The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Review: A game that tries and succeeds to embrace the open world structure while also embracing deep RPG mechanics like player choice and expansive, involving questlines
|Baby got back, and also front, and a... silver sword|
Yes, yes. I know. That title. It's huge. But hey, words that kill amirite guys?
I decided to go with my heart on this as the other titles I had in mind were a little uninspired. Such as:
Witcher 3 is the game that Dragon Age Inquisition tried and failed to be. Witcher 3, this game is fucking rad. Witcher 3, enough fat asses to please Scott Steiner.
Actually, those all sound pretty inspired to me, but whatever, I've made my choice.
Let's get one thing out of the way: Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is abso-fucking-lutely massive. The in-game time tracker is broken so I can't actually know how long I've spent in the game, but seeing as how I've not stopped playing in about 5 days straight, I can tell you it's got to be a long, long time. And the funny thing? I'm not even at the end yet. "But wait a minute, what kind of reviewer doesn't even beat the game!?" Well, I guess me. But the point I'm trying to make is, Witcher 3 has already won me over in every facet and the end isn't even in sight.
Everything I do deepens the game, the combat, the story, the characters. And yet, after days and days of play time, I'm not even at the end yet. The countless monsters, bandits, quests, upgrades... after everything, there's still so much to this game.
And that's the thing, it's an open world game. An open world game that chooses its genre not because it wants to put endless fucking collectibles around the map and then tell you to fuck off and collect them for a couple of hours and then get back to the game. With the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, the world is alive and filled with countless activities to uncover. Quests, missions to hunt and kill monsters terrorizing the locals, treasure hunts, random events, and, the most important thing... the game remembers. The game cares.
Take for example, an early activity I did in the game. And by early I mean it was like 10 hours into the game, but because it's so expansive and huge, that's actually very, very early. I was riding my horse along a path, I had just gotten out of the prologue area called White Orchard and into the meat and potatoes of the early game called Velen. I came across a soldier who had been tied up and left to die. He had come under attack by a group of enemies called Drowners, amphibian type dudes who usually stick near water and swamps.
Long story short, I saved him and he was grateful. So imagine how surprised I was that this guy showed up many, many, many hours later in my playthrough as a bandit leader in a a camp filled with the bodies of his victims. Honestly, the initial act was so inconsequential that I didn't even remember him until he mentioned it. I was amazed, even after all I had already seen and accomplished because, as I say above, it was so small, so unimportant.
|A little Jim Carey, a little Clint Eastwood|
The world is filled with things of this nature, characters calling back to things you did and or said. Another example that struck me immediately: In RPG's like these, where you have dialog opens in a list that you are allowed you choose what to say, I like to pick them in the order presented. I figure, I'm going to get the same answers anyway, right? What does it matter? Well, Geralt and Yennefer go through a particularly traumatic experience during some side quest and at the beginning of a dialog sequence, Yen is very clearly shaken and dishturrrrrbed by what had occurred and I had the options to say something along the lines of "What was that all about?" "What do we do now?" and "Are you okay?" (I'm paraphrasing, of course. It was like 800 hours ago). They were presented with "Are you okay?" last, so I decided to do that one last. So I asked her what we were to do now, only for her to reply with scorn over me not asking how she was, as she was clearly shaken. Shocked by this, I decided to choose the "Are you okay?" option, only for her to reply with even more scorn as she was offended that she had to practically tell me to ask if she was okay.
It was great, but for multiple reasons. 1: They actually call you out on your bullshit(Which happens a lot in this game), and 2: It was clear from interactions like this that CD Projeckt RED went out of their way to build the game from the ground up for moments like these, moments that help suppress your suspension of disbelief and immerse you into this deep, rich world filled with deep, rich characters.
When it comes to gameplay itself, I heard it was a very easy game to play, so I started it off on the hard equivalent and it feels great. I do a lot of damage, enemies do a lot of damage. My health doesn't regenerate during meditation. Blocking, using your magical signs and using healing items when the time is right can be the difference between life and death. That's obvious though, because how can you possibly hope to win if you play stupid? Man, I'm a bad writer.
You've got your horse, named Roach, that you can upgrade with things like saddles, improving your stamina and allowing you to horse-sprint faster, saddle bags to allow Geralt to carry more weight, horse blinders which lessen the fear meter of your horse so you don't get bucked off when enemies are close. And most interestingly, you've got a "trophy" slot, a slot for you to take the decapitated heads of your fallen foes and tie them to the side of your horse. They range from pretty huge to normal humanoid sized heads. But it's not the size that matters, it's the stat bonus they apply. Some can allow you to earn 5% to 10% more experience from monsters and or humans, while other increase your chance to dismember enemies.
