So I've been a huge fan of The Witcher series since its inception. Both The Witcher (2007) and The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (2011) were excellent, but TW3:Wild Hunt is the one I've been patiently waiting for since I first heard of its impending arrival in early 2013. It was a grating, lengthy trial, to say the least, in order for me to 'stay dark' on a game of this magnitude. I despise spoilers, and these days, game companies and media alike cannot help themselves. Thankfully that's over now.
BTW, this entry is spoiler-free in terms of plot/story elements.
I'll summarize at the top for you TLDR peeps (aren't I sweet? But really, you should read the rest ). I'm playing on PS4, version 1.04 (latest as of today). Approximately 100 hours played, and I'm level 18. My play style is what I term 'OCD-Explorer', and therefore I've by and large (but not completely) ignored the main quests as much as possible, focusing on exploring, non-main quests, loot whoring, and other assorted things. Difficulty setting, I've played 50% of the time 'Story and Sword' (normal), 50% 'Blood and Broken Bones' (hard). Thus far, TW3 hasn't really shown me anything I've not seen before...but it hasn't needed to either. I am a stingy grader, yet my 'first-day' rating was 9.0 / 10; it is now 8.5 / 10, and it would take an avalanche of bad for the grade to slip any further.
TW3 is a truly, truly fantastic game. I've no doubt it will win GotY.
A lot of peeps have likened and compared TW3 to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, myself included. Frankly, I cannot see how you wouldn't like this game if you enjoyed Skyrim. That being said, there are similarities...however, no more than any other open-world RPG, IMO. TW3 is -not- a Skyrim clone.
There's two huge differences I'll comment on in detail between the two games:
Firstly (and this is a component in all of The Witcher games), you do not create your own character. Now, I love doing this in RPG's, and when considering buying the first Witcher game, I hemmed and hawed over the purchase specifically because I knew beforehand you played the char the game provided, namely, Geralt of Rivia. However, Andrzej Sapkowski, author of The Witcher novels and Geralt's creator, along with CD Projekt Red, the devs behind The Witcher game series, together they turned out a seriously great main char, who I feel appeals to both genders. Thus, if you let adoration of char creation stop you from playing TW3 (or indeed any of The Witcher games), you're missing out on a veritable ocean of awesome.
Secondly, Skyrim had some magnificent, sprawling dungeons and caves. In my TW3 play time, I've spent about two hours total below ground. I'm hoping that changes.
Okay, on to my pros and cons. Obviously, this is -my- list, so if you don't agree, that's fine; YMMV and what not. In no particular order...
-Only time loading screens appear are when you fast travel, load up a saved game, or post-death. It's easy to recall how many homes I went into in Skyrim and its predecessor, Oblivion - with loading screens on both entrance and exit. /cry
-Gigantic, massive, huge, enormous, colossal 'zones'. The first area post-tutorial is White Orchard, and I thought it was pretty damn big. Then I got to Velen (No Man's Land). Holy fuckin shit. Now, I've not done any comparisons, but Velen is, no lie, I'd say the same (overworld) size as the entirety of Skyrim.
-From the 'new game' cutscene, the M-rating shows itself. I actually flinched at one part of it! The entire Witcher series is rated M, mostly for language, but there's blood/gore and various other 'goodies'. Still, it hasn't seemed gratuitous, for the most part. The language fits, the sex is optional, the violence is expected...though I could do without the automatic slow-motion decapitation that happens now and again during mob fights.
-HUD minimap - rotation is optional...I want to kiss the person who got this option in. Also, corpses with loot show as a tiny X on the MM until they're looted.
-Overall I've seen amazingly few bugs, whether in text misspellings, graphics, quests, etc.
-Attack and movement controls (sans swimming, see below) are better than they've ever been in Witcher games. And, for the first time, Geralt can JUMP! Work them legs boy!
-Geralt's regular jog speed is a great pace. He can also sprint and walk, but the default is the jog. I have strict discipline on using fast travel, and I'm also not a fan of using the horse (whose name is Roach), but his (her?) controls have seemed responsive enough for the little I've used it. Also worth a chuckle, just whistle for Roach and even if you left him all the way cross the map, he appears within seconds!
-Four difficulty settings; can switch them at any time.
