The Witcher 3 is one of this year’s highly anticipated games for the next gen consoles. While I was slightly disappointed that it was delayed last fall, luckily Dragon Age Inquisition and Assassins Creed Unity (don’t judge me!) filled the gaps. I am glad that it did because I have a feeling that this game along with Batman, will fill a lot of hours this summer.
The Game: The story picks up after the 2nd game, which if you haven’t played, I would highly recommend that you give it a go but otherwise, it’s not a requirement to play this one. It revolves around a witcher (a medieval monster hunter in this setting) named Geralt who is hunting down a missing student all the while reconciling with friends after he regains his memory which was lost in the first two games. As he seeks out his ward, he hears about a mysterious and otherworldy “Wild Hunt” which is seeking them out as well.
The World: It’s easy to go into this game and make many comparisons to Skyrim and in some ways it would be right to do so and in others, not so much. Witcher 3’s open world is very vast and in the 5 hours that I played, I still only felt like I have just begun to scratch the surface. The biggest difference I have noticed between this and Skyrim is that no matter where you travel, there feels like there is some connectivity between the hamlets that you visit. When talking to some NPCs if they ask which way you’re headed and you tell them, you may get a response that gives you a feeling about how they regard where you are going. So, it’s not like you are just hitting a town just because it’s part of the quest, it feels more like neighbors know what’s going on in the world and they have to because they are at war.
As with all Witcher games, the time of day plays heavily into what happens in the game. During the day, people are out and about going about their business from soldiers training for battle, kids playing in the roads and peasants farming. However, after dark, people head inside and the monsters come out. As an aside, I really wish a lot more games that use a day / night cycle would really pay attention to this mechanic because travelling in the Witcher games tends to get dicey after dark. This has always been a big plus as the atmosphere of the game is somewhat darker in tone than the Elder Scrolls games have been and that’s why I think that for a long while afterwards there will still be some big comparisons to the two.
The biggest aspect of this game is the choices that you have an the consequences that you get with each. While I have yet to face any major decisions as of yet short of meeting the emperor (which the questions you are asked will be related to plot lines from Witcher 2) I have noticed that in many instances some of the conversation trees can be the difference in a fight or having a drink with some solders and getting useful intel. Either way, when completing certain tasks you can get experience points for going about it a certain way. Oddly enough I did one quest and even though I completed it, because the person wasn’t who they said they were, I failed it. It makes me wonder how this will come back on me later.
Controls: The game controls are good enough for this game and they slightly improved over the last iteration. I would highly advise doing the combat tutorials early on to get a feel for the fighting mechanics. It’s really simple once you get the hang of it, but it’s still too easy early on to accidentally push the wrong buttons. One mechanic I did enjoy is that as you ride your horse, as long as it on a road, if you hold the sprint button, it will generally follow the road. This lets you sit back and enjoy the scenery more but you will have ot make minor adjustments if you are following a quest path. My only gripe is that occasionally you can get stuck behind a random rock or a tree and fiddle with the controls to get loose but it hasn’t happened very often.
Graphics: On the PS4, the game is a beauty to behold. The environmental textures are rich and even subtle nuances such as small dust clouds from the road are easy to notice. In this respect, it’s very immersive and you do see why this game was delayed to make sure this was one of the best looking games to come along. The cut scenes are always nice but I did notice occasionally there was some stutters along the way. The only thing that I really wish can be adjusted would be the mini-map and the font sizes as in many places when trying to see what an object is, it’s often too small to read. The only other gripe that I have is that it seems like the day / night cycles aren’t even as the sun comes up early around 4 am and doesn’t set until 9. But, hey, if you want to travel a lot during either hours, you have a meditation button you can use to not only restore your health but travel the world at any given time you want.
Overall: This is the RPG I was waiting for. Even in the early stages, the plot moves along at a great pace and again, for the time that I played, I learned a lot and still have yet to scratch the surface. The characters that Geralt meet in the game give you a feeling that they have their own machinations and it’s up to he player to drive the story. The graphics really sets the tone of the game as you really feel like you are traveling across a sprawling war ravaged world. The best part is that the player has a lot of control on how the story plays out and as the game goes on, if it follows other Witcher games, there will be some payoffs to these story-lines. Players who want to take a crack at this game don’t really need to have player previous entries as the game will sum up parts of it as it goes on. Combat is better than before and it’s even easier to get around in the inventory system.
Prepare to sink a lot of time this summer into this game as we await the fall releases. As much as I always hated the summer drought when it comes to gaming, the Witcher 3 looks to be an oasis. And ummm…if you needed an excuse to get a PS4 this summer, this is it.
4.5 Silver Swords out of 5
Released 5/19/15 on Xbox One, PS4 and PC
by Aitch Cee