Last week we FINALLY got our hands on The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. After checking it out at E3 multiple times by various writers of the site and myself having a hands off presentation late last year, when I received the email to finally have 3-4 hours of this game in front of me I was super excited. There’s so much content in this game and it’s currently finished, it just has 4 months of refinements to be made to be the best god damn game it can be.
To which I totally agree with, with the way that 2014 ended after multiple games required large downloadable patches to fix various problems, I’m happy to let CD Projekt Red take time to fine out as many bugs as possible. This is a large game and there is a lot to see and do that it would take players at least 100+ hours to explore and do everything. With there being so much that I played in the short 4 hours I thought I’d do a small list of some of the better things that kept me wanting to play more of this game.
1: Horseback riding on your trusty stead, Cockroach (Roach)
What’s that over there? Let’s go check it out. God no. No! That was a bad idea. Run! RUN! Pretty much any time I rode Roach through the woods and somehow came across a pack of White Wolves or a dormant Bear. This is what players will spend most of their time doing in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Riding around on your trusty stead coming across wild animals and beasts of the wilderness, finding hidden caves, or certain areas of interest with hidden monsters, riding through random towns and swiftly sword-slashing enemies from the comfort of your horse.
The developer were nice enough to check out Ard Skellig on Skellige, and let me tell you it’s beautiful. Easily the largest of the islands there is so much to explore. It’s majestic riding Roach around and witnessing the extremely large draw distance. On the PS4 it is seriously impressive, and almost maxed out on a PC running on a 4K LG TV is simply put, beautiful. I’m in love with this game and honestly don’t know how I’ll wait 4 more months to play it.
Whilst the game still has 4 months of refinement, Roach wasn’t exactly the trusty horse you would expect. He’d randomly pop his head into conversations making for hilarious moments of laughter, he’d handle like a boat sometimes and other times would somehow find himself stuck between objects needing you to lost sight of him to respawn him. He’s got some bugs (No puns intended) still but at the call of a whistle he’ll be by your side. You’ll be spending a lot of time with Roach on your travels and he’ll definitely come in handy in various situation during combat with NPC’s in some areas and overall travel.
2: Wasting even more time on the Quest Board
Most of your time apart from doing the main storyline and wandering large islands, will be spent completing quests you’ve undertaken from the Quest Board found in most villages/towns. In White Orchard, this particular board contained a Witcher contract as well as a few basic tasks.
The one that I selected was to find a villagers missing brother. After chatting to him he told me that his brother would lay in the aftermath of a small battle with the Black Ones and he’d be recognisable via a small white flower that would be marked on his shield. If his body was charred or missing, his dog would be able to pick up his scent and track where his body may lay. Using Witcher Sense to find these shields, the dog got whiff of his owners scent and I followed him to a small little shack in the middle of the woods where the villagers brother lay barely alive.
Another quest involved a Witcher contract, where a Noonwraith had been terrorizing a well in a near by site. The villager that had put up the contract feared that this Noonwraith would soon kill his daughter and requested the Witcher destroy it. In order to further identify what was keeping this Noonwraith trapped in the world, we needed to use Witcher sense and find any item of relevance that may have belonged to this bride to be. After finding a journal beside a large pool of blood, Geralt found out that this bride had been murdered alongside her husband.
Finding some blood stained hand marks on the door leading to the well, I then checked out the well where I found a body hung by the neck with the rope tied tightly to the well. Pulling the corpse up from the well, Geralt realised that it had been missing an arm, an arm that could potentially house the missing item binding the Noonwraith. Jumping in the well, I recovered the bracelet and begun the ceremony to burn the corpse and release this spirit.
Angered by what I was doing the Noonwraith decided to harm me and a battle entailed.
3: Using Witcher sense to highlight items of interest during quests and random shenanigans
As outlined during the Noonwraith Witcher contract, Witcher sense isn’t limited to when the game asks you to use it. You can activate it at any time you wish in hopes to find anything worth your while. Looting corpses, chests, finding relevant items during missions, or investigating scenarios like the picture above. It will come in handy and be used heavily when needing to find an item that’s been described to you.
