CD Projekt Red really outdid themselves with their new game called The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. It is absolutely a masterpiece and it was definitely worth the wait. I had a hard time finding anything wrong with the game, except for the occasional glitch, I’m looking at you Roach. The open world is huge and diverse, the combat is magnificent, the quests are interesting and fun, while the main story, although it drags on a bit too long for my taste, it’s very rewarding, wrapping up one of the best game series of all time in a satisfying manner.
As soon as The Witcher 3 trailer came out, I knew that it was going to be a great game. It was absolutely fantastic.
In this review we will tackle most aspects of the game and I will also try to provide you with some tips for the early game. First though, we must take a look at the technical requirements for the game.
The Witcher 3 is one of the most demanding games available on the market today, making most PC configurations obsolete. The developers went all out with this open world RPG, so it is more than likely that you will have to upgrade you computer in order to run in properly.
On my PC, the game performed rather well, but on medium quality, with a resolution of 1920 x 1080p. It rarely dropped under 60 frames per second in the more populated areas, but then again I did have to sacrifice a lot of quality for performance. This is my rig:
- CPU: Intel Core i5-4690K
- Graphics Card: MSI GTX 980
- RAM: 8 GB DDR3 at 1866 MHz
- Motherboard: Asus Z97-A
- SSD: Samsung 850 EVO 250 GB
- HDD: Western Digital Black 2 TB WD2003FZEX
- OS: Windows 8 (8.1)
As I said the game performed really well, but my PC is above the minimum system requirements provided by the developers, but under the recommended. This are the requirements given to us by CD Projekt Red:
Minimum System Requirements:
- CPU: Intel CPU Core i5-2500K 3.3GHz or AMD CPU Phenom II X4 940
- Graphics Card: Nvidia GPU GeForce GTX 660 or AMD GPU Radeon HD 7870
- RAM: 6 GB
- OS: 64-bit Windows 7 or 64-bit Windows 8 (8.1)
- HDD: at least 40 GB of free space
Recommended System Requirements:
- CPU: Intel CPU Core i7 3770 3.4 GHz or AMD CPU AMD FX-8350 4 GHz
- Graphics Card: Nvidia GPU GeForce GTX 770 or AMD GPU Radeon R9 290
- RAM: 8 GB
- OS: 64-bit Windows 7 or 64-bit Windows 8 (8.1)
- HDD: at least 40 GB of free space
Making the Game Perform Better
If your computer is able to run the game, but you are not entirely satisfied with the performance, then you can play a little with the video options. For starters, if you have an Nvidia graphics card, you need to install the latest driver. You can do that by double clicking on the Nvidia GeForce Experience icon, located in the bottom right of your taskbar, then going to the drivers tab and hitting the “Check for Updates” icon. Download the latest one, then click on the “Express Install” button, and simply follow the instructions.
If you still want more FPS just reduce the Foliage Visibility Range, it will improve the performance by at least 10 FPS. For example, if you are playing on Ultra, reduce it to High, or even Medium. At one point, I was standing on top of a high peak just looking at the splendid world. I reduced the Foliage Visibility Range from High to Medium and my FPS went from 58 to 74 in a blink of an eye. To be frank I didn’t even notice any difference, graphics wise. Even after I started to move around my frames were still improved by 10.
This next step is only for people that use an Nvidia graphics card. Go to the option menu and turn off the Nvidia HairWorks and you will get another 5 to 10 FPS. The HairWorks from Nvidia is extremely demanding on older graphics cards, but even the 980 has a hard time dealing with it. With this option on, you might see an improvement on certain monsters, but not on our protagonist. No matter what you do Geralt’s hair will still look the same, I meant fabulous.
Another thing you can do, is reduce the shadow quality. This is a no-brainer because the performance of most games will be improved by doing this. It will give you a performance boost of over 5 percent.
On last thing that you can do, is overclock you graphics card. Find out if your card is already overclocked or not and if it’s not, then search for a guide online, or call a “more skilled” friend/professional.
Sometimes when you hit Alt+Tab, the game will switch from Full-screen to Borderless Windowed. To go back, simply click Alt+Enter, but be advised that it does not work during conversations, or cinematics, so you will have to wait until they are over.
The Story and Side Quests
Be advised that there will be a few spoilers, so if you want to be completely surprised, please skip this part of the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt review.
The game’s tutorial begins in Kaer Morhen, the wither’s stronghold, in the most pleasant way possible. Geralt of Rivia is taking a bath, while nearby we see Yennifer brushing her long dark hair. You’ll have to find a key in order to get out of the room, but try to explore everything before you do that. Once you leave the room, you’ll go down a few stairs and meet with Vesemir, the leader of the witchers from the school of the wolf, or something like that. He tells you that you are late for your training with Ciri. Who is Ciri you might ask, well, more on that later.
