Like with all good games and films, if you have great source material and a company that is willing to push the boundaries and go that extra mile, then you will probably end up with an excellent end result.
Like with all good games and films, if you have great source material and a company that is willing to push the boundaries and go that extra mile, then you will probably end up with an excellent end result. Fortunately, this game has the benefits of both, made by CDProjektRed, The Witcher franchise has been a somewhat middle of the road set of games, until The Wild Hunt arrived on the shelves, and no one could have anticipated that this game would set the benchmark for future open world gaming to come.
Set some years after the events of the novels The Wild Hunt captures the main essence of the novel’s main story, the hunt for Ciri. A contrast from the previous game where other story lines were a little confused between characters and plots, this time the main objective was simple, find Ciri. Ciri is lost, with a first thought to be mythical force hunting her through time and space, Ciri is a descendant of the Elder Blood line, with powers unknown but not limited to time travel between worlds, with the Wild Hunts leader Eredin seeking her at every opportunity. You are thrust into a huge open world full of quests, side quests, treasure hunts and contracts, all with the common goal of finding her.
For such a big game comes a rather in depth review of every element that makes this game one of the best games ever made, with over 200 awards for game play, writing, character development and a coveted ‘Greatest Game of All Time’ award.
The open world of The Wild Hunt is the first ‘true’ open world experience developed by CDProjektRed, allowing you to roam free for the entire map, split into six regions, each region has it’s own characteristics, White Orchard is the games starter area, smaller, comfortable and almost like a tutorial for what is to come, whereas the Skellige Isles is more of an advanced level section for the higher end of game play levels, the story of The Wild Hunt will take you through every inch of the sprawling map. A world ravaged by famine and war.
What is most notable about the open world design is that the developers have really paid such an effort into the movement and feel of the villages and towns you come across, with residents that sell gear, inn-keeps with useful information, blacksmiths and armor smiths and a huge amount of story line and quest givers for each place, there is also usually a town notice board where you can pick up ‘Contracts’ which will allow you to hunt a monster or beast that plagues the town, such is the main job description of a Witcher. The townspeople have conversations, they move and have their routines and the places you visit really seem alive.
Aside from the main populated areas of the world, the world itself is vast and has many ruins, places of interest marked on your map, there are caves and dungeons to appeal to the old school RPG fans, and also bandit camps, forts and dens where monsters breed and call home, all of which you can explore at your leisure to gain XP, useful information or gear.
The Wild Hunt is a front runner for games that have multiple consequences for the choices you make
Quests for The Wild Hunt are extremely in depth, the game really captivates the sense that what choices you make will affect the overall outcome of your game, as with previous efforts, for example, games like Skyrim, where you feel like you are making big choices, only inevitably the ending of the game is still the same, The Wild Hunt is a front runner for games that have multiple consequences for the choices you make, in true style to original writing of the novels by Andzrej Sapkowski, the consequences are often ambiguous, with a sense of how hard it is to justify right and wrong. Consequences for many parts of game can be influenced by something you did maybe ten hours or more previously.
Combat had a slight overhaul for the companies third release in the series, definitely falling to the ‘hack and slash’ genre, and it is violent, with a few added elements which makes for fun game play and combat tactics, it is not just a case of running in swinging swords, each foe you face has certain characteristics ways to kill, humans being the obvious, learn to parry and swordsmanship fighting. Whereas monsters require you learn about their weaknesses and how to take them down.
There are literally hundreds of armor sets and combinations of swords, axes, potions and bombs for you to find in the world or collect ingredients to craft them yourself, allowing you to really customize your own ‘build’ of your character. The best of these is Witcher armor and swords, which have multiple tiers in which to upgrade them, which also changes their appearance as you go. A Witcher also has use of ‘Signs’ which are small magical abilities which you can progress with by using ability points, collected from levelling up, areas of the map where you find Places of Power which you can gain points also.
The story line is nothing short of incredible and the writing shows it, where some games really failed in their technical ability to show emotion or even lip syncing to voice actors this game really shined. The quest is long and the adventure really does feel epic and if you like something to sink your teeth into for hundreds of hours then this is for you. That being said, with all games, there are inevitably some points that are flawed and The Wild Hunt is no exception. Fall damage was something that never got resolved as with other games where you could jump from high areas with no damage at all, with the Witcher it seems if you fall more than five meters be prepared to die. One of the more frustrating elements is loading times after death or at the games initial loading, it does seem to take a while, giving the size of the game its not surprising, something that games proceeding it have really pushed the consoles to is eliminate loading time, God of War in particular has no loading screens in game.
The game comes with plenty of free DLC content including alternative looks to key characters, hair and beard styles, armor sets and two pay to play DLCs: Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine, although Hearts of Stone is shorter, its story line can be considered one of the greatest with the inclusion of taking on probably one of the best villains developed by anyone.
The story follows you as you take on Gaunter O’Dimm, someone thought of as a slightly creepy traveler, as it turns out is the devil incarnate, capable of time and space bending, but will grant someone a wish and a pact in order to toy with their victims, the story focuses on someone you meet on the road who has made such a pact with this devil man, with many names like ‘Master of Mirrors’.
The second DLC, Blood and Wine, is the last adventure of the games protagonist Geralt. CDProjektRed have detailed that it marks the end of his journey. You travel to Toussaint, a sunny almost fairy tale like land untouched by the ravage of war, but eerie in the sense that everything is too peaceful. The story takes places as a beast has murdered nobles of the maps main city, Beauclair. this DLC along with Hearts of Stone takes on a much darker approach, with the introduction of Higher Vampires, capable of immense logical thought, more so than human. One of the main facts about Witchers is that they rarely take on Contracts for Higher Vampires as they almost impossible to kill and that they are intelligent beyond belief. This DLC makes a perfect end to a huge adventure, the great point of the second DLC is that is rivals the Wild Hunts main quest in terms of length, which value for money is incredible.
So if long RPG adventures with severe amounts of customization and multiple consequence, multiple endings and real boundary pushing is for you, go buy this game, PlayStation usually have it on sales where you can pick it up for under fifteen pounds, which to be fair, I would pay full price for this game, still, after three years of release.