Witcher 3

The Witcher 3 might have been the most powerful reason that drove me to switch from the PS3/360 era to the PS4 this past holiday season.

Having finished Skyrim, I wanted to experience the next great open world fantasy RPG, and The Witcher 3 provided an opportunity to do just that. The witcher 3 is a great game, but one question remains: Is it better than Skyrim?

A Visual Masterpiece

Few games can claim to look better than the Witcher 3, in fact I dare say, that in terms of foliage, lighting and just plain visual grandeur the game remains to this date virtually unmatched. Fallout 4 is newer than Witcher 3, and looks a full generation behind in many spots.

Some of the most realistic character models I have ever seen in a game are the ones in Naughty Dog’s the Last of Us Remaster, and Witcher matches – and surpasses- that type of visual quality in each main character model that it presents.

Every detail in the game’s world from clothing to weather effects is meticulously rendered. The game completely justified my investment on a new console since the visual spectacle presented here would not be possible on last generation consoles.

There are some issues with the frame-rate of course. While a lot of FPS on this console generation can run full 1080p at 60 frames per second, the same feat has not been replicated in open world games. Considering how stunning TW3 looks, the fact that the game runs at a locked 30 frames per second for the vast majority of time (after a hefty update) is impressive. Other than some noticeable frame drops in some areas  there is nothing to complain about The Witcher’s visual package.

Velen presents a swamp filled dark land beautifully, and Skellige is just the place for those of us missing the wintery grandeur of Skyrim’s world.

I must stress in this section of the review, the amazing weather system in the game. Wind truly impacts the look of the game. It’s mind blowing to see gigantic tree lines naturally move to the sound and in response of the howling wind. If TW3 does one thing better than the rest, is that it presents a world full of beauty, magic and grandeur with out ever compromising realism, and that truly makes this game world feel alive at least in terms of visual style.

More GTA than Elders Scrolls

From the mission structure – to the world map icon at the top left corner on the screen – the game plays like GTA would in a Lord of the Rings-Game of Thrones setting, this isn’t a bad thing since it differentiates the game from one of its main competitors.

That being said, The Witcher 3 presents you with a gigantic beautiful world to explore that sometimes feels a little flat, especially for someone who has played Skyrim for hundreds of hours. The Witcher 3, just like the aforementioned GTA series, lacks verticality.

Now Witcher 3 has plenty of hidden loot and treasure waiting to be uncovered, its just that there are no layers to the world. The real state in the Witcher 3 might be when all is said and done in terms of scale bigger than Skyrim, but only on the surface.

Missing are the multiple massive dungeons, and caverns that one would casually stumble upon while traversing Skyrim’s world. Here the caverns (except some story related dungeons) are beautiful yet exceptionally small.

After exploring the land for 30 hours or so, you fall into the same pattern of running around while killing monsters to find treasures, and crafting materials in chests scattered around the game world. All this while heading to the next main story quest point.

Unlike Skyrim which offered the thrill of exploring for the prospect of finding new amazing treasure, new undiscovered areas, and level advancement.The thrill of exploring in The Witcher 3 eventually becomes one of just finding some beautiful sight to behold, and maybe running into an interesting monster battle while at it; provided that you are ready.

Unlike Skyrim, TW3 really relies on the story, and the side story characters that the player encounters in every side mission to lure the player into investing time on its world, and for the most part it works.

It works because of the excellent voice acting, and the fact that walking from point A to point B (you can also travel by horse or use warp points) is not a tedious chore since the world is so vast and beautiful. However, it is likely that you will focus mostly on finishing the main storyline quests which are very engaging, rather than venturing outside of the beaten path like you would in an Elder’s Scrolls setting.

The Witcher 3 tells a great story in an open world setting, while Skyrim gives you an open world setting to play around while trying to tell a passable story. That’s mainly where the difference lies in between those two titles.

The main plot in TW3 is engrossing, and fulfilling until the very end. The game ( and presumably the book series) takes elements from the Game of Thrones, and other fantasy books. Geralt and Ciri however, add a certain charm, and uniqueness to the tale.

The fact that Geralt can make decisions that have important repercussions throughout the game is a true bonus. Playing The Witcher 3, I truly felt that I had the power in me to decide how the story would end, and while a lot of the events are scripted some of the consequences of my choices are not, and it made an already compelling tale, that  much more interesting for it than the usual RPG that I am accustomed to playing.

