*My apologies for the lack of pictures, I had to remove them to get this blog to publish*
I have recently played through The Witcher III: Wild Hunt for the very first time. It was an incredible experience. It’s definitely one of the greatest games I’ve ever played. It will absolutely go down as one of my Top 10 games of all time, though I’m unsure exactly where it will rank. I’d like to share some of my thoughts on the game with you. The first part of the blog will be spoiler-free. When I get into spoilers, I will mark them, so you can stop reading if you haven’t played the game.
I had never played any of the games before. I had never read any of the books either. I was familiar with the high concept of it from trailers and whatnot when the game came out, but that was my only exposure. So, if you aren’t familiar, here’s the basic premise. The game takes place in a dark fantasy world filled with dangerous monsters. You play as Geralt, a Witcher. A Witcher is a powerful warrior for hire. He doesn’t fight wars. He fights monsters. When your village is being terrorized by a Griffin, you post a contract on your local notice board and hope that a Witcher sees it. When they do, they’ll go kill the monster. But, they never work for free. They must be paid. The concept of a Witcher is pretty cool and makes a lot of sense. Ordinary people stand no chance of fighting Griffins, Vampires, Werewolves, or Trolls. Witchers are highly skilled in combat. They are also physically enhanced with “mutagens.” Essentially, they’re given highly toxic potions and poisons that will greatly enhance their physical capabilities (provided the candidate actually survives the process).
Combat in the game isn’t terribly complicated. You primarily use swords. You have a light attack and a heavy attack. You can dodge or roll away from enemies. You can block. If you time blocks perfectly, you’ll actually counter (I haven’t mastered this, it’s tricky). You also have access to 5 basic spells, each is useful in different situations. The most valuable is Quen, which is basically a shield. I played the game on the lowest difficulty. The vast majority (probably over 80%) of enemies can be killed just by spamming light attacks. Some will require actual thought and technique. You’ll need to dodge (seriously, dodging is so effective in this game). You’ll need to use spells. You will also eventually gain the ability to enhance your weapons with oils and yourself with potions. Choosing these correctly will make the difference between victory and defeat.
Overall, I like the combat. There’s enough here that you can sink your teeth into it if you want to. It’s possible to breeze through most enemies and just get to the story. But, the game really does require you to learn how to fight in order to defeat certain enemies (monsters, primarily).
The best part of this game by a country mile is the writing. Every character is thoroughly thought out, even minor ones. I’ll give you an example of a small quest midway through the game. A friend of yours is attacked in an alley. You decide to find her attacker and kill them. You meet a doctor named Joachim that is treating her. He is old and gruff. He used to teach medicine at an academy. But, he has battle scars and carries a sword. Over the course of the quest, you learn that he has connections with the local mortician. Said mortician actually taught Joachim medicine. You dive in and learn the history of their connection to each other, which turns out to be super interesting and important to the plot of this quest. This is all to find 1 (seemingly) random person who attacked your friend. Joachim is one of my favorite characters in the whole game and you only interact with him for this one quest!
Directly related to the writing is the voice acting. It is absolutely top notch. After dumping hundreds of hours into Oblivion and Skyrim, I’m used to hearing the same 5-10 voice actors give every quest and read every line. I’m used to their performances being memorable only by how silly they are. That’s not how things are in Wild Hunt. Every character is voiced, although you can’t have a conversation with most passersby. Every character you can converse with however (which is many), is acted with great effect. Even children. I remember one particular side quest where you find a young child after her village is massacred. She is the sole survivor. Her grief and horror is palpable. It’s really incredible.
The thing I love most about this game is how thoughtful it is. Care was put into every single aspect of the game. One small example. You have a horse named Roach. You can whistle and summon her in any outdoor area of the game (unless you’re in or on water of course). The game will spawn him just outside of your camera’s point of view. It’s very good at this. I only saw her magically appear once. The thing is, Roach feels like a real animal. She gets scared. She can run away from danger. But there’s one thing I love most. I’ll ride into a town. I’ll dismount and speak with a local about a contract. When I go back to my horse, I find she has wandered a short distance away. She has found a trough of water or a patch of grass to graze in. All on her own. She wants food and drink, so she gets it. She feels like a real animal.
