Please note: I haven’t read the whole of the Witcher series of novels, or completed the first two games or the Hearts of Stone expansion, so this is a bit ‘newbieish’ and I’ll approach it from the view of a more casual gamer and not a major expert on this game. 🙂
The Witcher 3 is pretty much one of the most stunning games of this generation, receiving multiple “game of the year” awards from review sites and magazines, as well as many comparisons to “Skyrim”, considered by many to be the king of RPGs.
The game takes place in a fantasy world with many similarities to medieval Europe, as many fantasy worlds-such as Tolkien’s-do. However, this world in particular is filled with various monsters, a result of an event known as the “Conjunction” which merged the world with others. There’s also your typical other fantasy races, dwarfs, elves and various others. The series is actually the work of a polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski, who wrote a series of novels that the games are, in a sense, a continuation of-although they are not part of Andrzej’s “canon”.
The main character of the series is Geralt of Rivia, who is the titular “Witcher”, a monster hunter. Owing to a series of mutations to further his effectiveness, he has pale skin, gray hair, and cat-like eyes. He takes up various contracts on monsters, but also finds himself involved in political-and magical intrigue as he roams the war-torn continent. He’s of course in many ways your typical video game badass male protagonist, but also shows a great deal of experience and intelligence in his dealings, as well as compassion and loyalty to his friends. Although very serious at times, he’s not above a bit of fun as well. He does however quickly get annoyed.
Central to Geralt are supporting players….Vessimir, his mentor and father figure; Two sorceress’s, Yennifer and Triss (Who although often romantic rivals for Geralt, they are good friends); and Geralt’s ward Ciri-whose disappearance is the main quest in “The Wild Hunt”. Ciri, in particular, has the power to transport herself to other worlds and dimensions, a power the Wild Hunt want.
The WIld Hunt are a group of rogue Elf warriors, who wear some pretty nasty armor, and the major ‘bosses’ of the game.
Rounding out the main cast is Dandelion, a Shakesphereesque poet, minstrel and playwright who serves as the game’s narrator, writer of the game’s glossary, and in-game participant.
Witcher 3’s gameplay consists of several main guests as well as several optional side-quests. The side guests are pretty well fleshed out-there are some that could take an hour or two. Some are monster-slaying quests, while others are a bit more comedic, such as helping Dandelion with a play.
The game also has a lot of crafting for *many* sets of weapons and armor, alchemy in which Geralt gathers various plants and monster parts to create potions (which give advantages in combat and healing, most of the time), a leveling up skill set for improved combat etc. The game also utilizes a “sign” system, with various magic spells (or as the game says, “Signs” which Geralt can use in combat, defense, or even to influence a conversation). Also, like Horizon Zero Dawn’s “Focus” or Batman’s “Detective mode”, there’s “Witcher senses” which helps Geralt track monsters, or conduct an almost CSI-like examination of crime scenes.
Although Geralt’s armor, weapons, and pretty much everything else can be majorly customized and arranged, Geralt’s face of course can not be altered by a slider like Skyrim’s. You can, however, get a haircut, an option that’s also available in the “Grand Theft Auto” game series.
The game’s combat system varies, as some monsters/characters have different weaknesses or strengths. Geralt has two different swords-one for regular human opponents, another for monsters; as well as a crossbow, and his offensives signs. Geralt can choose on either speed or force with his attacks. Dodging is also very important, especially when encountering multiple foes at once.
Conversations in the game are also very robust, and like other RPGs, can often lead to different paths in the game, and the outcome of the game’s ending.
There’s also the mini-game of Gwent, which is pretty much a card game featuring characters and monsters from the game.
Witcher 3 is open world, and it’s one pretty big one, and very picturesque. There’s various cave “dungeons” and different parts of the world have a different look.
The misty, mountainy isles of Skellige, for example….
….are very different from the Vineyards and fancy castle of Toussaint in the Blood and Wine expansion….
Which is in turn different from the more cosmopolitan Novigrad. It’s perhaps one of the game’s best strengths-there’s very little ‘draw distance’ (backgrounds coming into view as you approach theme) that some open worlds often suffer from.
The world can be navigated through Fast Travel by signposts, on foot, by boat, or by Roach, Geralt’s trusted-if glitchy-horse.
The Witcher’s world knowingly takes from some fantasy tropes-including that in Geralt’s world, many of the fairy tales are either actually *real* or known in some form to the game’s civilization. There’s actually a quest in the expansion, “Blood and Wine” which goes all in with the concept.
There’s some fun cultural references thrown in, here and there-Madonna, Twilight, there’s even one for the Internet meme “Trollolo” and Fallout.
One thing that should be noted-this is a very “M for Mature” rated game-and it’s a pretty hard M. If you’ve seen HBO’s Game of Thrones, a lot of it’s pretty much on the same level as that. It’s really not for those a bit squeamish about that sort of thing.
Overall, although I’m admittingly not as well versed in the franchise as some, I found Witcher 3-and one of the two expansions-extremely well-done and polished games.