I like role-playing games, I like feeling immersed and I like getting lost in worlds that other people create. I was excited to try Witcher 3 because it seemed to have the things I wanted in a fantasy game. I’ve been playing it for about three weeks now and I’m far from being done but I think I have a pretty good picture of what the game has to offer and I’m liking it, it’s not without its annoying flaws but it’s still a lot of fun.
Like I said earlier, I love exploring the worlds that game designers create. Especially worlds that have established lore with a certain amount of depth. I like worlds that I explore to have a bit of a variety in scenery. It gets tiring to see one type of landscape in a game that I’m going to be spending 50+ hours in. So far I’ve put in at least 30 or so hours into the Witcher and the majority of the landscape are forests and open plains. The area’s that aren’t those two things are few and far between. I understand the fact that the Witcher has an established lore based on Slavic mythology so the game designers can’t create strange fantasy worlds like Bethesda does with its Elder Scrolls series. What helps keep the environments less bland in the Witcher 3 is the fact that they’re vibrant and the landscape feels alive. You’ll find animals, people and monsters wandering around. The trees also sway in the wind that you can hear howling when the weather becomes stormy or blowing gently when the weather is calm.
What’s sad is the amount of bugs I’ve encountered. They’re not game-breaking bugs that ruin your save or anything like that but little things that add up to become a major annoyance. In one instance I was talking with a herbalist who was telling me about a girl she was trying to help who was badly wounded in a monster attack. I (being the good Witcher that I am) offered to try and help her. As I turned to face the bed the girl was supposedly lying in, I found it empty. Puzzled, I looked around thinking there was a second bed, but found none. Suddenly the door to the herbalists home opens and the girl casually strolls to the bed, lies down and continues to writhe in pain. In another instance I was fighting monsters in the middle of nowhere and realized that I needed to sell some equipment to free up some space so I could continue hunting for treasure. I opened up my map and found the nearest town. When I got to the town I noticed something strange. I couldn’t speak to anyone. Not the merchant, not the innkeeper and not the blacksmith. It was in the evening so I assumed that it was past their work hours and so I meditated until morning. That didn’t help one bit. I just couldn’t speak to anyone. To make matters worse, when I went back to check on the blacksmith, he wasn’t at his forge where he was supposed to be. I rotated the camera around so I was facing away from it and I suddenly heard the familiar “clunk, clunk, clunk” sound of the blacksmith working, I rotated the camera around again and by some miracle he appeared at his forge. Having these two bugs overlap like that was frustrating and I had to quit my game and reload my save file which solved this particular problem. This next bugs that I came across made an impact on a small quest. While I was competing in the last of the horse races, my opponent magically disappeared into thin air when the countdown to race got to zero. This made the “race” easier, but it was incredibly frustrating to see this happen. But one of the most annoying bugs I’ve come across in the game is a bug that doesn’t allow you to start a certain side-quest. Thankfully it doesn’t seem like this particular side-quest is important, but the fact that I can’t start it just sucks. I’ve encountered plenty of other bugs playing Witcher 3, but they’re the typical bugs that you usually encounter in so many of these open world games: floating bodies, enemies stuck in walls, enemies falling through the floor and enemy loot disappearing, I’ve even had a treasure chest disappear and reappear after re-loading the game and finally, amusingly enough, it rains in-doors in some areas.
With that out of the way, I’d like to discuss some of the Witcher 3’s finer points. There are three things that I think games like the Witcher need to get right. Quest variety, world building/NPC’s and lastly combat. It doesn’t matter if a game has interesting quests if the world is boring and uninteresting to explore (looking at you Fallout New Vegas). To truly be a great game, not only do the quests and the games world need to be interesting and fun, but you need to have a good combat system to tie the game together (This is where Skyrim did poorly). This is where the Witcher 3 shines. Most of the quests are interesting and even though you’ll still encounter a fetch-quest here and there, they’re uncommon. Besides the main quest, you have side-quests, Witcher contracts and treasure hunts. And besides those quest types you’ll also find questions marks scattered across the world map for you to discover. Exploring these question marks tend to get repetitive because there isn’t a great variety of things hidden behind them. You’ll come across hidden treasure, abandoned towns, a monster nest or a bandit camp. Going after this question marks can be fun for a few hours but not for an entire game. One of the highlights of the game are the side-quests. The stories that you uncover through them are quite entertaining and interesting, the Bloody Baron constantly gets mentioned and rightly so. That particular side-quest is unpredictable and mysterious. The choices you make playing through that side quest matter, effecting the quest in one way or another at some point.
The environments you’ll be exploring in the game are massive. The first area the game introduces you too which is kind of “tutorial” area, is huge and filled with enough content to introduce you to all the various aspects of the game without getting boring. The area you go to after that is at least four times larger. The developers have done an amazing job at making the environments feel alive. There are a lot of games that have great looking environments. Having wildlife in open-world games is a norm now, but it’s the little details that make the environments come to life. There’s one aspect, an important one that I mentioned earlier that the Witcher 3 does differently than other games and that helps quite a bit and that’s the wind. You’ll be wandering through the environment, seeing the trees gently blowing in the wind, you’ll hear the breeze, it can actually be quite relaxing. Another aspect that helps make this world feel alive is the change you experience as the game goes on. Part of the games storyline involves a war between two empires and you’ll see the effect of war on the land. You’ll see a bridge being patrolled by a set of soldiers and you might come across that same bridge later in the game and find those same soldiers butchered and a camp nearby belonging to the soldiers of the opposing nation. This event wasn’t triggered by some quest or anything, it’s just war.
The combat in the game is engaging and not very button mashy. You can successfully button mash against weak enemies, but most of the time you’ll have to get used to dodging, attacking and effectively using your spells to cast magic. Combat can get annoying at times due to the fact that there isn’t a easy and quick way of changing spells on the go while you’re in the middle of a battle. There is one method where you can change your spells while holding the block button, but it doesn’t work well when you have six spells to flip through, especially when you’re in the middle of combat. Some monster can’t be beaten through brute force, they require you to combine your spells and your physical attacks together. For instance to defeat a wraith, you need to cast a magical trap, lure it in and then you can cause some damage. If you attempt to fight a wraith without casting the trap you’ll either end up dying or end up using too many potions. When you fight a group of humans, you won’t be fighting them one at a time (like Assassins Creed), you’ll have two or three enemies charging at you. Some enemies, like spear wielding solders, can’t be beaten by attacking them head-on, you’ll need to dodge and time your attacks. This is what makes combat interesting, each enemy requires a different style of combat.
The Witcher 3 is a great game, plagued with annoying little bugs. I definitely recommend it, as the pros outweigh the cons. The game is really long if you try to complete each side-quest, Witcher contract and treasure hunt and it’s decently long if you attempt to stick to the main quest (about 50 hours). I wouldn’t look any further if you’re looking for a new adventure to play.