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First Impressions | The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PS4)

RPG NIRVANA: One man’s ascent to Role Playing harmony.

RPG’s and I have a complicated history. For years, I have played games from Elder Scrolls to Everquest, and have felt pure joy and adventure skulking through their landscapes. I have also played games like Final Fantasy, and I’ve wanted to kill myself after two hours. I apologize to anyone who bows down to their Square Enix overlords, but playing as a character with a cartoonishly big sword while dressed up as a Mad Max villain doesn’t appeal to me. The notion that people say these games don’t get good until 20 hours in and that I should just keep going with it does not encourage me. As a great man once rebuked, “Hold your hand on a stove for 20 hours and you won’t feel it, but that doesn’t exactly prove your point.”

I have a criteria when it comes to my RPG’s. How emersive is the world? How interesting are the characters? Do I feel important in this universe? How much of an impact do I have on his world? The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt handles all of those things with honors. Let’s break this down.

The Story

The plot of The Witcher 3 is pretty vast so I’m going to summarize it as brief as I can. You play as Geralt of Rivia, aka the White Wolf. Geralt is a Witcher, a sort of spectral mercinary hired to fight the supernatural. Geralt begins the story looking for his one true love; the raven haired, sorceress, Yennifer. Along his journey to find his magic casting beauty, he is enlisted to search for Ciri.

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Ciri is a former student of Geralt’s, and is someone the White Wolf holds dear. The story is so expansive and emmersive it’s almost too much to take in. Everything you do and everyone you encounter feels so involved. The lore alone is so well written and well crafted, I actually felt like a Witcher as I rode my horse from town to town.

Also your involvement in seemingly small things can have a huge and unexpected pay off. Here’s an example: I entered a tavern to get some information. Upon taking my seat, a group of soldiers came in and didn’t take too kindly to my presence. At that point I had a choice: Start a fight, use magic to Jedi mind trick my way out of this, or buy them a round of drinks. I didn’t want to ruin the man’s tavern, so fighting was out of the question. My delusion level was too low, so no mind games. I had some gold on me, and who doesn’t love a stiff drink? The men quieted down and all seemed to die over.

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A little while later I needed to see the local baron. Two guards stood hold at the gate, and the senior officer was in no hurry to let me inside. The other man, however, turned out to be one of the solders from the night before. He spoke of my generosity and good nature, and vouched on my behalf. I was free to enter the stronghold without the use of violence or bribery. It’s little things like that that go a long way in my book. I had no idea that man would be there or that my tactic of free drinks would help me out, and yet it did. And that’s how the world of The Witcher 3 works. You are not only a fierce warrior , but something that turns the cogs around you with just the most subtle movements.

The Characters

The best part of the characters in this game is that they’re very much layered and complicated. Are there throw away characters? Yes. The old lady seeking her frying pan is not that complex. However, the good people at CD Projekt Red realized that if you were going to have to spend more than one mission with a character, it’d be best if they were memorable and distinct. Each character has depth to them, allowing them to feel like real people as opposed to being merely mission and gold dispenser. Rather than spoil interactions you’ll encounter, I’ll focus on our protagonist, Geralt.

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Geralt is one of the most well rounded, and interesting characters I’ve played as in an RPG. He is not a white knight, ready to engage for the greater good. Yet he is not a heartless rogue either. Geralt has his own set of morals and codes that he sticks to, chief among them is conviction. If Geralt starts a job with you, he will see it to the end, even if he finds out how morally bankrupt his employers may be. He is a man with a lot of weight on his shoulders and a great deal of experience to guide him; and it shows. Watch out for top characters of the year lists, because I guarantee Geralt will be on there.

The World Itself

CD Projekt Red really outdid themselves with this game. From the look to the feel this game just feels so cozy. Sunrises and sunsets are nothing short of gorgeous. I found myself wide eyed when it rained in-game as I watched the trees around me bend from the strong gales laying down upon them. The beasts that roam this game feel like actual animals; operating in packs and resorting to flanking maneuvers so crafty they’d give a velociraptor a ran for its money. Humans will band together in a fight against you and resort to rushing tactics to topple you. It all feels natural and has a dangerous edge on it. The soundtrack is nothing short of chilling. My copy of the game actually came with a CD of the OST, and I have been playing it nonstop in my car. Going to the grocery store to pick up diapers and cough syrup has never felt so epic. All of these things contribute to a tight atmosphere that never feels bland or restrictive.

Gameplay

This is where things get a little hard. The game plays just fine. However, if I’m being totally honest here, if you are accustomed to some meaty hack and slash in the feel of God of War or the Arkham games you will be disappointed. Geralt does not control like Kratos. His movements, his attacks, and stances are all very lithe and fast. He is not a juggernaut. As fast as you can lay waste to an opponent, you can also be killed by one. Also, traveling by way of horse can be little buggy and difficult to get used to. Geralt’s trusty steed, Roach, will not be knocking down Epona or Agro for greatest horse in gaming. Also there a couple of superfluous things that can get a little grating. Movement inside buildings is a little frustrating and placing candles next to NPC’s will probably be some occurring meme on the Internet at some point. There’s the occasional bugs that occur in the game, but bugs in RPG’s is so common it’s become more comical than a hassle. Outside of that, things like smithing, alchemy, potion making, weapon modification, and stat building are handled very well. Role Playing purists will be satisfied with the leveling system and I don’t doubt that this will be set as a new standard.

Summary

Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, despite its flaws, is nothing short of awesome. It’s a violent, über sexual, gritty, fantasy story. It’s Game of Thrones, but you get to live on while everyone else suffers. If you’re an RPG fan, this is your game. If you love deep stories, this is your game. If you’re curious of this genre, this is your game. I bought The Witcher 3 for the PS4, and it came with a map of the game, two decals, a compendium of the in-game universe, the soundtrack, and a notice from the CD Projekt Red telling me that at least 16 DLC would be free of charge. That’s a bargain you wouldn’t get on a mediocre January release.

10/10

A MUST BUY

Austin Beattie

I am a father, a husband, a Kryptonian, a part time dominatrix, and I love earl grey tea with spread cheese on crackers. Also, I’m delightfully bitter at the world.