Friday 6 November 2015

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt PS4 Review

The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt Review
A masterpiece - 10 / 10
Engulfed in a devastating war with a reminder of its tragic and bloody consequences via every turn, the setting of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is as jaw-droppingly beautiful, as it is menacing and dark.

In this open-world role-playing adventure you play as Geralt of Rivia, a Witcher travelling off the beaten path to find a young Witcher in training named Ciri. However, you're not the only one in pursuit of the would-be Witcher, as a dominant force of spectres known as the Wild Hunt is also tracking her every move.
While searching for Ciri, you'll slay monsters, romance sorceresses, and meet a host of new and returning characters from earlier Witcher titles, and as the adventure unfolds, the relationships you build with each play a significant role in the overall story.

For instance, moody sorceress Yennifer returns as Geralt's love interest, but the returning Triss proposes an exciting option. Which one do you pursue? Triss? Yennifer? Or perhaps both? If being a big white-haired love machine is your wish, go for it -  Just be careful not to be too slutty...

In addition to adding notches to your virtual bedpost, at each corner of this vast fantasyland, you'll find a host of unique quests to partake in as you begin to explore broad countrysides and journey across entire continents.

These quests are located on the notice boards of the towns you discover. Also, you'll meet various strangers in need of the type of help that only a Witcher can fix. Thus, you could be riding to one village and be stopped by a convoy of bandits, or waved down by a child who pleads with you to help free his parents held hostage in their home. Finding yourself in these situations happens sporadically, with the most significant meetings leading to some memorable adventures.

Usually, side quests require you to find a missing person or possession, ending in a showdown with a beast. Each mission prompts you to use your Witcher senses, which helps you to search for footprints, or to pick up someone's scent. These 'Witcher Contracts' and side quests never feel like they're filler; they all seem important and part of the overall story. Granted, occasionally, these quests are a little repetitive, but for the most part, they're enjoyable and engaging.

A vital part of being a Witcher is to be well accustomed to combat, and so, Geralt's weapons and armour are all accessible through the easy to get to grips with inventory screen. This screen is where you can view Geralt's apparel and equip him with his most potent weapons.

In short, he carries two swords on his back at a time - a steel sword for humanoids - and a silver sword for slaying monsters. Most weapons you uncover will have slots in them, which you can fill with rune stones that you'll find on your travels. These rocks add extra power to your weapons, increasing the chance to cause damage or land a critical hit when striking enemies with your sword.

Discovering weapons is as common as opening a treasure chest, or going on a particular mission. At the same time, it's also possible to learn the components needed for a specific type of weapon by uncovering particular schematics scattered throughout the game.

To craft weapons and armour, you need to visit armourers and blacksmiths located throughout each continent. Only those with extensive experience create the most impenetrable apparel, but seeking them out is worth it as they lead to some amusing side quests, with one example being Fergus and his 'assistant' in Crow's Perch.

Having formidable armour and weapons is only half the battle, but luckily, combat is relatively straightforward. Striking is possible by a singular button press, though, the combat system is not built upon smashing buttons randomly. By and large, you need to assess each confrontation you find yourself in and act accordingly.

For human enemies, blocking and striking when the opportunity presents itself is the way to go. As for monsters, rolling, and shifting to the side is usually the best course of action. Furthermore, taking down the more giant creatures such as the Arch-Griffin is best achieved by studying their movements strategically, and looking at their bio. Similarly, it also helps to learn what potions, or signs, are the most effective in defeating them.

Geralt also has special Witcher abilities that are handy in combat. These skills (known as signs) range from a telekinetic blast that can knock opponents down, to flames that channel from Geralt's hands. Quen, which when activated produces a protective shield, is the most useful sign, and the one you will likely use the most when taking on multiple enemies at once.

As you progress through the story, you'll earn experience points which allow Geralt to level up. The fastest way to do this is to complete as many quests as you can. Every time you level up, more weapons and armour become available to you. You can also add skill points to Geralt's genetic makeup, meaning the power and intensity of his Witcher signs increase.

Aside from the main story and plethora of side quests, The Witcher 3 entices you to explore every inch of its mesmerising atmosphere. When you set off on a particular journey, it's easy to become distracted by the gorgeous scenery. The continents of Velen, Novigrad and especially Skellige are beautiful, with the latter being the most diverse due to the lush foliage that spreads throughout the island and the deep blue ocean that surrounds it.

From time to time, you'll experience glitches and bugs on your travels, but most are forgivable. However, it's frustrating when you are trying to interact with something and ignite a nearby candle instead. Another annoyance is the map is sometimes difficult to navigate, with the route planner occasionally taking you in one way, only to then change direction. Also, there were times when the frame rate dropped pretty low, but various patches since the game's initial release seem to have ironed out most of these issues.

Graphics / Audio

Whether it be exploring a forest where the trees sway in the wind, or when the sun breaks through each leaf to create breathtaking scatters of light; visually The Witcher 3 is stunning. Equally, you can get pleasure in just galloping onward to nowhere with your trusty horse Roach while the sun rises and sets against some lovely landscapes.

Comparatively, it's not only the scenery that looks captivating. The characters' are impeccable in their design. From their clothing to the weapons they carry, The Witcher 3 oozes detail. The monsters you meet are all expertly crafted, conveying the darkest depths of the Witcher world with CD Projekt Red capturing those elements and implementing them with style.

As for the audio, the voice acting is superb and helps to add scope and believability to this captivating adventure. Additionally, the musical score is sublime and listening to it in tandem with what's occurring on-screen works flawlessly.

Final Thoughts

You don't play The Witcher 3; you experience it. Sure, you can go straight into the main storyline, flirt with the occasional side quest, and 'Witcher Contract' but to rush through the game won't give you a sense of what it's trying to convey.

The Witcher 3 offers a host of different decisions to make, culminating in a multitude of various endings. Your actions, as small or subtle as they may feel at the time, can cause enormous repercussions as the story approaches its climax.

One particular highlight of my experience playing The Witcher 3 was when I took a boat from a port in Skellige and sailed into the vast blue ocean. On my journey, I discovered various treasure protected by airborne monsters which I took down with a shot from my bow. After I had picked up the loot, I heard a huge splash. Curious, I turned and saw a whale breach from the depths of the sea. It was an extraordinary moment, and even though many others will probably experience the same thing, it just felt so personal, as if I was the only one who'll get to witness it.

To say The Witcher 3 is a masterpiece is easy, but I'm not sure if that term is the best compliment I can give it. Taking into consideration the budget CD Projekt Red had (USD 78 million); what they have been able to create is utterly astonishing. All things considered, it's not only the best open-world game on the market right now, but one of the best games ever made. Whether it's storytelling, design, visuals or audio production, every game developer should look at The Witcher 3 for inspiration.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is elegant, picturesque and captivating. It deserves a place in your collection.

Score - 10/10

Game Details
The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt Review

Formats - PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Game Genre - Action-Role Playing
Rating - R18+
Game Developer - CD Projekt RED
Game Publisher - CD Projekt RED
Reviewer: James Coles