I also like how waiting works. In Elder Scrolls, you can wait pretty much any time, just to pass time. You can do that here to, but it has a function. Geralt meditates. His health bar fills up. He also somehow converts alcohol in order to replenish substances. So, in this game, you can craft things, right? Blacksmiths can craft weapons and armor. But on your own, at pretty much any point, you can craft potions, oils, bombs (grenades, essentially), and a few other things. You have to have acquired the recipe for it, and you must have all the necessary ingredients. But once you’ve crafted it, it’s yours forever. No crafting needed again (for most things, anyways). When you make oils, you just have those forever. Potions and bombs are produced in limited quantity. You might have 2 of a certain bomb and 3 of a certain potion. This prevents you from spamming them in combat. When you meditate, Geralt replenishes these. So, you don’t have to craft them again. You don’t have to buy them. You just get them.
Another thing I like is the animation. Geralt is masterfully animated, as are most of the other major characters. They’re very expressive. Especially in conversation. If you’ve ever played Mass Effect, every conversation is just you standing face to face with another person. Camera is an over the shoulder shot that switches back and forth between characters throughout the conversation. That does happen here for sidequests, shopping, and other things. But for main quests, that isn’t the case. Characters will sit. They’ll walk around. They’ll move their bodies. They’ll eat or drink. The camera will look at different angles. It feels so much more dynamic and interesting because of this. It helps the characters feel real.
There are some things I don’t love about the game. I do have a few nits to pick. I find inventory management to be very clunky. Especially when you go to a swordsmith, you’re buying and selling and dismantling, then crafting and upgrading, and unequipping and re-equipping. I just find that I’m backing in and out of conversation and the buy/sell screen, then I go to my personal inventory screen, then back to the smith’s sell screen, etc. I feel like this would have benefitted from some simplification. There’s also inconsistencies in buying crafting ingredients from smith’s for armor and weapons, as opposed to buying alchemical ingredients from herbalists for your potion crafting. It’s kind of odd.
As with any big RPG like this, there’s definitely some jank. Roach will get stuck on a lot of stuff. Sometimes it’s really finicky to get Geralt in the exact right spot to interact with some objects. You’ll see weird glitches. Tons of weird things with characters clipping through objects. I do find that this isn’t nearly as janky as an Elder Scrolls game, FWIW.
Before we get into spoilers, I just want to say that I love this game. It’s amazing. It’s one of the biggest and best RPGs I’ve ever played. It is incredibly thoughtful in its design and presentation. The writing is top-notch. The voice acting is excellent. The quest design is peerless. If you haven’t played this game, I urge you to consider it. If you dislike RPGs, skip it. If you don’t have any interest in games with mature content, skip it. But if you like vast, deep role playing games, you owe it to yourself to give this a try. I also highly recommend that you get the Complete Edition. It has 2 expansion packs that are some of the highest quality DLC that money can buy. If you have any questions that I can answer, please ask down below!
The rest of this blog will be spoiler-filled!
I chose to romance Yennefer over Triss. I have zero regrets about this. Yen is a great character. She is powerful, intelligent, sassy, and determined. She knows what she wants and she lets no one and nothing stand in her way. I like that. She really feels like Geralt’s soul mate. Whenever the day comes that I replay the game (and I surely will), I’ll give Triss a try. But I’ll be surprised if I prefer that experience.
I love Ciri and her relationship with Geralt. It’s so loving. Ciri is a joy. It’s honestly a shame that you don’t spend more time with her. I wouldn’t mind a whole game where you play as Ciri (though I doubt that will ever happen).
I was very satisfied with the ending of the main story. It’s happy endings, all around. Maybe that would bother some people, but I’m okay with it. The characters have worked too hard and sacrificed too much to not get a positive ending. I love that Geralt gets to spend tons of time with his daughter, teaching her everything he knows. I appreciate that she then gets to go on her own adventure and see the world. I love that Geralt and Yen get to settle down and just enjoy each other for the rest of their lives. It’s very pleasant.
