-Review by Anthony Tyson on 6/5/15
Let me just admit something right out the gate. 'The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt' was my second most anticipated game for this year. Trailers promised an expansive world, rich characters, dynamic choices, rewarding combat, and a bold claim of over 200 hours of gameplay in a single game- including free DLC on top of that. The scope of this game is insane, and while I was overall optimistic, it seemed almost too good to be true. After playing about 40 or so hours of the game, I find myself at a point that I believe I could accurately review this game. There is one caveat however; I have not completed the main story...
The reason for this was what I mentioned above; Its a crazy long game! I obviously can't personally verify the 200+ hour gameplay yet, but I have played about 35-40 hrs of the game so far- and I think I've barely scratched the surface of the main story. There is just so much to do in this game! I don’t mean repetitious tasks either; I'm talking about side quests that can take hours to complete. Sometimes these quests give you special rewards, but its not for an armor piece or sword (though always nice) that I play. Its that these quests all have a function that serve the story as a cohesive whole. Whether its hunting down monsters, helping remove a spirit from a someone who is possessed, or trying to free a spirit from their ties to the physical world; you are bound to meet intriguing characters and have experiences you wont forget.
Here is a prime example of such, and it contains a few spoilers: though your experience may differ from mine….
The main story revolves around finding a young woman named 'Ciri', who was a student of yours at one point- the only woman to every receive training from a 'Witcher'. Searching the wasteland known as 'Velen', my exploits eventually lead me to the self-titled ruler of these lands, known as ‘The Bloody Baron’. Upon meeting the Baron, he reveals he met 'Ciri', and may know more about her whereabouts- but won't reveal anything unless I help him find out where his missing wife and daughter are. Upon further investigation I find out that his daughter and wife fled from him, as he had been an abusive husband when in his drunken rages. After locating his daughter in a town a bit away called 'Oxenfurt', we find out what happened to his wife. The daughter, now joined with an elusive group of ‘witch hunters’, reveals that her mother in transit to 'Oxenfurt' screamed in pain as a red hot mark appeared on her hand. After this appeared, a giant creature known as a ‘Fiend’ jumped out of the forest and took her. The daughter then reveals she plans to go back and search for her, as well as that her mother was pregnant when her father beat her last. They fled after her mother had miscarried after the beating from the Baron. Realizing this, I (Geralt the Witcher) race back to confront the Baron. Turns out he knew this, and had buried the unborn child in an unmarked grave near his holdfast. In this world, an unborn child buried with no name can return as an undead monster known as a ‘Botchling’. These creatures upon, returning from the dead, feast on the blood of pregnant mothers at night. Geralt immediately demands the Baron show him the grave site where his child is buried, as he hopes to get rid of it before it causes damage to others. Aghast at this revelation, the Baron shows us where this is. As we approach the grave sight, Geralt mentions that there may be a way to turn this ‘Botchling’ into a ‘Lubberkin’- a guardian spirit of sorts. He also claims that it's been done only once before, as the ritual is difficult. The Baron pleads with you to not kill his child, and we try to take the bottling to his house to perform the ritual to change it. In transit, something I did spooked the monster, and it attacked. Confronted with no choice, I had to fight and kill the beast. Upon the ‘Botchling’s demise, the Baron wailed in agony that I had killed his child. Trying to reasoning with him, I explained there was no other choice. Sad and defeated, he hesitantly accepted this, and proceeded to confess all his guilt and grief. After I informed him that his child is in Oxenfurt and wishes to never see him again, he tells more about Ciri. As the main quest concluded, this still left his wife however…
In a later quest, I uncover a mysterious village of children who apparently have only one caretaker: an elder woman known simply as ‘Gran’. Mistrusting us as another bandit, to whom many of these children became orphaned by, she refuses to provide any explanation of what this place is. After talking to a nearby ‘Godling’ (a mischievous yet harmless creature) who goes by the name Johnny, I get him to convince ‘Gran’ that I should be shown to creatures who guard this place. These creatures are simply known as ‘The Crones’, and it turns out their spirits reside in a tapestry located beneath the village. Possessing the body of Gran, they communicate to me that they would inform me of more events concerning my old ward ‘Ciri’, provided of course that I do a task for them. They bid me to kill the mysterious evil force in the forest, who harms another village nearby. Handing me a knife, they tell me to go to give this to that village's elder. I later do so, and he then guides me to a tree in a nearby forest. Showing me an entrance which leads under the tree, he says that this is where the evil spirit resides. Proceeding through the cave, I then find the heart of the tree witch contains the spirit of a druid that had been trapped there by the 'The Crones'. Claiming no control over the beasts that killed the villagers, it asks that I free it’s spirit in a ritual. He/she says if I do this, he/she would be able to rescue the children. Not completely understanding what its talking about, but wanting to help, I decided to oblige. The spirit then inhabits the body of a horse I bring to it, taking the moniker ‘Black Beauty’ as it goes off to apparently free these mystery children. I then return to the elder of the nearby village, and I tell him I have killed the spirit. He then cuts off his ear with the knife 'The Crones' gave me earlier, and says its tribute to the sisters. I then return to the village where 'The Crones' reside, where I realize the children who were previously there are now gone. ‘The Crones’, now who have morphed into hideous material beings, say I am naughty boy for freeing the spirit in the tree and losing them their supper. I now realized that they had been planning on eating the children, and it was they who the Spirit in the tree wanted to rescue.
