REVIEW – The legendary monster hunter, Geralt of Rivia is back again in the third installment of the highly successful Polish RPG series. The Witcher 3 is not only an improvement of everything that was already excellent in the previous games, but this Eastern European game is also the quintessence what western RPG should deliver in this generation. We have also updated this article with a test of the recently released version with the nextgen update.
Geralt of Rivia, the charismatic, stoic, sarcastic mutant monster hunter who was deprived of all emotions, has become a truly iconic figure in the gaming world. At the same time, we can also talk about Poland’s real national victory: it is no coincidence that the Polish Prime Minister gave The Witcher 2 to President Barack Obama as a gift when the Xbox 360 game was released. How much of a success does it represent not only for the creative industry of the game world, but to give a video game as a gift to the President of the USA? (What would we give as the most important cultural value of our country?)
I personally first encountered the then beta version of the game in 2006 on a press trip when I was an editor at GameStar. It was an instant love at first sight: I already became a fan of the game when I tried the very first beta version, even though it still had problems, of course.
Since then, I have already played through the first two parts when they were released, and even before the release of the third part, both of them, not only to import saves as I want (especially considering the fate of the characters), but because I wanted to relive the first two parts even before The Witcher 3 was released in 2015.
Seven years have passed since then and CD Projekt Red ‘s legendary game is considered by many (including us) to be one of the best games ever made. And the development company decided to be nice to the fans and release a next-gen update, so newcomers and fans alike can rejoice and enjoy the adventure again or for the first time.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt basically remains the same, with some added quests that are part of the The Witcher series, but thanks to the graphical improvements and added features, the experience feels so different, that one forgets that the game was not originally made for this new generation. There’s never been a better time to embark on this grand adventure (even again!), and the new quest additions show that CD Projekt Red still has some great ideas for the Witcher universe. In the first part of our test, we will write about information about the new nextgen update, and in the second part (starting with the story), we will write about The Witcher 3 itself for gamers who do not know it yet.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Next Gen Update includes two different graphics modes. Quality Mode aims for the highest visual fidelity with ray tracing elements, and Performance Mode focuses on a smooth 60 FPS. You can’t get the best of both worlds by choosing both modes together, which is to be expected, so the choice depends on your preferred visuals and playstyle.
In my experience, Performance Mode captures more of the new generation consoles; results with minimal frame rate degradation compared to ray tracing aspects. Quality Mode’s ray tracing is a nice thing, but pop-ins and frame rate issues occurred more often than the other option, causing frustration during more demanding combat sequences or riding your horse fast. That said, both modes are an improvement over the original, and it’s highly recommended that you try both before deciding how you’re going to play the game.
The modding community also made its voice heard in the next-gen update, as CD Projekt Red integrated the community’s work into the game. These mods include 4k textures, models, highly detailed monsters and more. These mods are found throughout the course, but as you encounter them, they feel seamless as they perfectly match the tone of the original game while visually enhancing the game and adding a new twist to the adventure. This feature is just another example of the game’s focus on adding enough content for fans who have previously exhausted everything that was originally available.
The Witcher 3 Next Gen Upgrade includes tons of new features that greatly enhance the experience.
New camera, map and photo mode
A new 3rd person camera mode is available as an option in the Next Gen update, which allows us to zoom closer to Geralt, giving players a different perspective and a more personal approach. The remarkable thing about the new camera mode is that we can combine the original with the new function. This allows the new close-up camera angle to become active as soon as you enter a battle and switch back on when you explore to give yourself a wider field of view, making the game even more accessible.
CD Projekt Red has heard fans’ requests for Photo Mode, which is now an option in the game. Using this mode is simple as you might expect, but it allows us to enjoy the beauty of the Witcher universe by taking photos whenever we feel like it. Whether you’re in combat or just want to capture the beautiful scenery, this mode allows players to get a closer look at just how well the Next Gen Update has done visually.
The map has been revamped, adding new filters that players can apply. These new filters make the map UI cleaner and easier to navigate, making traveling much less stressful. In open-world games, too much marking can be confusing, and the fact that the developers have fixed this problem makes for a more relaxed experience. In addition to making the map more manageable, the fast travel system now focuses on minimal load times. The combination of the two makes you want to explore further and is a big help when you need to sidetrack to gather resources or find a specific NPC.
