The Witcher 3 is what I would happily call the near epitome of next gen gaming right now. A gorgeous look, indescribably in-depth storytelling, rigorously challenging combat (Both mentally and physically), minigames that could stand alone and make millions, and way too damn much content to cover in what short time I had with this game. Everything is not just a step, but a giant leap with a vaulting pole above the previous game. Geralt’s hair looks more like hair and less like a crust grey bedsheet, combat flows seamlessly from parry to strike to counter, and every character has a story to tell or be meddled with. To try and cover everything this game plates up in a single review would be a gross injustice.
As such, this review will cover gameplay specifics, including a final score. A review of the story, characters, and world lore will be upcoming shortly.
From the remnants of a fallen Temeria to the sprawling cities of Novigrad, The Witcher 3 boasts a huge and densely populated world. Every crossroad carries an opportunity to flex your moral compass or rake in some gold, and every city is brimming with targets, contracts, missions, and story. The Witcher 3 is beautiful. Unlike previous titles that have personally looked a little odd to me, The Witcher 3 is bright, detailed, and colourful. Previous titles felt like they were overstepping the limits of technology; trying to look beautiful but using knock-off brand make-up to do it. They were dark, grungy, and the textures were, let’s face it, ugly.
The Witcher 3 accomplishes what 1 and 2 could not, and the result is a beautifully colourful world in both textures and character models. In this massive and colourful world, there is a lot of ground to cover. To remedy this, they’ve given us Roach, Geralt’s trusty steed. Horse mechanics are a godsend and a curse simultaneously. Sprinting along roads does not drain your horse’s stamina, and it will steer itself along the path… for the most part. It does a good job 70% of the time, but you will sometimes find him stuck on a cart or fence, or even just running straight off the road at a sharp turn. He also struggles to heed your call. Roach spawns too far away, and often has trouble finding his way to your side. It’s no major downfall, but it does show the teething problems of many a new feature. Probably one of the best improvements from games’ past: Geralt’s goddamn hair.
Every time I booted up The Witcher 2, I was reminded how grossly cringe worthy the hair animations were. His hair looked like a plastic bag of moldy kraft cheese singles. However, now his porcelain white locks flow in the breeze like silk drapes by an open window. In saying that, his longer hair style is still a little shaky, but a trip to the barber to get some shaved sides and a ponytail results in some beautiful witcher hair ready for battle. Unfortunately, NPCs suffer a little bit of… ‘bioware’ syndrome; many of the NPCs tend to look near identical due to their shared hairstyles, especially young girls. This becomes a problem come quests that feature these young girls, whose apparent doppelgangers start popping up everywhere.
Within The Witcher 3’s beautiful world resides many… many monsters. All ripe and ready to swing a sword at. Model animations are smooth and crisp, alongside the gloriously fluid combat system. Finally, Geralt is swinging around his silver blade like a true student of the Wolf should. Parrying, countering, striking heavy or hard, and casting signs all flow together perfectly. The Witcher is no strategy series, but the complexity of NPC’s in combat offers itself to needed some forethought.
Enemies will not wait around for you to hit first, they will come at you hard and fast, they will block, and they will gang up on you in high numbers. Timing Quen signs with parries, finding an opening for a counter and follow up attack, knowing when to roll out and reset with an Axii… I’ve not had so much fun ending countless, incessant bandits every single time. Monsters are rather varied from species to species, but some creatures like wyverns and bears tend to have rather similar combat mechanics. It is not the case with many monsters, but alas some, though visually and stunningly unique, share similar strategies: stay away from the claws. Boss monsters are another beast all together (get it?)… they range from terrifyingly fast alpha werewolves to giant mutant deer ready to gouge Geralt clean through.
They all have a strategy, but sometimes they learn. While fighting a griffin early on, after dealing some hard hits with my silver sword, it quickly took flight and refused to land until I’d punctured it with a few crossbow bolts. Alongside this, every creature has a bestiary entry worth reading; it details their explicit weaknesses to particular sword oils, bombs, or signs, as well as describing their habits in a completely lore friendly, almost textbook excerpt. To close: read the damn bestiary.