-Weight - the weight of items is extremely fair, IMO. You start out being able to carry 60 (assuming lbs or kg, either way 60). Most items weigh .01, so even for things like iron ingots you need a stack of 100 to equal 1.0. There is no bank, vault, or innkeeper storage, which previous games had, however you can buy saddlebags for Roach and increase the carrying capacity (I believe max is 160). Despite the weight expansion being saddlebags, you don't have to have Roach anywhere near you to access anything; all your items and gear are on 'you' all the time.
-The story and writing in general for this game is absolutely stellar. This is the only game I think where I've actually widened my eyes and put my hand to my mouth at the same time in discovery of certain portions. Another time of eye-widening happened when I was helping a guy find his brother. Leading me to where he last knew his brother was, there we were wandering through the forest, and then there's a bit of a clearing and then BAM! Holy shit. Massive fire-razed field, broken and burnt trees, and death and blood and bodies as far as I could see. Again, nothing I've not seen in any other game, but the combination of the quest, the writing, the graphics, it all really brought the war environment of the world home in that moment.
Other times, many times actually, I've laughed out loud - they have some great dry, subtle humor in here. Haven't cried yet, but I have a feeling I will. I generally avoid main quests in these sorts of games, but I've done several parts of this one simply because the story and experiences have been just that good. Secondary and other quests are also not neglected where writing's concerned.
I'll sum up this pro by quoting one of my old friends, and he, like me, is a long-time gamer. With a little persuasion from me, he picked up the game (namely "Buy this or we're breaking up, for real this time " So, as for what he said: "Hey mate, just finished the main storyline....that was probably the most epic experience in gaming I have ever seen... Thanks for the recommendation. Never laughed, fought, cried (yep a few times!) so much at a computer game......I took my time early on - deciding to do as much as possible, but after visiting Skellige then the main storyline just grips you by the throat.....64 hours total playtime for me on this one (in about a week?) but could easily do another 200 with the stuff I didn't do..."
-Characters are wonderful. There's baddies and hotties and friendlies, and the more important chars (such as Geralt's friends or people that are quest-important) all have their own personalities. I love Zoltan in particular, and I am really anti-dwarf, which Zoltan is, so take from that what you will.
-This is a combo of things, but more or less I get the sense the game is making me work a little harder to advance than in other games. Rewards have been almost exclusively money and XP, and the XP is usually pretty low (heh, you do get 4xp every time you sleep with a prossie...not that my virginal Geralt would ever do such (gasp)! Anyway, this in turn makes levelling a bit slower than most RPG's, which I think is GREAT. I don't mind being a few levels over the quest I'm working on, but in most games I'm smothered with experience and before I know it I'm 10+ levels over the quest I want to do next, the reward is an item I've 'outgrown', etc. Also of note, items as rewards have been few and far between.
-And (more) on the subject of quests (because I'm a huge quest whore), I've found very few 'fetch and carry' style quests; in fact, I can't think of one offhand. CDPR clearly has tried to integrate most quests into the overall war-time environment. Now, as rehearsed or trite as it may sound, since every game now claims this, your choices do have an impact on the world. So if you go one way here, you may block off a quest or two. But if you go the other, you'll do the same thing. Thus, you can't do every quest. As with all Witcher games, they like to give you options in dialogue, usually consisting of 'be nice and help' 'walk away/leave quest for later' or 'be an asshole and help'. Guess which one I like There are still boatloads of quests - main, secondary, Witcher contracts (killing stuff for hire), treasure hunts, and a few other types as well. And thumbs up to the escort-style quests because they've been excellent, and I usually give a huge groan of annoyance when I've encountered these in other games.
-One of the best things in this game is the sense I will never truly find/complete everything (including quests). The cities and even the multiple villages are haphazard and sprawling, yet easy to navigate, however only the most obsessive (and I mean obsessive, way more than moi) will be able to go through every house, loot everything, speak to every person, etc. Even out of the settlements, in the open land, it's just way too hard to keep track of. There are a lot of points of interest noted on the maps, and more come along as you talk to people, sometimes when you purchase things as well, but a lot pop up only by wandering physically close. And I've mentioned how big the areas are already.
