Yup, that's right. This here blog post is a review of a computer game. That being said, my review focuses more on the story being told than the game being played.
This is Geralt. He's awesome. He's also a bit of a dick... which makes him more awesome.
So last night I FINALLY finished The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Why do I say this like it's an achievement? Because it is. This game is big. Ridiculously big. TOO big. Honestly I sunk over 200 hours of my life into this game (and enjoyed... most of them). I had to do it in 2 runs though. I picked up the game on release about 3 months ago and I hit it hard. About 100 hours in I ran out of steam. I couldn't face it anymore. I put the game down. Then a couple of weeks ago I saw a friend of mine playing it and thought “I should really finish that game.” So I did... another 100 hours of it.
This truly is my first gripe. The game was just TOO big. There was too much to do. Too much to see. It exhausted me. Would I have it any smaller? Hell no. I've been programmed as a gamer to come to the conclusion that more is always better. Take anything out and I accuse you of holding back content for paid downloadable content(dlc). Money grubbing bastards. Speaking of dlc, I intend to pick up Heart of Stone soon because I loved this huge, bulbous, behemoth of a game. I appear to be rambling. Back on track.
The Witcher games are based on literature written by Andrzej Sapkowski and follow the lead character Geralt of Rivia (the White Wolf). Geralt is a Witcher, which is very much like a Witch Hunter only he mostly hunts monsters. Witchers are mutants created through some pretty harsh rituals. They have heightened senses, the ability to use rudimentary magic, and can survive shit that would cut most folk in half.
This is a Wyvern... or a Basilisk... or a Fork Tail... They all looked a bit similar when flying around dive bombing my face.
The Witcher 3 opens much like a third book in a trilogy. MOST of the main players (and their relationship to our hero) have already been established in the previous games, and it really does seem as though Geralt knows EVERYONE. The game opens with Geralt chasing long time love interest and sorcerous, Yennifer of Vengerberg who is in turn chasing after Geralt's estranged daughter (though not by birth) Ciri... I'm going to leave it there for setting because it starts to get weird.
So it opens like the third book in a trilogy. Kind of makes sense given that it is the third game in a trilogy. Only one problem with that. Games and books are completely different formats. Now I played the Witcher 2. I really enjoyed it. I can't really remember it that well though. I never played the Witcher and honestly don't even know how I would get my hands on a copy, nor the system to play it. The information I need to know about these character's prior relationship is there (in the extensive journals), but the game is already 200+ hours and I don't have time to sink another 100 hours into reading everyone's back stories.
There is another problem with this game being the third in a trilogy and it's this: After a little bit of research it appears neither Yennifer, nor Ciri appear in either of the other Witcher games. These 2 are arguably the two most important characters in the game after Geralt. The entire plot revolves around Ciri. We're told they all have a deep connection and we get hints of it throughout the game... but no more than that. Despite this, the relationship between Ciri and Geralt is quite heart-warming once they eventually meet up. It really does feel like a doting father and a wild, wilful daughter.
This is Yennifer. Geralt loves her and so do we. She's a bitch. A glorious bitch.
So it's a game. I should probably talk about the gameplay a little. It's fun. The explorable areas are HUGE. The side quests are beyond numerous. The combat is... awkward at times. Camera angles have a habit of flying about the place, especially during fist fights, and my most infuriating moments arose from this issue. I died quite a few times as the camera decided to stare lovingly into Geralt's cat-like eyes while some beasty flattened my with a fist the size of a melon.
Geralt picks up Witcher contracts along the way to rid the world of nasty monsters and some of these provided some of the most intriguing moments. I really enjoyed wandering around the countryside hunting monsters. There's stunning vistas, roaming packs of wolves, the odd Wyvern attack. Loved it. However, much of the game is also set in the large city of Novigrad. The game lost a lot of its shine for me there. It simply wasn't as fun in a large city, surrounded by folk. It felt less mysterious, less wonderous.
There's one more thing I would like to point out and I'm going to say this first. I loved the game. I played it for over 200 hours and I intend to play it a bit more once I pick up the first dlc (Heart of Stone). That being said, I feel it fails in its attempt to tell a story.
The big bad is a group of marauding elves (somehow different to other elves?) called the Wild Hunt. They come from another world... that's really about all I know of them. They were horribly underdeveloped as a villain. They turned up, chasing Ciri, to use some power she has to... um... do something.
This is the Wild Hunt. They have evil plans... probably. Maybe even reasons for those plans. They also have powers... sometimes.
Ciri as well was another issue. She is the point the entire plot revolves around. We even play as her from time to time. She has some big power that derives from her “Elder Blood”. This power lets her travel through worlds and use teleportation. It also allows her to do other things like scream really loud. Her powers are never truly explained and also present quite a few continuity errors.
This is Ciri... she can do things... for some reason.
The White Frost. This had something to do with the end of the game and is mentioned quite a bit throughout. It appears to be some sort of Armageddon. Possibly a nuclear winter of sorts. I don't know. Another thing that was poorly explained, but apparently has a great impact on the world and the story.
So the game fails in story telling because I know more about how Jane Doe can place a curse on John Doe that will cause ghouls to flock to him, than I do about what the hell actually happened in the finale to the game.
Despite its obvious failings, I will happily recommend this game to people. It has a rich, deep, well-imagined world with characters that are interesting and complex. I've rarely played a game with characters who felt so real.
I give The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt a solid 3.5 out of 5. It's good, but never quite manages to be great.
Rob J. Hayes is the author of the acclaimed The Ties that Bind trilogy. Find out more on his website here.