7 essential tips to get you started in ‘The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’
‘The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’ is 60 hours long, miles and miles deep.
Video games are unique as a storytelling medium in that not only do they allow for a story to be told, but the player gets a chance to imprint their own personality onto the character they are controlling.Developer CD Projket RED gained a lot of fans when they announced their free DLC plans last year, and if we do indeed get two per week from now on that means all of them are going to be out by the end of July. This can then lead to an increase in immersion and investment, and something that the Witcher III has done very well is make players feel they are influencing the world they are inhabiting.
At time of press our PlayStation 4 version hasn’t downloaded them, but according to the game’s community lead Marcin Momot they are both due out today. The first DLC includes a new set of armour for Geralt and his horse Roach, which is no doubt a dig at Oblivion’s infamous horse armour – which essentially kick-started the modern era of DLC.
Investing in any one requires focus, so keeping up with more than that can be crippling, especially in the context of The Witcher 3’s vast, exploration-focused world. Polish developer CD Projekt Red’s tale of a cat-eyed, glam-haired, drug-elevated monster slayer, once as obscure as Bethesda’s hence primetime-friendly The Elder Scrolls series, now separates money from pockets with ease. The other download is a set of new beards and hairstyles for Geralt, with subsequent extras including a new quest to locate some missing miners and a new look for companion Yennefer.
The game mostly revolves around you tracking and killing people/things, which might sound repetitive, but the developers have managed to give enough variety that you don’t get bored carrying out what are essentially very similar missions. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt thus looks poised to shatter its predecessor’s numbers, buttressed this time by PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions launching simultaneously (The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings was for PC and Xbox 360 only).
This is clearly a game that has been built with the controller in mind (as well as the keyboard and mouse) as the in fight menus are easy to access and don’t feel like they break up the flow of the gameplay. But while the game’s DLC plans seem perfect reasonable there are already concerns that the day one patch doesn’t go far enough, and that the frame rate is still not as solid as it should be. Only the biggest open-world roleplaying game of the year, one of the most critically acclaimed in years, and the final act of a trilogy that since the first act arrived in October 2007, has been as keen to upend morally simplistic, male-angled fantasy tropes as that other epic fiction franchise everyone raves about. You can set an active quest as your target at any given moment, but the amount of stuff strewn around fosters a strong urge to wander off the road and see what you can find.
And the only time you can’t rob it out from under every villager’s nose is when a little text pop-up appears to let you know that nearby guards are watching, and they’ll be pretty annoyed if you steal something. There are often countless methods of improving your character and their equipment, but The Witcher has enough elements to improve and be creative with, but not too many that it feels overwhelming or gets boring. Sapkowski, whose first books appeared in the early 1990s and weren’t translated into English until the late 2000s, placed his protagonist Geralt of Rivia in a mimetic fantasy world with enough socio-economic nuance to ground a political science dissertation. Visually it’s fantastic, with a varied array of scenery and wildlife mixed with villages and towns that feel alive, and gives the game a very special feel. Whether it’s shuffling gear, consumables and other assorted knick-knacks around in your inventory or tracking quests, scrolling through long lists quickly becomes a chore in this inconceivably large game.
Here be racism, sexism, classism, economic inequality and injustice, wrapped in a bleak, often cynical worldview informed by a nation with a history of repeated occupation and counter-occupation by larger, historically thuggish rival powers. One area where this game drops the ball a bit is that it expects (and requires) you to do virtually all of the side quests in each area to level your character up enough to complete the next story mission. Pivotal decisions in The Witcher could upend the narrative course, determining who lived and died, and dictating who might ally with or turn against you when crucial battles arrived. Merchants tend to pay more (or outright only purchase) the types of things that they sell, so if a blacksmith isn’t buying a stack of books from you, it’s got nothing to do with the fact that they’re stolen. Another disappointment is that you will definitely need to have at least read up on the plots of the previous games to understand what is going on for much of the game.
