REVIEW / The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PS4)

 

The life of a witcher is far from what anyone would consider to be glamorous.  However, in a world that is filled with beasties of all kinds, a professional is needed to keep the populace safe and Geralt of Rivia will be there to use his special talents to do away with any bloodthirsty creatures proving to be a menace.  For a price, that is.  From developers CD Projekt Red comes the eagerly awaited The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.  From traveling on horseback across wide expanses to navigating the narrow streets of towns and cities, this new entry in The Witcher series will be Geralt’s biggest adventure yet and possibly his last.  So, mix up a batch of potions and oils, grab some weapons and armor and head out into a world filled with mayhem, monsters and magic because peasants need saving and you need the coin.

 

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Your horse will be invaluable to you as you can upgrade its equipment so that it doesn’t get too spooked by enemies or to help carry more of the spoils that you will find on your adventure.

 

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is an open-world action RPG that is just begging to be explored.  Being that the world is so huge, you can’t be expected to traverse this great land solely on foot so you can call on your trusty steed whenever you need to cross a good distance in a short amount of time.  There will also be times when you will need to go places that your horse won’t be able to take you, such as underwater shipwrecks, craggy sunken caves and hidden dark crypts.  In addition, you will get the chance to pilot seafaring vessels through violent storms, making your way past hostile sea monsters and avoiding jagged rocks along dangerous shores that could mean your demise if you aren’t careful.  You can pretty much go wherever you want, whenever you want, so how you play the game is totally up to you.

 

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The world of The Witcher 3 is enormous so investigating every square inch will take some time. Riding on horseback from one point to another will take you 15 to 20 minutes.

 

The world of The Witcher 3 is vast, as are it’s mysteries and treasures, so you need to be certain that you are ready for anything.  One way to accomplish that is to make sure that your weapons and armor are up to snuff before venturing out into the world.  Geralt – and witchers in general – carry two swords to assist them in fighting monsters as well as human adversaries.  The steel sword is for human and humanoid-type creatures.  The silver sword is for use against monsters, ghostly apparitions and enchanted beings that the normal steel sword would have no effect against.  Another way is by learning how to attack, when to attack and the methods needed to avoid taking damage such as blocking and parrying.  Keeping your equipment in top working condition is also an important aspect of being a witcher, so learning how to make repairs yourself as well as knowing where to enlist the help of a good blacksmith and armorer is imperative.

 

You can access everything from the menu screen from swapping armor and equipment to crafting potions and reading up on the monsters that you will encounter.

 

In addition to the many hand held weapons that are at your disposal, you will also come across recipes on your journey for creating powerful potions and oils to help you in your fights.  Potions can be crafted that can restore your vitality as well as to protect you from certain types of magic, strike with added force or being able to see better in dark areas.  Potent blade oils can be crafted and applied to the blade of your sword so that you do extra damage to the many creatures that you will come across.  Bombs are another tool that you will need to depend on to weaken enemies for followup attacks as well as to destroy the lairs and nests of creatures that make their homes in the countrysides.  Getting a handle on how to craft, when to craft and how to use the above equipment to your advantage will go a long way towards your success as a witcher.

 

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The visuals in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt are some of the best that the series has to offer to date.  The world of The Witcher 3 has a photo-realistic quality to it that is surprisingly stunning and adds a depth to the world that just couldn’t have been realized a console-generation or so ago.  The scars on Geralt’s face and body are strikingly lifelike and tell a story about his life as a witcher.  Leather straps that hold the sheath’s of his swords look well worn and fitted to his physique.  When you get out into the world where trees and plant life sway in the breeze and storm clouds get dark in the horizon and threaten rain, the amazing visual fidelity immediately hooks you and helps to bring this fantastical world to life on screen.

 

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The skills menu is where you can upgrade Geralt’s abilities. You earn ability points mainly from completing missions and use those points to buy abilities which you can then place into the ability tree.

 

The sound effects and soundtrack of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt are some of the best that I have heard this year, and with the great games that we have seen so far, that is saying a lot.  The deafening screech of an angry griffin pierces the eardrum while the growls of hungry wolves warn you of their distance and direction.  The music, as in many games in this genre, plays an important role in giving the player cues as to when the proverbial “$#!T” is about to hit the fan.  It also helps to set the mood when you are dealing with shopkeepers, making deals with the populace to get rid of monsters or just wondering around the world trying to discover a hidden bandit camp or creatures nest.  The audio assets are superb and do a great job of setting the stage for a perilous adventure that never gets old and will keep you engaged throughout the entire time spent playing the game.

 

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There is a lot of information on the HUD but you can adjust those items that you don’t use and keep what you do.

 

Role Playing Games are a staple of my gaming collection so I have a good idea of what in-game features are needed, such as a deep crafting system, upgradeable weapons and armor and a kick-a$$ story, for me to fully enjoy my time playing it.  The Withcher 3: Wild Hunt has all of those features in spades.  I have to admit that Geralt is such a cliched character (low, gravelly speaking voice, plenty of scars and a biting wit) but it fits so well that I don’t mind it at all.  Furthermore, the world is so vast (CDPR has stated that the game could take you 200+ hours to complete everything) that you never know what you will stumble into outside of the main story missions.  The only issue that I really had with the game are the swimming controls; they work fine in wide open spaces but when you get into the more tight, narrow areas, the controls get a little wonky.

 

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The number of varying creatures and monsters is astounding.

 

Overall, I have to say that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is the best addition to this series and was well worth the wait.  The engaging and interesting characters, the deep combat and crafting systems as well as the awesome character and monster designs all come together to create an RPG masterpiece.  Games of this caliber seem to be few and far between these days so loading the game and giving it a go was a breath of fresh air.  In a gaming landscape that has recently been filled with half-finished, bug riddled games, The Witcher 3 delivers on it’s promises and offers gamers an experience that the industry is greatly needing at this time.  To pass on this game would be doing your console a great disservice as well as depriving yourself of an excellent time in a world chock full of adventure.

 

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