The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
CD Projekt RED
CD Projekt RED
Open World Role-Playing Game
PC, PS4, Xbox One
May 19, 2015
₹1499(PC), ₹3499 (PS4, XBox One)
The Witchers Three set out to tame the Wild Hunt. Clad in some iLL gear and brandishing their controller of choice they set off in pursuit of adventure on their PCs and Playstations. And Adventure they found aplenty. However, those are tales for another time as I, Dandelion, narrate to you the experiences of the trio Bodhisattwa Ray, Sahil Arora and Subhadip Sen when they took the contract on slaying that elusive monster, iLLGaming’s review of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. While Subhadip and Sahil are veterans of the previous games in The Witcher franchise, Bodhisattwa is a rookie who has dreamed of glory since hearing me sing the ballads of those grand adventures.
CD Projekt RED’s (CDPR) labour of love captivated the iLL School of Witchers so much that it was easy to recruit a trio to take on the responsibility of delivering a verdict. With more than a 100hrs of gameplay time each, the task took quite a while to accomplish. The task was done and each returned with a handsome trophy to toast their success. If these words leave you a bit confused, fear not. This is exactly how The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt treats newcomers to the franchise. By referring back to the events of the previous two games, it does subtly hint that you should play them first. We have tarried enough, Dear Reader, it is now time to proceed with the review, beginning with the Story and Character Development.
Story and Character Development
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt takes a slightly different approach to story as compared to its predecessors. Both the previous games featured a revolutionary dynamic narrative system wherein you would experience completely different plots based on your choices. Indeed, the narrative to a third of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings hung on a split second decision. Such a system is quite unique in gaming, but it has a drawback – it requires multiple playthroughs to appreciate fully.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is more linear in comparison, so everyone goes through the same main quests. It is still immensely dynamic as your choices dictate how the quests play out, and yes, the consequences might only dawn on you a hundred hours later. It is not just tacked on multiple different coloured endings (you have those too), but a living world that reacts to your choices.
Everything else improves upon an already great formula established in Assassins of Kings – ever more ambiguous choices, ever more surprising consequences, ever more conflicted characters, ever more intriguing politics and ever more creepier vile moments. But most importantly, the game is hilarious. Where Assassins of Kings was known for its extremely sarcastic characters and their deadpan humour, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt takes it to a whole new level. It’s not just the witty dialogue, but also details from the world, unexpected consequences to choices, and even quests and gameplay – such as an escort quest where Geralt must guide a goat with a bell, much to his dismay; or the monster contract that requires him to gets piss drunk to attract a vampire with a fetish for the inebriated. It’s often dark, absurd comedy, so it may not be for everyone, however.
Where the first two titles stuck closely to the source novels, packed with European fantasy and character-driven stories, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt aims to blend in a bit of American fantasy. The result is mixed and the main story devolves into the usual cliché of special-person-saves-the-world-from-doom-by-the-evil-overlord. It is perhaps unfair to dock points for this, as pretty much every fantasy RPG follows the same plot, but I expected more from a Witcher game. While this successful formula makes it seem ‘epic’, it simply fails to interest me as much as the worldly stories from the previous two games. Many of the sub-plots are fabulous and memorable though and it’s a shame the main story fails to live up to them. A missed opportunity.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s story is layered to begin with. The delivery method chosen by CDPR for the plot elements is something unique. Being layered means it had main quests whose outcomes dictate the path of other main quests, and it has side quests whose outcomes or choices affect the main quests. It is a very natural way of progressing a plot. Firstly, you never know whether your action will make an impact on the story unlike other games with predictable outcomes. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt slides such moments in subtly, without you noticing and I think that is a mega feat in itself. It’s effortless really.
When I started The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, for the first ten hours, it felt like any other AAA RPG, but so strong was the impact of the world and such was its immersion that I found myself gradually lost in it. What started as ‘just another AAA role-playing game’ went on to become one of the best and most clinical RPGs I’ve ever played. I was eating, drinking and sleeping The Witcher 3 and I still am.