At this point Gran steps out saying "Its not my fault", and "to forgive her for messing things up". Now deciding to put the blame on this servant of their's, they exclaim “We will punish you soon enough!”. At this point I then see her hand burning fiery red. This woman was the wife of the Baron, ‘Anna’! Asking ‘The Crones’ how she came to be here, they explained that she had made a pact with them to take her unborn child away from her, as ‘Anna’ did not want another child from the man who beat her. Turns out they had been the ones who forced Anna to miscarry, thus making the 'botching' beast I had slew earlier. Considering the debt payed, they then forced ‘Anna’ into a lifetime of service to them. They also then confessed to attempting to eat ‘Ciri’ a few nights ago, and that ‘Ciri' managed to escape from them. Now filled with righteous hatred in my heart for these complete cunts (I think the word aplies here), I then state that they wont get away with all they have done. Laughing, they say that I will keep chasing shadows of the one I seek, and that If we reunite- one of us would die. They then disappear in a fog with Anna.
I then head back to the Baron with news of his wife. He asks me to come with him to get his wife back, and we set out with a score of his men to ‘The Crones’ village. Once there we find the Baron’s daughter along with the witch hunters she mentioned before. Waves of creatures then descend on us, and we proceed to defend on ourselves from the horde of monsters. After the battle; The Baron, his daughter, and a few witch hunters are left standing. We also notice a hideous creature writhing in agony next to one of the huts. On closer examination we notice the beads across its neck, and the Baron’s daughter exclaims that her mother wore beads like that. This was apparently the punishment that ‘The Crones’ had mentioned earlier. Searching for the source of the curse on Anna, I then find a voodoo doll that resembled her likeness in a nearby hut. After burning the doll, I head back to The Baron, his daughter, and the wife ‘Anna’. Turns out that the curse bound her life to ‘The Crones’, and burning the doll had set her free- but she was also dying. Having a chance to say goodbye to her family, the Baron’s wife ‘Anna’ dies in her daughter’s arms.
Disheartened, the father and daughter go there separate ways; never to to see each other again. Claiming my reward was to meet me there, the Baron bids me to meet him back at his holdfast. Once there, I discovered the Baron had then hung himself. The sergeant said he had nothing more to live for, and that it was a good riddance due to his poor leadership of the country.
On top of that is the combat, now perfected, that carried over from the 2nd Witcher game. Quen, Aard, Igni, Axii, and Yrden all make their return as the magic signs- and they are better then ever. If you develop them further, you can even gain secondary forms of each sign, of which Igni’s firestream perk being my favorite. It’s badass. The strategic combat of body placement is also crucial, so swordplay is as fun and engaging as ever. At least when it works….
You see, their are few flaws to this game; and the only ones apparent are attributed to the now unfortunate custom we have grown used to in this age of gaming: Glitches. Occasional examples of screen tears, audio bugs, game crashes, and dumb AI moments have all plagued the experience for most. For me, I've experienced some occasional audio difficulties (very occasional on all of these by the way-nothing completely game breaking yet), dumb AI moments, and game crashes. Fortunately the Witcher 3 has had pretty excellent auto saves so far, so game crashes haven’t been awful for me so far. There was also some FPS instability, but with the latest patch it has been working fine.
-video from user "Константин КуцКонстантин Куц" on youtube
When there are no issues however, you loose yourself in how beautiful this game looks and sounds. Lighting/Animation on all things is exquisite and most creatures look different according to their species, which add to feeling of being in a truly immerse world. On top of that you have one of the best soundtracks I have heard in a while. For example…
-The song I want to listen to when I go to Norway again (I’m descended from a Norwegian family):
-The song that plays when those Crones I mentioned earlier appear:
-The song that gets me ready for a seriously epic battle:
There are so many more too. I absolutely recommend listening to this soundtrack when you have the chance.
All in all, ‘The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’ is my ideal game. It has gameplay that is engaging and strategic, rewarding those who think in the fight. It has the look and soud of a gripping and immersive world, fully engaging you at all times with a harrowing soundtrack. It has a story that is dynamic, changing constantly biased on decisions you make in all parts of the story. It has side quests with more story and gameplay mechanics than even some other full $60 games. The Witcher 3 is only hampered by its occasional bugs, and CD Projekt RED is working over the clock to make this as stream-lined as possible across all platforms. This is the quintessential game for anyone who loves engaging story, gripping quests, sword and sorcery fantasy, stellar RPG’s, or just one hell of a great time.
A MUST BUY! Please do your self a favor, and go get this great game. The Polish Developer CD Projekt RED deserves every bit of dollar you give them, and I cannot say say enough how much fun this is as a whole. If that still doesn't convince you, they are offering free DLC along with it as well- no matter when you buy it!
To hear Anthony talk about this game some more stream or download this week's episode of The GD Podcast