Overview - The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Review
+ Fetch quests are limited, and even the few that are required add context
+ Technical sword play rewards smart tactics and patience
- Very slow, almost boring first 7-10 hours serving as a tutorial
- Slight contextual issues for those new to the series
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt INFORMATION
Release Date: May 19th, 2015
Developer/Publisher: CD Projekt
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt completes the well respected series (based on the novels) with its first entry on a PlayStation console. Even without playing the previous games, Wild Hunt is accessible, providing the required backstory. The world is built so well that simple sightseeing and small interactions flesh out more than details, it adds context. The controls, traversal and presentation are all among the best of the generation but there is one major issue that holds Wild Hunt from being one of the best games of all time.
Story - The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Review
While context is needed to understand the many nuances of the story of The Witcher 3, there is more than enough back story given for this to be a standalone tale. Disguised in this action-RPG is a detective story; "find the missing girl." Learning about the relationship between Ciri (the missing girl who was trained as a Witcher by the protagonist, Geralt) and the Wild Hunt (a group of nefarious specters enslaving powerful beings from multiple worlds - the bad guys). This relationship ends up being a race against time as Ciri can end up turning the tide for either side. While this is the overarching plot, it's the sub-plots and side-stories that flesh out everything The Witcher 3 has to offer. The structure of The Witcher 3 tells its story through Geralt's quest to find Ciri, following clues to her whereabouts. Each clue is a story on its own, some spanning 5-7 hours each, which end with the next clue but also wrap up the sub-plot within itself. These plot lines don't even consider the sub-missions that have their own little storylines as well. What makes The Witcher 3 different is that every mission, not just the "main" entries, provide important and interesting insights into the overall plot. They aren't just fetch quests for fetch quests sake, they tie into the entirety of the world.
Unfortunately it takes a while for these types of missions to start. The first few missions are exactly what the rest of the game is not, and it's hard to see, especially during the time your playing, how it fits into the overall story. This is the biggest gripe with the game, and because it can take 7-10 hours ton really hit its stride, that's a big ask of the player. Luckily the following quality of the 30 some hours do much to make you almost completely forget it.
Technical - The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Review
Graphically, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt looks phenomenal. There are moments during horseback as you're traversing the land that the sunset or sunrise shines of radiant beams through the trees in some of the most picturesque moments seen in gaming. The world is incredibly detailed, flush with life, endless paths to wherever you're headed or you've just left the beaten path. In addition the characters are well animated, especially during combat. Due to the nature of the sword wielding combat, where it's technical but also very fluid, Geralt is committed to his moves yet he is rarely punished because of an animation (it's chalked up to user error). It's a subtle touch that directly influences the gameplay but also adds an element of dance amd artistry to the proceedings, it's quite lovely to behold.
Music - The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Review
Much of The Witcher 3's music is ambient tones or subtle strings that are more atmospheric than rousing. Despite this critique the score is very good. There are portions where the music picks up and creates tension or excitement when needed, especially during action set peices or unexpectedly coming across a bandit's camp. It is movie quality although it's not catchy. One of the primary reasons that it's not all that memorable is that most of the score is heard only over a short time whereas the tonal compositions are heard as you travel from town to town (which is done often). You can hear the general tones in your head, but it's not exactly a melodic theme you can repeat.
Gameplay - The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Review
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt excels when it comes to gameplay. Most of your time is spent on horseback moving from area to area. Horseback riding is smooth, and calling your steed, Roach, is as easy as a button press and can be done from anywhere. When you're on foot, sprinting and climbing are smooth enough, taking a more realistic approach compared to the parkour-style of Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor or any of the Assassin's Creed titles. The main gameplay mechanic of The Witcher 3 is the combat. Most action games have varied enemy types, of course, but here there are two very distinct types, each with a myriad of subtypes. Fighting humans is discernibly different than the monsters that the Witchers are tasked with dispatching. Geralt carries two swords, one for humans and one for monsters. While the sword techniques themselves are the same for either, the strategy is not. Man to man, fencing is very technical. It's rare to land a large combination of hits before an enemy parries away your strike. Quickly striking prior to opening up your target to stronger attacks are mostly neccesary for success. When fighting a monster, in which they vary across a large spectrum, the strategy changes. For flying monsters a wrist shot crossbow is required to knock them out of the sky before a sword strike can be made. This is all done while dodging swooping attacks and whatever else may come your way. Add in later upgrades of magic spells and other projectiles and combat becomes very deep, technical but still somehow remains relatively simple.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Review Roundup
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt uses its excellent source material to great effect, crafting the best action RPG on the PS4, and one of the best of all-time. It's only fault is its slow first 10 hours, which can make it a hard sell to those not in love with the genre. However if you can get through it, there are countless hours that more than make up for it.