"Drinking alone is as bad as shiting in company"
The final chapter in The Witcher Trilogy, The Witcher: Wild Hunt by CD Projekt RED has been three years in the making. Fans have been waiting with baited breath to reach the conclusion to Geralt’s story that started way back in 2007. With the promise of over 100 hours of gameplay in a world that is twenty percent bigger than Skyrim this promises to be an RPG fans wet dream.
I am not a fan of RPG games at all. The leveling up, constant grinding and potion/magic/weapon creation has always put me off. The Witcher: Wild Hunt has always interested me though. The medieval setting with its mystical beasts, promises of a more action orientated game and open world gameplay really appealed to me but I still approached the game with caution. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt continues the story of Geralt of Rivia who is the main protagonist from the previous two Witcher games and whose story is finally concluded here. And if you have never played a game in the series before don't let that put you off because this story stands on its own. But there are connections and easter eggs planted throughout the entire game for those of you that have played the two previous games so keep your ears and eyes open. In certain dialogue scenes they are referenced quite heavily but not enough so you will get confused. Although your answers in these conversations do impact the story so a little insight into the previous game would help but only in these instances.
The Witcher sets its stall out early on with the opening cutscene. There is plenty of naked pixel created flesh on offer here and by the time it was over I had lost count of how many times I had screamed at my Xbox One "Xbox take a screenshot" but only for the purpose of this review you understand. The opening sequence pulls no punches in laying it all out there for you to see. So if you're of a bashful nature you might want to avert your eyes for the opening scene because it sets the tone for the rest of the game which is full of sex, violence and foul language.
After playing the tutorial which I implore you to play through if you have never played an RPG game before, because without it I would have been lost. I started playing on the Blood and Broken Bones difficulty setting because I like a challenge. This was a HUGE mistake. This game takes no prisoners and even a simple fight against a few bandits or wolves can end very quickly if you get hit a few times and this was slowly killing my enjoyment of the game. Over and over again I died and that's not because the game is unfair it was because you need to understand and utilise the potions, bombs and the crafting mechanics. The very things that have put me off RPG’s for years would soon become second nature to me. You also need to learn how to use the combat system properly. This is no button basher and believe me I have tried, you will just die time after time. So with all that taken into account I dropped the setting down by one notch. And what a difference that made.
Suddenly fights weren't all one sided. Sure I still wasn't an expert but the more forgiving nature of the enemies allowed me to time to think how I would tackle certain situations. It also gave me time to teach myself how to dodge, parry and counterattack much more easily because when you're playing and you know that a missed parry might end in your death on a higher difficulty level you just won't use that skill in case you miss. Within hours I was able to take on multiple enemies at once, huge black bears, packs of wolves, bandits and any other enemies I came across with a renewed confidence.
There are a lot of inventory screens for you to sift through as you level up and make use of all the loot you acquire. Alchemy has a huge array of items you can create including potions, bombs, decoctions, oils and substances and you really do need to make use of all these especially on the harder difficulty settings. All of this can leave you feeling overwhelmed if your not use to this level of interaction. I was already feeling out of my depth by now but perseverance is the key here. You really need to read every single tutorial to get a handle on what to do as well. So if like me you're not a fan of RPG's your head will be spinning until things start to slot into place. When you find a book,a piece of parchment paper or a note I would advise you to read them. These all hold clues to treasure, armour upgrades and better, potions, bombs, decoctions, oils and substances. In some instances they will trigger side quests which can see you plundering treasure off bandits, fighting a griffin or even saving a tortured soul and freeing their spirit.
The sheer size of the world on offer is amazing. You will have to acquire a boat to traverse all the locations. A feat I have yet to accomplish. And with a huge world comes a main quest of epic proportions and lots and lots of side quests. I have always been a sucker for side quests because they usually offer something a little different from the main story arc. An example of this is the first quest I took. I had to find an arsonist who burnt down the local blacksmiths forge. I even found myself on a quest to find an old womans frying pan. These quests are fantastic for leveling up and getting use to your powers, magic, potions and fighting skills before you tackle the bigger story ahead of you. These quests can be completed for free which makes the township more friendly towards you or you can demand payment or other forms of womanly favours. In certain circumstances which can lead to resentment and sometimes another fight. Everything you do has a consequence here which makes your choices all the more important. Your reputation, good or bad will follow you everywhere you go.
There is so much to do here and riding across the map continually unlocks new locations and quests. There is never a dull moment. Treasure hunting, finding and destroying creatures and their nests, fighting ghostly apparitions, hunting game, taking out bandit camps and side quests from various characters you come across when riding from one area to the next. I am 20+ hours in and have barely touched the main story and have only done so because there is nothing left for me to do in the area I am currently in. I have only touched upon one small part of it so far which goes to show how distracting the other elements of The Witcher are. I know I will finish the main quest eventually but every time I try another quest just pulls me back.
The game does have its problems though. The biggest problem is broken/glitched quests. I am currently stuck on one side quest because a loot chest won't open even though I have the correct key for it. This is a well known glitch in the game and even though the game has been patched this still remains broken. There is nothing more infuriating than spending time trying to complete specific tasks of a quest only to have it break for no other reason than sloppy programming. How these things get passed the testing phase is beyond me. The horse AI is pretty appalling as well. CD Projekt RED have borrowed the same horse mechanic from Red Dead Revolver where you set a waypoint and your horse will make its way there as long as you keep the default button pressed. The difference being in RDR the mechanic worked very well and I never had a bad experience with it. The same can't be said here. You might as well just ride manually because your horse will just ride into every single house, mountain, tree and any other obstacle it can find. At one point the horse steered itself into into a cart that was in the middle of a path and continued to gallop into it as if it wasn't there. I have also had considerable problems with the cutscenes stuttering and glitching and some horrendous noise popping during dialogue scenes which takes you out of the moment.
When all is said and done though I have thoroughly enjoyed my time so far with The Witcher. I am still learning new things everytime I pick up and play. Even though I am still on a steep learning curve nothing seems to be spoiling my time with the game. If you're not put off by the RPG elements then you really should give The Witcher: Wild Hunt a go. Technical issues aside I cannot recommend it enough. Seriously who doesn't want to have sex on a unicorn, right?
Review copy supplied by XCN.
Game: The Witcher: Wild Hunt.
Developer: CD Projekt RED.
Publisher: Bandai Namco.
Platform(s): Xbox One.