Character progression and enhancing is a clear step above The Witcher 2. No Witcher of the Wolf should have yet to learn how to parry and counter, that’s basic swordplay, and also my biggest gripe with the previous game. Now, Geralt starts with all the skills needed to protect the innocent and slay the grotesque. Leveling up and spending skill points is more about developing and improving Geralt’s currently existing skills. Gaining the ability to deflect arrows, improving stamina regen and attack power are all the bonuses you will be striving for. Alongside his swordplay skills, Geralt can also improve the effectiveness and additional affects of his signs. The Quen (shield) sign can explode when it breaks, and Axii (repel) can slam your opponents into the ground ready to be deftly finished. In conjunction, there are ‘alternate signs’ that can be unlocked. These include turning Igni (fire) into a searing beam rather than a flamethrower. The alternate signs, when equipped, offer a whole new layer to the magic gameplay and increase the depth of combat further than it already has delved.
Mutagens have also hit an upgrade; now, of the abilities you have equipped, you can apply mutagens to groups of three skills: the more of those three skills of the same colour as the mutagen, the better the effect of the mutagen. This creates a strategic requirement on what skills you take in to battle, to get the most out of Geralt’s powers. Potions are also, in my opinion, much better this time around. Rather than making individual concoctions and then mulling over your life choices for a few hours while drinking power ups, you collect the ingredients and create a poultice once. From that point on, through meditation you can replenish a stock of 3 of each potion. Each potion still carries a toxicity, but now rather than lasting 15 minutes, each potion will last between 15 and 30 seconds. It’s a welcome take on the unnecessarily complex potion system of the Witcher 2. Overall, the progression and enhancement systems have been satisfyingly enhanced and even remade; all for the better.
Let’s talk meta. Within the gorgeous and dangerous world of The Witcher 3 lies a deceivingly simple card game called Gwent. A curious bar-goer teaches you the basics early on and you get a starter deck to begin with. You will quickly want to set out on improving your decks, and you will quickly become addicted. The concept is simple enough; take turns placing cards and building strength, at the end of a round: highest strength wins. It’s when you take into account weather cards, double strength cards, heroes, special abilities, and the fact that you only have 10 cards (excluding extra draws from abilities) per game. That is up to 3 rounds on only 10 cards. It’s a deceptively simple game, and your first few matches should go rather smoothly. The best part of Gwent, is that it allows for the development of a personal playing style, there’s no particular “best” way to play.
Certain factions (Northern Realms, Novigrad, Scoi’atel, and Monsters) have certain strengths and weaknesses, and different card combinations within those factions also have pros and cons against one another. I personally found the monsters deck the hardest to defeat… I’ll let you figure out why. Unfortunately, I often felt helpless in some games. You need to defeat the best to get the best cards, but you need the best cards to defeat the best. Hey look, it’s good enough to get it’s own paragraph in the review, no?
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is ridiculously complex in so many ways. It is most certainly a positive complexity. It hearkens back to the moments we spend describing our perfect RPG: “It needs to have this, and this, and I want that too, but if that’s there we need this.” For those that ask for everything and are often left disappointed, the Witcher 3 takes a damn good shot at answering all your desires. In saying this; it is too damn massive. To reiterate; assuming to cover all content in this single review would be an injustice. As above, this review covers most of the gameplay aspects. Later on, OXCGN will be posting a Story, Character, and Lore review to follow up on this massive title. As for now, the score given to The Witcher 3 is an accurate representation of what it deserved, we merely need some time to collaborate the massive content load.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is gorgeous, dark, brutal, and goddamn massive. In a beautifully rendered world that stretches beyond and conceivable size is an immensely enjoyable experience the likes of which the gaming world has not yet seen. Combat is ridiculously fluid and deceptively complex, and Geralt’s progression and enhancements have been drastically improved since their last iterations. Gwent, the in-game card game is complex enough that it could stand on its own; it starts off simple, and quickly becomes almost too engaging. Despite it’s grandeur, a game so complex and downright colossal has a few teething problems that are enough to notice, but not enough to kill the experience.
- Huge, beautiful, complex.
- Combat is incredibly fluid and greatly enjoyable.
- Gwent is a surprisingly complex and enjoyable attachment.
- Progression and enhancement systems have been overhauled for the better.
- Monsters are rightly terrifying, and offer fantastic challenge alongside your average bandit.
- Geralt’s hair.
- Horse mechanics in particular have a few hitches.
- Though few and far between, there are bugs, and they are noticeable.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt on PS4 was provided to OXCGN by Bandai Namco Australia for review.