Our hero meets Ciri and begins her training, and your tutorial as a matter of fact. You will learn how to run, climb over obstacles and the basics of combat. After that, everything goes wrong as the infamous Wild Hunt appears and kidnaps Ciri, and Geralt awakens. It turns out that it was all a dream and that he is in fact in White Orchard, on the road to Vizima with Vesemir, searching for his long lost love and friend, Yennifer.
As soon as the conversation between the two witchers ends, you will be attacked by a group of level 1 and 2 ghouls. They are not very tough, but do try to let Vesemir take some of the heat off of you. You’ll then get your horse riding tutorial and in no time at all, you’ll will find yourself in a village. At the local tavern you will find a man that introduces you to the new mini-game available in Witcher 3, called Gwent. It is a deck-building card game, similar to Magic the Gathering, but not as complex.
You deck is basic at first and you only have Northern Realms and neutral cards, but once you explore the world (some card can be bought from Innkeepers), you’ll be able to construct a deck for every faction )the Northern Realms, The Nilfgaardian Empire, the Monsters and The Scoia’tael). A side quest will begin, where you will have to play against different opponents (including some of our old acquaintances from the previous games), in order to win their unique cards. This quest will last for the majority of your play-through, just like in the previous games.
Once you leave the tavern, you will have free reign to do whatever you want, within White Orchard at first, but then two more regions will open up. I recommend you follow the main story quest until you kill the griffin with Vesemir, but once you have your reward (you can refuse it if you so desire), don’t go back to the tavern. Another thing you can do is, while moving towards the Nilfgaardian’s encampment, to stop at the cemetery located north of the Mill. There you will find a level 7 wraith guarding a treasure. It is a tough fight, but if you are careful enough and always use the Quen Sign, you will be able to beat the monster.
Once the wraith goes down to about half HP, it will disappear, but the fight is not over. Use the nearby Place of Power to get an ability point and a temporary buff and then move towards the crypt. You will notice that the entrance is obstructed, but a little bit of wood is no match for your Aard Sign. Blow the door open and move inside. Once in, the wraith will appear for the second time, but with only half HP.
Just like before, dodge its attacks and use the Quen Sign. Don’t let it hit for you will die in two to three hits. After you kill the wraith, use your Witcher Senses (hold down the right mouse button) and loot the entire crypt. You will find a crafting diagram and begin your very first treasure hunt for the Serpent School Gear, as well as a relic weapon and other useful gear.
After you complete all of the side quests and monster contracts in the area, you will reach level 3 or 4. Once you do, start visiting every question mark on the map. You will get better gear and lots of crafting diagrams. Remember to bring some Grapeshot bombs so you can destroy the monster scattered along the way.
Back to the main quest, after you kill the griffin and return to the tavern to talk to Vesemir, a scripted event will commence that will take you all the way to Vizima. I will not say more because I really don’t want to spoil the surprise. Anyhow, it is in Vizima where the real main quest begins, the search for Geralt’s surrogate daughter, Cirilla Fiona Elen Riannon of Cintra, or better known as Ciri. He learns that the Wild Hunt is on her trail and that he must find her before they do. This is how it all begins.
You will be sent to the land of Velen and I dare you to press the map key. Your jaw will drop to the floor. It is absolutely huge, actually huge doesn’t even cover it. It is enormous, gargantuan, and it’s just one region, there are many others just like it. Here you will continue your search for Ciri, and three main quests will begin. First finish the one with the Red Baron, then the one with the Witch and lastly go and find Triss Merigold. These quests are very fun, although they do drag on for a bit too long, but hey, you do get to play as Ciri, and she is very cool.
After you complete the Red Baron’s and the Witch’s quests, try and do a few monster contracts and side quests before going to meet Triss. The game recommends level 10, but level 8 should suffice. It’s not that you will not manage at level 5 or 6, but you will struggle a bit, especially when you’ll face more than two opponents.
I wanted to play the game as “witcherish” as possible. So I followed the main story quest stopping along the way to complete a monster contract, or play a game of Gwent. By doing so, I reached Triss at level 11 and destroyed my enemies on normal difficulty. Once you complete the three quests, start doing the secondary ones, monster contracts and treasure hunts, while exploring the question marks on your map along the way (stay away from the south-eastern part of the map until you level up to 18 and equip better gear).
