The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has been in the wild (pun not intended) for a few weeks now. In Analog Addiction’s review we said, “Wild Hunt is the best role-playing game at the moment”, alongside giving it a perfect review score. With that said a review can only go so far, and only include one opinion.
In this two part post-mortem series two Analog Addiction editors will be expressing their in-depth summaries of The Witcher 3 in an array of topics. The two editors will be Vlad Pintea, the original reviewer of The Witcher 3 and PlayStation editor Jamie Briggs. Together each will pick apart the good, the bad and more to give you the best summary of The Witcher 3 possible.
In part one of this series AA’s finest will be looking at a range of topics, which include our favourite improvements, thoughts on the main narrative, and why Gwent leaves Dice Poker in the dust.
What has been your favourite improvement to the series that has been implemented in The Witcher 3?
Vlad Pintea: Honestly, the ability to jump. As I mentioned in my review, it seems trivial, but it adds a great deal to that open-world freedom feeling. I’ve played many games in which my character couldn’t jump over an obstacle that wouldn’t reach his/her/its knees, and those moments were kind of immersion breaking. Point in case, the Mass Effect series. And, no, Mass Effect 3‘s scripted jumps don’t count.
Jamie Briggs: It’s so difficult to nail down one improvement due to the vast range of overall enhancements. I loved both The Witcher 1 and Witcher 2, but The Witcher 3 feels like an entirely new beast. The open world doesn’t feel as limited as it has previously, the graphical fidelity has increased impressively, and better yet many of the technical issues I experienced throughout both the original releases seem all but a distant memory. Though I’m unable to pinpoint one particular impressive enhancement, this is only a testament to the amazing quality level CD Projekt Red have been able to achieve.
What are your thoughts on the visual improvements over past entries in series? Has the character/monster design impressed?
Vlad Pintea: I have never, in my life, been more impressed with a franchise’s evolution – especially in the visual department – than with The Witcher. Not only have the graphics been massively improved from the first to second and now Wild Hunt, but the creatures have also gotten bigger, smarter, and overall more ferocious. What I really want to commend CDPR for is how more human Geralt feels in this last installment. I know he’s a Witcher stripped of emotions, but the original’s and even Assassins of King’s Geralt can’t hold a candle to Wild Hunt’s, especially because of how “alive” he seems around those he holds dear. SPOILERS! When he finally finds Ciri and thinks she’s dead? It felt like every last inch of his body would burst into tears, although he “doesn’t know” how to cry.
Jamie Briggs: What truly impressed me throughout my time with The Witcher so far is the beautiful environments. When I first started exploring the opening area I was a little worried all the areas would have a similar visual style, but once I moved further I knew I was completely wrong. The standard country landscape looks breathtaking, with nature moving the brisk breeze, the gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, and the evolution of all of these aspects when you add in the vicious nature of the different weather elements. The vastness of these areas isn’t simply for show either, they house many hidden missions and monster, which only further encouraged me to continue exploring the beautiful world.
In The Witcher 3 CD Project Red has offered a new card-based activity known as Gwent. How have you enjoyed this new activity?
Vlad Pintea: On this front, I have to say, “Pass,” as I haven’t played the card game. I think I read the tutorial, and that’s it. Couldn’t be bothered, simply because I don’t enjoy them. No wonder my friends call me names when I shrug off Hearthstone.
Jamie Briggs: I’m absolutely in love with Gwent. I always found Dice Poker (which was included in previous entries of the series) to be more of a game of chance, rather than actual strategical skill. Gwent provides an in-depth strategic battle, which is easily masked by its easy to understand game mechanics. As with any card game your choice of cards is important and figuring out which is the best way to make each card shine is key. Gwent is certainly easy to pick up and understand, but after playing dozens of matches the finer points to being the one victorious start to shine.
There are only three rounds in a match of Gwent and although it can be over fast, each round is crucial. Should I push for victory in the first, only to let my opponent use all his cards in the second one and pick up an easy third round win? Or perhaps a variation of this method? Not to mention the variety in each card, the special abilities that can be used, and the choice of leader cards. There is some great fun and challenge to be had in Gwent, so much so I wouldn’t mind CD Projekt Red releasing a standalone Gwent experience. I know I’d certainly be on board.
Have you enjoyed the extensive side content on offer? Does it offer memorable extra experiences, or are they typically forgettable?
Vlad Pintea: Not forgettable, in any way. Every side-quest includes its own self-contained story, be it a shape-shifting monster trying to live a normal life, a cute creature of the woods whom has lost his voice, another one trying to live, all alone, in an abandoned house, and so on. Sure, some might argue that the contracts feel repetitive, but, even so, each creature whom people send Geralt to kill is unique. Some can even be sent away, rather than be killed, adding another reason to replay the game.
Jamie Briggs: I’d say my least favourite side quests are the actual Witcher Contracts themselves, though the payoff can be satisfying when facing off against a challenging and interesting behemoth, getting to that point usually involves the same process of investigation. This is a slight gripe overall as I found most of the side missions could easily warrant its own game.
Whenever I think back to my time with Skyrim, I remember the Mage Guild quest. An extensive array of quests that formed one full story arc, one that easily prevailed at eclipsing the main tale. Throughout my time with The Witcher so far, some of my favourite moments and story branches have been provided through side quests. My personal favourite involving an undercover sorceress who is pretending to be a village witch for her own protection. Through a number of quests I developed a strong bond with these characters, without even touching the main narrative. These moments have provided me with some of my best experiences in The Witcher 3 thus far.
What did you like and dislike through the main narrative of The Witcher 3? And how did it compare to past narratives in the series?
Vlad Pintea: Let’s start with how it compares to past games. This is another major improvement in the series. In the original Witcher and Assassins of Kings, politics ruled. Geralt was always forced to fight another one’s battles, instead of focusing on his history. In Witcher 3, the roles have thankfully reversed. I have always enjoyed stories which were personal to their characters, not the usual “You are our only savoir. Please, go ahead and save the entire galaxy, just because you’re supposed to be the good guy/girl/whatever robot you are.”
Moving on to Wild Hunt’s story. What I absolutely liked were its characters, due to the fact that all were bursting with life. Everyone has their own problems, fears and desires, with Geralt more often than not using them to achieve his own quest, that of finding Ciri. The only thing I kind of disliked was the fact that Geralt has to find so many other people, before getting to Ciri. First, it was the baron’s wife, then Dandelion, then Hjalmar (even though that’s optional), and so on. I first noticed it when I finally reached Dandelion; the fact that Geralt felt more like an errand boy for others.
Jamie Briggs: I haven’t completed the campaign at this stage, and have only just completed my main campaign work in Novigrad. But it’s painfully clear at this stage that the Ciri sections feels completely out of place. I understand why we are forced to play as Ciri during her key moments, in order to have an attachment and understand the dangers she has faced; but it doesn’t work for me. Sure I do like Ciri, but the time spent with her are so short and the many key features of The Witcher that I love are absent. They instead feel like Call of Duty missions, that force me to slice and dice my way through enemies until I get to my goal. Perhaps these will pick up, but as it stands they don’t stay around long enough to provide much enjoyment and they feel strangely un-Witcher-like.
We hope you’ve enjoyed part one of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt postmortem, and stay tuned for part two later this week. Until then we’d like to know what you thought of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Are there any discussions you agree or disagree with? Or anything else you’d to share regarding your time in The Witcher 3? Let us know in the comments below.