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The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Score: 98%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: CD Projekt RED
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: RPG/ Adventure/ Action


Graphics & Sound:

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt looks amazing on Xbox One. Thereís so much attention to detail that itís really starting to resemble its PC cousin. A number of things will stand out as you play, making you want to stop by the roadside and take it all in. Sunsets will stream red light through the trees and bathe everything in a glow that will make you feel like youíre outside. Little things like glass windows and food on table look convincing enough to make you want to sit down by the fire and eat. There are varied landscapes that look real enough to be taken from a photo as well, with crumbling sandy banks next to rivers in one area, and rocky mountain paths in another.

People look great as well. Sure, Geralt is looking as Witchy as ever with his cat eyes and white hair. As a character, he looks great. And his companion sorceress friends and other people close to him are quite good looking as well. Perhaps Iím more impressed at how the common folk come in so many different varieties. It would be hard to believe that at least some of them werenít modeled on real people. Itís not often you see a "normal" face with a misshapen nose or imperfect skin or some other sort of unattractive feature done well. It might just be more difficult than modeling a world filled only with extremely attractive and profoundly ugly people. Whatever the reason, it lends believability and a certain likable quality to everything in the game. Well of course, it doesnít make the more awful people of The Witcher any more likable, but more on that later.

Not only do character designs look nice, but the facial animations during dialogue scenes are very well done as well. There are a number of nuanced expressions youíll see, from coy glances to flashes of concern. Youíll see it very early in the game in the face of the first innkeeper. Her tone of voice and her gentle nods both portray a warm demeanor. She has a quiet smile and weary eyes. When you turn away, she picks up a mug, blowing a bit of breath on it, then rubbing it to polish. Thereís so much that builds a world, but The Witcher 3 takes it to a new level with these details.

Creatures and monsters also come in all different varieties. Granted, itís hard to read some of the fine details when youíre fighting many of the creatures, but the work done on these is incredible as well. Creatures like the Ghouls or Nekkers are frightfully hideous, looking like the monsters that a countryside peasant would fear. There are plenty of creatures that are beautiful and frightening at the same time as well, such as the dragon-like Forktail. The ghost-like Wraiths look more terrifying than ever as well, blinking out and reappearing to strike with sword in hand. Hunting out the various awesome creatures of the world is exciting, especially because they are so different from one another.

The crass and terrible populace are back at it again as well. Not that you'd expect much to change in the world of The Witcher, but the people certainly haven't gotten less ignorant. For example, expect to have a leisurely ride down the road and one random villager will come out and ask how often he should "beat his wench." The blatant racism between humans and the the other races is back again as well. Geralt often stops some terrible things from happening, but he can't shut the common folk up, that's for sure.

And, of course, weíd be remiss if we didnít mention Geraltís fine horse, Roach. Roach is one of the better video game horses Iíve ever seen. Heís proportional, his legs are rigged correctly, and he moves and acts much like a real horse. Let me horse nerd out for a second and say that the little details such as the bounce of the trot compared to the rocking motion of the canter is done so well. Even the subtle double kick of Geraltís heels shows that someone spent some time riding horses before they put them in this game. Unfortunately, there appears to be only one horse model in the game, but there are a lot of different coat colors and gear such as harnesses to break things up among the horse kind.

Sound is also top quality in this final installment of The Witcher. The classic Witcher theme found in all the games makes a reappearance in the opening screen. Much like the rest of the games, thereís a lot of renaissance instruments that play in the backgrounds of taverns and towns. Gentle strumming of guitars are accompanied by flutes and drums. During the more dramatic fights of the game, thereís sweeping orchestral music often accompanied by spirited singing. Again, nothing much different than the past few games, but if it ainít broke, The Witcher donít fix it.


Gameplay:

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt follows the story of Geralt, AKA the White Wolf, who wakes from a frightening dream at the start of the game. Though weíre once again thrown in the thick of a story that seems to leave the player behind while it does its thing, at least this time Geraltís goal is clear. He must find Ciri, the girl in his dream, and he must find her before the Wild Hunt does. You quickly learn that Ciri was Geraltís former ward, but it seems more like a father/daughter relationship than a simple obligation to care for the girl. And what is the Wild Hunt? A skeleton being in armor, bringing biting frost wherever it goes, the Wild Hunt frightens even seasoned sorceresses. As Geralt proceeds on the trail, he meets more of his past companions, including the sorceresses Yennifer and Triss.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is an enormous game by any RPG standard, let alone its own legacy of games. Early reports of the gameís development boasted 3 different endings with at least 36 variations on those major endings. Even small decisions like taking payment for a contract can have consequences far later on in the game. There are possibilities for romance, games, and plenty of side quests. Thereís just so much to do, even within a few hours of stepping into the game, itís quite believable that this is true.