Just like before, reading books will provide with useful information regarding different monster that you might encounter. Also, The Witcher 3 books are packed with interesting lore, so you should take a break from adventuring and catch up on your reading, at least for a little while.
It is entirely up to you what to do first, but if you want to quest as quickly as possible, take an hour or so to ride around your horse and discover every way point on the map. It will make thing a lot easier later on in the game, when you won’t have to walk to your destination, but quick-travel there (you must use a signpost in order to travel to another one). You can also quick travel by using a boat, but only in villages and cities that have ports. Once you take helm of a boat, just open up your map, by pressing the “M” key and double left click on any anchor sign.
The monster contracts are the highlight of the game, but I did found the a bit repetitive. Sure, you almost never fight the same creature twice and you do have to adapt to the situation, but the things that you do prior to the fight are almost always the same. Get the contract from the notice board, talk with the NPC that posted it, go to a specific area, find some clues highlighted in red, find some footprints, follow them, find the beast, kill it, go back get reward and you are done.
In some specific quests you do have to option to spare the monster’s life. Remember that witchers don’t kill certain supernatural creature. For example, you will get a contract from a merchant in Novigrad to kill a cat-like creature that stole his goods. You will discover that the “monster” is in fact a “doppler”, a changeling that can take any form, human or animal. You will have the option to let him go, but the merchant will be angry, and you will only get half of the reward. It is entirely your decision ,but I for one let him go, after all, Geralt mentions that witcher don’t kill dopplers.
I will give you one more piece of information about the main story, that I wish somebody told me before I started to play the game. During the Red Baron’s quest, you will be charged with finding his wife and daughter, while during the Witch’s quest you will be asked to kill a creature that haunts a tree in the swamp region. Your decision to kill, or to liberate the spirit will affect the outcome of both quests. If you kill the creature, as you were asked in the first place, then the baron will get his wife back, while if you let the spirit free, the wife will die but the children under her care will live.
This is just one example of the hard decisions you will have to make in this astonishing game. No matter what your choice is, you will get the information that you were seeking and move on. I was so devastated because I couldn’t save them all, but I guess that’s life. Not always the seemingly best choice will be the best decision in the end, so choose carefully.
The Combat and the Controls
Throughout every fight, all I could think of was “this is incredible”, and it truly is. It doesn’t become boring as you progress through the game, quite the contrary, it becomes better. Geralt swings his swords very nimbly, but his opponents aren’t bad either. They will always try to surprise you and get in free blows from behind, so you must always be one step ahead. The combat is also very unforgiving, one wrong step and you are done for, but The Witcher 3 gameplay is one of the best ever made.
The Signs have been greatly improved, making them very fun to use in combat, and now you can even build a mage like Geralt that relies more on his magic than on his swords. Build enough stamina and you can combo signs to create very interesting results. For instance, I was once surprised by a large group of bandits, but with my improved Signs they were no match for me. I burned them with the Igni Sign, threw them around like rag dolls with the Aard Sign and stunned them with the Axii Sign, only using my blade to finish them off. It is needless to say that is was very satisfying.
The best thing about this game is that the combat never gets old, and after you level up some abilities and get better gear, you’ll wish for enemies to attack you. Even at higher level you can still die pretty quickly if you do not pay attention to what you are doing. A group of lower level drowners or nekkers will make quick work out of you, if you let yourself get surrounded. Try to roll away from danger and to isolate your target as much as you can.
Stun them, or push them away, anything that will give you more freedom to move. Bombs are also a great choice when fighting large group of enemies in close quarters (especially the freezing bomb), while the crossbow is very useful when fighting flying creatures, as well as underwater ones.
For the best experience possible, set the game to hard and use every single thing available in your tool kit. By doing this you truly feel like the great White Wolf of Rivia.
I heard my 18 year old brother running around through the house and screaming his lungs out: “Best game ever!”, and to be frank I’ll have to agree. Ok, maybe not the best game ever, but, in my opinion, it’s definitely the best RPG ever. It has everything, absolutely everything I look for in an RPG, from great combat to interesting quests and a huge, immersive open world. It was a joy to play it and I am very thankful that I’m not done with it yet.
I really believed that CD Projekt Red was exaggerating when they were saying that you can play the game the any way you want to, but I see now how wrong I was.
Either if you are a casual game of a hardcore one, this is a “must have game” and it will surely win the GOTY award.
We can also look forward to the expansion that will be released in October, so get your expansion pass now at Amazon.com for $24,99, available for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.
You can purchase The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt at the same retailer for $59,99, also available for all of the above mentioned platforms. Trust me guys this is a game that you do not want to miss out on.