This is my first Witcher game, not having played the previous two, so I was rather unaware of the background of the game. To understand the game better, I read up on its lore and I have to say how interesting the story is, and how well they have built it up from the very first Witcher game to the climax in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a vast game with a vast main plot, and loads of subplots, most of which are connected to the main story. The story of the game is very impressive, though in the beginning it might seem repetitive as most of the time, Geralt’s objective is finding missing people. The storytelling is really good in that it is not very complicated, thereby quickly catching the player’s interest. The game is divided into several phases with narration by Dandelion at every phase keeping you updated on your adventure and involved in Geralt’s journey.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a very emotional journey full of surprises, and sometimes, even disappointment. It’s an adventure with Geralt, in his quest to find Cirilla, who is a daughter to him. The way you play the game affects your story and while there are multiple endings to the game, you’re not given a choice to select your ending. You will get the ending that you deserve. You must role-play Geralt and totally guide his every action, interacting with NPCs as Geralt would. Sometimes even minor mistakes in interacting with specific characters can lead to major consequences. Oftentimes you will find that the fate of various characters depends solely on Geralt. So it is advisable to play cautiously, carefully selecting dialogues, because they will be playing a big part in the game world reacting to your actions.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt shows the transformation of Ciri from a young witcher in training to a grown woman with developed witcher skills who doesn’t always need Geralt to look after her and can take care of herself. The game has focused mostly on the character development of Ciri, because most of the returning characters have already developed their stories in the games preceding The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Geralt plays a huge part in developing Ciri’s character, as he will face moments throughout the game where he will have to carefully motivate Ciri, building up her courage and self-belief as a doting parent would, so as to prepare for the climax.
Fine words from our Witcher friends to sum up the Story and character development, though I daresay that jumping into the game without knowing the background would be a most foolish thing to do indeed. Being part of a trilogy, the game will confuse you with certain references to the past and you might miss the significance of certain events. While I could regale you with these tales, you will likely enjoy it more if you played the previous games. However, there are some new additions to the cast and you will discover more of them as you play out their quests in the shoes of my dear friend, Geralt. With that, we move on to the exciting new Open World and the core Gameplay.
Gameplay and Open World
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s world feels like a living and breathing ecosystem. The cities are the liveliest with dangerous alleyways, deserted sewers, lush palaces, whorehouses, bars; there’s nothing you could find amiss here. Even the interiors of homes have quite a bit of detailing with almost all being accessible, by the way, and one can always count on finding something interesting in each house. A big part of the alive world is the population that lives in it. The segregated classes, the different races, nobility and peasantry, all exist in a world that seems so believable and functional. The developers gave an incredible amount of thought into making each area in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt unique in its own right.
The combat in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is what I’d like to call a blend of Dark Souls, Assassin’s Creed and Skyrim. It doesn’t stand out particularly, but it has the best of all worlds. You have a fast attack and a strong attack move. You have an almost redundant crossbow for ranged attacks, and you have your signs to cast. Signs including spells of fire, stunning, casting a protective shield on Geralt and a setting up a trap for enemies. Then there’s the Axii sign that influences dialogue options by bending others to your will.
Fighting enemies involves blending in melee attacks with signs, and using Bombs as well as coating your blades with special oils. The generic dodge and hit formula works pretty well in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and I managed to play through Hard difficulty without any, umm, difficulty using the same dodge-hit tactic. So, combat wise the game doesn’t necessarily innovate. Yet, it has that rare quality where fighting every major boss/monster feels different from the last fight and a challenge of its own.
Every piece of the gameplay has been designed to draw us into the world, into the narrative. Exploring Velen, you come across a high-level monster. You die, instantly. What do you do? You go to the bestiary to read up about the monster, talk to people who know about the monster. With this information, you will form a certain strategy, realise you will need certain equipment, potions and oils that the monster is vulnerable against. You find the ingredients, go treasure hunting to find the right equipment, then craft, upgrade and alchemise and in the process also get more experience. Only then, you return and attempt to kill it with your combat strategy. Even the upgrade tree, which lets upgrade different abilities, only allows a limited number to be active at one time. This allows you to change your playing style on the fly depending on the strategy you develop to defeat a certain kind of enemy. Not only is this fun, but this is what Geralt would do. Taken out of context, there are many limitations compared to other RPGs, but it’s very deliberate and works wonders for the overall immersion. A major loophole I found was in how a hundred year old Witcher begins as a weak Level 1 noob who can barely kill a wild dog, but how else do you implement a levelling system.
