The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt launched earlier this week and while we were able to get our hands on it a couple days early, after a week of playing we can only offer our first impressions and will be following up with a full review after we’ve been able to spend some more time with it and get deeper into the story and game. It’s just that massive!
I never did play the first two games in the series, so I’m not sure exactly how the story continues but CD Projeckt RED has mentioned you don’t need to in order to fully enjoy the third installment. So far the story has captured my interest and I’m definitely curious to see where it takes Geralt of Rivia, the Witcher whom you control throughout the game.
The story so far has started off with Geralt undertaking a seemingly personal mission, searching for a lost love but has escalated into something more. Various side quests (totally optional but I’d recommend them) allow you to make choices when helping others and I suspect will help flesh out Geralt’s character as time goes on.
According to the developer, full completion of the game should take around 100 or more hours – roughly half for the main story and the other half for the side quests.
Set in an open world environment, the game really does let you go where you want. Not even five minutes into it, I noticed plant icons popping up on the minimap and promptly started harvesting every plant I came across… chances are I’ll be needing them later! When you have an active quest, a dotted line indicates the quickest path to your objective and you can easily change your active quest in the menu.
The Witcher 3 has a mix of combat, magic, detective work, crafting, skill tree leveling and even a card game called Gwent that you can play in pubs and various locations around the world. When tasked with a quest, you’ll use your Witcher Sense to locate clues. The Witcher Sense also comes in handy for discovering chests and other loot by creating an orangish glow around objects you can interact with. Combat is pretty straightforward, monsters will have a bar indicating whether you should use your regular or silver edged sword to fight them, and you can also craft potions to help with damage or health/stamina regeneration, or salves to apply to your weapons for increased damage or to give you an edge (no pun intended) up on the particular monster you’re fighting. Different spells can also be accessed, each one having a different effect from magic traps to shields to fire blasts. While these can be swapped mid-battle, you’ll have to do it quick but it can be beneficial to alternate for best results. A crossbow is your default secondary weapon, and you can also craft stun bombs and other secondary items to take up this slot to assist you as well. So far I’ve found the combat to require some planning and thinking, trying to figure out the best method for taking out your foes, so don’t think you can just go in and hack and slash your way through any battle and win – chances are you won’t.
The skill system looks pretty complex, while you can unlock various skills you can only equip a certain number of them at a time. Skill are categorized into 4 categories – swordsmanship, magic/signs, alchemy, and other. You can also find mutagens which boost specific skills if they match the same category color.
Gwent, the collectable card game, requires you to collect and play opponents in a best of three match hoping to outscore them. The caveat here is you only have 10 cards for all three rounds so you have to choose wisely or face losing the later rounds due to lack of cards. Win two rounds and you win the match. You can collect cards by defeating opponents or purchasing them from merchants. As far as impact on the main game, I haven’t seen one yet but from my understanding you will be given the option to play through a few opponents in various key locations as you progress through The Witcher 3.
The world map does look massive, and is roughly 30 times the size of Witcher 2 and is even bigger than Skyrim. Your main mode of transport is on horseback, but fast travel is possible between discovered locations should you want to save some time and travel quickly between locations.
The graphics for The Witcher 3 are a bit of a mixed bag right now. Don’t get me wrong, the game is absolutely beautiful from the scenery to the level of detail in the characters. Unfortunately this comes at a cost of smooth framerate, at least on the Xbox One. A day one patch was released for the game and while it does make the gameplay smoother, the cutscenes suffer from really bad framerate stuttering. A new patch (1.03) was pushed out for the PC version and is expected soon for both the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game.
That being said, I’d rather have smooth gameplay and aside from a couple of occasions, gameplay has been smooth and I’ve spent more than a few minutes just looking around and taking screenshots. The framerate issues haven’t surfaced at a time where it can have a negative effect on the gameplay itself.
The voice acting and sound design in The Witcher 3 so far has been simply superb. Everything from the dialogue of each character to the environment sounds is well done and makes it easier to become immersed in the game and story.
The Witcher 3 is going to be one of those games that is going to consume a large portion of my gaming time for the foreseeable future. While there are some minor issues with framerate, I’ve not only enjoyed it but also been impressed with what I’ve seen so far and it sounds like CD Projekt RED is serious about fixing the current issues that are affecting the game.