wiles away your summer months.
POLISH – 7 | No matter how wonderful an experience Witcher 3 is, we still had more than our share of bugs, with others reporting their own issues on the console versions and PC as well. Save bugs, crashes, and more are enough to bring this score down a bit.
VALUE – 10 | Very few triple-A games would give you this much content for $60. Heck, few MMOs are worth playing as long as this single-player RPG. There will be large feature DLC, but CDPR is also giving away smaller bits of DLC for free to all owners of the game as well. Worth every penny and more.
Our review of Wild Hunt was done on the PC version, through GOG Galaxy, with a code provided by CD Projekt Red. We finished the main narrative on normal difficulty and still can’t put the game down as we’re working through again on hard. We played on a home-built PC with an Intel i5-2500K, 16GB of DDR3 RAM, an EVGA GeForce 980 and a hamster.