-Gwent: This is a mini-game that's really not so mini. To note, I am not a mini-gamer. I liked the MG in W2:AoK, but that was easy and uncomplicated - poker dice. Gwent, OTOH, I found it rather confusing and difficult to grasp - whether that was due to bad tutorial or lack of attention on my part, or both, I'm not sure. However, once I decided to mess around in it some more...wow, I LOVE IT. I spent 8hrs straight messing around with Gwent and Gwent-based quests, no lie.
-Graphics: Again, I'm playing on PS4, and I've found the range to be from 'PS3-era-good' to 'eyebrows-rising-into-hair-great'. Most of them fall nearer to 'eyebrows-rising'. This is also the first game I've ever played where some parts of the in-game play looks better than the cutscenes 0.o
---Characters -- the skin texture is un-fuckin-believable in most shots. I wish they'd given such attention to hair, though on the majority of chars it's above average. Now, the eyes!! Wow!!! Such expressive eyes I've seen only a couple of times in games...what a great job on that, and nice to see after years of zombie/dead eyes (looking at you, Skyrim). Mouths, too, were integrated perfectly, and do not appear to be working independently from the rest of the face (/coughs on Skyrim again).
---A good number of mob types are really interesting, gross, wild, and creepy. The best I think I've battled is a Lesher; it was just once, and it was dark, smoky, spooky, so perhaps during the day it wouldn't have been so bad, but even just thinking on it now I'm getting the creeps again
Also, if you played Skyrim, remember that feeling when you took down that first (or second or twentieth) dragon? That YEAH BITCH BURN!!!! feeling of accomplishment? Had that a few times now on a few different mobs in W3 (one being the aforementioned Lesher).
---Environment -- I'm a particular fan of how they did the sunlight and lighting in general; totally top-notch. Several times I've stopped and stared out over a huge expanse of land, particularly at sunset. Think I would've taken some screenies, but I haven't /sigh Anyhow, the world is -extremely-, almost ridiculously lush. Most grasses aren't high enough to lose mob corpses in, which is nice, and there's usually a healthy breeze stirring everything around. Swamps are well done, with gaseous clouds of yuck floating about. Water, particularly at shorelines, is sparkling and rich. Forests look great, etc. Certain plants can be harvested, and they grow back super quick (though not sure if that's for all or just the more common ones), so no need to be OCD-greedy.
---Cities/villages/towns -- there's a lot of buildings in this world, and what I'm liking, and yet the OCD part of me isn't, is things are set up really haphazardly. As with most RPG's, there's a lot of loot-interacting (barrels, bags, boxes). Most homes are small, at max three rooms, as they're poor peeps for the most part. The richies homes have been interesting enough, sprawling and multi-level. Strangely enough, one of the best areas of finding loot was in a section of sewers o.O.
-Mobs have a short leash. The game discourages you from running away, but you can, by sprinting, and when you do, the mobs won't chase you to the ends of the earth. I've only had one really aggressive mob come after me for a while, and it was a wyvern, so it was flying after me as opposed to running.
---Music: I've always loved Witcher OST's, and W3 is absolutely no exception. I'll probably do a separate review on this later...my hope is there will be an extended edition released on iTunes.
---Voice acting is fantastic. Doug Cockle takes the helm once again of growly, gritty Geralt's voice. I've heard about 10 different English accents, along with a few different Irish and Scottish accents as well. Next to Geralt, Zoltan is my favorite (there's that dwarf thing again, wtf?), but that I think that's due to the fact my own MMC, Drax, sounds exactly like Zoltan when I read his dialogue.
---Other: environmental sounds are varied and well done. Mob screams, shrieks, rasps, and roars have all been really great. Hearing a Drowner (one of the most populated mobs in W3) hiss at you, even when it's your thousandth one, is still pretty cool.
-Honestly, there are so many little things that just tickle me or that make me go 'oh my, that is great', that I can't possibly recall or list them all. So buy the game and find them out yourself, how's bout that??
--Wish List / Neutral--
-(neutral) Depite mentioning weight in 'pro', I would like there to be a storage vault or something. For example, right now I'm hauling around an entire set of gear I can't use for another two levels. It was 'upcrafted' from a previous set I was wearing. I knew the set could be accentuated, so as I played on and found gear that replaced it, I kept the set on me, 'upcrafted' it when I found the recipes...however as I said now I'm hauling it around and as it's actual gear, rather than usable items like food, potions, plants, it's eating up about 15 of my weight limit.