If you’re short on supplies needed for your Alchemy then loot corpses or chests and you might find what you want. Many games have similar character powers that can highlight certain items, but coupled in with the rich backstory that CD Projekt Red have injected into The Witcher 3, I feel that this is the most fun I’ve had using this ability. Learning how one died, or what may have happened whilst listening to Geralt talk is orgasmic to the ears. Seriously, I LOVED listening to that husky voice of his when he’d come across something of relevance. Players that wish to take their time and explore every little thing in this game will be using Witcher Sense a lot.
4: Monster Hunting legendary Slavic Beasts then claiming their limbs as proof of your victory
After the opening cinematic and tutorial level, It all started when Vesimir and Geralt were riding to the town of White Orchard when they came across and helped an accurate Stephen Baldwin look-a-like with a horrible Dumb & Dumber Lloyd Christmas hair cut from the claws of a terrifying Griffin chowing on its dead horse. With no active contract on the Griffin yet, Geralt had no choice but to continue to White Orchard and ask around in search of Yennefer. Of course during the natural course of progression, Geralt found out that there indeed WAS a contract on the Griffin.
Whilst this was a quest tied into the main storyline it still involved the same mechanics that you’ll enforce in Monster Hunting quests. You’ll be required to seek out NPC’s who have either seen or encountered the said beast. Investigate various aspects to how it feeds, acts, or where it frequents. In the case of the Griffin, Geralt was required to obtain a certain type of material that would have a strong enough smell to attract the Griffin out into an open area.
On top of that we also checked out a small camp where a group of Nilfgaardian soldiers have been killed by the Griffin. Using Witcher sense to investigate what had happened, I found a trail of blood that led me through the woods to a small cliff where I had found the bodies of the 3 soldiers and a dead Griffin. It added another layer of depth to these random characters and my hunt to kill this elusive Griffin.
Other monster hunter quests will definitely involve this same typoe of structure but they may sprawl hours and require multiple parts to complete. If they’re as satisfying and finally confronting the Griffin and slaying it then I’m all for distractions. After watching multiple videos of the game more than 6 months ago a lot has changed.
5: Using the Beastiary for rich and deep history about encountered monsters
Primarily the inventory menu system for your bag items, equipped items and more.
When it comes to killing various monsters in the world of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, apart from your sword the beastiary will be crucial in your success. In this sub-menu you’ll have the ability to read up on every encountered beasts and learn of it’s rich history as well as the most important items required in dealing the most damage when encountering them. Some monsters will require you to use your alchemy and create various potions or oils that increase attack or do a certain type of damage.
Certain signs will wield better chances of landing a blow and so forth. It’s critical that with a game of this magnitude that combat isn’t the sole part of your enjoyment but learning about characters and enemies alike.
With the battle against the Noonwraith, I had no idea how to physically damage it because it was a physical entity. Once I had throroughly read the Noonwraith entry in the Beastiary, I knew exactly how to damage it and ensure victory. The only way to achieve this was to place a Yrden sign on the ground, lure the Noonwraith into it, and start attacking her when she became physical.
This would only be temporary as once the sign disappeared or she walked out of it she’d revert back to her original form. If you don’t frequently use the beastiary, you’ll find yourself dieing a lot from lack of knowledge. It doesn’t necessarily make the game easier, so don’t fret if you think that.
6: Following random NPC’s and seeing what they do throughout the day
This is seriously amazing.
For such a large world each NPC you encounter has a pre-determined life cycle (I know, you’r thinking pre-determined, but hear me out). They’ll wake up in the morning do what they do, then at night either socialise with friends or go home and sleep. You’ll see a Shepard herd his sheep across the field or fend away Siren’s trying to eat them one morning, or the next you may not see him at all and just witness the majestic sunrise in front of you.
