After three days of tests and sleepless nights, I can finally give you my personal opinion on the new masterpiece of the Polish CD Projekt RED, in collaboration with Bandai Namco of course, I’m talking about The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt.
The trilogy of The Witcher comes to an end with a selection available only on next-gen consoles and poised to redefine the RPG genre. You get back in the role of Geralt of Rivia, a thrilling fantasy trip you will not easily forget.
They are mercenaries, monster hunters, ruthless fighters vying for innate abilities and special powers that stem from genetic mutations. They have feline eyes, lightning reflexes and sharp senses. They’re called Witchers. They were born by pen of the Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski, but the one to make them famous was CD Project RED, with the homonym video game series and open world RPG entitled to them. This is the third chapter which closes a (first) trilogy founded in 2007.
We are in a middle-aged fantasy and this is where we find the protagonist, Geralt of Rivia, a witcher called “the White Wolf” for the pale and thick ash-colored hair. Geralt, after he had left behind the events of the first two chapters, embarks on a journey to find his beloved, the sorceress Yennefer of Venberberg. But the dark omens of death threaten people dearest to him and the “Wild Hunt” looms in the background of a war that is tearing the northern kingdoms asunder.
Under the circumstances deserving of the premise: to appreciate The Witcher 3 you will not need to have played the previous chapters, and this is a good news for console users, since the first Witcher was released only on PC and the second only on PC and Xbox360. The story stands up without too many references to the past, even if at some point in the game, in a dialogue, you will be asked to account for some decisions made in the previous chapters. Nothing sensational but those who have played the entire trilogy can appreciate the work done by CD Projekt RED even more. This round They have chosen to publish it only on PC and Next-Gen consoles just to avoid having to make compromises in terms of technology.
The game world is vastly larger, 30 times more than in the past with a dynamic day/night cycle and the chance to dive in the water to discover secrets. The map is so great that you will have to move around on a horse, Roach. You can retrieve him at any time and lead to trot or gallop, taking care not to exhaust the stamina. To speed up the move during missions and avoid boredom by “backtracking”, you can also avail a fast travel option, allowing you to instantly reach one of the places already visited previously.
Freedom of action is one of the key elements of the game, highlighted by the absence of loading during exploration. The tutorial, set in the fortress of Kaer Morhen, will last just long enough for a coffee. After we have learned the basics, it quickly leaves room for the action of the game itself. The Witcher 3 does not want to impose a fixed course but urges people to write their own history. A story that begins with Geralt, with his friend and mentors Vesemir, camped in the woods and in the throes of a rude awakening. Time to get rid of some ghouls and here it’s time to start driving. The residents of White Orchard had their work cut lately: the passage of the troops directed to the front has destroyed crops. A griffin is stealing cattle and killing people and, to make matters worse, an evil spirit haunts the only well from which to draw fresh water. All suitable jobs to a Witcher and these are but a small part of the situations that you will face before the start of the game. It will be up to you to choose whether and how to address them. Some are obligatory stops on the trip, needed to advance the story. However, a large part will be secondary and optional activities.
In addition to the main storyline, a fact that in itself already provides dozens of hours of gameplay, The Witcher 3 also offers a large number of side quests to keep you busy for just as long. Some of these you will find along the way are people who ask for help while others will be real jobs, called “witcher contracts”, published on the notice boards in the city. You can forget the usual, repetitive quests. Each quest in The Witcher 3 will be a great story, able to involve and enthrall from start to finish, but above all with different approaches. As the duty is the well dam, one of the first in which you’ll come across. A ghost haunts this well, but first, you’ll have to identify it, investigating and finding evidence of his presence through the “sense of the witcher”, one of the new abilities in this third installment. With the sense of the witcher, you will find traces of people and animals, listen for distant sounds and find clues. A bit like detective vision in the Batman Arkham series. In this case, you will need to understand the opponent, identify the threat, equip yourself to deal with it and prepare potions and ointments. Fortunately, consulting the bestiary can reveal their weaknesses and better prepare you for confrontation.
As the witcher Geralt, you will fight using a combination of weapons and spells. A steel sword to fight against human beings and a silver one against monsters, a crossbow to shoot from a distance and then the magic signs to protect themselves with shields, ignite enemies or subjugate their minds. Finally, potions, ointments, and bombs because witchers are also masters of alchemy. You can fight on foot or on horseback, but between attacks and counter-attacks, dodges, parries, and magic of the signs do not think you can get by with pressing the keys at random!
There are 4 difficulty levels to accommodate players who want to focus more on the story, as well as those that are looking for a real challenge. The deaths in the Witcher 3 will take you to the last save and also, together with the fast travel, is the only time in the game where you will run into a loading screen. To avoid aggravation like Dark Souls, you can still save the game at any time. Throughout the game you will face missions and get rewards, but above all, you will be faced with choices which often influence the development of events. Progressing in the adventure will enhance your witcher equipment and help to level up which will acquire your new skills. There are also planned upgrades to the horse, which could become more resistant to fatigue and allow you to carry more weight.
Before long you will be engrossed in the events that are taking place and, without taking a breather or having a power outage, you will become so so involved in this great adventure that you won’t want to quit. Just when you think you’ve seen everything… BAM, The Witcher 3 will surprise you yet again with the majesty of a scenario, with the emotion of a story or just with the versatility of a character. Every little detail contributes to making this title a point of reference in the RPG genre.
Now we come to the technical aspects. The Witcher 3 scenarios are stunning and everything turns quite smoothly in the PS4 version that I played. Clearly, with the PC all of this is taken to extremes with unique technologies such as NVIDIA Hairworks along with a higher frame rate and the ability to support Ultra HD resolutions. The audio is not far behind and stresses flawlessly every step of this long adventure. From solitary rides, the clashes, the cinematic intermission it doesn’t disappoint. It’s too bad there isn’t full dubbing in all available languages because you have to settle for subtitles if you are Italian like me. A title as ambitious, set in a world so vast and with all this freedom of action, it could not be free of burrs. For example, you may happen to get stuck in some object of the scenario, especially moving the horse and when you have to climb, the movements will not be completely fluid and precise. Do not expect a short Assassin’s Creed!
In this chapter, CD Projekt RED has replaced one of the mini-games known as Dice Poker with a card game called Gwent. The basis of this game is strategic and turn-based where you have to choose 10 cards from your deck and play against an opponent.
Occasionally you will have difficulties interacting with objects at close range and if you want to nitpick there is also a less than optimal inventory management. Another thing that needs to be improved is the crafting system but it’s not really bad. All of this is still overshadowed by the magnitude of the residual.
The Witcher 3 is a mammoth title that will make you protagonists of a living world, rich in detail and things to do. Drive along forests with windswept trees and observe wild animals flee in your path. You will witness beautiful sunrises and sunsets in scenarios which seem painted by hand. A fantasy world in which to dive and get lost, and to not do it, believe me, would be a real shame.
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