I was so shocked when the battle of Kaer Morhen turned out not to be the finale of the game. It sure feels like one. It’s like Mass Effect 3, but actually good. Let me explain. You spend the game making friends and gathering allies. Then you return to defend your home from an ancient, unknowable, unstoppable threat. You gather a team. You prepare your defenses. It’s not unlike spending ME3 raising the Galactic Readiness Level. But this feels so personal. You don’t gather armies. You gather friends. You aren’t defending Earth. You’re protecting your daughter. It’s an amazingly epic battle. It feels like everything that ME3 could have been.
But it doesn’t end there. That scene ends in tragedy. But then you take the fight to the enemy. No more defending. It is time for the Wild Hunt to become the hunted. You go on a series of grand quests to weaken the enemy and draw them into a fight you know you can win. You end up defeating the king of the Wild Hunt. But even then, it isn’t over. You go to a tower with a beam shooting out the top. I could feel the Mass Effect 3 colors drawing close. But it didn’t happen. You don’t get to save the world. That’s not what a Witcher does. You get the chance to love and support your daughter. She gets to save the world. You get to be there for her. It’s a poignant ending. It’s remarkably bold in how the writers let you watch as someone else saves the world.
For Hearts of Stone, I adore the wedding quest. So fantastic. Possibly my favorite quest in the whole game. It’s definitely gonna be hit or miss for people. It involves much more watching than playing. But I liked it. I also enjoyed the heist. Love a heist.
I enjoyed Gaunter O’Dimm as well as Olgierd Von Everec. Interesting folks. I mean, they’re both horrible and I don’t like them. But they’re interesting to interact with. At the end of the questline, you get the chance to try and defend Olgierd and prevent Master Mirror from taking his soul. Presumably, you’d engage in a battle of wits with him. But I had no interest in that. Olgierd was a horrible person and deserved any punishment that came his way. Would have been interesting to see the battle of wits though.
Blood and Wine is so good! It’s right up there with Shivering Isles for top-tier DLC. I love Toussaint. Marvelous place. Beauclair is a beautiful city that I could happily live in. I’m totally happy with Geralt and Yennifer spending their days living in a vineyard and just enjoying each other for the rest of their lives. They even have a spare bedroom for when Ciri drops by for a visit! It’s fantastic. Speaking of which, I really like Corvo Bianco. It’s nice to have a home in this game. I like the perks you get. My one wish is that you could contract a blacksmith and/or armorer to set up shop right on your property.
Blood and Wine is the part of the game I’m most interested in replaying. It gives you a huge choice near the end. I chose to go after the Unseen (which was really cool). I did a bit of reading and gather that I missed some really interesting stuff with Syanna that I’d like to see.
I kind of hated the ending of the story. On one hand, it makes sense for the Duchess to die the way she did. She was blinded by love and regret, so she opened herself up to be hurt by her sister. But I, as the player, completely knew what was going to happen. I mean, I didn’t know a hairpin would be used, but I was certain Syanna would try something. Why couldn’t I intervene? Why not use Axii on her before they embrace to prevent her from harming the Anna? I dunno. I just felt like I should have been given an opportunity to do something.
I'll stop droning on now. I just loved this game. I don’t know where it fits in my top 10, but it’s definitely in there. I need some time to process it. I will absolutely play it again. I may even buy it on Switch some day (especially if I see a sale). I would love to see a fourth game, but who knows if or when that will happen. I would love to play as Ciri, or a totally new Witcher from a different school. I’d love to see new lands. Maybe actually go to Ofier? Hopefully one day!
In answer to NeoTurbo’s question on my recent qpost, here are my top 3 sidequests:
Goodness, Gracious, Great Balls of Granite!
Where the Cat and Wolf Play
If you have any questions for me about my experience, I will gladly answer them! Meanwhile, tell me your thoughts on the game!