The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Ever since The Witcher's 2007 debut, the series has been
raising the bar for choice and consequence in role-playing games. Every entry
in the series has taken the concept one step further, but The Witcher 3: Wild
Hunt is the most ambitious attempt yet, showing the ripple effect of tons of
choices across a large world. CD Projekt RED doesn't disappoint, proving once
again why it's a genre juggernaut. With abundant improvements, a bigger world,
and more exciting choices on every level, The Witcher 3 is one of the best games
I've played in recent years, providing a stimulating challenge on and off the
What makes the choices so interesting is the immersive world
that they shape. From snowy mountain tops to beautiful waterfalls to wildlife
running across the forests, CD Projekt RED created a landscape with an
excruciating amount of detail that makes it a thrill to explore. You never know
when you might find a hidden cave, discover a hidden treasure underwater, or stumble
upon crafting materials for potions or new armor. The towns feel alive with
events happening all around, like drunken bar fights and houses burning down.
You never feel like a bystander – you are a part of what's going on around you.
You can choose how involved you want to get, and even little choices carry
consequences. For instance, I told off a religious man preaching about the
dangers of witchers, and he later sent thugs to beat me up.
Unlike games that offer a few key choices to alter the
narrative, The Witcher 3 provides abundant options that can shape the world in all
kinds of ways. Hundreds of quests are available across the map, focusing on monster
contracts and treasure hunts, while smaller story quests center on the
inhabitants of each town. I was surprised at the variety and how well-written
the quests are – everything holds an unexpected story, like a jealous woman
trying to steal her sister's werewolf boyfriend. It made exploring the world a
blast; I always looked forward to revisiting past people I helped to see what
path I set them on. In one case, I chose between a brother and sister for the
throne and saw the empire flourish due to my decision.
I've never felt so connected and like I had so much power
over a virtual world before. The dilemmas are some of best in the series. You
have plenty of ways to solve them (like brute force, doing favors, and using
witcher powers), but I never felt judged for any of my choices. My favorite
part is how the writers are always one step ahead and my decisions are never
safe; the shades of gray mean that you never know who to trust, requiring you
think carefully about every situation. The world is brutal, full of liars and
tricksters just waiting to outsmart you. Would you trust someone who tells you
to throw a baby in the oven if it's for the greater good? I didn't – but maybe
I should have.
The main narrative is also intriguing, but only fans who
have been following the series will get the most out of it. Geralt remains the
composed hero we've come to know, but he's no longer a blank slate with his
memories back. This entry explores his past and shows a more emotional side of
him thanks to Ciri. She
is like a daughter to Geralt, and he must find her before the dangerous Wild
Hunt organization uses her for evil. Seeing Geralt react as a father would in
this dire situation is an interesting change for the character.
In addition, new and returning personalities have
fascinating developments. Geralt's former flame Triss has her own storyline
about fighting against the persecution of mages. The writers handle every
situation with authenticity – Triss and Yennefer's complicated relationships
with Geralt in particular. The romances have more substance than what CD
Projekt RED has provided before, with better build up and discussing more
complex emotions and topics. These romantic plots were too abrupt in previous
entries, but I was satisfied this time around.
Great writing and intense decisions aside, the gameplay has
also vastly improved. This is the most accessible entry yet, thanks to
different difficulty settings, a better interface, more lenient weight
restrictions, and a less demanding alchemy system. Combat is much more
responsive and action-packed compared to the stilted experience of past
entries. This doesn't sacrifice any of the difficulty; outside of playing on
story mode, a great deal of strategy is required in the tense battles. Exploiting
enemy weaknesses with spells, crafting potions to give you an edge, blocking at
the right time for counterattacks, and dodging in the nick of time are still of
the utmost importance.
You are always in danger, even during basic exploration.
Enemies can strike from anywhere, including the air and underwater. The new
crossbow eases the pain of flying enemies, but it wasn't my favorite weapon. Even
with upgrades, I found it a pain to aim and fire at enemies, slowing the
momentum of battle. Still, whether you are taking down a difficult monster
contract or participating in an adrenaline-pumping scripted battle, fighting is
intense and fun, forcing you to exploit every weapon in your arsenal. You can
also upgrade your character any way you want, focusing on the areas you prefer,
such as magic, physical attacks, and alchemy.
I have very few complaints about The Witcher 3, but it does
have some minor nuisances, such as some long load times. Breakable weapons also
interrupted my adventure more often than they should have (you can only repair
them by finding a craftsman or buying armor repair kits). Addtionally, I wasn't too
impressed with the scenes where you play as Ciri. She's an awesome character so I liked getting
to know her better, but these sequences were far from exciting. Ciri is more
agile than Geralt, but she doesn't have access to magic and the fights just
felt too simple. Also, some late-game locations are unnecessarily difficult to
access, lacking good fast-travel options. Sometimes the witcher sense for
investigating crime scenes gets overused, but I still enjoyed using it to piece
By the end of the game, 36 different world states are
available, depending on your actions. The main story also has multiple endings,
and some are definitely more satisfying than others, which I wish wasn't the
case. In such a big game, you want to walk away feeling like your time was well
spent. My initial ending rubbed me the wrong way, and the disappointment
lingered long after the credits rolled. For the most part though, I reveled in
the experience leading up to it, even more than I did in past games.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt encompasses what I hope
is the future of RPGs. It stands out for its wonderful writing, variety of
quests and things to do in the world, and how your choices have impact in
interesting ways. Usually something is sacrificed when creating a world this
ambitious, but everything felt right on cue. I still think about some of my
choices and how intriguing they turned out – for better or worse.
Note: This review is based on the PS4 version of the game. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is also available on Xbox One and PC.
Email the author Kimberley Wallace, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.