What are some of these decisions? A villager might plead with you to throw a fight so he can win the prize and feed his poor family. A group of armed men looking for a fight might be persuaded to drink with you instead. There are bigger decisions, of course. Without giving away spoilers, however, youíll find that there usually arenít many clear black and white moral decisions to make. To help one person, you may have to betray another. You may find certain people detestable, but you might have to work with them anyway. All of that is tradition for the Witcher games, and this game brings on the decisions in droves.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has a bit of everything in terms of weapons, magic, character growth, crafting, and various other RPG elements. Weapons can break, so youíll have to repair them. Armor and weapons can be crafted, but only by skilled Blacksmiths. You can buy your way to the finest gear, but a little exploration and searching can often yield better rewards and experience. It feels like thereís something around every corner, which can have you wandering the wilderness or scouring shops in cities for hours. And it wouldnít be a Witcher game without Geraltís vast array of Witcher potions and oils. You can drink potions that will give you useful powers, such as reflecting damage back to Geraltís attackers. The drawback is that Geralt can only handle so much of the potionís toxic effects at a time, so you can only drink them in certain combinations. Geralt can learn different skills as well, focusing on improving aspects such as his magic skills or his combat abilities.

Some things have been simplified from previous games, which may or may not please longtime fans. Meditation will automatically refill any alchemical potions youíve consumed, for example. It will cost you a mere bottle of strong alcohol, and you donít need to take the time to put together various ingredients after youíve brewed a new potion once. Convenient, but I still miss my terrible "mystery" potions that could randomly do things like blind poor Geralt. I tell you he was a better person for braving such trials (not really, but it was still funny that the game let you do such a thing). Kidding aside, those sorts of improvements do take a lot of the tedium out of the game, which is a good thing in my book.


Difficulty:

A big difference between the top two difficulty levels and the rest is that higher difficulties donít let you regain vitality (health) points when you meditate. It makes managing food and other items and mastering the art of combat all the more important. Honestly, the second highest difficulty titled "Blood and Broken Bones!" feels fair, and it feels like you really need to learn the game in order to survive. Itís fair, but tough, and you can easily be taken out if you let your guard down.

You can always crank things up to "Death March!" if youíre feeling extra masochistic. Either way, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has a good balance of options for all types of players.


Game Mechanics:

You canít have a game as big as The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and not expect some glitches. Still, the game performs well, considering that. For the most part, you can find where you need to go next, fight some good fights, and most of the problems fall to the wayside. Still, the problems should be mentioned.

For one, youíve got antsy guards that patrol the cities and towns. You might be fighting dangerous wolves, but make a wrong move, or just have your sword out for too long, and the guards will knock you out and relieve you of of a chunk of your money. That can be avoided, though. What is a bigger deal is that there are so many quests, you may just end up stumbling upon a quest objective before you know you have the quest. You may just fail the quest before you even know youíre in it. If you care about side quests, and possibly about the endings they may affect, this is a rather big annoyance.

Another bother is the tiny text size. I donít have a small TV, by far, but still the text on the screen is so small that I found myself sitting up close to the TV in order to read it. The developers have mentioned that they are going to fix this issue in an upcoming patch, however, so this may not be a big deal by the time you read this review. Audio can occasionally cut out and sounds a bit like itís being played into a box fan at times, but this is likely another fix that is coming soon.

Other than that, the controls feel good, and everything feels nicely tuned. I never felt like a spell or a needed potion was too hard to summon up. The sword combat may not be terribly complex, but it feels engaging enough and takes some effort to master. With a number of different enemies and fighting tactics (including weather influences), thereís a lot to learn before you can master The Witcher, which makes it all the more satisfying on your way there.

There is just so much to this last game of The Witcher, that it feels like this review can never be long enough to include it all. The game is beautiful, the combat is satisfying, and the world is full of secrets and interesting people. You can see the influence of other major games like Skyrim or even Dragon Age here and there, but The Witcher always feels distinctly Witcher. A nice bonus that has been getting a lot of press is the fact that CD Projekt Red has a bunch of free DLC planned for The Witcher 3. 16 different DLCs will be released that will be absolutely free, regardless of the version of the game you bought. Many of these are small, such as new outfits and looks for different characters, but itís still nice to see a developer giving away something that would normally cost a few bucks. I may be running out of webpage here, but let me also mention that there is horse racing, mounted combat, sailing, swimming, weather, hunting, and random dismemberment in this game as well. You really donít need me to explain it all, just buy The Witcher 3 already and enjoy the end of the most unique RPG series weíre likely to see for a while.


-Fights with Fire, GameVortex Communications
AKA Christin Deville

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