-(neutral) There are so many plants, both in type and availability, as well as other alchemy components, yet it almost feel wasted with how alchemy is set up. You make the potion/decoction/bomb one time. Period. Each have a certain number of charges, and when you're at zero, you simply meditate and you auto-use 'strong alcohol' which replenishes everything. I don't necessarily want to go about alchemy Elder Scrolls style, but perhaps in W3 if plants were less available, it would put them on a higher plane of importance. I was hoarding for the first several levels, picking up everything, but now? I don't stop for any plants Alchemy is always one of my favorite things in games, and it can have an impact in W3, but...I don't know, it's just not satisfying enough as it is.
-(wish) If Geralt had the parkour abilities of AC IV, I would never ever EVAR stop playing this game - as it is, I'll probably turn 21 by the time I get anywhere near finished**. Anyway sometimes Geralt is all Assassin's Creed nimble and dexterous, other times he's Jabba the Hutt. Absolutely zero consistency there, nor with the fall damage, which is insane. I can slide (literally) down a damn mountain, which is a neat, if unrealistic, little feature, but if I jump over the railing halfway down the staircase, I may die.
-(neutral) When you level up, you gain an ability point (and you can also earn these at least one other way I know of). You assign the points to skills, but then comes the rub - you only have a certain number of slots in which to assign said skills. As you level, more slots open up. So, for example, when I was level 8, between levelling and various endeavors, I'd earned 13 ability points, which I assigned to 5 different abilities (some are stacked, like my fast-strike ability is now 5/5). However, at level 8, I only had 4 slots to assign these 5 abilities.
Part of me likes this - makes me think of EQLive - as a (then) top-level 75 Necromancer, I had probably 400 spells in my spellbook, if not more, but I could only 'memorize' 8 or 10 at a time. OTOH, it annoys me from a logical standpoint, and I ask myself grating questions like, 'Does it make sense that Geralt would forget how to hit harder in order to hit faster, really?' Also, considering how long it takes me to earn said abilities, I want to be able to use them!
-(neutral) The sun -rises- at like 3:45AM 0.o I like day, but there's so much of it, and obviously night is spookier by default.
-(wish) Wanna be able to add windows to the 'quick menu'.
-(wish) I will maim for quicksave. MAIM! Perhaps torture.
-(wish) Love to see a 3-step ability for Witcher Senses. First level, no screen distortion. Second, the sense lasts longer, third it has a larger radius/distance.
- (wish) Would like for component items to have elaborated tooltip on an as-desired toggle ('press L3 for more') - have it show how many recipes the item is used in (numerical), what levels said recipes are, and what groups (common, master, relic, alchemy, armor, etc.); that way I can stop dragging around my 400 rabbit hides because I know they fulfill two recipes, all for level 3 armor. Preferably have this tooltip appear as a reward after a long quest at level 5 - Geralt receives an encyclopedic book of knowledge or what not.
-HUD: I had no problem with the HUD, prior to patch 1.04, save for one thing, and that was buffs/debuffs. They were (and are) placed awkwardly on the screen. These, like much of the HUD, you can turn off, but I need the info, particularly if I'm hit with a debuff or poison! But they aren't listed as separate things in the options, so if you turn off one, you turn off both. Otherwise, the HUD itself isn't so bad; it's not uber-minimalist like Skyrim, but as noted you can turn almost everything off. Even if you don't, other than the minimap, Geralt's health/stamina and such only appear when you engage with a mob, jump, or take dmg.
That being said, the size of the HUD drives me crazy. Before 1.04, it was fine for me, on 'small' setting. There are also only two settings (small, large) for reasons that boggle my mind. However, because people whined, CDPR decided to 'significantly enlarge the HUD for consoles'. And that they did. Now, I get that not everyone has 20/15 vision and plays on a 60" TV like yours truly, however, the 'small' HUD post-1.04 patch is now the size of pre-1.04's 'large' and it drives me fucking crazy. Those buffs I mentioned? I have to turn them off now because they're practically in the middle of my gameplay screen. Why is there no slider?!?!
