Set in a war ravaged world, tainted by moral decay and an obscure line between what is right and wrong, the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt casts you into something not only unique, but truly magical. Fans of role playing games want to feel immersed, we want our actions to mean something and we want a story that grasps our attention and encapsulates our imaginations. With this, Wild Hunt excels. You play as the series’ protagonist, Geralt of Rivia, who has trained as a witcher and is on a self-driven mission to find Ciri, his adopted daughter, and Yennefer, a love interest. Witchers, for lack of a better term, are monster hunters who through a series of mutations and gruelling training have developed certain paranormal traits, including the ability to use magic and to grow amazing beards.
Witchers are neither human nor monster and this is something that slides nicely into the prejudicial world that is Wild Hunt. Political issues mire every decision and witchers are viewed with scorn by most humans. Aside from this, humans more often than not require assistance from their magical doppelgangers so as to complete tasks that would otherwise be impossible, tasks such as killing monsters, finding criminals or lost loved ones, protecting people from war ravaged looters and rapists and, of course, delivering love letters. At the risk of sounding cliché, the world of Wild Hunt is reminiscent to that of George R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire”, better known as Game of Thrones for those of you who cannot read. Although witchers generally only act for coin and are supposedly neutral to politics of humans and their wars, in practice this is a lot different. Throughout the story, Geralt involves himself with noblemen, kings and peasants alike and the plot is something refreshing. This story was not a secondary thought burdening the gameplay but a well prepared and integrated part of the Wild Hunt. Accepting certain missions can open new doors, or close others and all decisions made leave you with a sour taste in your mouth and a wonder if things could have gone otherwise. This is down to the sheer callousness of it all and the fact that Wild Hunt is brutally honest, without sympathy for the sensitive. Dialogue throughout the game allows players to choose their answers and different choices impact the game differently. For once it is starting to feel like a developer has truly grasped the concept of change based on a player’s decision making.
The departure by CD Projekt Red from the linear storylines of the previous iterations of the game into a non- linear open world is nothing short of genius and gives us RPG fans something to be truly grateful for. The world itself feels alive and players can venture around discovering ancient runes, sea sides, caves and castles. Animals and monsters populate all of the differing landscapes and thought has gone into what creatures inhabit certain areas. This combines stunningly with the day night cycle of Wild Hunt, meaning certain monsters are stronger at certain times of the day or are only found in certain areas. This transcends into the human aspect of things too as its unlikely you will find a merchant selling goods at 2am in the morning. There are merchants, armorers, blacksmiths and herbalists who all sell and buy different items and each possess their own advantages and crafting abilities. Intriguing is that prices may vary between them based on the area in which they market their skills and goods and whether the war ravaging the world has greatly affected their supply. The world is utterly satisfying and my need to learn more about it by doing side quests (of which there are plenty) or reading certain information about monsters or characters and the constant depth of information means that hours’ worth of binge playing lie ahead for anyone who plays Wild Hunt.
Geralt, as a witcher, is able to use his alchemy skills to create different potions, oils and bombs each with their own benefits and, when used in the correct circumstances, they combine brilliantly. The fighting system in Wild Hunt is something I thoroughly enjoyed and preparation for combat is vital to ensuring perpetual life. As mentioned, Geralt has magical abilities called signs and each of them can be upgraded to strengthen their effects. Certain signs give Geralt the leg up over certain opponents while others may not be useful at all and this all boils down to knowing their weaknesses. The movement system may be a little tricky to get used to at first but once mastered, dodging and rolling away from enemies becomes vital to winning any battle and properly timed attacks can help in ensuring battles go your way. The balance between the casting of signs, toxicity which increases when using potions and vitality (a fancy word for life) combined with the different attacking options using melee attacks, a crossbow or a bomb in tandem really makes for something special. I would advise that the game be played on one of the more difficult levels. This makes Wild Hunt more rewarding and forces players to research and prepare before taking on certain missions. Each mission has a recommended level and I tried to make sure that I attempted those above my level to level up quicker and make my choices more meaningful, whether during or before fighting. Crafting different weapons or armour and the fact that they deteriorate with use gives a sense of realism and keeps you on your toes.
Wild Hunt has so many secret and special aspects that you would need to play it yourself in order to truly grasp the sheer amount of content in holds. There is even a card game within Wild Hunt designed specifically for the title called Gwent. After finally mastering it I have really enjoyed challenging any passer-by to a game in an attempt to increase Geralt’s card collection. Missions as mentioned are all over, from monster nests to fist brawls and horse racing. What CD Projekt Red have achieved is something that makes me feel that the world of RPGs has a future beyond what I would ever have hoped for. My love for this game has over-ridden the niggles that would normally annoy me, from the over-zealous wind that constantly blows to the fact that there are issues with the camera at certain points or other small glitches. Those do not matter, because what we have here is truly the Benchmark. This has already gone down as one of my favourites and will remain there for all time.
Witcher 3 Rating: 10/10
Check out the Witcher 3 website: Witcher 3