It’s as simple as the headline makes it sound: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is something special. While we’re not ready to forge our final opinion on the game, we’ve put together this relatively quick piece of impressions for you, and we hope it gives you a decent idea of what to expect from CD Projekt Red’s open world epic.
We’ve already talked about how The Witcher 3 works on PS4 – you can read our thoughts here.
First of all, let’s confirm that the game world is incredibly large. Wide open fields, forests that seem to stretch for miles, and bloodstained and deserted battlefields make up most of the setting, but what’s most impressive is how rich it all seems. For a map of this size, the detail that the developer has put into each location is astonishing at times, making the land a joy to explore. In that sense, follow in the footsteps of Bethesda, and what the studio has accomplished with its The Elder Scrolls series.
Adding to an already tangible world is a dynamic weather system, along with an impressive day and night cycle. The atmosphere can be difficult to fully convey in video games, but The Witcher 3 makes it look ridiculously easy. Going through a forest at night while the moon shines through the trees, hunting a pack of wolves – or perhaps something a little more mythical – is as exciting as taking a walk down a bustling city street. No matter what you’re doing or where you are, Geralt’s adventure seems to be able to drag you down with a whisper, if you do.
As such, it is not really a role-playing game that can be turned off. The combat can be totally brutal, and the desert is teeming with beasts waiting to tear you limb from limb. The almost constant sense of danger forces you to remain aware of your surroundings, but make no mistake: sitting on the edge of your seat, listening carefully to your surroundings, and fleeing fights with a health slip to the left is what makes liberation so exciting. We don’t know if our feelings about this change as we spend more time with the game, but it certainly looks promising at the moment.
Speaking of combat, the entire system is clean, orderly, and intense. As for the more difficult difficulties, remember a bit of Bloodborne: if you make a bad move, you are probably dead, or at least dangerously close to the end. The difference here is that you cannot simply swallow a potion to restore your health, since healing – whether natural or accelerated through the use of a tincture – occurs over time. True to the franchise, The Witcher 3 emphasizes the importance of preparing before the battle begins. Getting oils on your blade, drinking potent potions, or equipping specialized gear are all important factors in making sure you walk away from a fight in one piece.
But if that all sounds like a hassle, don’t worry – the title’s normal, easy difficulties seem to offer a better balance for those who may not have the patience to brew countless concoctions or gather raw materials for crafting. You’ll still need to rely on dodging shots and careful sidesteps, and taking on creatures above your current level will still be a challenge, but you won’t have to use every possible tool and option at your disposal.
So far, we’ve outlined what is essentially a pretty good open-world game, but The Witcher 3 is so much more than that. Putting some of a path for yourself through the gigantic map is a general narrative that is full of options for the player. The story is carefully implemented as it allows you the space to breathe between each plot point, to get back out into the wild and hunt down some monsters. That said, the story is pretty long, but from what we’ve played so far, it’s pretty well written.
Weaving a narrative into an open world game is never easy. Dragon Age: The Inquisition handled the task very well overall, but it still felt like there was a bit more filler between each story-driven scenario. This is simply not the case here, because even the side stories that you are going to stumble upon while traveling are fully voice-acted, complete with animated cutscenes and usually a moral choice or two. As a result, nothing you participate in seems to be inconsequential. Again, it’s about adding to that incredible atmosphere that we mentioned earlier.
We are in awe, then, and really, we can’t wait to finish this movie and get back to our fantastic journey. The world of The Witcher 3 is both cozy and somewhat terrifying, and that’s the beauty of it. The detail is rich, the atmosphere is jaw-dropping at times, and the gameplay is rock solid. This is where we usually warn of potential flaws in a title, but to be honest, we can’t think of anything.