I just finished playing The Witcher 3 (and it’s DLCs) and what an experience it was. Welcome to another writeup about a video game. This time, we will be taking a look at possibly the most well-made game I’ve ever played.
What happened in 2015 and why was it the year of beautiful video games? First, Yakuza 0 (which I have praised for more than it’s needed), then Mad Max (which I made an entire post for), and now, we have The Witcher 3. 2015 was simply an amazing year. Far better than the one we are currently in, imo.
Anyway, I praised Mad Max for having graphics and gameplay that stood the test of time, but I have to say that The Witcher 3 is on another level completely. When I first opened up the game, I was shocked at how gorgeous it looked. I can’t believe that this game’s visuals are already considered outdated because of how beautiful everything was. The game is a treat for the eyes. There is so much to see and even in different times of the day, there is something for your eyes to look forward to. Don’t even get me started on the beauty of Touissant. It’s really something I recommend you experience for yourself.
Aside from the graphics, the scope of this game is simply incredible. This game is big.
Really, really big.
Big map, big story, big details, big everything.
And so, let’s get into the things that I found noteworthy.
The combat system of The Witcher 3 is pretty new to as it’s different from the previous games I’ve played. It has light and heavy attacks but button-mashing is not the most effective process and will easily get you killed. Like the Batman: Arkham games, there’s a sense of flow and timing to the movements that you have to learn in order for you to be more deadly against your enemies. Your foes have different attack patterns so you’ll never get bored of the combat, and once you get into the feel of it, it gets pretty rewarding.
You’ll also be equipped with basic magic called “signs” which are a huge help in fighting stronger opponents. Geralt also has alchemy in his disposal which consists of drinking potions, smearing oil on his weapons, or crafting bombs for long range damage. It’s a bit overwhelming at first but when you get the hang of it, you will have endless possibilities to dispose of your enemies.
Another noteworthy gameplay mechanic is the Witcher Sense, which Geralt uses a lot in the game. It’s similar to the “detective vision” in the Batman: Arkham games and the “eagle vision” in the Assassin’s Creed games, but I think this is the best execution yet. I felt more like Batman while playing as Geralt than I did while playing the Arkham games. The writing in this game is very strong and some quests have you relying on the Witcher Sense a lot to solve problems. It doesn’t overstay it’s welcome and even brings more immersion to the gameplay. The way Geralt narrates his discoveries and observations is really cool and makes me feel good to be playing as an intelligent character.
In addition to these, Geralt has the whole Continent to explore. And the developers really put a lot of thought into this world. You might come upon a location before it is intended to be visited, or finish a quest before it is given, but even so, the dialogue of the characters are seamlessly changed so there’s no blatantly obvious time paradox. Of course, it’s not perfect every time, but the bugs are few and forgettable.
Another small detail I loved is that most of the NPCs go with you on your own pace. No more “escort missions” where you have to keep waiting for the slow-walking NPC to get to the objective. In this game, if you run, the NPCs run. If you walk, they walk. This is so simple yet so mind-blowingly awesome that I laughed out loud when I first experienced it. Other game makers should take note.
The Witcher 3 is a joy to play. I thought that 150 hours of gameplay would chafe on me, but since the game is so well put together, I never got tired of completing missions as Geralt. The things to do in this game are basically: find Ciri, kill monsters, find loot, get paid. But the stories and approaches to them are so good and are a lot of fun to do.
Most of the time, Geralt will be in combat mode. A Witcher’s life is dangerous and that is why they carry two swords at all times. A steel one for humans and beasts, and a silver one for monsters and magical creatures. Monster-hunting will be the bulk of your gameplay if you plan to finish as much of the quests and contracts as possible. It can get overwhelming at times, especially if you happen to encounter an enemy that is a few levels higher than you, but you can always escape and return when you are ready.
A Witcher relies on his weapons and armor so another huge chunk of activities are for treasure-hunting. This can come in many ways, from reading a letter off a dead man, or by reading about rumors on a sign-board. These treasure hunts will give you a lot of cool swag like unique swords and armor. It’s always best to have your gear as strong as your level, so it’s good to do these once in a while. It’s also very possible to stumble into treasure by accident while you’re just exploring the world. The possibilities are vast.
Aside from these, there are also horse-races, and Gwent. We can’t just discuss The Witcher 3 and not talk about Gwent. Gwent is a card mini-game that most people enjoy more than the actual game. The game is simple, but I won’t be discussing it here so just watch this video for a quick guide. I never got into the Gwent craze so I can’t say much about it, but it’s a tiny addition to the game that won’t really impact the main story, but it will increase your in-game time should you be enchanted by the mini-games mechanics. Also, there is a standalone Gwent game that the developers made if you want to focus on that.
There’s a lot to do in The Witcher 3 and my long hours spent in the game are a testament to that.
I’ve long been waiting for a game to awe me with its world like Skyrim did almost a decade back, and The Witcher’s world was just it.
Jumping into the Witcher 3 blind can be a bit confusing, but you have to understand that Geralt is a character that is already well established even before you have control over his actions. You are not some nobody prisoner who is actually destined for greatness (ehem Oblivion and Skyrim), you are already an experienced Witcher who is quite popular among the masses. So as someone new to this franchise, you might get confused when another character drops by and Geralt is already familiar with them. But don’t worry because there are character profiles in the pause menu and you might even enjoy reading through these. I know I did.
No need to worry though, as this game can stand on its own and it still has its fair share of “original characters,” It’s just that the main characters are mostly the ones that Geralt has already dealt with in the past.
