The Witcher 3 turns five this year and we figured it was time to re-review the game again to see how it holds up. Okay, if we’re honest, we just wanted an excuse to play the Witcher again because Netflix’ TV show Igni’d that passion in us again. For this review, Mike, Yanni and Dustin (re-)played the game, rated it independently, with us finally combining all the scores into an average. Is it obvious that The Witcher 3 is in all our top 10 games of the decade lists?
- Amazing, detailed, emotional and personal story
- A ‘little’ minigame called Gwent
- Beautiful yet functional world design
- Impactful gameplay experience
- Awesome combat..
- … if the camera and controls are on your side
- Some quest lines can get stale or repetitive
- Difficulty spikes and drops inconsistently
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is considered to be one of the best RPG’s of all time and it’s not hard to see why. From the moment you start playing the prologue, it becomes clear just how deep this this game is. We’re talking detective gameplay, a branching story, awesome combat, a badass protagonist, amazing storytelling along with brilliant voice-acting and of course, the occasional sex scenes to add to the risque factor. Over 6.5 years after the initial release, The Witcher 3 still holds up as one of the most unique, gorgeous, and engrossing RPG’s of all time. And you know what craziest thing is? More people are playing The Witcher 3 than they did ever before! We understand why.
Who you gonna call? Geralt of Rivia
With The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Polish developer CD Projekt Red tells an amazing Game of Thrones-esque political story while making the drama of that story personal and engaging. The Continent is war-torn; the peasants are not only threatened by soldiers, but also by hunger and, of course, monsters.
While Geralt of Rivia can deal with soldiers and even has a loaf of bread to spare, his expertise lies with killing monsters for coin. And killing monsters (both of the human and non-human kind) is the central gameplay loop in the Witcher 3. Usually, an opportunity for Geralt to find out something about his own personal quest – finding a former student and kinda daughter Ciri – leads him to someone that needs something killed. What follows is a series of minor quests (with branching side quests) that have Geralt prepare himself for the fight to come.
For example, Geralt might need a certain ingredient for a specific bomb to effectively damage a creature. To acquire that ingredient he needs the help of an herbalist. Said herbalist requires Geralt to fetch a certain item first. Then with the ingredient, Geralt can craft the bomb, but he’ll still need information on the monster that is terrorizing a village. More similar quests ensue where you have to get people to talk to you. And like Geralt, the people of the varied regions won’t do much for free.
What sets The Witcher 3 apart from most other RPG’s is the narrative cohesiveness of the quests. Sure, when you select certain dialogue options in the ‘wrong’ order, a child that was weeping moments ago, may answer way too jolly for it to feel 100% realistic. Still, whenever you tackle a bigger mission, it’s always clear why you’re doing it and for who.
That’s mostly thanks to the fantastic voice acting across the board. You’re not just talking to an NPC, you’re talking to Philip Strenger, the Bloody Baron, self-proclaimed baron of Velen. A conflicted man who lost his daughter and wife, has a bad reputation and is an even worse drunk. So even though the fundamental things you’re doing in The Witcher 3 might be mildly repetitive, the outspoken and often morally ambiguous characters make every ‘killing a monster and getting closer to Ciri’-loop unique and interesting.
The devil is in the details
Talking about unique, the way in-game The Witcher 3 tackles items is absolutely amazing. A common pitfall for many RPG’s is that you’ll have 15 swords in your inventory, all with the same iitem model but with a slightly different damage modifier. The Witcher 3 not only features a metric (or whatever measuring system they use on The Continent) ass ton of models, but has different minor properties for all usable items.
For example, a set of armor (that visually looks different from all the other ones) may tweak damage from specific Signs (Witcher spells), provide you with resistance against certain elements or attacks, and has a specific armor rating. Weapons and gear feel unique because of these nuanced details.
That attention to detail and love for variety makes The Witcher 3 one of the more replayable RPG’s out there. Not only does the story often offer you a distinct (though not always obvious or clear) choice between two evils, the game also allows you to build a unique character around that. You do however always play Geralt and you can’t decide to do a ‘good’ or ‘bad play through like you could in the Fable games. You can however model your character to a unique play style.
The leveling system helps you with that. Upgrading perks and then ‘equipping’ said bonuses requires you to invest in an ability tree to really earn the fruits of your labor. Sword attacks and destructive spells can be upgraded into insanely powerful skills, but one could also go for a Geralt that just loves making potions and fooling his opponent. It all depends on how you want to play the game.
Oh, and did we mention that you could also, instead of actually playing this engrossing RPG, just play this really cool card game called Gwent? Like the meme Steam-review so beautifully describes: “It’s strange how the main game, Gwent, is hidden in some kind of weird story-driven RPG. The RPG is okay too I guess.”
It’s not all sunshine and roses in The Witcher 3 though. While the quest structure is excellent and the constant loop of discovering new information and acting on that to further the plot is entertaining, it does sometimes hit a bit of speed bump. The inevitable rift between the weight of the story and the gameplay that supersedes it can also be a bit weird sometimes. You could spend an entire gaming session preparing for a monster, only to defeat it in a couple of minutes.
The opposite happens sometimes as well. The quest-system is very innovative, with a recommended character level accompanying every major and minor quest. But if you’re punching above your weight, some fights can feel particularly unfair. An early quest sees Geralt tracking and fighting a werewolf. At a recommended level 7, my level 3 Geralt had no chance against the cursed creature. At some point, the Werewolf starts regenerating health at an insanely fast rate, making him practically immortal. A few levels later, and the giant werewolf feels more like a puppy, getting torn to shreds by my way more powerful new silver sword.
There’s also a bit of a difficult subject plaguing the game. Women have always had a weird place in fantasy. Historically, the middle ages were a time when one would be better off being a man; in The Witcher 3 that also applies. But during some quests CD Projekt Red goes out of it’s way to drive this point home. That culminates in what sometimes seems like a particularly cruel depiction of women.
Not helping is the fact that basically all strong females in this game (and fortunately for gender equality’s sake, there are lots) are sometimes needlessly sexualized. Most women aren’t wearing a bra, and regardless of their choice of undergarments (or lack thereof), you can bet a Crown and a Floren that you can tell what choice they made that morning.
All in all The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is still one of the most innovative RPG’s ever made. The story plays out like a high-budget Hollywood production with the freedom of real-life. The gameplay is smooth as butter and with the thirty bucks you’re now paying for this game, we’d say it’s a solid investment. There is more than enough here to keep you entertained for hundreds of hours!
That’s not to say that those hundreds of hours are all unbridled fun. You might run into the occasional story telling dud, some weird difficulty spikes or drops and – for the love of the Gods – don’t play this game near your parents or jealous spouse; all the boobs, butts, and sex might make you have to explain a thing or two.
Now, if you’ll excuse us, we have some more monsters to slay, some gear to enhance, some ladies to seduce, a Roach to get off a damned roof, some potions and oils to brew, some Gwent to play…. Jeez, there’s so much stuff here, we might have to re-re-review this game in five years again.