The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Review

The Witcher 3 is an intriguing but deeply flawed action-RPG with an unnecessary sandbox taped on.

I have literally spent months trying to figure out how to nail down my thoughts on The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. I even had the luck of receiving a review code, instead of having to buy the game after launch. So why on earth do I revile the very thought of booting it up again on my Xbox One? It's a complicated answer, to be sure.

Much adieu about nothing.

Many critics fell head over heels for Geralt's latest adventure, and it is likely to be a Game of the Year contender. The game's constant stream of free DLC and now upcoming paid expansion packs has series fans grinning ear to ear. So why do I balk at the idea of one of 2015's biggest RPGs?

The sad answer is because The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is too bloated and unfocused for its own good. It wants the scale of Skyrim with the polish of Mass Effect and the deep narrative choices of Fallout: New Vegas. Instead of offering a refined, focused experience, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt depends far too much on a bland world to connect all of its stories together. The game is in desperate need of an editor with a steady hand and unforgiving will to stay on target.

Fetch quests. Fetch quests, everywhere.

While the game opens with a briskly paced cutscene, everything immediately comes to a halt in the game's tutorial region. While the tutorial region of White Orchard is beautifully crafted, it's a bit too interesting for its own good. You get really invested in it and practically forget about the main plot. You know you're supposed to be looking for Geralt's adopted daughter Ciri, but you are given one prologue scene to try and get you invested in that story. By comparison, you spend a good five hours in the tutorial region.

So when the main story arrives, you feel a huge dissonance between what you want to do and what the game expects you to do. This is how The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt handles its pacing constantly. The moment you get comfortable or interested, it gets a glazed look on its eye and screams "BORED NOW!" in your ear.

The most of the plot can even be done out of order, with the only hindrance being that certain regions have higher level enemies. Each act is also made to be its own story that ties into the region. Sometimes these are fantastically done, but others are far less intriguing.

The Witcher 3 isn't a bad game, it just takes way too long with way too much filler to get to these moments.

The Bloody Baron questline is impressive, even if its major moral choice feels like a copout since you really don't understand the extent of your choice. Other times though, the plots are not as interesting, such as a conspiracy in the city of Novigrad. No matter what, you will be constantly reminding yourself "Oh right, Ciri! I really should find her at some point..."

This is also counting on you not just wandering off and doing every sidequest on the planet. The game has a series of bullet-in boards that you use to collect potential quests, and it works quite well at speeding the process up. Except this also means that you can become drastically over-levelled if you continue to ignore the plot, making battles turn into an even greater chore than they were already.

Assuming you have no interest in the story content, CD Projekt RED also added hundreds of monster dens to tediously slaughter out and destroy. Except your weapons degrade incredibly quickly and each monster nest has at least four to six enemies. You also have to have a specific kind of grenade, of which you can only carry three, to blow up said nests.

Make fun of Ubisoft's radio tower ideology all you want, at least there's not a hundred radio towers in Far Cry or an arbitrary limit to how many leaps of faith you can make in Assassin's Creed. This makes the already spam-heavy combat feel even more irritating. Worse yet, I spent more time trying to hunt down weapon repair kits for my silver sword than I spent actually hunting monsters.

If I never kill another drowner in my life, it will have been too soon.

There's at least a wide amount of enemy variety, but you won't see it for most of the game. Instead, ninety percent of what you encounter will be either Necrophages (see: zombies) or Drowners (see: blue zombies). I got excited if human bandits attacked me. The default response to being mugged should not be glee at the sudden variety.

There are dragons, wraiths, spirits, golems, rock trolls, and even werewolves to fight but instead you will spend the majority of your time just mashing the quick attack button and dodging every heavily hinted attack by zombie knock-offs.

The combat tries to function like an Arkham game, but misses the point entirely and instead is a clunky mess. There are two ways to dodge, but one is only a slight side-step, while the other can send you rolling off into a river. There is no middle ground option in combat for virtually anything. You are either committed to being a rogue or a tank, or you are screwed.

