In The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, Geralt of Rivia, a “witcher” — a specially trained mutant monster hunter — is searching for his lost protege. The main protagonist can make or break a game, so I was happy to find him to be a very fascinating, likable (and totally badass) character, and a lot of fun to play as. There is a small degree of customization available; players can stick with Geralt’s traditional look, or choose from a small selection of different hair styles and facial hair types. One novel touch is that his facial hair can be shaved off, and will actively grow back over time.
I knew very little about the series going in, having never played the first or second games, but prior knowledge is not necessary to just jump in and enjoy. Tonnes of in-game information, both written and verbal, on the characters and background stories make it easy to catch up with the history and lore of this rich fantasy world.
The Witcher III features great dialogue, story, and absolutely brilliant character and monster designs, on a scale that ranges all the way from gorgeous to grotesque. Beautiful, lush landscapes combined with an orchestral soundtrack create a very enjoyable and absorbing atmosphere. The night / day cycle is done very well, notably the use of light and shadows, as well as the weather system, which creates environmental effects such as wind and rain — all adding to the immersive quality of the game.
One criticism the game received after its release last year was that the main plot is too long, and the world too large. It has become somewhat of a trend for games to push for more and more content, more expansive environments, and as many hours of potential gameplay as possible. However, though there is a seemingly endless wealth of things to do, I personally didn’t feel overwhelmed or pressured to accomplish everything possible; I found the pacing between the main story and downtime for side quests to be quite comfortable. (Although I do understand how these aspects could be frustrating for completionists.)
Though some of the side missions can eventually start to seem a tad repetitive, one thing that definitely stood out to me about a lot of the secondary quests was just how well-crafted many of the characters and their stories are. In many RPGs, side quests can quickly start to feel like a chore, but while playing The Witcher III I often found myself happily distracted from the main storyline by these interesting offshoots, and actually invested in some of these very minor characters as well.
The game also includes weapon and armour crafting (though this feature is somewhat limited), as well as an alchemy and crafting feature through which ingredients and components for usable items, potions, and explosives can be created.
The combat system can be a bit clunky at times, but becomes more comfortable the more you play. Fast travel and travel by horse are both available, with combat also being possible while on horseback. There’s even a card mini game you can play called “Gwent.” Because as multiple games have taught us, no matter how urgent the situation, you always have time for a round of cards.
The game’s developer, CD Projekt RED, has proven that they can compete in the same league as Bethesda and FromSoftware, and my hopes are high that their next project will be of the same (or higher) calibre as The Witcher III. Overall, this is one of the best fantasy-based RPGs I’ve played in a long time, and whether you’re a huge fan of the genre or not, I would still definitely recommend checking it out and judging for yourself!