The open world is breathtaking, but again, it is inseparable from and part of the narrative (much like GTA V). It’s not always as pleasing as games like Skyrim with some ugly bits, and some rather sombre use of colour, but it is so because the world itself is cruel. Wherever you go, there’s always a history, a reason, for why things appear the way they do and there aren’t always happy endings.
A special mention for Novigrad, it’s a masterpiece of game world design. What is most striking is the verticality, being built on an undulating landscape. Yet, it is totally invisible and never becomes the confusing maze it threatens to be. The Skellige Isles are beautiful and reminiscent of Skyrim, but somehow lack the character of The Continent.
The open world is huge, though it would’ve been better as one single open world area with better fast-travel instead of multiple open world regions connected to each other by loading screens. CDPR has also included fast-travel points, which was missing from the previous Witcher games but the implementation is rather silly in that you must visit the nearest fast-travel point in order to travel between them. The other issue with the open world is its relative emptiness with few distractions to take you off the beaten path. It is a great achievement for CDPR to make such a huge finely detailed open world game with a relatively lesser budget than most open world RPGs.
The combat in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is simple, compared to other RPGs. It can get frustrating at some point of time. Combining attacks will give you an upper hand in combat against higher level enemies and monsters, especially in Death March difficulty. Curiously combat from horseback does the most damage and encourages you to adopt kiting tactics. As far as monster slaying is concerned, what makes The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s gameplay wonderful is the realism. Geralt wouldn’t just go one on one with a monster without any preparation. He would have to read the beastiary, find its weaknesses and use it against them. You’ll have to apply various oils to your silver sword for different monsters, use proper signs depending on the monster’s weakness, and bombs too. You must also use the proper sword against the proper enemy and this is usually indicated by the health bar of that enemy.
There are potions in the game for situations like needing to see in extreme darkness or increasing your health capacity during a fight or increasing the maximum weight Geralt can carry before he becomes overburdened. There is a small catch in that you cannot overdose on multiple potions at once, since each potion increases toxicity, which can lead to harmful consequences for Geralt. Think before you drink!
Wise words from our young Witcher there to conclude his description of the majesty and grandeur of the massive open worlds in the game. It appears that my ballads make the game sound more interesting than the mundane looking gameplay, wouldn’t you agree? Ah well, it’s time to move on to the Quests and Sidequests that our Witchers were tasked with completing.
Quests and Sidequests
Taking aside the main quests that are needed to complete the game, there are several side-activities that are as interesting as the main quests. Treasure hunts are pretty decent in my opinion, you just have to follow a clue written on a parchment, go to the location, fight a monster guarding the treasure and pick up the treasure. Not as fun as it sounds, but at least they are rewarding. You are rewarded with a set of Witcher Gear diagrams, which are upgradable, but can only be crafted by a specific craftsman. Witcher Contracts are the best thing and the most important part of the game as you get to hunt monsters. You step into the character of Geralt, and you’re given several contracts to take down monsters troubling a certain area. Most of the contracts have a legit story justifying the presence of the monsters. Also, the more witcher contracts you do, the more monsters you kill, the more knowledge you gain about them, which is useful later in the game. To aid you in your search of Monsters, the game introduces a detective mode called Witcher Senses, which can point you to clues, loot and interactive objects in the environment, though the execution can be buggy at times.
The side-quests feel equally important as the main quests, and the cinematic camera angles bring more life to the scenes of the quests. It is better not to rush the game, and not speedrun through just the story missions. One should enjoy the most of the game, because there’s more to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt than just the story missions. It has interesting side quests, with interesting subplots, the monster hunting Witcher Contracts, finding Treasures to upgrade your armour and weaponry as well as places of interest littering the map. Quests can be found by reading the notice boards in the major settlements or you can run into them while you explore. Ideally, you want to get the quest from the quest giver since you can haggle for a better reward in some cases.
While most quest may seem like the standard fetch quests, there are some moments in the game when you will come across missions that will feel like a breath of fresh air. For example, acting in a play, getting drunk with your witcher mates, visiting a ball with Triss, wearing Yennefer’s dress and goofing around Kaer Morhen to name a few. These missions act as comic relief, in between the intense drama going on in the world of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
Ah, this is where Witcher 3 is at its best, the way storytelling is delivered in the form of quests and sidequests. This mostly involves the familiar RPG rigmarole: Accept quest, head to point A, find item, solve puzzle, head to point B, slay monster, head back to quest giver to accept reward and gain experience points.