Thrilling Combat

On the normal difficulty setting, The Witcher 3 offers quite a few challenging foes. In this regard the game is tougher than Skyrim. In Skyrim I remember toppling mega powerful foes by simply spotting myself on top of an unreachable ledge (for the enemies), and shooting arrows at them with patience, and a gameplan. In The Witcher 3 if you are not at a high level, some of the high leveled foes, and beasts will topple you quite easily, no matter what strategy you employ.

Gaining levels can also be a bit tedious, and unnecessarily long.  Combat is not very rewarding in that aspect. TW3 awards the vast majority of its EXP points if you complete a wide array of missions, but combat is surprisingly not rewarding enough in that aspect which makes absolutely no sense.

You see, The Witcher 3 – by design – invites the player into a grinding routine of fighting different enemies just traveling from one quest spot to the next. The game is heavy on combat, and after 30 hours or so, I found combat quite a tedious exercise simply because the EXP reward for toppling a high level monster wasn’t worth the effort.

This is a shame because the violent sword play present in The Witcher 3 is quite satisfying, and thrilling.

I mostly got by just using my sword and smashing everything in my path, but some of the tougher foes, including Werewolfs, and other mythical beasts require a strategic combination of Geralt’s sword skills, and his magic abilites.

All in all the Witcher behaves as an one would expect a modern action RPG would. It must be said though, that not being able to go into a first person mode when using the crossbow took away the fun out of using said long ranged weapon. I rarely used it during my entire play time.

Horse riding however is mostly smooth experience, as is exploring towns, and villages on foot. Collecting loot takes a huge chunk of the game as this is a necessary action in order to power the crafting system, be it for armor, weapons or potions.

The Witcher 3 is a huge game in every sense of the word, and in terms of gameplay it will be interesting to see how much the new upcoming Zelda takes, or doesn’t take from it.

Zelda games play differently, but since the series will debut soon in a true open world setting it will be interesting to see what it does. As of now, The Witcher 3 is the standard bearer as far as 3-D third person RPGs go for this generation.

The game does have some minor technical problems, it crashed a few times during my play time on the ps4 and the frame rate drops here and there. One time I got stuck on a rock, and had to reset the game because I couldnt get out of it. I hadn’t patched the game at that time so probably this issue has been fixed in an update.

Also CD project (the developers) have taken it upon themselves to extend the play time by adding free downloadable quests on the playstation store FREE of charge, which is a nice added bonus.

Sound wise….amazing

Musically every composition is beautiful, and fits the mood of the game properly, there is a film quality to the music presented here thats hard to find in many other games.

The ambient effects are adequate and the voice acting is stellar. From Gerald’s voice acting to even some of the minor characters the developers at CDP were meticulous in crafting this masterpiece. The game even includes a soundtrack in the package, a truly wonderful gif, since I guarantee that you will come away from this game enamored with its tunes.

A must for any gamer

Just like Skyrim before it, The Witcher 3 is a must have game. It shows the power of new generation consoles, and takes the RPG genre into a new level of greatness. This is the best looking RPG I have ever played, and also has the best story I have ever seen in an open world type of game.

Until the next Elder Scrolls entry arrives, The Witcher 3 is likely to remain the king of open world RPGs on the PS4 and Xbox One.

Gameplay: 8.5

Lack of real meaningful EXP gains in combat hurts the score in such a combat oriented title. The game could have had tighter shooting (long ranged weapons) mechanics and more incentives to go out looking for caves, and dungeons to explore. Limited load capacity in terms of how many items you can carry on Geralt at once, is quite tedious, because all the loot the game forces you to pick up in order to utilize the crafting system properly will undoubtedly take its toll on the carrying limit.

Graphics: 9.5

I wish I could give it a 10, but frame rate issues hurt the score. That being said, the foliage and textures in this game make Fallout 4 look a whole generation behind, and TW3’s character models are nearly flawless..

Music: 10.0

Game of Thrones epic, and excellent truly marvelous voice acting.

Story: 9.5

As good and as intriguing as it gets in an open world game.

Replay Value : 10

If you are a completist, well, there is well over 100 hours of content here.

Overall: 9.5

Not as intriguing as Skyrim was when it first launched, and not as time consuming, but definitely one of the best games ever made. TW3 hits a perfect balance between exploration, and story telling that few games can claim to have achieved.

Metacritic rated The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt a 92/100 on PS4.

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