-GUI: One word for the GUI -- MESS. Further words...the setup itself isn't bad, but the features that are missing make themselves known very quickly. Because there is no bank storage and you carry everything on you, obviously you end up with a lot of stuff, and switching between tabs becomes laggy. Further, and again talking PS4 version, there is no tab for Books or other reading materials (Witcher contracts, notes that are informational rather than quest-based, etc). Instead, they're under 'usable items' I think the tab is called, which includes your potions, decoctions, bombs, food, and drink.
All inventory is auto-sorted, and you have no control over how anything is sorted, so, for example, on the usable items tab, for some unknown, Godsforsaken reason, books and reading materials are above food and drink. So every time I want to swap out my food or drink, I have to scroll through all the books and reading materials. I'm a bookworm IRL and in games, and the bits of books you get to read are interesting and just as well-written as the quests and dialogue, so I didn't want to get rid of these items. However, after 15lvls, as my tab became laggier and laggier, and I finally gave up and sold it all :/ These should never have been in the inventory, they should've been added in the glossary-style menu area. Which means next patch, there will either be a reading materials tab, or these items will be auto-added to a new area in the menus
There are no filters on the crafting sections, or anywhere else. So if I want to see, out of the 75 recipes I've picked up for alchemy, what I have ingredients for and can make, I have to scroll through the entire list and keep an eye out for anything with green font. For some reason, on the weapon and armor crafting tab, I cannot compare the item I'm considering having crafted with what I have currently equipped. Yet if I'm having an item dismantled, I can compare. Wot?
-This was an issue for me in Skyrim too. The world of W3 is big, but sometimes it feels empty (of mobs). No, I don't want to be constantly in a bloodbath, but I'd prefer to have more hanging about.
-Swimming controls are wonky, even after the last patch where they were supposedly adjusted. I'M PRESSING CIRCLE, FUCKING SURFACE ALREADY! Also, why do I have to hold down X in order to swim at a more than glacial pace?
-This may change as I get further along, but I want more caves/dungeons, despite loving the overland.
-World map - No map fog Secondly, there is an option to place a custom marker on the map, which is great...except you can only put ONE at a time, and cannot add any notes to it. Worthless feature as it stands. Thirdly, I want to zoom in closer and out farther.
-As mentioned earlier, gold isn't raining from the sky in the earlier levels, which is great, makes things a little more challenging. However, EVERYTHING costs, and some of it is ridiculously expensive. My biggest peeve here is 'dismantling'. Almost everything can be broken down into crafting components, all those junky pelts and old armor/weapons, etc. Yet you have to pay for every single item you want dismantled, and the more components it breaks down to (such as a chestpiece vs. a fishing rod), the more expensive it is.
Now, Geralt is almost 100yrs old at this point (yay for Witcher mutagenic blood!); you're gonna tell me he doesn't know how to dismantle three-quarters of this shit himself? He can skin the pelt off the wolf but can't break it down to leather strips? Come on!!!
-Two things in particular pull me out of the world. When Geralt is investigating stuff, when he finds a monster nest, or clues or whatever, rather than have him internally narrate (where ofc we would hear 'him' still), they often show him moving about and he we can see him talking aloud (and there's no one with him). It's a little thing, but annoys me to no end. The other thing -- the entire game is 3rd person, so you're looking at Geralt's back 99% of the time, yet when it rains, or when a monster throws a blind spell, it splashes across the 'camera'. We're supposed to BE Geralt. Doing such in this way makes it as though we are just an observer.
-Unsurprisingly, as games on console seem to trend these days, there is little to no rebinding of the controls.
So, I'm sure there are things I've forgotten and what not, but I've just been making a few notes here and there. It's a certainty the moment I hit 'submit' I'll think of ten more things I wanted to add. If there's something you're curious about, ask!
I'd just like to restate though - despite the rather long list of Neutral/Wish/Con, my stingy grading arse gave the game 8.5 / 10, okay? None of the N/W/C have made me want to stop playing for a moment, nothing game breaking.
I'm honestly beyond recommending the game to everyone. I'm demanding you buy it. NOW! You are missing out if you don't have it!
**lol, I passed 21 a depressingly long time ago, but I play pretend pretty well