The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt review - captivating and challenging

£59.99 on consoles, £44.99 on PC ; PS4, Xbox One, PC; CD Projekt RED

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The Independent Tech

Video games are unique as a storytelling medium in that not only do they allow for a story to be told, but the player gets a chance to imprint their own personality onto the character they are controlling. This can then lead to an increase in immersion and investment, and something that the Witcher III has done very well is make players feel they are influencing the world they are inhabiting.

The Witcher III is, shockingly, the third instalment in CD Projekt’s Witcher series; which are in turn based on a book. You play as Geralt, a member of a dying breed of supernaturally gifted monster hunters for hire. The game mostly revolves around you tracking and killing people/things, which might sound repetitive, but the developers have managed to give enough variety that you don’t get bored carrying out what are essentially very similar missions.

What most action RPGs fail to achieve is an impactful and deep combat system that works in real time. The Witcher III manages to have a combat system that is both visceral and quick, but with a surprising amount of depth that allows the player to fight as they see fit. This is clearly a game that has been built with the controller in mind (as well as the keyboard and mouse) as the in fight menus are easy to access and don’t feel like they break up the flow of the gameplay. 

Customising your character and creating custom equipment can very easily become a tedious task in many RPGs. There are often countless methods of improving your character and their equipment, but The Witcher has enough elements to improve and be creative with, but not too many that it feels overwhelming or gets boring.

Visually it's fantastic, with a varied array of scenery and wildlife mixed with villages and towns that feel alive, and gives the game a very special feel. I would recommend travelling by horse as much as possible rather than fast travelling, as the amount of details that the developers have put into the world is very impressive and it would be a shame to miss it.

One area where this game drops the ball a bit is that it expects (and requires) you to do virtually all of the side quests in each area to level your character up enough to complete the next story mission. I made the mistake of trying to do a story mission that I wasn’t at the recommended level for and I got completely destroyed. Although this does improve as the game goes on, the first few areas you access are very unforgiving.

Another disappointment is that you will definitely need to have at least read up on the plots of the previous games to understand what is going on for much of the game. It would have been nice to have a summary of the key plot points of the previous games at the start to allow any new players to catch up, such as was done with the Mass Effect series. I understand that this would be difficult due to the plot-altering decisions that can be made in previous games, but at least a summary of the main characters would have been useful.

CD Projekt have created an engrossing and captivating game that manages to deal with some rather difficult issues, like domestic abuse, in a surprisingly grown-up manner for a video game. The game is entertaining, challenging and at times beautiful, and is certainly worth the purchase, even if it does require a bit of background reading.

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