When it thunderstorms and rains heavily most NPC’s will run inside their homes for safety.
It’s awesome seeing that this is a living and breathing world where most actions have a reaction. You can’t go into a village and slaughter everyone so don’t get that excited for freedom, but during the main storyline you’ll be plagued with some decisions that’ll affect the outcome of a town. As witnessed by the Leshen monster hunt, siding with one group of villagers could result in the town becoming overrun and slaughtered hours into the game. Upon re-visiting the town would be a wasteland of bodies and burnt down houses. Certain NPC’s may now be mourning at their losses during the day, and disappear during the night.
7: Anytime NPC’s like THIS guy picked a fight with Geralt, It’s beautiful
There are certain characters in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt that don’t like Witcher’s at all. As witnessed in White Orchard, upon entering a local bar to ask around for Yennefer, some NPC’s expressed disgust when approached by Geralt. Players can coerce there minds into playing nice with Geralt if a conversation interaction is available, but it doesn’t change their overall tone.
When I had finished with my questions in the bar and needed to head out to the garrison to further push along the story a few NPC’s had taken it upon themselves to think they could force me to leave, which for Geralt was of course not an option. Cue a short conversation tree where I can initiate the fight and off we were in an good ol’ 3 vs 1 fist fight. What was interesting here was that Roach was tied up on a nearby fence and any time an enemy approached from behind, Roach would swiftly kick them into oblivion and knock them out. Allowing you to easily win the fight with a slight advantage.
I’m not sure how much more intense interactions like this become, but if this were any indication then they would be a lovely distraction from the main quest. It incorporates combat, dialogue that provides some chuckles and conversational trees. Everything that makes this game so appealing and changes things up so that it’s never stale. If you loved the conversational tree in the Mass Effect series and you’ve never played The Witcher you’ll love it.
If you’ve played both then feel safe knowing that in this game anything you say can lead in any direction.
8: Picking fights with multiple enemies resulted in sheer brutality and fun
This what you’ve all come here to read, how good is the combat. Well let me tell you, it’s DAMN good! Whilst not as difficult as Dark Souls or The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings, it still provides a decent enough difficulty that players will need to carefully enter battles with multiple ghouls, wolves, bears, etc… Whilst being a Witcher does grant you certain powers, do not always rely on them to get you out of sticky situations. Some enemies are more difficult to defeat and the Igni sign won’t really do much for you.
When taking on 4 or 5 Ghouls at once learn to dodge and roll using B/Square. It’s easily the most crucial game mechanic you’ll need to know and saves you most of the time in combat. The one downside to the roll feature is that, instead of a double tap it requires you to hold down the button for a second or two before it registers. When you’re low on health and forget to hold the button down it could result in death and redoing the section again.
I’m not sure if it’ll get changed when the game is released, but it’s the only real quarrel I have with combat. Assigning a Sign from the Sign wheel is mapped via the left bumper or L1. In this sub-menu time slows down to hopefully give you enough time to decide what to use and equip it. Enemies will still be able to attack you and the game doesn’t completely pause so in the thick of battle it is crucial you know exactly what to use. Using the right bumper or R1 allows players to use the sign in combat.
These aren’t unlimited uses that can be spammed as once you’ve used a sign you’ll need to wait for your stamina to replenish before throwing down a Yrden trap.
Players have the ability to do normal attacks as well as strong sword attacks, which if timed correctly can give Geralt a flurry of well executed slashes on enemies. They don’t necessarily do more damage but the animations are smooth. Geralt isn’t invincible during these attacks so players need to meticulously decide on how to approach groups of enemies. Players can parry/counter attacks and they have a split second before an enemy lands an attack to parry. There are slight visual cues as to when you can perform these so always be alert during battle.
Health regeneration can be obtained via eating edibles purchased from merchants, whilst the description states that during battle they cannot be consumed and regenerate health, I found myself quickly scoffing down some bread which funnily enough during combat did actually give me health.