The Witcher 1 was released in October 2007, back when I had the oldest, jankiest PC imaginable. I’m shocked the game even ran on my old rig that I had been upgrading piecemeal for over five years! Despite the terrible performance granted by my archaic machine, I became a rabid fan of the game. The Witcher hooked me with its interesting storytelling, mature settings, the brutal fast-paced combat, and a world full of shades of gray where no decision ever seemed to be the ‘best’ decision. I’ve replayed the game a few times since the game was released, and have thoroughly enjoyed each play-through.
Four years later, The Witcher 2 was released in May 2011 (for PC) to critical acclaim. This is when the Witcher series really caught on. The game was a technical marvel, with gorgeous graphics that still hold up to today’s standards, a revamped combat system, excellent characters, and a focused and engrossing story. I’ve played the game all the way through twice, including just recently, and the game really holds up, even four years later.
The Witcher 3 came out on May 18th, 2015, to overwhelming praise and over 1.5 Million pre-orders worldwide. These accolades could not be awarded to a more-deserving game company. CD Projekt RED is well-known for their consumer-friendly stance regarding DRM, DLC, and Piracy (just read their mission statement if you aren’t convinced).
CD Projekt created this iteration with new arrivals to the series in mind; creating a story that rewards long-time players of the series with story and character references, but at the same time, does not leave new players in the dark. There’s even a short video that explains to newcomers what a Witcher is, and how they fit into this world CD Projekt has so carefully crafted.
|Being a Witcher is all about slaying monsters… and stuff.|
In the previous iterations of the Witcher series, the games were a sort of part-open world, part-linear world. Specifically, each Chapter was an open section of the world, until you progressed to the next Chapter, upon which you would then make the previous section unavailable. However, now, The Witcher 3 presents a more traditional open world, free of Chapter lockouts. What a world they’ve crafted too!
Usually, when playing a large, open world RPG, the quantity of content takes priority over the quality. With a game that is larger than Skyrim itself, you would think the quality would surely suffer in some departments, right? Is it possible to have a game world that large, and still be dense with meaningful content? CD Projekt has outdone themselves in this regard. Even optional secondary quests or events are masterfully written and engaging. Sometimes, seemingly short secondary quests spiral into a much larger task than originally expected. What seems to be a simple contract to slay a Rock Troll can become something entirely different, if you so choose.
|You’ll find lucrative Witcher contracts on Village noticeboards|
What really sets the Witcher apart from other large RPGs of its ilk is the superb voice acting and animation put into the game. Each character you meet is fully voiced, animated, and even has meaningful expressions, which seems quite the achievement, considering how large the game is! The voice acting truly immerses you, making just about every character memorable in their own right. Some of the expressions the main character makes when reacting to dialogue is mind-blowing, and oftentimes hilarious.
The combat mechanics in The Witcher 3 have also undergone some changes from the previous games. Two types of dodges are available in combat, along with a parry option, and potions are now usable in combat again. The introduction of two types of dodges, a roll dodge and a quick dodge, are amazing additions to the flow of combat. Have an opponent that lunges often and uses sweeping attacks? Use the ground covering roll dodge. Facing a quick opponent with more focused strikes? Sidestep them with the quick dodge and counterattack their flank. If all else fails, parry counter an opponent. All of these combat options give you a variety of split-second strategic decisions in combat that you don’t often see in the genre. It creates a fun, fast-paced combat system that I find quite enjoyable and challenging.
In addition to the mitigation options in combat, a light magic system, called Signs, also exists. Signs consist of quick, basic spells that the character can cast with a gesture. Signs include a wind blast, a fire blast, a slowing trap, temporary mind control, and a protective shield. Signs can be woven into combat to create chaos amongst your opponents.
Swordplay in the game consists of both quick attacks and heavy attacks that you are free to mix any way you wish. While the heavy attack does far more damage, the quick attack is a great option if you’re the ‘move like a butterfly, sting like a bee’ type of fighter. The option to mix and match attack styles is great when tackling large groups of enemies at once. You are also able to interrupt your attack animations anytime with a timed quick dodge or roll.
The world of The Witcher 3 is a dangerous place, and you’ll need all of the the aforementioned tools to survive. Being a professional monster slayer sure is lucrative in a place where it’s a hazard to go just about everywhere. Near a body of water? There’s probably Drowners. Near a battlefield? Corpse-Eaters. Wide open country? Griffin. It’s a large, living world where excitement and danger abound.
The aesthetic of the games is absolutely amazing. The Witcher 3 is one of the best-looking games I’ve ever seen with natural and well-designed environments. As the sun sets in the distance, the lighting of the world naturally shifts into dusk, and you can’t help but stop for a moment and take it all in (well, until a Ghoul jumps you, anyway!).
|No RPG would be complete without a collectible card game!|
Since the game obviously didn’t have enough content to begin with, the game also features a unique in-game collectible card game, called Gwent. The card game is well-made and a fun diversion from the rest of the Witcher game. Gwent gives you a ‘collect ’em all’ vibe as you acquire more cards by challenging and defeating other NPCs in a game. You’ll find yourself trekking across the game world to go challenge an individual you just so happened to hear had a rare card for the taking.
Despite all the praise I’ve heaped on The Witcher 3, the game is not without some flaws (although very few and mostly minute). The biggest issue that affects some individuals is the experience bug, which has been confirmed by the developer themselves. The experience bug caused the player not to gain completed quest experience when the player’s level is a certain degree below or above a quest’s suggested level. The good news, though, is that this bug has since been resolved in the last patch.
CD Projekt assured the player base that this did not impede the ability to complete the game, rather, only slightly slowed down leveling. It was unclear whether this bug was global or only affected some individuals. Besides that, the only other issues I have run into, personally, while playing on the PC is some minor crashes, but those are few and far between. Word on the street is that the consoles have most of the technical issues that abound, including a save bug on the Xbox One.
The Witcher 3 can be found on the PC, Xbox One, and the PS4.