The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The Witcher 3 is one of the most anticipated game releases of 2015. Available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC, it has a huge open world to explore along with a great combat system and more enemies than you can shake a stick at.
It starts, as many games do, with a tutorial that introduces players to the mechanics of the game and the combat system. Despite being a bit slow to start, with conversations that you want to skip to get into the action, the tutorial gave us a taste of what was to come – and we liked it. It also introduced us to the main characters in Witcher 3: Geralt, Yennifer and Ciri, which is great for those of you (like us) who didn’t play Witcher 1 and 2 because there are more characters in Witcher 3 than you’ll be able to remember.
One fantastic aspect of The Witcher 3 is the cause-and-effect style system it uses. You’re constantly interacting with people and the choices you make in these conversations can have adverse effects not only for the person you’re speaking to, but whole communities at times.
It can also effect how people act towards you, both positively and negatively. For example, early on in the game you have the choice of whether or not to accept coin from a merchant that you’d just saved. We chose to reject the money from the (poor) merchant and he, in return, gave us information about the location we were looking for and even offered a huge discount on any items in his store. It pays to be nice sometimes guys!
We were surprised about the variety of side quests available. Wherever you go, you’ll be greeted with secondary tasks that range from bare knuckle fighting to slaying a ghost that has been tainting the village well. Though most of these can be found via notice boards in towns and villages, some only pop up when you’re near them, while others depend on your actions in conversation.
However it’s not only the variety of side quests that surprised us, it’s about the quality of the side quest. They could easily pass for main story quests – in fact, at times we thought we were undertaking a main story task when it was in fact a side quest. Though farming berries is a (rather tedious) part of a handful of side quests, they’re much more than that.
Side quests usually produce unimpressive rewards, but every now and again you get some fantastic goodies. For example, we helped someone save her daughter by brewing a Witcher potion and in return she gave us a book about vampires. You can read the book to add the entry to your Bestiary, accessible via the main menu, to find out more information about your opponents in battle including its weaknesses.
Though that by itself may not sound impressive, on the next story quest we came across a vampire that we had to slay. How do we kill it? What are its weaknesses? Oh wait, we can just check the Bestiary and find out. The point is that even though it may not be amazing at the time, even the smallest rewards can come in handy and give you the upper hand at vital moments throughout the game.
Open world environment
The Witcher 3 is open world, and it’s huge – we’ve yet to explore the map in its entirety after over 40 hours of gameplay. It’s not all similar either, there’s a huge variety of environments and each region has its own unique characteristics, be it the war-torn region of Vizima or the vast city of Velen.
The sheer scale of the open world combined with side quests mean that exploring in The Witcher 3 is extremely fun. It’ll almost always produce a unique experience filled with everything from taking down a griffin to sword fighting with a group of outlaws. Combat aside, there are many locations to explore and scavenge, some that even require a boat to access.
Exploration is only improved by the dynamic time and weather. It’s interesting how a slight change in weather or time can greatly change the look of a particular environment. One island, for example, is ominous at night, with ghouls and drowners roaming around a half-dead forest surrounding a dilapidated tower. However, once morning comes and you see the rays of sunshine through the trees, the scene changes and suddenly the on-edge feeling we had disappears.
Sunrises and sunsets are particularly gorgeous and the rain looks and sounds realistic. Though it may not have the level of detail as, say, DriveClub, it’s more than enough and adds to the level of realism that you feel when playing a role-playing game such as this.
We reviewed The Witcher 3 on a gaming PC with an nVidia Geforce GTX 960 GPU and were able to run it at full 1080p in ‘Ultra’ level graphics. Also, by setting the framerate to ‘unlimited’, we got beautiful results averaging around the 80- to 90fps mark. These two factors produced gameplay that was stunning.
We expected the framerate to drop when in a crowded area, such as in the city of Velen, but for the most part this wasn’t the case. There’s just one single place (that we know of) that reduced the frame rate slightly, and that’s at Crow’s