This is further hampered by the game's console controls, which limit you to one magic ability hot key, instead of having every power at the ready like on PC with a keyboard and mouse.

They all draw from the same regenerating mana bar, but having to fumble with the game's selection menu further hampers the combat. It's like having to constantly whip out your translation book when on a vacation -- it's just not the same thing as being able to do it fluently and you know it. Still, this isn't the worst problem with The Witcher 3.

My Horse for a Kingdom.

Roach... Roach is just the worst.

Highlight Reel's had a field day with this mad beast.

The auto-travel feature is great, but it worked a lot better in Far Cry 4. Geralt's voice over when riding Roach is also so repetitive that I made an effort to ride any other available horses so Geralt would just shut up. I genuinely believe someone in CD Projekt RED's QA department has gone insane from the repetitious dialogue.

CD Projekt RED has made a good effort to patch out most of the launch day issues and address some of the gameplay problems, yet Roach remains untouched. He's like a tax on your fun. If you are having fun, Roach is always there to stop it. He is The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt's Jar-Jar Binks. There are true moments of fun and intrigue though.

A Daughter Worthy of Her Own Game

All the sidequests might have made you forget about her, but Ciri is actually one of the better parts of the game. The ending climax is about guiding her and letting her grow into the adult she's meant to be, and that's a very heavy topic for a game to cover. She's also a really likeable character, which is good because she's the real protagonist of the story. She's the person who, in the end, makes the important decisions and saves the world. You're just her surrogate dad.

It's also through her that the biggest choices in the game play out. How you raise her will define what she becomes and what that means for the world at large. You can end up with a world in ruins or a world on the verge of peace, but either way, it fits within the choices you (and Ciri) make.

It's a pity CD Projekt RED put so much excess in the game, because the main plot on its own is fine and could make for a great single-player storyline. It's just so tangled up in other things that you have to fight to get to it. This can be said about several other mechanics and ideas in the game as well.

For instance, the Alchemy system is great; letting you craft hundreds of potions and making you want to find new combinations so you're fully outfitted. The player progression system is easily the most flexible to date, letting you mix and match abilities and mutagens to create your ideal playstyle. There are some spectacularly written quests that would be the hallmark moment of lesser RPGs.

The Witcher 3 isn't a bad game, it just takes way too long with way too much filler to get to these moments.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is an amazing single-player action-RPG buried in a mediocre open world game. As much as everyone was wowed by the jump to open world with the third Witcher game, I seriously wish they'd stuck to the formula in their previous games. Sometimes bigger really isn't better.

Our Rating
The Witcher 3 is an intriguing but deeply flawed action-RPG with an unnecessary sandbox taped on.
Published Sep. 15th 2015
  • charlie_8661
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  • billd75
    Well, unlike the other comment. I will not be nearly as harsh. I don't think it is biased really. I actually do agree with quite a bit of this review and it made me think about my own review of it I wrote. I gave it much higher marks, but I think you brought up some really good points that I had not thought of. The story does feel disconnected and goes off course sometimes. It needs more "cohesion" The Baron's quest line is one of the more interesting ones, but it does feel as if you decisions in it, don't really matter. Good call. I also agree that Ciri probably does deserve her own game. I found here quests, story and action to be a nice break from Gerhalt's and quite enjoyable. As for Roach, he's not that bad really. I've played worse. Let's face it, mounts suck in most of these type of RPG's. The only ones who seem to get horses right, is Westerns, like Gun and Red Dead Redemption. Lol. The combat is surely improved over previous Witcher games. You want clunky, look at them. I too thought it mimicked Arkham type combat and sure it did not do it as well, nobody does it like the Batman Arkham series does for combat. It is the gold standard of that type of combat. It is still improved over previous Witcher titles. I liked your review because I thought it was a somewhat fair impression of the game. It did make me think. I am playing the PC version though and it is probably why I found the game better.

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