[The PS4 Version of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was used for this review]
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt picks up from the previous story, with Geralt now alone and searching for Ciri, his adopted daughter, last of the Elder Blood, and general badass. The story begins with a dream sequence where Geralt foresees an omen of Ciri being chased by the Wild Hunt, an evil group who are like a cross between Game of Thrones’ wildlings and white walkers. He awakes from this nightmare and hurries to find Yennefer, the powerful Sorceress and his ex lover who he believes will lead him to Ciri.
The game begins here and sets the scene well, as well as giving the player time to get used to the gameplay, with a brief missionary diversion at the start. War has ravaged the land and the local captain of the guard needs Geralt and fellow witcher Vesemir to take care of a Griffin which is plaguing the local village. From there on it, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a sprawling RPG that is incredibly fun to play. The main story is huge, and takes the player across several kingdoms and a seeming cast of thousands, whilst there appears to be a list of sidequests as long as your arm and then some, that can easily double gameplay length. However, these aren’t your normal dull sidequests of find x,y, and kill this beast to progress. Sure, there are several Witcher contracts that involve the slaying of one beast or another, but often things are never as they seem and you are introduced to many different factions and groups and many comedic scenes. During my playthough I was on my way to carry out a mission, when I was stopped at a bridge by a group of bandits who tried to shake me down for some toll money. By using one of the dialogue options, I was able to intimidate the bandit leader and his cronies. One of them then bricked it and offscreen in the distance started stage whispering “gaffer, gaffer stop – ee’s a witcher….gaffer…gaffer?” before running off.
Throughout the game, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt manages to inject comedy into what could be a really dire setting and this for me, helped keep the mood light in what could be a pretty dark game. Geralt’s world is not a black and white one, and so there are often no clear choices to the player in terms of what would be a good or evil action, or even a good outcome. Often stark choices await you are forced to choose between the lesser of two evils, of which the outcome is only made clear to you when it is much too late to go back. In choosing to save one character, often others suffer and it’s hard to know at times whether you’re doing the right thing or not.
The combat and gameplay of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a joy, and one of the best examples of the modern RPG out there. The battles are immersive and strategy is key as tactics and preparation are essential before riding out to take on foes. Being a Witcher, Geralt has two swords of steel and silver to take out foes, as well as a limited but useful range of spells designed to catch enemies off guard and give you the edge in battle. These can be upgraded later using Ability Points and can do some real punishment once upgraded, especially against certain classes of monster. Weapons and armour can be bought, looted or crafted throughout the world, with several special ‘Witcher’ sets of armour available that have boosted stats. However, there’s no pain without gain and these often have to be found after carrying out lengthy treasure hunting missions across the world. Armour and weapons often have minimum level conditions also, which kills the party when you find that amazing +85 Attack Power sword then realised you still need to gain 5 levels before you can actually use it. Schematics for Weapons and Armour are hidden across the world, and so it’s almost mandatory to loot every treasure chest you see, just to ensure you don’t miss out. Also available are potion recipes, which are used along with monster parts and herbs to perform Alchemy. The Alchemy screens allow Geralt to take all of the monster swag he has collected and brew potions and tinctures to help him in future battles, ranging from the standard HP/MP potions to oils designed to do extra damage to certain types of monster.
As well as fighting and preparing for battles, Geralt also spends a fair bit of time on his horse travelling and exploring areas in the different kingdoms. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has some beautiful scenery to enjoy whilst gallivanting around, and environments are quite varied. During the first few hours of the game, the scenery is mostly woodland and small towns and hamlets, with the occasional scorched battleground thrown in. However, after a while as Geralt travels further outward, vast mountains and bustling cities are also thrown into the mix, along with rivers, caves and underwater tunnels to swim through. This builds up a pretty impressive mix of environments and coupled with a musical score that matches the mood of the game seamlessly, makes you feel like you’re part of Geralt’s world.