As people who read this blog may know, I am a fan of The Witcher series. This includes both the novels, which I eventually intend to review on this site, and the video games. Thus, I was a first day purchase for this game and I was eager to get involved in its gameplay. This is such a deep game, I'm going to be doing both a standard review here and a separate review of its storyline. So, is the Witcher 3 any good?
The Witcher 3 is a surprisingly deep game both in storytelling, immersion, and gameplay. You can find yourself absorbed in playing for hours on end and part of the fears you will face is, after this game, that you might never be able to enjoy such a vivid world again. There's lows as well as highs, but the game is overall a very impressive technical and writing achievement.
|Geralt can have a beard, shave it off, or have it dynamically grow. THE GREATEST VIDEO GAME SIMULATION ELEMENT EVER!|
The premise is Geralt of Rivia has received word his lover from the novels, Yennefer, has re-emerged and is only a few days ride away. Traveling with his long-time friend and mentor, Vesemir, Geralt finds himself traveling across the war-torn Northern Kingdoms. Nilfgaard, an aggressive military power with similarities to both Imperial and Nazi Germany, has invaded the land. While Geralt's opinion on the invasion may be whatever the player wishes, it is undeniable both sides are committing atrocities against the common people. The common people aren't exactly innocent, either.
|The environments are beautifully hand-crafted but a little too monotonous.|
The plotline is extremely deep and while it has RPG-elements, I really was immersed in Geralt's story and the fact it manages to make use of previous entries in the series as well as the novels is felt across every section of the game. The developers truly loved the material, the characters, and the story they were trying to tell.
|The combat is fluid, fun, and brutal.|
Ciri's a wonderful contrast to Geralt, more idealistic but still worn down by the horrible world which surrounds her. Yennefer, by contrast, is portrayed as slightly sinister at the start but we get an explanation which provides you with all the justification you need for her actions.
The portrayal of the Northern Kingdoms is fabulous as we get to see a variety of environments and cultures. The land of White Orchard seems like a rural paradise but you don't have to go far to find villages wiped out by war or devastated by monsters. Velen is a hellhole where the collaborators with the Nilfgaard are worse than the Nilfgaardians themselves. Novigard is a city with beautiful estates and hellish slums, all interacting in one believable society. Then they throw in Skellig, a sort of Ireland-meets-Norway, which is just plain fun. Every land has a unique character and every person you talk to has individualized voice-acting and personalities.
|Ciri is an amazing character and could easily star in her own game.|
The Witcher 3 is definitely low-fantasy and on the grimdark scale of things. There's plotlines involving child abuse, spousal abuse, tragic misunderstandings, racism, war crimes, and religious intolerance. Many of the stories end on bittersweet notes, at best. Geralt can only muddle through things as best he can. The world is nasty, brutal, and full of real-life evils. Surprisingly, trying to do the right thing sometimes works out too. Which I liked as it keeps things surprising.
|The fighting of bandits, Drowners, deserters, and ghouls gets a bit monotonous at times.|
Next, the leveling in this game is pretty bad. Throughout the game, there are many side-quests you'll encounter where you won't be able to finish them for upwards to twenty-levels away. While exploring Velen for the first time around level seven, I got a Level 33 quest for example. There are plenty of massively powerful monsters which Geralt will have to run away from until he's had time to beef up. The problem is, that makes no sense for the Witcher franchise. Geralt is, at this point, the survivor of two games as well as the biggest badass in the setting. This is equivalent of Conan running away from a giant spider.
Finally, I'm not a big fan of inventory in the game. The game poorly manages the sorting of loot in the game, especially the "Use Item" section, so it becomes almost impossible to find which potions you want when you need to find them. I'm still not sure as to what placement system they follow as sometimes newly acquired items are at the top and sometimes at the bottom or in the middle. This can be especially annoying if you're trying to find a specific item for a quest or to use in a situation.
|Novel character Yennefer gets a fabulous introduction to the series.|
Really, I was torn whether or not to give this a nine or ten. On one hand, there is a lot of busy work. Running across the map or riding your horse to explore the map is rarely as satisfying as in other open-world games. Too much looks like everything else. On the other, the game is very-very fun. In the end, my decision leans toward the latter because of the Bloody Baron's story arc. That was what convinced me this game was worthy of a score equal to the best of the other video games I've played.
What is the Bloody Baron story arc? It's a series of quests in the "Second Act" portion of the game which deal with a alcholic Robert Baratheon-esque nobleman who has chosen to collaborate with the Nilfgaardians against his countrymen. The acting, revelations, and twists in this storyline are all top notch.
|I admit, the Robert Baratheon homage may be a bit "too" on the nose.|
In conclusion, The Witcher 3 is a great game for fantasy enthusiasts. It's a fun game, well-written, and with some truly impressive graphics. The game has some parts which are less enjoyable than others but these are often broken up with periods of great awesome. This is a game which is a serious time-sink, though, and will require serious devotion from players if they want to see all of the content.