Witcher 3 Review: The Devil’s in the Details

Witcher 3 Review: The Devil’s in the Details

In this article I’ll be dissecting CD Projekt Red’s newest title The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. This game has been on all or our radars for sometime. Being a huge fan of the Witcher series in general, I was extremely excited to play this game. Before I jump into it, let me give you a little back story

Genre: Action RPG
Developed by: CD Projekt Red
Published by: CD Projekt Red
Release date: May 19th, 2015
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC (Reviewed on PS4)
Launch Price: 39.99 USD

I first got into the Witcher several years ago (when many of the books had yet to be translated from Polish to English). I think what really sucked me into the game was a few things in particular: 1) I am a huge fan of folk lore in general. As my name suggests, I loved the tv series Supernatural (for that very reason), and The Witcher captured this extremely well. So much so that I went out and purchased The Last Wish and read it cover to cover within a couple of days. This was a huge deal for me as no game previously had made me do that. 2) Geralt’s character. I generally don’t like being pigeon-holed into playing a set character, but Geralt may be the one exception. I think he reminds many of us how we wish we could be, a badass with supreme skills and the ability to control the world around him without being a knight in shining armor. I just identified with him so much, it was bromance at first sight. 3) The mature setting of the game. It was the first RPG I had played since Fallout 2 that felt like it was designed specifically for adults. This is a rarity in the gaming industry as it can limit the amount a game sells by narrowing the audience. I think in this case, it’s a bit the exception, sort of like Dark Souls. By narrowing the audience they created a cult classic that became a massive success and did just the opposite.

It was those three things that really got me…

 

Design & Itemization

witcher 3 wordLet’s face it, The Witcher 3 may have the best design on Next Gen. If you loved Bloodborne for this very reason, this just may be the only game on Next Gen you can put into the same category. CDPR created the most organic environment I have ever had the pleasure of “virtually” playing in. The trees sway in the wind, peasants seek shelter when it’s raining, birds fly out of bushes as you ride by, and don’t get me started on the sky. The sky and weather effects are gorgeous! You can’t help but feel you are in a world that is living and breathing and you are simply just one part of it. Often you’ll be traveling around and an event happens out of no where in a place you’ve been through many times already. It’s almost as if the game is moving along at its own pace no matter what it is you yourself are doing. It’s simply fantastic. On top of all that, the musical score for this game simply complements it so well that it wouldn’t be the same game without it.

The world is massive, but doesn’t feel empty. There is always something to explore, some beast to hunt, sunken ship to search, cave to delve or person to rescue. There are so many places to go and things to do you often wind up somewhere completely different than you intended (Shiny Objects for the win). If you need a break from exploration there are always very interesting quests with excellent dialogue, that play almost like small movies, that will break up any monotony you may have encountered (which was very little if any for me). And then of course there is the mini game, Gwent, which I absolutely love. It could be stand alone game on its own.

People feel real and react in the manner in which you’d expect. The setting of the game is a war-torn country, where its populous is angry, apathetic and downtrodden. Many of the tasks you are faced with are thankless and result in a tragedy no matter which decision you pick, furthering the atmosphere and gloom that these people constantly portray. It is a very bleak outlook for the people of Velen and your goal within the game isn’t to save them. It isn’t one of those “Let’s save the universe” type games. It’s a “Let’s do the best we can to survive this shitstorm” type game. Something many people can relate to.

On the itemization front, however, it’s a completely different matter. It’s pretty much find Witcher Diagrams, make them and never use anything else. All the Relic gear (sort of like Legendary gear in other games), Magic gear and Master gear you get in the game is 3-5 levels below your current one and so is almost never better than the Witcher gear you have, which you can continuously upgrade to be better and better as you level. The moment I finally found a Relic Sword better than my Witcher Sword, 5 minutes later I leveled up and went and upgraded my Witcher Sword, which was immediately 20% more damage better. CDPR used an extremely disappointing loot system wherein most of the loot is random, besides the point I just mentioned above, this means alchemy recipes are also random. When an entire Skill Tree is based on random loot (the Alchemy Skill Line) it makes it particularly hard to utilize it. If you have all your points into Oils, for example, but don’t have the appropriate Oil for the monster you are fighting (because it’s random and you haven’t found it yet), those Skills are utterly useless. I really hope this gets fixed in a future patch. Knowing CDPR, they most certainly will fix it.

 

  • Beautifully crafted world that feels alive
  • A story driven game that allows for vast amounts of exploration
  • NPCs that react to the weather, each other and have their own motivations
  • One of the best musical scores I have ever seen

  • Fall damage is utterly ridiculous
  • Itemization was done poorly, resulting in everyone only using Witcher gear and nothing else.