Everything is made with a lot of thought. The cities are bustling with people and although the NPC dialog gets very repetitive, you can still spend a huge chunk of your time just listening to the conversations of random people. I’ve been to Novigrad, Velen, and Skellige which are the locations of the main quest, and the settings in those places are so distinct from each other and you can really see the charm that each place has. And once you get to Touissant, which is where the Blood & Wine DLC takes place, it has another feel to it entirely. Even the NPCs are distinct from each location. The errant Knights in Touissant treat you differently from the noblemen of Novigrad. It’s simply a joy to play and be a part of the world.
The switchbacks of the mountainous Skellige are a treat for a hiker like me and you can see that the houses and settlements are made to fit the context of the places they’re in. Likewise, the farm houses of Velen and the slums of Novigrad have their own interesting details if you look closely. The immersion is top notch and you can see that the developers really put a lot of thought into making the world as realistic to the setting as possible.
Now, let’s talk about the monsters in the game. There are so many and I found myself spending a lot of time in the Bestiary just reading about the information on each monster that I’ve encountered. I’m a sucker for flavor text and here, you actually need to read about the enemies you’ll be facing because there are clues on how to defeat them in an easier way. The monsters have different weaknesses and in the Witchers’ world, knowledge really is power.
The variety of monsters in the game is wide. You get the usual vampires, trolls, and ogres. But you also have some that are unique to the Polish world that this game is inspired by. So you’ll also get some monsters that you might have never heard of. You will also get some gag monsters like a bear wearing a red croptop and even a parody of Rapunzel.
Aside from the normal monsters you encounter in the wild, there are enemies that are tied to quests and Witcher’s Contracts that you have to face. These do not feel out of place and are actually vital to the core duty of a Witcher. Whether you play your Geralt as someone who slays monsters for the money or out of the goodness of his heart is up to you.
The Witcher 3 isn’t a perfect game even if I really enjoyed it. There are some things that I felt could be improved. Here are a few of my complaints:
Roach mechanics. I love Roach, but just controlling her is a mess. She never seems to go the way I want her to and she randomly stops galloping if there’s a tiny bump on the road. I don’t know if it’s just my game that’s buggy as hell, but when I whistle for her, she always spawns in the most unreachable places. If only places weren’t so far away, I would have just let Geralt run every single time.
Swimming mechanics. Just like controlling Roach, you must have a lot of patience to control Geralt underwater. He never seems to go the way you want him to but this time, there’s an added risk of drowning. Good luck reaching that chest that’s under a sunken boat and only accessible via a small hole. Want Geralt to swim backward just a little bit? Nope, here’s an underwater somersault followed by a deep dive to nowhere!
Bugs. It can’t be avoided that such a big game with so many codes and mechanics happening simultaneously would have it’s share of bugs. There aren’t really a lot of bugs and nothing game-breaking in my playthrough but some of them can get pretty annoying like quests not finishing because you got the item before it was even prompted.
Fall damage. I’ll let this video do the talking. Lord knows how many times I’ve died from falling from a height that I thought was pretty safe for a Witcher.
Some quests can get so tedious like the main quest regarding a werewolf (you’ll know this quest when you get there), and also some dialog choices don’t go the way you think they would. This is a big deal because apparently dialog choices impact the ending that you’re going to get in the end game. I never realized it, but after some online reading, I realized that I got the worst ending possible. Huh, how about that. There’s a new game plus but since it starts you back at the beginning, I’m not too excited to replay through another 100 hours just to get a different ending. But I’ve heard of people who love this game enough to do multiple runs.
And finally, my biggest complaint of all is the level-gating. I’m not new to this since I’ve been sent to the moon in Skyrim by a giant who was levels ahead of my character. But are you really telling me that a wild boar can wreck the Butcher of Blaviken who just finished easily dealing with an ancient nature spirit that can summon wolves and sentient branches? And why would they need Witchers in this world when the city guards can fuck up Geralt so easily just for stealing a broken rake?
But seriously, the level-gating is negatively impacting the game because it ruins it’s strongest selling point: the immersion. I know character levels are important to keep the player challenged, but when it’s simply to just keep the player out until they reach a certain level, it detracts from the appeal of the “open world.” The Witcher 3 especially drops the ball on this one because Geralt doesn’t even have stats on his own. The only thing I see that the levels determine is the armor and weapons he can equip. So you can technically be the best player ever with lightning reflexes, but if you’re underleveled, you’ll just be dealing 1 dmg to a level 10 Wild Dog because your Geralt is just at level 3.
Dynamic leveling applied to the enemies would be a good solution, but I can understand why the developers made it this way. Without it, the game would be so much shorter. You really can’t progress through the main story without doing sub-quests because you’ll never reach the required level by just doing the main missions. It gives players the requirement to explore the world more and enjoy what it has to offer. But I believe that incentivizing is better than requiring when it comes to the open world genre.
The Witcher 3 is one of the most well-made games I’ve ever seen. I love games that give you so much in terms of story and world-building. Just like in Mad Max, you’re not playing a random, faceless character, but established personalities in their respective worlds. However, it was never jarring to step into their shoes because of the amazing work by the game makers. I’m a sucker for lore, and the world of The Witcher definitely has that and so much more.
This is a game that will surely be remembered as one of the most important games in gaming history. It is a must play even for the new gamers in their next-generation consoles. If you want a definitive experience for video games and see what the medium has to offer, then this game is a requirement. There’s a reason this game won so many Game of The Year awards. I might have to take a look into the previous games in the series if I’m hungry for more Geralt action, but for now, I’ll have to check out the Netflix series or the books now that I’m more familiar with the franchise.
So that’s it for my take on The Witcher 3. I’m hoping I get to play more games just like this in the future. Thanks for reading, everyone.