Based on Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski’s set of fantasy books, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is CD Projekt RED’s third installment in it’s Witcher Series of games. The games follow the story of Geralt, a monster hunter on various quests and this third installment revolves mostly the Wild Hunt and its quest to capture Geralt’s adopted daughter Ciri. I feel like that plot synopsis doesn’t do this game justice as its much bigger than that. The scale of this game is absolutely enormous, with huge locations and an almost never ending set of stories. It might just be the best game I’ve ever played, if not the greatest role playing game of all time.
Image: CD Projekt Red
This is part of my series - End to End Game reviews. These reviews are of games that I’ve completed from start to finish - sometimes including some DLC, but for the most part focusing on the main storyline. I don’t always finish games, or if I do, its normally long after the games have come out so these reviews are full of spoilers as I reckon most readers will either have completed the game themselves or no longer care about any spoiled storylines. If I’ve taken the time to finish a game these reviews are going to bias towards games that I’ve liked and have enjoyed playing. Mostly I write these reviews as a way to memorialize my play through of the game in question.
The Witcher is a series of RPG games based around the story of Geralt the witcher, who is a kind of mercenary monster hunter. The world is a complicated place full of wearwolves and wraiths and other monster that the witcher will take contracts on for the local populace of elves, dwarves, or humans. He doesn’t kill everything he comes across but he can kill most things if required.
The third instalment of the series sees the Geralt and Vessimir leave Kaer Morhen, the stronghold of the wolf school of witchers, to find Yennefer. Once she finds him however its off to meet the Emperor of Nilfgaard (voiced by the excellent Charles Dance) who employs Geralt to find Ciri who is being sought by the Wild Hunt. This sets us on a course across the northern kingdoms to try and find Ciri.
So why did I love this game so much?
Locations and Characters
Whether it was White Orchard, Skellige, Velen, or Toussaint, the games locations blew me away. Everything just felt so well fleshed out. Fields, orchards, swamps, monsters, caves, everything just felt… alive. More than any other game I’ve ever played, the environment just felt real - like it would continue to exist whether I was there or not. At no point do I remember coming across a significant building and know exactly how it was going to be laid out, or exactly how it was going to look. Everything felt unique, even if it wasn’t.
In particular I fell in love with Toussaint from the expansion Blood and Wine. A beautifully created land of knights, wine, and sunshine, I never wanted to leave. But that takes nothing from the rest of the world - Skellige felt rough and weather beaten with hardened people to match. The cities each felt like very different places, with completely different cultures and feels, which can sometimes be difficult in games - Novigrad bustled with activity, Oxenfurt a city occupied, and Toussaint’s Beauclair is stunning to look at.
Most of the usual Witcher characters were along for the ride - Vessimir, Dandelion, Zoltan, Triss, and Yennefer. Other characters make a return too like Thaler and Lambert, but the story is mostly standalone so even though I didn’t remember the second game, I never felt lost in their conversations. Most of the characters feel fleshed out and most aren’t simply one dimensional. An early example in the game is the Bloody Baron in Crow’s Nest. After a few meetings with some of his henchmen, I was ready for the inevitable fight but the story is so well written it throws you straight away in a different direction. This was a slightly surreal direction in a quest line that had us finding the grave of a dead baby, rescue a missing goat, and performing a kind of exorcism. I was expecting one thing and the game really threw me - in a fun and interesting way. I recently watched someone else play that section and it definitely seemed to be pretty out of left field for most people.
And although all of the above weirdness is technically on the main story quest, because the way the quests work, you have time to pick up lots of side quests along the way. And you should - it’s a good way of making sure you see all of the great locations along the way. The main story quest is interesting - you want to catch up with Ciri and help her defeat the Wild Hunt, but the pacing seemed a little off for me on this main quest. While I was off killing my millionth drowner in search of some armour I really kept thinking I should have been moving along with it. She was my adopted daughter after all. That said - the main quest takes many twists and turns it wasn’t hard to see lots of the world while doing it. The side quests really are excellent though. Some are bits of the books, and others are great almost short stories in their own right. I really can’t praise some of these enough. More thought went into some of these quests than into main storylines in other games. Eventually, I would do as many side quests as I could before resuming the main story quest which meant that some of urgency of Ciri’s storyline was lost along the way. I don’t know how you would otherwise do this and avoid it becoming just another mission or quest but I still enjoyed the games quests overall.
A few of the reviews I’ve read have had niggles about their endings. I was super happy with mine. Ciri survives, became the empress, and I settled down with Yennefer on a beautiful estate in Toussaint. I’ve heard the other endings, and when enough time has passed I might replay the game to see if I get them, though I’m not sure I’d change the decisions I made the whole way through the game, so would probably end up with the same ending. The only thing I’d consider changing is maybe switching for Triss, but for some reason that doesn’t feel right even typing it.
This game had so many great sections, quests, storylines, and moments that its pretty difficult to know where to start. I loved the quests to find the various witcher school’s armour. There was great lore and little moments in those quests like getting some of the Viper set from a Countess who had a brief love affair with a witcher years beforehand. Quests like The Whispering Hillock were super memorable (in fact that whole section based around the swamp had really great quests) and The Tower Outta Nowheres on Skellige was fun too.
But The Blood and Wine expansion is where a lot of my favourite moments come from - I really enjoyed the all of the quests and side missions in this expansion. But by far the best, most memorable section is the start of the expansion - riding into Touissant with the two knights who come to ask for your help. Everything about it is perfect. The quests in this expansion are a lot of fun - I really enjoyed the knights tourney and the “Beyond Hill and Dale” quest that transports you to a fairytale village.
I also loved restoring and finishing off the vineyard as my home as an end point for the Geralt’s story in these games. There was a finality to it that just felt right - a chance for Geralt to relax properly after years of being a witcher. A really great way to part company with Geralt and his story in these games.
So all of this leads me to one point. That this might be the greatest game I’ve ever played. It might not be the game I’ve played the most – I’ve sunk a lot of hours into all of the various online shooters – but its definitely the game that’s stayed with me the most since I’ve played it. I was visually enthralled, I loved the voice acting, and I still think about the quests and stories to this day. A really great game and well worth your hard earned money.