The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is the latest instalment in the Witcher series, developed by CD Projekt RED, which follows Geralt of Rivia on his adventures in a fictional high fantasy world. This particular game centres on Geralt’s search for his young mentee Ciri who has gone missing and, Geralt fears, has fallen prey to the terrifying titular ‘wild hunt’. The journey takes him all across the lush wilderness of this realm as he fights to find his great friend.
This game departs from the previous two instalments in the series by having a singular open world to explore rather than a series of smaller areas connected by a linear storyline. The Witcher begins by letting you explore a few small zones, perhaps leading some to worry that this game will follow a familiar pattern to the last, before unleashing you on the entire, enormous game-world and alleviating those fears. Open world games are a dime-a-dozen these days but this one stands out as truly well-crafted.
“The journey takes him all across the lush wilderness of this realm as he fights to find his great friend”
A variety of environments exist and all are stuffed with things to do. The main quest will have you scaling mountains and traversing plunging valleys but you should not forget the side quests. These quests provide humorous, tragic, and bizarre distractions for the player, which take place in nice little corners of the world. And whilst combat is not always the only option for the player, when it does come it is great. A challenge to start with but fairly soon you will be combining strong attacks with weak attacks, with spells and dodges as well, like a pro. A substantial skill tree provides the impetus to keep fighting, keep learning, and keep improving your abilities.
It is a good job the world itself is up to scratch, as the story is equally epic in scale and is masterfully told. Geralt’s central search for Ciri can be really touching at points and leads to some tender moments. And like its predecessors, the clichés of the fantasy genre are brilliantly mixed with adult themes of sexuality, politics, family, and war. Grittiness often imposes itself on moments, which might otherwise feel dull and overdone. In one moment, Geralt’s nostalgic reminiscing about becoming a Witcher is halted by a colleague snarling that he only joined the order because of his abusive father, reminding us of the dark past of the character. This does not mean that games which do not possess these themes are inherently ‘bad’, only that in tackling a period of pseudo-history, the writer doesn’t have to shy away from the warts. It is the same reason for Games of Thrones’ popularity.
And it helps even more if the game’s technical elements are properly in place, which I am pleased to say they definitely are in this case. Put simply, it is stunning to look at. Next-Gen consoles have been grabbed by the scruff of their necks and squeezed tightly to create the world we see now in The Witcher 3. And it is a unique kind of gorgeous. It is different from Arkham Knight’s neon gloom and Phantom Pain’s precise textures; rather it is the simple power of nature rendered well. The hilltops of Velen and the valleys of Skellige often make you stop and gape in awe.
“And it helps even more if the game’s technical elements are properly in place, which I am pleased to say they definitely are in this case”
This is twinned with a subtle yet effective soundtrack of medieval strings and other instruments, which never overpowers but frequently enhances the player experience. Whilst discusses technical and story improvements it should also be noted that moral choices decided upon by players are integrated almost seamlessly. The control over the game’s story feels unparalleled at points by using time-sensitive decisions, (false) hints as to the consequences, rock-and-a-hard place points and a variety of other ideas.
The developers have created a fantastic role playing game in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. It is rare that a title is strong across the board in terms of gameplay, story, and graphics/audio but this game does it, and with a great flourish. It will shock you, impress you, and touch you in ways games have not done for a while. If this is indeed Geralt of Rivia’s swansong, it is not a half-bad way to go out.