 

 

Combat & Controls

I’m going to lump controls in here for the purposes of this review since I think they are particularly worth noting for this game. First let me start by saying that the combat is actually pretty good for a Witcher game. The previous games in this series were not known for their combat an I think CDPR has made great strides to improve it, and successfully so. It is not an overly complicated system but it feels fluid and natural. Combat is tighter than most action RPGs (with the exception of the Souls series & Bloodborne of course), and makes for some intense battles. Combat is fun and engaging and doesn’t ever really get boring. Throw in some mounted combat now and then and you could do it all day and still be keep on going. It is not perfect though. The game has difficulty switching and locking on to targets; not so much so that it ruins combat, but enough that it’s worth mentioning.

witcher 3 combatThe use of Signs and Potions are a large part of the combat (as in previous games) and the Skill Trees have been redesigned to make the player have tough choices. You are limited to the number of skills you can slot, so you will have to create a build that fits your play-style. Unfortunately it feels like you don’t notice the impact of many of these Skills (with the exception of the Combat Skills) until much later in the game. Placing points in Signs, the player will have to waste a good deal of Skill Points to get to the good Skills at the bottom of the tree, and Alchemy Skills aren’t that useful until you’ve found enough recipes that you can start using Bombs, Potions and Oils regularly. Since the locations for these recipes appear to be random, it can make this frustrating when you need a specific Potion or Oil to take on that 1 Monster that is 10 levels higher than you and kicking your ass.

Ironically the Combat Controls in The Witcher 3 are actually better than the general controls. I can actually maneuver better in combat then when I’m just walking around. I often feel like a bull in a china shop when I walk through towns and cities. I find that just running ahead, plowing through NPCs and jumping over everything in my way is actually faster then trying to avoid them. Often it is difficult to pick things up off the ground or loot chests. Sometimes I can’t even step over a tiny rock and I’m playing as a fucking Witcher for Christ sakes. And don’t get me started about swimming under water. It’s traumatizing. Simply put, The Witcher 3 has the worst controls (outside of combat) of any game on Next Gen.

 

  • Combat is fun and engaging
  • Challening enemies can be defeated in multiple ways
  • Deep Skill Trees make for some good customization and hard choices

  • Combat is simple and uncomplicated resulting in pressing mostly 2 or 3 buttons
  • Fighting multiple enemies can often feel like you’re fighting the controls, not the enemies
  • Skill Trees don’t get interesting until much further into the game
  • General game controls are downright terrible

 

 

Story

It’s not so much the story itself that is amazing in The Witcher 3, but more the way that it is told. Cut scenes happen when appropriate and are often timed perfectly. They generally aren’t too lengthy and you almost always are interested in what the person you are speaking with has to say. The result is a world full of exploration with plenty of dialogue in between. The pacing of the game is nearly perfect. There isn’t so much story that you feel overwhelmed or bored by it, but there’s just enough to peak your curiosity about the witchernext cut scene by the time you reach it.

The Characters in the game are life like and most of them have back stories that are intriguing and interesting. You quickly find that nothing is black and white and that you aren’t sure who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. I’ve often made the wrong choice within quests simply because the characters are so grey you don’t know who to believe. It’s very realistic in that sense. The voice acting is simply some of the best I’ve seen in a game. It’s up there with Elder Scrolls Online. Also, those accents are sexy…

 

  • A realistic story that isn’t so fantastic that you can’t identify with it
  • Nearly flawless pacing that results in story telling that enhances the gameplay
  • Characters that feel real and voice acting that is top notch

  • Players who haven’t played the first 2 games will not understand some of the motivation behind certain characters
  • So many characters it’s hard to keep them all straight

 

 

Multiplayer

Like the previous to Witcher games, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt doesn’t have any multiplayer. While I’m a very pro-multiplayer kinda guy, and I think there are very few games out there that wouldn’t benefit from having a multiplayer, the Witcher 3 can get away with it. Simply put, there attention to detail and the sheer size of the game encompassing that detail pretty much means they could have gotten away with whatever the fuck they wanted on this front. Would it be fun to play with others? Yes it would. Would it improve the experience? That’s debatable. It would depend on the cost of quality that would be removed by allocating resources to it. The game is so good at the moment that it’s not even worth having much of a debate about.

