Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Review No. 124 The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - PC (18+)

Strong Points:
Graphically stunning
Varied world design (Particularly with the addition of the Blood and Wine DLC)
Complex but unintimidating inventory and loot system
Interesting progression system
Visceral combat
Well written
Engaging storyline
Great music
Challenging bosses
Understandable pacing
Meaningful choices
Enjoyable, plentiful and substantive side quests
Well implemented New Game +
Extremely worthwhile DLC

Weak Points
Disproportionate XP coming from main quests making side quests less worthwhile
Uninspiring negotiation system
Late game drop off in difficulty
Incompatible with casual play
Somewhat awkward keyboard controls
Reusing of character models

In-depth Review:

Release Dates:
World Wide: May 19th, 2015

All changeable and can be found in game

The third instalment of the Witcher, released more than a year and a half ago on May 2015 is without a doubt one of my favourite games of all time and certainly a milestone for the RPG genre, perhaps not for its innovation, but for the remarkable and monumental standard of craftsmanship displayed and attention to detail displayed throughout. Despite its irrefutably dark tone, one cannot help but see the Witcher as a product of love and care, and one that is all the better for the attention paid to it. This, may I add, is without mentioning its two excellent DLCs (expansion packs): Heart of Stone, and Blood and Wine which certainly equal its parent and in some points in the latter arguably exceed it. Needless to say, I can’t see this game nor its DLCs becoming much cheaper than £20-£25 (a bargain price for a game of this calibre) in the normal periods of Steams operation for quite a long time.

Despite the fact that so much has been said of Witcher 3 (which wears the title of Game of the Year from several prestigious magazines and does so deservedly) it is worth getting into the specifics to provide a more accurate review. If you aren’t already aware of the story of the Witcher franchise of which this is the concluding chapter, the Witcher is set in a war-torn land that could most easily be described as Camelot in a very, very dark emo phase. Rival Kingdoms vie over a beleaguered land, with those caught in the middle almost always being peasants who care very little of the high politics going on in the well-insulated castles and severe looking war rooms. In this world, it is shown time and time again that greed, evil and ignorance usually prevail over the small glimmers of hope that emerge through the dredge of the swampy, damp and sullen land of Velen where you start. To call it Game of Thrones-esque wouldn’t quite convey the sense of impending death that hangs off the world of the Witcher. To add to this, this is a world where a mysterious event explained in the open cut scene has brought monsters and magic to the unsuspecting (mostly) humanoid denizens of the continent which are the subject of both admiration and deep, deep fear. Into this world comes the Witchers, specially trained and chemically deformed mutant monster slayers who are tolerated by the general population, but much like the monsters they kill are detested in equal measure as freaks and abominations. You play as the Witcher Geralt, slightly more experienced, slightly more aged and certainly much hardened since the last games in the series.

The many dead trees used as improvised gibbets that dot the roadways mark this as a very dark game, certainly too much so for a wider audience (a family tale this is not) but this very darkness is used to give the games characters and story a unique tone and voice unlike many games that try to go dark and end up either tasteless or pretentious. The game makes a point of not relying on fantasy tropes in storytelling (although it borrows some in its structure, certainly) and mocks the ‘happy ending’ tales that inspire much of the RPG genre. One can at times catch a whiff of Tolkein in the world of Witcher, but at the same time, one cannot escape the conclusion that perhaps this was a conscious decision and in any case, it succeeds in feeling neither tacky nor unoriginal. As far as the general standard of storytelling goes, for a game of this sprawling scope, I cannot say that this game does not rank among the best of RPGs in terms of how engrossing yet immediately accessible it felt. Perhaps the one thing that detracts from the story is the rather glaring and repetitive use of certain character models, which, I must admit, does not improve in either of its DLCs, but again given the admirable ambition and scope of the game made by an as-of-yet medium sized company, it’s difficult to fault the company for this.

As far as the gameplay goes, I personally have very few complaints, although I have heard friends complain about the keyboard controls I found it preferable to my Xbox controller, although I could easily engage in gameplay with either. Combat, the bread and butter of this sort of game, feels slick and well-polished and the pure variety of enemies and the difficulty forces improvisation. However, it is necessary to avoid a late-game petering off of difficulty so I would personally recommend increasing the difficulty towards the middle or end if you are looking for a challenge. The progression system is interesting and rewarding and makes you feel powerful at high levels, but never too powerful, a commendable balance to be struck.

Graphically, on ultra settings, there is some true beauty to be had Witcher’s world and finding breathtaking moments seen on screenshots happens more often than you might think. It is my opinion that the PC version is the best experience for the Witcher, although you will need pretty high specs to get the very best graphics possible. That said, Witcher is also remarkably well optimised for all rigs given some very smart coding.

Conclusion: the Witcher 3 is one of the finest gaming experiences available, and a must buy for fans of RPGs and the Witcher series. Good luck on the path!

Rating: 96%

Til next time, Elliot S

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