Lighter magical signs
Spelling signs has never been easier, as the game now allows you to switch between signs on the fly. Previously, you had to go deep into the sign casting wheel to select a new sign, taking players out of the experience and making combat less immersive. This is no longer a problem because, in the update, you can easily assign each spell to a button, and during combat, you have to press the button corresponding to the desired signal. It’s that simple. This makes combat seem less difficult overall and makes Geralt feel faster and stronger as a result.
Fans of the hit Netflix series will be happy with the comparisons this update brings, as it takes you to a new location along with new gear you can get that will make you feel like you’re straight out of the show. Some of the references might confuse players new to the series, but the quest itself is just a fun quest to immerse yourself in with an exciting story.
There’s nothing here that we wouldn’t expect, as the quest follows the classic Witcher 3 formula: you go in, kill a bunch of enemies, use your Witcher senses, talk to an NPC, get a reward, etc. Regardless, it’s a very complex path for the player to walk, and it seems that the developer has gone to great lengths to provide fans of The Witcher universe with an option that blurs the lines between the series and the video game, so everything is much more seems more canonical.
(From here, the review of the classic The Witcher 3 continues. As for our review at the end of this article is a review of classic The Witcher 3, and this time we have not included the technical problems that the new patch has encountered with the PC version. That’s why we didn’t do it, because it’s almost certain that CD Projekt will weed out these bugs in time, as they have done countless times before, and we’re now exceptionally ahead of the Polish development team.)
Not without my adopted daughter
While The Witcher series can be proud of many accomplishments, perhaps its best feature is still the rich stories accompanying every episode. That’s no different for The Witcher 3 either.
This time around, our cynical and century-old monster hunter is searching for Cirilla (or “Ciri” as she’s rather called) his former ward and adopted daughter, who – with her white hair and scared face – actually looks like a lot like him – only as a female representation.
Yes, the main story seems to be rather simple, but yet again there’s an enormous amount of rich storylines, fascinating or funny characters, quests and subquests squeezed into the game. During your time with Geralt of Rivia in the Northern Realms, while you are searching for Ciri, you will take part in political complots, save mages (and your past love, Triss Merigold) from the witch hunter’s pyre.
You will also meet a plethora of interesting characters, like the beautiful Yennefer of Vendenberg, the “true love” of Geralt of Rivia, according to the original books of Andrzej Sapkowski, the Bloody Baron, the witches of Crookback bog, or Dudu, the doppler (shapeshifter).
Geralt was always a connoisseur in love affairs, so there will be plenty of ladies to “romance” as well: besides the beautiful Yennefer and Triss already mentioned he will also meet Keira Metz, a hot blonde sorceress with witty character. While The Witcher 2 was a bit disappointing as far as love scenes go, there will be plenty of those in the Witcher 3.
Every quest and subquest (even minor ones) have interesting stories and characters, and all of them are presented with first class cut-scenes. Thanks to the rich story of the Witcher 3 I have never felt more involved in any RPG at such level.
Northern Realms: show me your true colors!
That tremendous attention to detail is the same regarding The Witcher 3’s graphics. The world of the Northern Realms is nothing short of gorgeous with vibrant colors, incredibly detailed environments and characters – PCs and NPCs alike.
Using the game’s graphics to its full potential (yes, that was one of the reasons I played the game on PC: with the latest patch Nvidia Hairworks now can be turned on without sacrificing much in the framerate department) The Witcher 3 is easily the best-looking game this year. It’s also almost true for the PlayStation 4 version, which is only bested perhaps by Batman: Arkham Knight. (Which was dreadful on PC.)
The superb music and sound design must be also mentioned. The audio as a whole is nothing short of excellent, with talented voice acting, outstanding soundtrack, and an extraordinary amount of background noise adding to an already superbly atmospheric creation. The themes during battles are dynamic and stimulating, with subtle vocals completing fading instrumental harmonies.
