This game takes place after The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings events. Geralt is now on the trail to find his lover, Yennefer. However, she is the one who found him, and Geralt will be on journey to find his protege, who has been missing until now...
This is my first The Witcher game that I have played, but I personally think the game's story, lore, and characters are amazingly done. The story is well-told throughout intriguing dialogues and interesting lore, while the character themselves gave enough personality for players to like them differently. There are several favourite characters in the game, such as Geralt, Ciri, Triss, Yennefer, Sigi Reuven, Dandelion, Emyhr, and many more. Even the NPCs with smaller roles are quite interesting too. The Wild Hunt are also likable for their evilness, like Imlerith and Eredin.
However, as a player who have not played previous The Witcher games, the story could be hard to follow with possibly numerous characters reprising their roles from previous games as well as references to past events happened in previous The Witcher games. Reading basic synopsis on both games would help in getting you to understand the characters that you are unfamiliar in the game, in both motivations and personality.
1) Exploration and Progression Section
The game plays like an open-world game mixed with RPG elements. Combat is real-time action, where you control Geralt like you are playing an action game, with good examples like Mass Effect games and Kingdom Hearts games. The exploration is pretty much free roaming, where you can explore unknown areas in different regions by on foot or horseback. Preferably, riding a horse to your destination or exploring elsewhere as it allows you to escape from unwanted battles easily. You may also use Fast Travel on signposts you have encountered throughout the game. Signposts can be found in cities, villages, outside monster dens or at crossroads. You may also travel to other regions once you have progressed enough in the story.
While exploring, you may use Witcher Senses, which allows you to listen to emitted sounds and seeing hidden things via superhuman hearing and sight. This is extremely vital in many of the game's main Quests, Secondary Quests, as well as Contracts. This feature is mainly used to track down a person or a monster, so you will be using this a lot in the game. You may also able to loot items from dead bodies, treasure chests, boxes, and other objects. Just be careful not to do that in front of the guards and they may end up fighting you and take your money as punishment. Money and materials should be used carefully, as money are hard to come by and you need the materials for alchemy or crafting.
The game progression is rather simple. To progress the story, you need to complete the main Quests, which include objectives that you must complete. Completing main Quest may reward you a lot of things, such as experience points to level up Geralt. Objectives are fairly varied, which may include collecting something, fighting enemies, racing and many others. In certain Quests, there are optional objectives that you may choose to complete or not, which may help you in the current Quest's objectives. Choices during important moments in the game are highly crucial, as many of it will determine who will live and die in the game, and may affect the upcoming main Quests as well in terms of procedure and difficulty.
There are many optional activities to be done in the game, such as clearing out Bandit Camps, finding Hidden Treasures, complete Secondary Quests such as helping a person, complete witcher Contracts by killing tough monsters, or participate a game of cards called Gwent or horse racing. Completing these optional activities will benefit you in a long run, such as rewarding experience points, money, and possibly good piece of equipment. Although the procedure remain most similarly in witcher Contracts, the outcome and reward may differ in each contract by careful investigating and using proper dialogue choices.
2) Leveling, Upgrading and Customisation Section
The game's leveling system is simple, yet strict. To gain a level, you will need to accumulate enough experience points by killing enemies, completing main Quests, as well as completing other optional activities. By gaining a level, you may gain stats increase as well as an Ability Point. Ability Point is used to learn new abilities, which can be highly useful in combat. You may also upgrade the existing ability, which may further powers it up than lower tier abilities. As Geralt gain higher levels, he may need more experience points to level up from that point on. You can only use a learned ability by assigning to a slot. You will gain new ability slots as you gain more levels. It is to be noted that when you complete Secondary Quests or Contracts with higher level than the recommended level, you will gain less experience points. This also applies when killing monsters or humanoid enemies.
There are five Ability Trees in the game for Geralt to use. The Combat tree emphasises on combat abilities such as melee attacks, melee defense and other combat related passive abilities. The Signs tree emphasises on Geralt's magic abilities, such as the power to boost the abilities of his offensive Signs like Igni, or learn secondary moves of their Signs in combat as well. The Alchemy tree focuses on alchemy related abilities, such as increasing potion duration and usage. The General tree focuses on passive abilities unrelated to other tree, such as boosting attack power when wearing certain witcher sets or increased health regeneration during daytime and increased stamina regeneration during night.
As you play the game, you will feel the need of using stronger weapons and armour sets to increase your chances of survival. You may choose to buy them from vendors like armourers and blacksmiths, craft them by using armourers and blacksmiths services, or loot them from enemies. To craft a piece of equipment, you need the proper diagram, necessary materials and money. The person who is going to craft it should have the necessary level to craft it, otherwise they won't be able to do so. You may also choose to dismantle unwanted items for materials. Each piece of equipment may have different bonuses, such as increased damage resistance or increased certain Sign intensity, so plan carefully.
Another feature included in this game is Alchemy. Alchemy allows you to create numerous alchemy items for combat such as potions, oils, and bombs. To create them, you will need proper materials to do so. Many of the materials can be found from looting or picking up plants scattered throughout the game. Buying them from herbalists and alchemists is also another viable option. Potions are highly useful in combat, with different usage such as health regeneration, increased attack power and granting vision in darkness. Different Potions however, have certain duration as well as toxicity, which can poison Geralt if you take too many of it. Bombs are explosive items which can be used in combat or destroying Monster Nests. There are many types of Bombs in the game, such as explosive bomb, a poison-cloud bomb, and others. Do not worry running out of items to use potions and bombs, as they can be replenished when meditating and using up one alcohol item. Oils grant increased attack power against certain type of enemies, which can be extremely advantageous for you in harder difficulties.