In the early game I found getting on the horse to be a nightmare, as it seems like you have to let completely go of the left analog stick before pressing X or else Geralt will just daze around waiting for something. Later on, and so far for the entire ride of the game, I've found that getting off of the horse can also be a nightmare. It usually always happens the same way, you're riding around looking for quests, monsters, bandits, bitches, anything, and you eventually run near an enemy. You try to get off your horse but for some reason it just doesn't happen, and then that enemy runs up on your horse, scares it, you get bucked off, and before you can even get up, you're dead.
|Just look at that.|
The auto-saving is pretty good for things like this, but sometimes it can set you back a bit. When you're just out and about, time goes by in a flash. And to die so frustratingly can be extremely disappointing. Because I'm playing on hard mode, it goes by a lot faster than it probably would on normal, especially since even lower leveled enemies can still pose quite a threat.
Honestly, the massive open world reminds me, weirdly enough, of a weird mishmash of Fallout 3 and Red Dead Redemption. I know what you're thinking "Oh, the RDR comparison makes sense because of the wild open world and horse travel, but why Fallout 3?" Well, I don't want to get too metaphorical or deep, man, but the reality is... video games kind of sucked after Fallout 3. No, no, I'm not one of those "Video games today sucks" kind of guy, I mean, Witcher 3 is a video game today, so that wouldn't work.
What I mean is, Fallout 3 was the last real game I just hung out in. I would explore and explore and explore, and read whatever I could, look at whatever I could. I didn't care if there was a marker leading me there or not, I needed to see it. I had to interact with everyone, I had to know everything. I loved the world and gameplay and wanted to see all of it. And I did, across many a playthrough. And with Witcher 3, it's the first game that has such a busy, full of life open world that I can do that again.
|Triss Merigold, reaffirming my redheaded fictional video-game sorceress character fetish since 2015!|
You look at other games like Saints Row, Grand Theft Auto, Assassin's Creed, Watch_Dogs, Dragon Age: Inquisition, you name it, and you see their worlds and... well, they're dead. Void of life and activities for you.
They're static almost. They have people walking around, cars driving, deathclaws, uh, deathclawing, but that's just chuff. That's just filler. That's not alive. The most excitement I felt out of GTAV's open world was playing online and forgetting the singleplayer even existed. There was nothing to do, nothing to see anymore. The next logical step was online.
But with The Witcher 3, the world always moving. What with NPC's having dynamic dialog reflecting your journey thus far, or a random enemy getting a little too close and causing them to all freak out, or you coming across a crazy enemies lair and then fighting to death, completely unaware that this was actually a part of a quest you could have accepted, so now when you do, you just jump straight to the reward. The scripted-but-completely-natural-feeling random events that lead to interesting quests, the side quests themselves sometimes being far more important and grand than even the main quests. The incredibly weather effects that actually manage to instill worry in my gut as the winds howl and the trees bend, with the crack of lightning ringing out like a bell in silence. It goes on.
I haven't even mentioned the incredible voice cast in this game. I have yet to hear a single line of dialog that wasn't well delivered. Geralt, for example, is one sassy motherfucker and I love it. His voice actor sells the lines incredibly so. Mastercraft if I've ever heard it. Geralt goes from being friendly and kind to being a sarcastic and cheeky bastard. It never feels out of place or forced, as it is usually up to you to choose the dialog option yourself. Though, sometimes characters do call you out on it.
Really, the storytelling in this game is exceptionally well done. There's one side mission in the game that goes from an almost slapstick comedy routine only to evolve into a deathly serious murder mystery. The tonal change is striking, but to be expected. The Witcher 3 may be fantasy, but there is nothing happy-go-lucky about this world. Darkness looms overhead at all times, reaching down from time to time to remind you that not all is safe. Yet there Geralt stands, like a pun-making beacon of light, ready to tell people to go fuck themselves and then stab them in the face with a sick ass silver sword.
Honestly, this review is a little off the wall since I didn't get into basic plot details or specific controls, you know, like a real reviewer would, but I mean, this game is out there, that shit is well documented already. I wanted to share my viewpoint, my feelings. From the heart or some shit. You know?
The Witcher 3 has a lot of heart, and it resonates well with me for more than just the reasons I've listed above, as I've omitted several story related spoilers as that's something that should best be experienced by yourself. But when it comes to my opinion, this game is one of the best. A must buy, for everyone.
|Because stars are overrated|