The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has been released to critical acclaim from almost every major publication. Critics and fans seem to agree: CD Projekt RED has developed a modern RPG/action masterpiece. Hell, the game was confirmed to have hit one million pre-orders before its official release.
For those uninitiated with the series (I am somewhat of a newcomer myself), Witcher 3 follows
series protagonist Geralt of Rivia who is himself, a “witcher”- a mutated monster fighter/hunter infused with magic potions, I think. There is a lot of lore in the game so if you’re into that sort of thing, you will already be having a good time. This is the third entry in the video game franchise by the Polish developer and a direct sequel to The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. The games take place within the same universe as the novels they are based upon, and both share the same name. Although CD Projekt RED has assured newbies that they don’t really need to play the previous games to enjoy and understand its newest entry, one can’t help but be a little intimidated upon booting up the disc. There are many character names thrown about/events mentioned from previous games (some of which we may have not even ever seen), and it can be a bit difficult to keep up with at first.
That said, with this mild confusion also comes a great sense of immersion- this is a very well-crafted world and there are things going on in its universe. The story has an epic feel akin to the Tolkien novels it was most likely undoubtedly inspired by. Personally, I couldn’t help but also make a few comparisons to the all-too-popular HBO original series, Game of Thrones. To bring new players up to speed with the setting of the current game, a beautifully animated cutscene at the beginning helps to explain the world of the game, as well as the turmoil within it and the people who are a part of it. While it won’t make newcomers authorities on all of the subject matter, it delivers the overall gist.
Jumping right in, the game has a pretty lengthy prologue that serves as a sort of tutorial to help introduce the player to the mechanics of the game. It doesn’t hold your hand too much and gives you a bit of freedom within the confines of that introductory period. Initially, you learn traversal mechanics, movement, and combat[BB1]. As you progress, you are eased into the open world where you learn of quests, NPC character interactions, how to navigate your map, item management, etc. (essentially everything most hardcore players have come to expect from every modern role-playing game). If you have played RPGs before, you will feel at home here.
CD Projekt RED has not only created and relayed a dense, history-filled world, but they have also given players an absolutely beautiful physical space to conduct their adventures as Geralt. Though I have barely scratched the surface (the game has 200+ hours of content), the rural areas and villages you are introduced to at the beginning of the game are breathtaking. The world is populated by monsters, wildlife, people, and vegetation. There is even a day/night time cycle within the game and dynamic weather. There is nothing quite like galloping along the road as you hear the clicking of your horse’s heels, and the sounds of crisp spring water flowing in a river nearby; all while the sun is slowly setting atop a sweeping vista of lush, green forest trees blowing in the wind. The player map knew where I was, but I was lost…
NOTE: These initial impressions are based on the Xbox One version of the game. This is not a final review. The author has invested 3 hours of gameplay.