Unlike branching main quest structure of the previous Witcher games, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt opts to keep its main quests the same for all players. Of course, how the quests pan out will continue to be different depending on your choices, both in the quest and perhaps from previously completed quests.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt features several lengthy and fully developed sub plots. In a great touch, these sub plots often stop being main quests as the main quest progresses, giving you the option to continue as a side quest and in the process, learn more about the characters involved. While my completionist streak would prompt me to go through all side quests on offer, knowing that this is The Witcher, where even accepting to do a side quest can have major consequences, I decided to ignore a few. Aside from the Main plot and its offshoot sidequests, you can find other side quests, witcher contracts and treasure hunts that don’t have much impact on the overall narrative. Or do they? I don’t know as one thing that this game series teaches you is to never second-guess it.
Towards the beginning of the game, the mechanics are visible and obvious – a main plot to find a main someone, side plot leads to someone else, who gives you a fetch-type quest before spilling any information about the main someone, etc. But as the game goes on, there’s an astounding variety with several completely off-the-wall quests. Still, there’s a bit of padding and repetition. I am not sure the game needed to be this long – I would have preferred a leaner 70 hour game instead of a padded 100+ hour one. Then again, how many games could boast of 70 hours without padding?
Seems our witcher friends partly failed this part of the quest. They forgot my favourite pastime, that wonderfully unpredictable dwarven game of Gwent. There’s also the brutish Fistfighting, but that’s better left to the likes of my dear friend Geralt. Perhaps they were just lost in the beauty of the world as they describe the Graphics, Music and Sound effects.
Graphics, Music, Sound Effects
The world of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is clinically detailed and beautiful. Taking its inspiration from medieval Eastern Europe, it stays authentic to its roots. This game has the best graphics I’ve ever seen and it looked brilliant on my GTX 980 powered PC. The swaying vegetation, the trees, Geralt’s hair, his horse, the fur on the monsters all look realistic and animate beautifully. It is pleasurable galloping through the jungle just to appreciate the detailed graphics. The glittering reflection of the sun on water, the water ripples, the biodiversity, many times I had to stop to appreciate the beauty of the world.
The voice acting is brilliant. The dialogues are well written and well executed, especially Geralt’s. The dialogues have enough fan service to please The Witcher fans, common Witcher phrases are used all over as well as dark humour.
The graphics are flawless on the PS4. Each and every thing in the environment of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is very finely detailed though it suffers from minor framerate issues. Character details are very impressive too. However, the most impressive bit about the graphics is the dynamic weather system. The weather in the game is very realistic and the rain sound effects are the icing on the cake.
The music of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is mind-blowing. RPG games usually have a brilliant soundtrack and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt did not disappoint. The background score fits perfectly with the game’s situations, be it a combat sequence or an emotional bonding scene between Geralt and Ciri. The voice acting is spot on and the characters sound exactly the way we expect them to sound.
The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt has most realistic eyes in gaming. The gear looks great too. The music and sound effects are just as diverse as its game world and these, along with the accents of characters vary wildly depending on where you are (or where the characters are from). The combat music gets repetitive and can eventually get on your nerves given how often you will find it playing. The soundscape takes everything great about The Witcher 2 – especially the dynamic combat sounds based on weapons and armours used – and fixes some of its flaws, such as the overly dense ambient sounds.
The voice acting is mostly excellent, as is the dialogue, with some rough spots, most notably Ciri. As with Assassins of Kings, there’s a huge variety of European and particularly British accents, which is very thoughtfully tied to the history of each character. It doesn’t just end there; while the Skellige Isles have an emphasis on Scottish and Irish accents, each different island has a different accent. This is exactly the type of detail that makes Wild Hunt’s world so immersive. In hilarious contrast, Geralt is the only character with a booming heroesque American accent similar to most other games. (Of course, fellow Witchers from the Wolf School speak American too, so it might be a Kaer Morhen thing.) The crones have incredibly creepy voice effects worth special mention. The game is littered with majorly cool cuss words like ploughin’ whoresons that add flavour to it.
