Geralt of Rivia finally returns, and in style.
To give it the time necessary to see everything, we're covering this one with a rolling review.But where do you begin with a game like The Witcher 3? A review covering a game of this calibre won’t even scratch the surface of what it has to offer until you’ve sunk a lot of hours into it. Even completing the main story might not suffice; you see initial reports suggest a ‘speed run’ of the campaign would take at least 40 hours to complete.
Let’s be honest though, who is here to rush through something like this? When you start your adventure with Geralt of Rivia, it becomes abundantly clear that there is a mine of content waiting to be discovered within The Witcher 3's hidden depths.Enough content that could easily see you playing well up until the 200 hour mark, and few games can offer that amount of longevity these days.
So tackling The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is by no means an easy feat. Not only would it take a huge playthrough to ensure nothing is missed, but its repeated delays have also allowed the anticipation to build up. The question on everyone’s lips, of course, is whether or not the wait has been worth it? In order to give a fair judgement on that question, this review will be updated periodically as new lands are uncovered and if the game keeps on giving as the hours slowly tick by.
What better place to begin than at the start? The Witcher 3 sees Geralt on a quest of discovery to find his lover, his acquaintance of old and those who have sought to harm the pair of them - the eponymous Wild Hunt. It is a quest of epic proportions including a heap of missions that will directly affect it and those which have little influence on it at all. As a much feared Witcher, your tasks are not always as simple as they may appear. The people of the Northern Realms aren’t very welcoming to strangers, especially those who carry two swords and can harness the magic.
Despite your prowess and impactful nature on the population, you are nothing more than a mere whelp in the grand scheme of things. Reputation may precede Geralt but that does not give you the right to carve through those who look to oppose you, monsters and beasts in particular.
The people of the Northern Realms aren't very welcoming...
Within this world, there is no such thing as a waste of time or an unworthy investment particularly when it comes to combat. What may seem like a minor scuffle with a small fry enemy provides valuable battle experience that contributes to your levelling status. Combat is often particularly unforgiving, teaching you to be patient and parry incoming attacks until you see an opening to launch your attack.
The first few hours of your trip are best spent learning the ropes and following the main story’s path. Wandering off the beaten track can be fatal, it’s not uncommon to find yourself fleeing from one encounter and charging inadvertently into another. Thankfully there is a thorough introduction with a compendium of information to be found in the glossary should you be struggling to take down specific enemies. Magic and alchemy play an important part in The Witcher 3, with numerous concoctions and spell combinations on offer.
Accompanying you on your travels is your trusty steed, Roach, who can be called upon anytime to speed up your journey. Of course, fast travel is possible between sign posts, but fast-travelling takes out the fun of exploring the beautiful and dense world in which you travel. Roach can be put into ‘auto-pilot’ mode which sees him track along an existing path simply by holding the X button. It’s a simple mechanic, but one that makes travelling a little easier allowing you to take in the scenery around you.
Early hours within The Witcher 3 may seem overwhelming at first, with tales of the ongoing war and a punishing combat system to master. But greater promises of new lands to discover and much more adventure to be had beyond Geralt’s main quest give you plenty of incentive to brave tough encounters and see the long journeys through. Beheading a Griffin early on and hanging it from Roach as a trophy gives you an indication of what is to come as events unfold, time will tell how the rest of the game weighs up.
The more time you spend with The Witcher 3, the more you come to realise that it is far more than just another game. It becomes an extension of your own life, and it is a rare gem that balances required effort and reward perfectly. Once you dig a little deeper and start to discover more of the world and uncover its many secrets, you soon realise that a single quest can end up taking much longer than you initially thought.
A quest can be deceptively simple from the outset, yet unfold even further upon what may have seemed like its conclusion. Again, this could require you to be tactful in your approach and see you hitting the archives before you embark to ensure your survival.
In some RPGs, choosing to neglect a certain skillset or discipline might not have serious consequences, but Wild Hunt ensures that you become a master of every aspect of combat. Magic, alchemy and sword craft all combine to turn you into a beast-felling machine, and without the use of magic or alchemy in particular, your demise will be fairly rapid.
You soon realise that a single quest can end up taking much longer than you initially thought.
The story and quests progress at a tantalising pace, with spurts of rapid progression to new lands with a sudden twist or turn that will see you heading in a completely different direction. It is this that keeps The Witcher engaging and delectable at every turn, where many RPGs may fall at the wayside with quests becoming monotonous or a chore.
A whole eco-system exists within Wild Hunt, making the world believable and giving some often welcome release from trudging through bogs or trotting through forests. Should you wish to spend your hard earned coin frivolously, you can turn your hand to the famous card game Gwent, or gamble it away on horse racing or bare knuckle brawling. Until you find yourself with disposable coinage however, it is a wise idea to spend what you have sensibly on new equipment and much needed maintenance.
As the hours tick by and the story unravels at a steady but engaging pace, you begin to see that Wild Hunt could be arguably the best RPG to date. It’s a massive claim, but one that has substantial weight to it, and one that Elder Scrolls fans should take note of.
Let us know how you're progressing through this epic journey in the discussion thread.
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