A VAST open world adventure that fulfils its lofty ambitions
Game review: The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt
Platform: Xbox One (reviewed) / Playstation 4 / PC
IT is hard to do justice to size of The Witcher 3. At a time when the definition of an open world game is being perpetually rewritten, it surpasses all of its predecessors with a realm that is vast yet detailed, where you will never struggle for something to do. Even after the best part of a solid 24 hours of gameplay, you barely scratch the surface, as new areas, characters, activities and plotlines emerge thick and fast.
Taking as its lead the fantasy stories of Andrzej Sapkowski, the series melds action-orientated monster battles with political machinations that are just as nefarious. You play Geralt, a monster hunter tasked with searching for Ceri, the emperor’s daughter. On the surface, it sounds like a straightforward endeavour. But as you delve into The Witcher 3 and the hours while away, you come to realise matters are considerably more complex. There are favours to be won, beasts to be slain and lines of inquiry to be doggedly pursued, often in vain. This is a proper adventure, where well-judged negotiations prove just as vital as brute force.
Interactions are nuanced and unpredictable and allow you get lost in your own adventure
The grandiose ambition is not confined to the sheer, dizzying scale of the rich, diverse universe. The Witcher 3 does more than any other game reject the binary choice mechanics that have been a hallmark of open world titles, instead offering something altogether more nuanced and unpredictable. This moral ambiguity at the heart of the game means there are few signposts indicating what you should, or should not, do - it is all the better for it.
It is this sense of wonder and wanderlust that makes the game great. Even when they are basic fetch quests, the side activities feel just as integral a part of the title as the main campaign. Indeed, it is tempting to simply put the main narrative on hold and spent a few days fulfilling Witcher contracts, which sees Geralt seeking out and destroying any number of creatures in return for gold and XP.
The scale of the game may be intimidating but it is always a joy
The only stumble of note is perhaps an unsurprising one, given that this is the third game in a series with abundant lore, backstories and motivations. For those who have not played previous entries, it is entirely possible to enjoy an engaging narrative, but there is unforgiving lack of information on offer about events which preceded the latest instalment. Catching up necessitates going through every branch of every dialogue tree in order to garner as much information as possible.
CD Projekt Red say it takes approximately 200 hours to experience everything in its epic adventure. We have clocked up over a tenth of that so far, but time permitting, hope to see if what they say is true. It might sound like an intimidating level of commitment is required in order to get the best of The Witcher 3, but when you are roaming from village to village on horseback, taking in the ever changing beauty of the world around you, it seldom feels anything other than joyous.
TIPS AND TRICKS:
Combat can be frustrating in the early hours of The Witcher 3 but learn to parry and counterattack. Dodging sideways is also an invaluable tactic.
Levelling up takes time but you can accelerate the process by completing quests such as Places of Power which dish out plentiful XP.
Even a skilled swordsman needs some other powers to defeat the world’s inhabitants, and it is well worth upgrading your Axii ability, which allows you to influence others and avoid combat altogether.