It feels like I’ve spent months away playing The Witcher 3, after finishing up the prologue and given a bare bones tutorial of the game’s general workings it still felt like I knew very little and had a lot to learn about it. In this process of learning more of the game as I went I was taken on an unbelievably deep and interesting journey the like I’ve not come across since Skyrim was released back in 2011. Here’s some of the reasons why it’s so worth your time.
So What’s It About?
The story has Geralt trying to track down one of his charges from his past known as Ciri, a young woman with incredible powers and talents whom a force called The Wild Hunt seek to use for their own means. This is made trickier by the fact that currently the southern kingdoms known as Nilfgaard are at war with the north, made even more complex by the fact that Emperor Emhyr of Nilfgaard is Ciri’s father. As such you are tasked by him to find her which ends up taking you to a lot of locations, fighting lots of monsters and gathering information and clues to her whereabouts. Along the way you’ll meet characters from the Witcher 1 and 2 as well as some new characters. You’ll mostly get offered side quests by these characters which cleverly weave themselves into the fabric of the main quest and helps give them greater purpose and also gives you more reason to get out there and explore.
Emperor Emhyr of Nilfgaard, voiced by Charles Dance of Game Of Thrones
It’s A Big World Out There
Once you’re finished in White Orchard your next destination is the realm of Velen, which is easily at least 5 times the size of White Orchard perhaps more. You’ll come across villages both populated and abandoned, military camps, marshlands, a variety of caves hiding varying types of treasure, rivers, lakes and waterways leading to sunken treasures and islands to explore and plenty more. Once you progress north to the city of Novigrad the sense of scale only intensifies, it is a vast and sprawling metropolis that feels genuine, believable and most importantly: alive. Scores of people bustle the streets going about their daily business whether that’s heading to the market to do their shopping, guards vigilantly watching over the streets or someone who’s just left the tavern haplessly stumbling around drunk and being obnoxious; everyone seems to have a reason to be out and about.
The sprawling city of Novigrad
When you reach the isles of Skellige it’s hard not to be taken aback by the sheer scale of the area, this time there are islands separated by vast bodies of water. This gives you a greater need to sail to new destinations which in itself is a risky business, harpies soar over the water and can also swim underneath and will seek to ruin your journey unless you fight back to stop them sinking your small vessel.
The Skellige Isles
Combat And Survival
At face value combat in The Witcher is pretty simple, you have a strong attack, a weak attack, a block, a sidestep and a combat roll. On top of this you have 5 Witcher ‘signs’ which are essentially spells which include a fire spell, a charm/persuasion spell, a magic trap, a telekinetic force push style spell and a protective shield. All of these abilities and signs can be leveled up and have new abilities unlocked for them allowing you to mold your skills into the way you prefer playing. You also have a small crossbow to be used at range as well as a variety of bombs for dealing with groups plus blade oils that can be applied to your swords to deal extra damage to different foes and potions that can enhance Geralt’s abilities and regeneration of stamina too. Once you’ve leveled up enough and picked the abilities you want you may find your experience and the way you play is vastly different to how you started out.
Getting there can be a tough ordeal though, there’s a lot of world to explore and it’s very easy to run into enemies that are too tough to deal with. Sometimes you’ll be able to deal with them but sometimes it’s best to run and come back later, more often tougher enemies will require tactical thinking along with some trial and error in order to bring them down. It’s another one of those games where saving your game often must be practiced! Combat can often be frantic and not leave you with much breathing space for tactics but in the menu you’re provided with a bestiary. This lists creatures you’ve fought or creatures you’ve acquired information from via reading books in the game which you can peruse and prepare properly, it’ll give you information on any bombs, signs and blade oils they’re weak against as well as a detailed description of the creature itself. It lends credence and depth to the fact that despite the highly political nature of the game’s main quest that Witchers are demon and monster hunters first and foremost, it also makes sure that you read the books you come across in the game world as they hold useful information on monsters and plenty more.
Every enemy has their weakness
Choices, Moral Grey Areas and Consequences
CD Projekt Red have made incredibly good use of including decisions that cannot be classified as purely good and bad which makes facing these choices extremely challenging. Some consequences will be immediate but the tougher choices tend to carry far reaching consequences that you won’t find out about until much later in the game. You’ll also know that it’s a big decision when a timer pops up forcing you to choose quickly, it’s a clever way of forcing you into a snap decision and making you go in blind in a way. No quickly searching online for the outcomes, unless you load a recently saved game. You did recently save your game right? Can’t stress how important that is here.
Some of these choices are a bit clearer thankfully, I was pursuing a contract about some missing miners which lead me to a cave where I found a troll and, he engaged combat straight away. After we’d fought for a bit he was convinced to stop so that I was able to talk to him, it turned out the miners were mining in the cave he’d told them to stop but they wouldn’t so he killed them. You can then choose whether to still kill the troll or to forgive him and ask him to not kill anymore or you’ll return.
An Incredible Journey
Through my roughly 100 hours playing through The Witcher 3 I was almost constantly being surprised and challenged by this gargantuan, profound and mature feeling game. It draws you into it’s world excellently with a cast of very believable and relate-able characters and makes you care about their plights and the decisions you make in helping them with their plights. I don’t think I managed to uncover absolutely everything in the game but thankfully this gives me good reason to delve back into it some time. It’s one of the best RPG’s I’ve had the pleasure of playing in recent years and is fully deserving of the 100 or so hours of your time it’ll take up.