3) Combat Section
The combat is real-time action, so you must control Geralt directly with your controller. You can attack enemies with fast and heavy attacks, sidestep or roll to avoid attacks, and parry attacks. You can use the parry move to block attacks from humans and monsters, but some of the may have heavy attacks that can break your blocking stance, so dodging away is imperative. You may also use items like food to regenerate health, use bombs to damage enemies, or use potions for various effects in combat as well.
There are two main-type of enemies, which are humans/non-humans and monsters. Humanoid enemies such as human guards, elves, and dwarves often attack you with weapons, while animals like bears will attack you using physical attacks. Monsters have lots of sub-categories, such as vampires, elementa, and others. Unlike humanoid enemies, monsters have weaknesses which you can view via the Bestiary, although they can be quite dangerous as well. To defeat monsters, you must use the silver sword. It is important to learn different enemy's movement, attack patterns and weaknesses to win against them, as the combat difficulty in this game can be quite challenging. For example, wraiths take reduced damage in spectre form, and will take increased damage if they are affected by Yrden Sign.
Signs are useful magic abilities that Geralt can use to fight his enemies. Most of his Signs are combat-oriented, but they are highly useful, such as the Quen sign nullify one attack and the Axii sign stuns one enemy momentarily. However, using a Sign will deplete your Stamina, which can be refilled during combat. Upgrading your Signs are highly useful in combat regardless of what class build you are doing for Geralt, as Signs are important when fighting against powerful monsters or multiple enemies. Some of the upgraded Signs include the Axii Sign allows you to take control of an enemy and order it to attack your enemies for a limited time.
There are boss fights in the game, which can be fought in main Quests or Contracts. As usual in RPGs, boss fights are usually tougher than regular enemies and some of them may boast unique attacks. Although story bosses are mostly unique in terms of appearances and attack moves, Contract monsters are rarely unique as you may encounter several types of griffins in the Contracts.
4) Gameplay Conclusion
The gameplay is overall excellent, and not many weak points to be pointed out. Massive world to explore, critical story decision making, lots of side activities to be done, rewarding optional quests, impressive combat system, and fleshed out character abilities progression. Story decisions impacts are really well-done, as it can affect the game in terms of story as well as impacting upcoming main Quests as well. Some people may complain that the game may lack offensive combat moves, but I find that the Signs and other combat moves are actually enough to counter everything that the enemies throw at you in the game. In a sense, I personally feel that this game's combat system is complete, but imperfect. I really like the Gwent minigame, and I would prefer it to be more fleshed out in the game with more tournaments or fighting against more NPCs. Horse racing could also be fleshed out by including more tournaments as well. Regardless, the gameplay is excellent, with only minor complaints.
For an open-world styled action RPG game, this game looks great. Amazing looking characters, great variety of environment designs, and good overall performance. NPCs are mostly unique, and most of the time are only reused as civilians, guards, and human enemies. NPCs in both main and Optional Quests however are mostly unique. Monster designs are fairly well-designed as well, with my favourites include Leshen, Elementa monsters, and others. There are not many unique Contract monsters, the unique ones look fairly threatening and good.
However, the game still suffers bugs and glitches even after installing the latest updates. such as bugged optional activities such as Person(s) in Distress and Abandoned Sites where you may have difficulties completing them. Occasionally, there are few visual glitches, but fortunately the game's main Quests have no issues when completing them. The small text size of subtitles as well as small texts in the inventory screen can be problematic as well.
The soundtrack is simply amazing. Plenty of memorable themes, and I like most of the game's themes such as the game's main theme playing in the main menu, combat theme in Wild Orchard area, Novigrad's area theme, Skellige Isles area themes, and many more. The bonus soundtrack included with the game is a bonus, allowing players including me to enjoy the great soundtrack. Be aware that it is not a complete soundtrack disc, since it is missing quite a number of themes from the game.
The English voice acting is also well-done. All English voice actors did commendable job with their roles, and thanks to them I particularly like a number of the characters in the game such as Geralt, Triss, Yennefer, Emyhr, Dandelion, Zoltan, and many more.
You may choose to play another playthrough, choosing different outcomes by picking different decisions during conversations. You may also play in harder difficulties such as the Death March, which is quite hard at first, but once you get used to playing the game and have decent build, finishing the game will be achievable. Exploring all unmarked locations in every region is also another option, as some may contain rare treasure such as rare diagrams for witcher sets for Geralt to use. Some of the free DLCs include new optional Quests, new items and New Game + mode, so download them as soon as possible to utilise them early. Getting all Trophies in this game are also another option, and it is fairly doable with good amount of practice especially during combat.
I personally think this is one of my favourite games this year, including Bloodborne side-by-side. Impressive story-telling, near realistic dark fantasy setting, very likable characters, massive world to explore, great combat system, steady abilities progression, fair leveling system, amazing graphics, great soundtrack and voice acting, as well as high replay value what bolsters this game as to be a great and complete game. Only few minor complaints here and there, but I personally recommend this game to any RPG fans who like dark fantasy games like Dark Souls games or Bloodborne games. As an RPG fan, this game deserves a personal perfect score to me, but this game still nets 9.5 score from me objectively. CD Projekt Red did a great job with this game, like From Software did with Bloodborne.
Final Score: 9.5/10
Pros and Cons
- Great storytelling.
- Intriguing dark fantasy setting.
- Many likable characters.
- Easy to explore areas.
- Complete and great combat system.
- Varied objectives in main Quests.
- Steady story progression.
- Good abilities progression and utilisation.
- Lots of side activities to be done.
- Amazing graphics.
- Excellent soundtrack.
- Great English voice acting.
- High replay value.
- Lots of free DLC.
- Bugs and glitches.
- Small text sizes on subtitles and item descriptions in Inventory submenu.
- Massive file size updates.
- Enemies could use more variety.
- Minigames could be fleshed out more.