The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt is an exceptionally well-done role-playing game. Its cast, while not particularly diverse, are well-developed. The player’s decisions are heavily considered as it felt like I was planting my footprint wherever I went. The world of The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt feels surprisingly realistic, despite the fantastical creatures that inhabit it, and the combat is engaging and constantly evolving.
The Wild Hunt follows Geralt, a witcher — a mutated human who slays beasts in exchange for gold — on his last adventure, in search for his adopted daughter Ciri who is on the run from the harbingers of war, the Wild Hunt. Geralt’s journey to find Ciri takes him across three main regions of the continent. The war-ridden Velen, the medieval Redania and the Icelandic-inspired Islands of Skellige. Each land feels distinct by its people’s dialects and costumes, the issues facing the community and their distinct environment. Skellige is only accessed by boat with landmarks scattered across its many islands, whereas Velen is a marsh with little signs of what was once a civilisation before torn by the Redanian and Nilfgaardian War. This creates both a grand sense of scale and exploration, as well as relating its diverse environments and peoples to real life.
Geralt’s journey also sees him encounter friends and foes from his past. Strong female characters such as Yennefer and Triss, as well as Dandelion and other iconic characters from the original novel series are featured in the main story, with side-quests on their respective adventures offered to players who seek more than the main campaign. There is a lack of a diversely racial cast in The Wild Hunt, however this is forgiven considering the source material’s European roots.
The player is able to change the circumstances of the narrative and characters’ opinions on Geralt and their surroundings as well by the game’s dialogue tree. Each decision has an impact as they affect almost everything in the Witcher world, from the amount of gold rewarded to Geralt for slaying a beast, to who remains on the throne of the Redanian empire at the end of the game. The player is also given the choice to pick Geralt’s love interest, from Yennefer, Triss and Kiera. This choice also affects the ending credits, of which there are over 10 variations, providing a great sense of replay-ability.
Treasure maps and standard side-quests are available to prolong the game and reward Geralt with experience points and gear. Some side-quests reward the player with exceptionally rare weapons and equipment. In the context of the witcher occupation’s role as monster slayers, the player is also given monster contracts. In them, Geralt interviews witnesses or family members of a deceased murdered by a fantastical creature, and is then tasked with investigating the crime scene, chasing down the creature and retrieving its head for a trophy. Trophies can be equipped to Geralt’s horse, Roach, to provide an increased chance to perform an action or increased percentage in experience points. Monster contracts act as an interesting distraction to the events of the main story, and often have a story to tell themselves.
The Witcher 3 offers an expansive inventory system and character customisation in the form of equipment, skills and passive abilities. Players equip Geralt with both a silver and steel sword, used to slay monsters and humans respectively, along with a crossbow, bombs and potions and a horse binder and saddle to increase Roach’s inventory space and fear level. Roach’s fear level increases when the player is close to enemies when riding him, and if the bar is filled, Roach will abruptly force Geralt off. Equipment can also be crafted in towns by blacksmiths, with some crafting master-items and extremely rare gear, and enhanced with gemstones. Inventory management can get jarring and awkward on the PlayStation 4 however CD Projekt Red release an update fixing this problem. Preparing Geralt for battle is an essential part of The Wild Hunt as poorly managing your equipment and their durability can result in a quick death.
The combat is immensely rewarding. Players can create potions and bombs by the alchemy system to enhance their abilities in combat and when exploring the vast world. Drinking a potion increases Geralt’s toxicity level, refraining the player from taken several at once and creating a sense of micromanagement in battle. Oils can also be crafted and applied to Geralt’s silver sword to improve damage dealt to a sub-species of creatures, such as specters and necrophages.
Combat in The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt is different depending on Geralt’s foe. Fighting monsters requires the player to research the given creature in the game’s bestiary, discovering its strengths and weaknesses — it’s those weaknesses that turn an incredibly challenging encounter to a quick bloodbath.
Geralt being a witcher has the ability to cast spells as the result of being experimented on as a child. The fire-enchanting Igni, the telekinetic force-push Aard, the protective bubble-shield Quen, the charm Axii and Yrden, a magical trap. Creating various combinations of these spells and oils and bombs makes for an interesting and unique combat system that changes depending on the circumstances of battle. For instance, high vampires are vulnerable to fire-based attacks, such as Igni and the Dragon’s Dream and Dancing Star bombs, whereas earth-elemental golems are vulnerable to shrapnel-filled explosives and Aard.
The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt is an immersive experience, both for its rich lore and characters and grand sense of world building and exploration. There is never a dull moment as there is always something to do. Combat is also incredibly entertaining and evolving depending on what type of enemy Geralt is facing. I felt my choices mattered in my time with the game, as I saw the world change around me. The fact that neither the game or the PlayStation 4 console recorded the amount of time I’ve spent with the Witcher 3 is a blessing. I have easily spent an entire week’s worth of real time with Geralt and loved every minute of it.