 

  • No multiplayer

  • No multiplayer

 

 

Final Verdict

One of the most interesting things about The Witcher 3, is that there really aren’t any other games out there to compare it to head-to-head. It feels like it incorporates so many different elements from so many games that it stands alone as it its own unique sub-genre. CDPR really created a masterpiece with this game, and while the combat can be a bit lacking at times and the controls are just frankly frustrating, they aren’t enough of a blemish in the slightest to keep me from recommending this game to anyone. Whether you like open world games like Skyrim or story driven games like Mass Effect it doesn’t matter. This game is for you. It is simply a shining example of what RPGs should be, and hopefully will set the bar a bit higher for many to come.

 

  • Some of if not the best world design seen to date on Next Gen
  • An organic world that feels alive and immerses the player
  • Fun engaging combat that is good enough
  • Music that dovetails perfectly with the setting
  • Pacing that is nearly flawless

  • Combat is perhaps a little too simple
  • Controls, especially out of combat are just awful
  • Terrible itemization that pretty much makes everyone use the same sets of gear

 

 

the-witcher-3-wild-hunt

 

What did you think? Let us know in the comments!


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About our Reviews

9
Summary: It incorporates so many different elements from so many games that it stands alone as it its own unique sub-genre. CDPR really created a masterpiece with this game, and while the combat can be a bit lacking at times and the controls are just frankly frustrating, they aren't enough of a blemish in the slightest to keep me from recommending this game to anyone.
Story & Setting (9.5)
Gameplay (8)
Design (8.5)
Replayability (10)
Pricepoint (9.5)
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Senior Editor at Fextralife. I enjoy gaming, playing and watching sports, cooking yummy food, watching a good movie and hanging out with Fex.Find more of my posts

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14 comments on “Witcher 3 Review: The Devil’s in the Details”

  1. Avatar Back_Lot_Basher says:

    It’s good to know the controls have issues. This is my number-one priority in a game, and often breaks my interest in an otherwise good title. GTA titles always annoyed me this way, because general movement felt so sluggish, almost like there was a delay on my controller. I’m looking forward to trying Witcher 3 at some point, probably after many hours in Elder Scrolls Online first.

  2. Avatar Shadeon says:

    Good article. It reminds me of some of the important things I didn’t give The Witcher 3 its due credit for once all was said and done, like the incredibly detailed world environment and how alive everything felt. I might’ve at first, but through my personal experience running into what seemed like a onslaught of bugs and a distaste for the mechanics, I eventually got short-sighted and lost some perspective on those aspects that usually make me really appreciate a game. Although I felt that overall gameplay was lacking, The Witcher 3 is still an amazing game well worth any initial frustrations.

  3. Avatar Aigaion says:

    I don’t understand people complaining about the controls, is it a console thing?

  4. Avatar WyrmHero says:

    I’m gonna buy it when the definite remaster collection with 1 & 2 releases.

  5. Avatar Castielle says:

    Yes I play on PS4.

    Cas

  6. Avatar Fexelea says:

    Great review once again! Cas is quickly turning into a trusted reviewer

  7. Ares_1992 says:

    forgot gwent tho

  8. Avatar Fexelea says:

    He mentioned it? Said it could be its own game

  9. Ares_1992 says:

    Ah missed it, was looking for its own category. Gwent is my GoTY but witcher 3 comes as a close second though ;)

  10. Avatar HazamaOuroborous says:

    I’ve heard of some framerate issues, did you experience many in your playthrough Cas?

  11. Avatar Castielle says:

    I have experienced ZERO framerate issues.

    Cas

  12. Nimrael81 says:

    Pretty fair review, IMO.

    The game has its flaws, definitely, and I agree with most of them listed (I didn’t have issues with the controls, mind you), but overall, the greatness of the game completely eats up the flaws.

    Hype had died down. Novelty wore off.

    And I still think this might be the best game I’ve ever played.

    Also, something west Europeans/US guys here probably don’t know, but as someone from the Slavic countries (Croatia), i can’t begin to describe how spot on the got the environment, the folklore, the people, pretty much everything.
    I’ve head the same from my Irish buddies, the Skellige (a mix of Celtic and Nord cultures and lands) feels and looks very authentic.

    I’d also like to add there are some details that you rarely (if ever) can find in games, I mean, it even beats Dark Souls secrets.
    (I won’t list some of my favorite ones as they’re spoiler material)

  13. Blastoise says:

    Don`t quite agree with the point in the story sector, especially "the pacing of the game is nearly perfect.". It seems to me that the first part of the game pace was really great, but the story kind of loose too much at the middle.I think Geralt(player) has too much control on the plot on the island.
    One thing that bothers me most when I playing is the changeless shooting position for the most of the dialogue, it hurts the general fluency of game play badly. Why can`t I just sell some stuff real quick without a close-up to the NPC?

  14. Avatar Fexelea says:

    All fair points, thank you for taking the time to comment!


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