All roleplaying games are really elaborate fighting games, so the clicky-tappy things you wind up doing over and over–in some cases for hundreds of hours–has to be both novel and progressive. Each of two main maps have enough virtual square footage to justify their own, individual games, and they’re joined by two other, smaller (but still sizable) locations. Square Enix’s Final Fantasy games are more graphically inventive (they’re certainly more gonzo!), sure, but in a crowded field that’s been tediously riffing on Tolkien for decades, The Witcher games feel like idiosyncratic curios. CD Projekt have created an engrossing and captivating game that manages to deal with some rather difficult issues, like domestic abuse, in a surprisingly grown-up manner for a video game.
There’s a very grounded vibe in ‘s storytelling, a recognition of real world politics and ongoing dialogues that keeps the moment to moment beats relatable. Inspired by Slavic mythology, its bosky dells, ruin-flanked hills and patchwork fields sound paradoxically elegiac notes, juxtaposing heart-stopping sunsets filtered through wind-whipped trees with war-wracked, blood blackened fields of corpses, sometimes piled like cordwood.
The game is entertaining, challenging and at times beautiful, and is certainly worth the purchase, even if it does require a bit of background reading. For a fantasy fan community that’s been bewitched by similarly thought-provoking Game of Thrones stories in recent years, ‘s timing couldn’t be better. And instead of squaring off with trolls, orcs, goblins, dragons and multicolored blobs of dungeon-delving goo, you’re up against folkish, far weirder-sounding Eastern European creatures like striga, necrophages, bruxa and vodyanoi, as well as warped takes on traditional fiends, e.g. noonwraiths, alghouls and dagon worshippers. As I put it when reviewing the original game eight years ago: “For all the wonderfully ‘un-Tolkien-y’ alghouls and echinops and graveirs and bloedzuigers you’ll grapple with, the most hideous monsters in the game aren’t the ones with six or a dozen consonants crowding a single vowel, but other humans, like you.” At another point, Geralt encounters a hunter who’s fled from society and branded himself a “freak” because he’s a homosexual in a world that isn’t accepting of such things. explores questions of gender politics, minority segregation, racial identity, interpersonal relationships, the social fallout inside conquered nations and much more.
Geralt’s vocation often puts him in the path of some fearsome beast or another, but fulfilling these so-called “Witcher contracts” is rarely a simple hack-and-slash. That’s thanks in large part to his special abilities. “Witchers” become monster hunters only after they go through a series of trials that leave them mutated and sterile, and superhuman senses are part of the deal.
You can nudge the control stick at any time to change course (handy when you come to a crossroads) and then let go to let horse auto-pilot take over again. Roach also has equipment slots: for saddlebags (increases Geralt’s carry capacity), blinders (improves Roach’s fear level), saddle (increases Roach’s stamina), and monster trophies. The last of these apply an assortment of different buffs depending on the monster they come from, but the other three are typically found in treasure chests or for sale by merchants.
There’s some variety in the way that you build out skill upgrades, but completely ignoring any one component of Geralt’s skillset — even if you don’t invest in upgrading it — is bound bite you at some point. It’s possible to place custom markers on the map wherever you like, but the in-game GPS-style system only traces a path to whichever quest destination you have highlighted. Each substance is made up of several ingredients, which you can either buy or collect out in the wild (green leaf icons on your minimap mark the location of ingredients to harvest).
Slowdown is a frequent offender, particularly during larger battles where hordes of characters and magic-induced particle effects start to strain the console’s processing power. And the game’s contextual button sensitivity is frustratingly low, meaning you’ll often circle something you have to interact with for a few minutes before the appropriate button prompt appears. The difference with crafting is you’ve got to talk to a blacksmith to get something made, and only after you have both the diagram and the necessary materials collected.
The game does a good job of explaining how upgrades work in tutorial pop-ups, but there are definitely some upgrades that are worth prioritizing over others. Quen is Geralt’s magical shield, and the second tier upgrade for it is an alternate sign that allows you to hold down the R2 button to create a sustained bubble shield that only chips away at your stamina (which governs magic) when it absorbs damage. Geralt carts around two swords at all times: a steel one for taking on human foes and non-magical beast and a silver one for pretty much everything else. In addition to offering basic details about what the creature is, the bestiary entry also lists which signs and/or consumables are particularly effective against it.
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