Where do I begin with this game… First off I should say that this might come across as a somewhat biased review, because this might possibly be my favourite game of all time. It’s certainly up there, I haven’t sat down and made a list, but this definitely makes the shortlist and, at worst, is a strong contender for the top spot.
So, what makes this game so special? Well… you only have to look at just about any internet gaming site to see how highly regarded this game is, even the jokes about glitches are made in a light manner. This game has propelled the other games and book series into popularity, and even Netflix has created a series based on the games success, despite what they’ll probably tell you. Hell, at the time of writing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is the 14th most played game on Steam right now. For a single player game which came out in 2015, that’s insane! You’re out of the top 20 before you come across another purely single player game.
But enough stats, what is this game about? Well, in The Witcher series you play as Geralt of Rivia, a white-haired cocky mutated human, and the only thing he loves more than slaying monsters is slaying pu-… ladies in the bedroom. The game is an open world RPG, which has Mass Effect style decisions matter in a way that actually impacts the story; unlike other attempts at it which merely change a few lines of dialogue. The story revolves around your search for a girl named Ciri and develops into this far-reaching quest going further and doing more than Geralt ever wants it to.
Note: I am being careful to only have direct spoilers from the very beginning of the game and keep any potential later spoilers very vague.
I don’t want to tell you too much about the game directly because if you enjoy RPGs and story driven games, this is an absolute must play. I had recently finished Skyrim when a friend gifted The Witcher 3 to me, and it took me a while to start playing it because I was worried I wouldn’t be able to relate to Geralt. Having played Skyrim and created my own character narrative, I was worried I would be limited by having to play as a pre-set character; what I wasn’t prepared for was the incredible depth storylines and worldbuilding were able to go to because I was playing a set character. The problem with Skyrim (which is still a fantastic game) is you feel isolated and disconnected from the world because they have to make everything accessible to whatever character you’re bringing to the table; the game lacks a certain intimacy because to every NPC you are this faceless void called “Dragonborn” not “Lekko the Firemage” or whatever character you think you are. Having Geralt as a cornerstone of the story allows NPCs to have dynamic personalities because they already know who you are, it allows your decisions to matter based on who you side with because the game already knows where you fit in the world – and the game is only better for it. Also, Geralt is surprisingly relatable for someone ~4 times my age living in a medieval sh*thole.
The core gameplay is exploration which swiftly (and usually seamlessly) moves into combat. I find enjoyment of exploration in games depends on how invested I am in the game, and how interesting the world is just to be in. The Witcher 3 offers events at fairly regular intervals (scripted, but only found through exploration) which adds merit to not constantly fast-travelling, (all important quest objectives will give you precise map markers) and you’ll often stumble across some of these events because you can only fast travel to certain points on the map. Some people will find that frustrating, but the world is immersive enough and fast-travel points frequent enough that I found this a pleasure rather than an obstacle. Slow travelling is also greatly aided by your horses ability to auto-follow paths once you’ve started down one – you just need to hold the Canter button. The combat has enough variety in options that it isn’t trivial; early combats will be challenging as you have limited Abilities, though once you’ve figured out what fighting style you want to use later combats become somewhat formulaic – though at that point I was invested enough in the game that I didn’t mind this – and there were still a few Quest fights which were challenging again and I couldn’t just “auto-pilot” the fight. It’s not going to win any awards for combat mechanics, but they feel right for the game and give you enough variety that they’re still exciting for most of the game.
The story is the most fantastic thing about the game, the main quest is always interesting and exciting, always having you wonder where it will take you next whilst still feeling like you are the master of your own (or Geralt’s own) fate. The Secondary Quests are all well fleshed-out stories which have the same level of detail and intrigue as any of the Main Quests, they simply didn’t fit into the main storyline. If you do pick up this game, play it however you would like to, but I would thoroughly recommend completing all the Secondary Quests too, some of my favourite moments in the game are from Secondary Quests. Contracts are the final type of quest (ignoring Gwent quests), and these are more like your usual non-primary quest of “go here and kill/fetch that”, some of these are interesting, some are less so. I still enjoyed completing as many as I could of them and they do build on the lore of the world and various monsters, but they are somewhat repetitive and seem to be a themed way of giving the player a cash injection, so Contracts can be ignored if they don’t take your fancy.
The world is beautifully crafted, even for a game released in 2015 I was still wowed by the graphics. I don’t put a lot of weight on graphics in reviewing a game (Graphics does not appear as a category in my ratings), so I’m sure those who care a lot about graphics will notice it is a 2015 game; but as someone who doesn’t mind all too much as long as my immersion is maintained, I was thoroughly immersed. Most of the world is a grim and gritty landscape of marshes and drab fields, but this just sets the tone for the game really effectively and makes the moments when you come across a beautifully crafted mountain or castle all the more spectacular.
I would thoroughly recommend this game to anyone who is even considering playing it, the expansions are also thoroughly worthwhile, particularly Blood and Wine which gives you a much brighter part of the world to explore but still finds moments to keep you grounded in the dirt that is a Witchers life. Both the game and the expansion regularly go on sale now, but I have 140 hours total in the game (roughly 90-10-40 split between the main game and the 2 expansions) so I would say it is well worth the purchase even at full price.
Also Gwent is an absolute banger of a mini-game and I won’t hear anything else about it.
- Gameplay – 9/10
- Mechanics – 8/10
- Story – 10/10
- Price – 10/10
- Enjoyment* – 10/10
OVERALL – 9.4/10
*Enjoyment is a personal measure of how much I enjoyed the game, more of a “gut feeling” than the empirical approach I try to take with the other ratings.