Witchers can use some rather colourful language and our friends were no exception. Of course, the game is a visual treat to gaze on, much like a charming lady might find yours truly. How could it not sound brilliant as well when it holds such a rare musical talent as me, and how could my flourish not enrich the dialogues of this tale? Sadly, we must now come to the minor imperfections in the game, the Bugs and Glitches.
Bugs and Glitches
As with the previous Witcher Games, one can expect CDPR to release an enhanced edition once all bugs and glitches have been fixed as most have already been since launch. However, the game does crash about thrice every 10 sessions for me, mostly during a scene change or when you wait for the next part to load after finishing a sequence.
One issue I have with the game is the loading screens and time taken (on a SSD of all things) when I load the last save after Geralt dies where it takes at least 10-15 seconds to load the same location with the same characters. This is a major annoyance if you’re fighting a tough enemy and die multiple times or if you are trying to hop between regions to find the best deal to sell your loot or gather that rare alchemy ingredient only found in one place.
During my playthough, I came across a few bugs, but that’s expected of such a vast, dynamic open world game. To my relief, there was nothing game-breaking and CDPR is responsive enough to fix the small annoyances within a few days’ time, but there’s quite a way to go to make the game fully bug free. This was the case with the first two games as well where it took a year to patch everything (ultimately releasing as the Enhanced Editions). Hopefully, CDPR can do it sooner with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, given their plans for expanding it through DLC.
My pet peeve was Geralt’s horse Roach, who spawns at weird locations such as in between two walls, or right in the middle of a waterbody when you whistle to call him. Roach has a bad habit of getting stuck in places, and you’re forced to get off, walk a bit and whistle once more. In Skellige, there are many citizens who walk in an impossible fashion that fall right in my uncanny valley. Except for these, I didn’t come across any other major glitch and given the patches since launch, I’m sure CDPR will fix these as well.
Geralt is not inventive when it comes to names and has named every horse he owned as Roach. No wonder the poor beast is confused. Good thing our Witcher friends are so forgiving and hopeful that these blemishes can be vanished away by the mages at CDPR. Now comes the time for judgement as they trio present their Conclusion.
Conclusion and score
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a serious contender for my game of the year. It is near perfect if not for some of its bugs and glitches and the occasionally frustrating movement and combat. It has taken gaming to a new level, with its amazing graphics, deep storytelling and its wide range of missions and side missions, which keeps us interested in the game even after completing the main story.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt rose up and gradually surpassed all the expectations that I had from it, knocking off each aspect with conviction and confidence. This is one of the finest and most thorough RPGs you will ever play, and a great conclusion to The Witcher trilogy.
The plot could even a little better and less cliché, but CDPR played it safe and missed out. Still, it’s excellent in every regard. Mechanics and gameplay wise it doesn’t necessarily innovate, but the impact that the storytelling has, along with the immersion of the open-world, supersedes every other element of the game.
I’ve played The Witcher and enjoyed it. I enjoyed The Witcher 2 more. I was doubtful that with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt would top the experience of The Witcher 2, but oh well, I need to be more positive about things.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has one very clear aim: to immerse you in a world and its story, and everything is designed towards this. In writing this, I realised that this game makes it very hard to separate gameplay, story, open world and quests as they are all interlinked and serving each other, often invisibly, unlike any other game I have played before. That is perhaps its greatest accomplishment, complete immersion that makes for an amazing experience.
There are some questionable decisions, such as mixing in a little modern American fantasy or padding out the quests needlessly. The complete devotion to immersion does have its drawbacks. It’s not the most flexible character building and gameplay, nor the most seamless game world, but as an experience in gaming immersion, Wild Hunt sets a new bar for not just gaming, but storytelling in general.
And with that, our three friends set off on their own way in search of new worlds and adventures, leaving me, Dandelion, to bid you a tearful adieu. I insist that you simply must partake of my final masterful performance in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
Edited and assembled by Chirantan Raut who played the role of Dandelion.
+Brilliant Graphics, Music and Sound Effects
+Living, Breathing Open World
+Fine Attention to Details
+Humour and Swearing in Dialogues
-Horse bugs out a lot
-Fast travel system needs improvement
-Open World has few distractions