The game is not only beautiful but also, looks extremely authentic, with majestic medieval cities and small rustic hamlets. Those are also populated with an extreme amount of NPCs: rich and poor citizens, bandits and whores roam the streets of the cities, with dancers, fire breathers amusing them, peasants labor in the fields and near the hamlets.
The war is also raging in the country, with soldiers raping, killing and pillaging everywhere. If it were not enough, monsters also roam the land, so our Witcher has plenty of them to slain.
Silver for monsters, steel for humans
Fortunately, he has plenty of weapons and magic tricks to his sleeve to dispose of both monsters, and human enemies, who try to get in his way. While many gamers complained about The Witcher 2’s combat system, it is vastly improved in The Witcher 3.
The swordplay is fast and visceral: you will have to use parries, blocks, counterattacks, light strikes, and heavy blows, whether you’re holding off man or beast. Still, you can’t just sprint into combat, mash a few buttons, and expect to come out of it victorious. Those above evasive and offensive techniques in Geralt’s arsenal may sound complex, but the controls during combat are dead right. Each button has its use – with X you can leap or dodge roll, the circle being a sort of strafe, and triangle and square managing heavy and light attacks, respectively.
Geralt is also an expert swordsman, a magic-wielding warrior, and a wise alchemist. Playing on the harder difficulties, you’ll probably use every one of Geralt’s tools to vanquish the more difficult enemies, which means preparing yourself for battle and fighting tooth and nail.
Still, while it’s not as difficult as Bloodborne or the Dark Souls series, you can and probably will be penalized for making mistakes. Try a quick hit when the enemy’s winding up a powerful strike and you’ll realize that you’ve timed it all wrong when a substantial amount of your health quickly disappears. Being extremely offensive in combat is still a good tactic, as many blows will stagger your opponents or send them lurching, but it’s all about finding the right moment to strike.
As luck would have it, you have the alchemy system at your disposal, so you can prepare potions, oils, and tinctures through a relatively simple crafting menu. You make those whenever you are outside combat, and in a world that’s filled with raw ingredients like fruits, flowers, and monster guts, you’ll probably never be left wanting for components. You can find new recipes in treasure chests or purchase them from merchants, and each little bottle of goodness has its use.
“I am not a great talker.” Geralt “Like hell, you aren’t!” (Me)
Another great achievement in the game is the natural and smooth dialogue, with well-written, witty, and sometimes funny conversations flowing from one point to the next. You’ll also have plenty of opportunities to control that flow through thoughtful dialogue options that give rise to moral choices.
Geralt himself isn’t quite the morally perfect guy: he’s a professional monster hunter through and through, and this is manifested in his behaviors and rough but down-to-earth demeanor. However, you can change his attitude a bit.
Even though very few of the choices that you’re presented are exactly good or bad, you can, however, choose whether to be an emotionless brute or a relatively caring individual, at least to some degree. Geralt isn’t a custom-built character like the one in the Dragon Age games, but you still feel like you’re planted firmly in his shoes.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt sets the bar very high for open-world RPGs. Sapkowski’s original world in its video game representation is as stunning as it is challenging and thought-provoking at the same time. It’s overflowing with mature content that provokes a plethora of emotional responses from you.
The storytelling is brilliant, and the combat is smooth and refined, while on the hardest difficulty, its unforgiving nature can provide a rewarding experience when you vanquish your enemies. In a gaming industry full of so many uninspired open-world titles, The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt stands out as a gem of an RPG overflowing with creativity. Geralt’s latest adventure is a real masterpiece.
+ A cohesive, immersive, beautiful, dark fantasy world
+ Story, main and side missions are all top notch
+ Combat and RPG system both flawless
– Since the Heart of Stone DLC bugs abound
– Some small framerate issues persist
– It looks a lot better on PC
Publisher: CD Projekt
Developer: CD Projekt RED
Genre: Action role-playing
Relase date: 19 May 2015
The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt
Gameplay - 10
Graphics - 10
Story - 10
Music/audio - 10
Ambiance - 10
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt sets the bar very high for open world RPGs. Sapkowski’s original world in its video game representation is as stunning as it is challenging and thought-provoking at the same time. The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt stands out as a gem of an RPG overflowing with creativity. Geralt’s latest adventure is a real masterpiece.