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Review: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

“Evil is evil. Lesser, greater, middling, … Makes no difference. The degree is arbitrary, the definitions blurred; if I’m to choose between one evil and another. I’d rather not choose at all…”Geralt of Rivia, Witcher.

This quote says it all, when it comes to the Witcher trilogy. A Witcher is a mutated human being with increased strength, speed and endurance that makes it the perfect monster hunter. But when it comes to killing monsters, you might expect something different. Of course, he handles in contracts to kill noon wraiths, griffins, drowners … and other horrific monsters but they aren’t all non-humans. The real monsters often hide within people: murderers, rapists, scheming sorcerers, politicians and their thirst for power which often comes with a price of blood.

This is the world where you take on the role as Geralt of Rivia. Geralt may be a fantasy character, but he only acts out the decisions you make, good or bad. This feature is exactly the reason why the game is so popular. You follow the story and as you explore this vast and beautiful mysterious world, you’ll be confronted with different dilemma’s. It’s like real life, most of the time you want to be neutral and fight for your own cause but life isn’t that simple. Each action has a consequence. Everything you do or say will have an influence on your story.

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The main story is all about the aftermath of wars between the empire of Nilfgaard and Northern Kingdoms. Within this battle, there’s a constant feeling of tension and misery. It’s a dark age filled with victims of war and ravaging monsters. However, the biggest storm has yet to come because a dark and deadly force emerges from the distance. The Wild Hunt, a ghastly spectral group of riders are hunting one particular person and it seems that this person is linked with Geralt’s destiny. The Wild Hunt will be the last chapter of Geralt’s story.

The game is actually very detailed when it comes to creating a dynamic and original world. It all starts with the arsenal of a Witcher. A Witcher has 2 swords: one in silver and one in steel. The steel sword is used for fighting humans and non-humans (wolfs, bears and so) while the silver sword is being used to damage and kill monsters (like drowners, ghouls and other vermin). In this world, monsters have a weakness to silver. A Witcher is a highly skilled sword master which uses signs and potions to their disposal. Signs are 5 magical attacks which can be used to get an advantage over your enemies. They are called Axii ( stuns) , Aard (pushes back) , Igny ( sets on fire) , Yrden ( traps) and Quen (shield). Each ability can be improved by using ability points.

These signs are of course limited and use up stamina points during battle, they need time to recharge. It’s important to know which sign is effective against which enemy. Some of these signs can also be used in the world when you’re out of battle like using Aard to blast open a door, Igni to light torches, Axii to manipulate persons, …

 

This could be my game of the year

 

You also have an adrenaline bar which improves your sword damage during the fight. If you hit monsters with your sword, it builds up. The higher your adrenaline, the better the damage. If you take damage from your enemies, the adrenaline bar will be lowered and eventually deplete.

Not only will this adrenaline bar give you a damage bonus, it will also give you the chance to use a sign as an ultimate ability. These ultimate abilities can only be used when you’ve spent points in a certain ability tree.the-witcher-3-wild-hunt-1

Ability points is also a big important factor when it comes to surviving. These ability points can be gained by power stones which you’ll find all over the map and also by leveling up. These ability points can be used within different talent trees : combat skills, signs, alchemy, general skills and mutagens. You choose how to spend your ability points but you must know the following: you have a limited set of ability skills. Your level decides how many ability skills you can use. Getting stronger means more ability slots. These abilities can always be adjusted to your play style.

As a Witcher you use different potions to enhance your physical and mental skills. The world is full of special herbs which allows you to perform alchemy and make potions. Potions can enhance your life or stamina generating, give you a damage boost, let’s you see in the dark, increase resistance to a specific effect, … You can also craft oils that give you a damage boost against certain types of monsters or apply a condition effect onto your sword.

Two swords, magical attacks, potions, … makes Geralt a fine monster hunter but to be an excellent Witcher, he needs a couple of other things. Each encounter with a certain beast will give you information on how to kill it, in other words “ the best way to kill it”. All of this information is being stored in your bestiary. The game lives by the motive “ Prepare yourself for battle”. Each time you have to kill a specific monster, read the bestiary, get to know their weaknesses, craft, adapt and bring home the trophy ( literally)! Other additions to your arsenal are bombs, traps and crossbows. They are needed if you want to stay alive.

The world is big and full with contracts or people who are willing to pay a couple of orens for their troubles. One of the new features of the game is the fact that they’re striving for an open and dynamic world. They succeeded. I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed the atmosphere and ambience in the game. This goes from the brutal wind clashing against the trees and branches, wolves howling in the forest, raindrops falling on the wooden houses, … The night and day cycle is just beautiful and realistic presented. I often stood still and took a moment to stare at the sunset. The graphics and the sound design comes perfectly together in this creative world.

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The landscape has also been creatively designed. Each place is different and worth exploring. It’s always exciting to see what’s on the horizon. The environment is a collection of plains, swamps, seaside, battlegrounds, tombs, mountains ,… etc. They also said to the community that there wouldn’t be any loading screen and I have to admit that they lived up to the promise. There aren’t loading screens, only when you fast travel and load the next chapter of your story. But that’s it! Great job, CD Projekt!

Also something worth noticing is the fact that beasts have their own schedule. Sometimes beasts only come out during the night or noon. Not only is there a possibility that a certain beast is absent, but some beast tend to be more powerful during the night than day. So you’ll have to pick out your time and place wisely. This is where the meditation section comes in handy. You can set a clock to a certain section of the day, so you can skip a couple of hours before you wander off. Your life will also be replenished if you rest an hour.

Witcher 3 also gives you the option to import your safe file from the Witcher 2. This will transfer the outcome of all your decisions of the Witcher 2 and transform the world of Witcher 3 into a world you actually formed.

Untill now, I haven’t found any bugs that ruined my experience with the game. So I have definitely high hopes for the polishing of the game. There were already 3 patches that fixed a lot of minor details and it’s good to hear that the developers will keep supporting the game after the official launch. Not only will they support the game with patches but they are planning to release free DLC for everyone who owns the game. Also worth mentioning is the standard package of the game. This standard package of the game contains stickers, a map, the game and the official soundtrack. If only more developers were as kind as this one, the whole gamer community wouldn’t criticize every single thing the developers did and just enjoy the game.

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Conclusion:

This game is a must own for every RPG-gamer out there. It has a good story, fluid combat and a beautiful immersive world. There’s a tutorial for every beginning Witcher and the story has been written in a way that every non-Witcher gamer can buy the game and start playing. It has a good price for what you’re getting and like I said, free DLC for all owners. Witcher 3 has a big chance of winning “my game of the year”!

9/10