Not often does one come across games in which we can go in pretty much any direction in the game world and can expect to find new things to explore and mysteries to solve. The map, which I’m guessing to be around 200 sq.km large, is packed richly with tons of side-quests and lore. I spent about a hundred hours in the game, but I was still nowhere close to traversing the entirety of the game world.
Witcher 3 begins from the aftermath of Witcher 2, its prequel, with the protagonist Geralt the witcher searching for Princess Cirilla at the behest of Emhyr van Emreis, the emperor of Nilfgaard and Cirilla’s father. The need for speed is essential for Geralt here, as the dreaded Wild Hunt is after Ciri. He joins forces with his love Yennefer and Triss Merigold, and depending on the choices one has made in W2, we also get either Iorveth or Vernon Roche in the game, too. The game starts off in the area called White Orchard, which also doubles up as the tutorial area. The plot progression is non-linear, and Witcher veterans would have it no other way, of course. The story shows us many aspects of life like tragedy, love, loss, death…it doesn’t shy away from serious issues like racial segregation, too. But I must say, the main story was not as engaging as that of W2, which had solid watertight storytelling. The plot itself isn’t bad, but the issue is with all the fetch-quests you’re forced to undertake. Maybe at least a third of the main quests make Geralt run from A to B, deliver something to X and other such mundane things.In fact, in a fourth-wall-breaking moment, Geralt himself says he is a witcher, not a delivery man. Some missions make us play detective, using Witcher senses (a la Batman’s X-ray vision from Arkham games), but they get dull real fast, too. But for those who haven’t played the previous Witcher games, this game is way more accessible than its prequel, which is definitely in its favour.
Wow, I forgot to even say what ” witcher ” means. For the uninitiated, witchers are genetically modified swordsmen who hunt monsters for coin. The genetic modification is an extremely painful one, and the chances of success are usually around two in ten at the outside. But they are neither witches/wizards, nor are they witch-hunters. A bit strange, I must agree. Lets move on.
To the story which moves at a somewhat plodding place, but it really shines when we complete important sub-objectives in our quest for Ciri. Whenever an important discovery pertaining to Ciri’s whereabouts is made, we get to delve into Ciri’s own memories, and they are clearly the highlight of the main quest. Here, we get to play as Ciri, who has a radically different skillset from Geralt. Her missions are short and linear, but they come across as a breath of fresh air. Fighting as Ciri is one of the most liberating experiences in the game, considering we play as Geralt all the time, with whom playing tactically is the way to go. Not so with Ciri. We can pretty much go all-out crazy on the enemy, switching targets on the fly with aplomb. Kind of like activating godmode.
The X-factor of the game
The main story may be a little on the slow side, but that isn’t the case with side-quests. They are simply amazing. Many side-quests are moral dilemmas, with their outcomes depending on the choices you make, and actions you take. The consequences of morality have never been delved into as deeply as this before. Do you conceal a secret and lie to the village-head about your contract, or do you report the culprit for more coin? Do you kill a villager who you know has betrayed a woman, or do you let him off because you find his reasons for doing so to be convincing? Some of the side-quests are funny, too. For example, one early side-quest has you searching for an old lady’s pan [“Found my pan, have ye?”].
Combat is W3 is brutal and responsive. The mechanics have been further refined from that of W2, which itself was pretty solid. Chopping off heads and limbs of your enemies and monsters using your own combos is really enthralling. Mixing them up with the witcher spells called “signs” is a key part to winning your fights. Signs are basic spells involving basic levels of magic, and you have ignite, stun, root, mind-control and shield as your signs. But these are only tools you use to gain advantage in battles, as they themselves do not cause much damage. It is still your steel(for humans)and silver(for monsters) swords which serve as your most trusted companions throughout the game, apart from your faithful steed, Roach. The signs, though, can also be used in character interactions to influence opposing parties to do your bidding, through sheer intimidation to crafty mind-control. Also, the combat gear is upgradeable, and better gear schematics can be found in different locations through careful exploration of the surroundings. Leveling up is pretty neat, too. You never feel too overpowered when playing Geralt, and the skill points obtained from leveling up will pretty much determine your play style, as you never get too many of them.
Exploring relationships between the main characters is an integral part of the game, and will surely get you invested emotionally in each of the characters. No one is a purely good, or a purely evil person. Geralt himself is a man working for coin, and doesn’t really care about ‘good’ and ‘evil’, so long as he gets paid. Credit to the game developers CDProjektRed for staying true to the novels and capturing the essence of the characters and their relationships among themselves. The one between Geralt, Triss and Yennefer is an especially complex one, and develops through our own interactions as Geralt with either of them. This game, thankfully, doesn’t shy away from tragedy, and some of the best moments of W3 will fill you with sadness. For example, the ballad by Priscilla, a bard, capturing the love story of Geralt and Yennefer will play on your heartstrings, and stay with you for some time.
The only thing the felt underwhelming to me was the potion-making part, and I felt this kind of went downwards from W2. Potions once made, will stay with you, and get replenished after every bout of meditation, unlike W2(played the game on Normal difficulty, hopefully this wasn’t the case on higher difficulties).
Overall, I must say the game has been an unparalleled experience for me, with its gorgeous open-world environments, brutal combat and whatnot.The game also has high replayability value as the whole direction of the game changes with the decisions we make.
RATING : 9.5/10
– gorgeous open-world environments
– character development and interactions
– fluid, responsive combat
– amazing side-quests
– main story picks up somewhat slowly
– potion-making is a bit underwhelming