The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
It is still hard to believe in the very fact of the existence of the third Witcher – it seems that not a single game series has grown at such a majestic pace from release to release in a short time.
Now it’s even somehow strange to remember the first part on the decrepit engine from the original Neverwinter Nights: as if it appeared not only eight years ago, but in a distant eight-bit era. Assassins of Kings, released four years later, looked much more expensive and modern; the budget constraints of the Eastern European studio were only reminded of cramped locations and errors in the program code. But the excellent plot, which has a rich literary basis, and the chic characters were not enough for the virtual world that the Poles were able to create from the first two attempts.
And “Wild Hunt” is not even the answer to Skyrim, Dragon Age and other “big” role-playing games, it’s a jump into the stratosphere, where there is nothing like it within a radius of a thousand kilometers. What is most striking here is the scale – both the fictional world inhabited by the revived myths of the Slavs, and the epic story, whose action captivates no worse than the literary source.
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However, in The Witcher 3 there is still not a single seamless world: Geralt’s adventures unfold in two huge locations (the mainland and the Skellige Islands), in addition, the protagonist periodically visits separate places like the Kaer Morhen fortress or the castle in the imperial capital. But such a division does not bother at all: the lands where Velen and Novigrad are located are more spacious than all the locations from Dragon Age III combined – even during the story part, you can easily hang here for tens of hours.
Despite the colossal size of the digital world, you never cease to be amazed at the details and enjoy them until the very end. Neat villages, flora and fauna at the bottom of rivers and lakes, dense forests with aggressive wildlife, mysterious caves and swamps, huge Novigrad and several more modest cities – the density of sights is unusually high, and something is constantly happening everywhere. Geralt stumbles upon a broken wagon in the middle of a field and receives a small task to figure out what happened – a seemingly trivial plot will certainly lead to an unexpected ending to the investigation.
After a long journey across the continent, the game gets a second wind: Geralt finds himself on the cold islands of Skellige, where the local Vikings live. It’s completely different here: a different atmosphere, amazing skies and mesmerizing boat trips among icebergs and fjords.
Skyrim was once called the best escapist’s virtual tourism thirst quencher; “The Witcher 3” easily intercepts this title. The point is not only in the abundance of interesting places and vast expanses, but also in the presentation of history, which motivates research even more. If in the cold of Skyrim the most interesting things still happened in our heads, then in the Wild Hunt, an unforgettable experience is provided by unparalleled direction and storytelling – even in minor episodes.
CD Projekt RED found the perfect combination of factors to keep going on and on with Geralt. Therefore, in addition to the storyline and interesting secondary tasks, hunting for monsters occupies an important place. If we recall again Dragon Age or Skyrim, then the battles there were bright only with dragons (although at some point, due to their uniformity, even they began to become boring). On the way, the Witcher meets completely different creatures, most of which, in addition, need to be hunted down, and then you need to select the right equipment. As a result, the climax – the battle with the monster itself – each time brings a new and unusual experience.
Another striking thing about Wild Hunt is the balance. We are used to the fact that we cannot get everything at once – a huge interesting world, and entertaining “side effects”, and an exciting main plot. The main story here is one of the strongest, longest, most complex and self-contained stories in the gaming industry. Among other things, this is a rare example of a truly adult game – and it becomes adult not at all because of the sexual themes (although there are plenty of them here) or dismemberment (also a lot, and everything is in place), but thanks to the issues raised. Keynote – the relationship of father and daughter; also in The Witcher 3 they calmly, judiciously and without strain talk about love, obligations, duty to the fatherland and life’s purpose.
The scriptwriters inexplicably manage to keep the story at the right pace for 40-50 hours – new faces appear in time and the scene changes. After Skellige, one gets the impression that this is almost the end; however, The Witcher 3 takes the player by the scruff of the neck and zealously drags them through a 15-hour (!) climax with several false denouements and cascading endings. It’s almost cruel; during this race, it is impossible to work, eat, or sleep – in a word, you cannot calm down until you see the final credits.
“Wild Hunt” can be praised for a million other virtues for a long time. For a combat system that was clearly inspired by the Souls series, with the right difficulty setting for everyone. For the magnificent Russian voice acting, where well-chosen actors were not afraid to swear in the right places and did a nice job on intonations. For real moral dilemmas, the last time we met in the best years of BioWare. For the general style of Slavic fantasy – a rare and most successful example.
Yes, for a lot.
The Witcher 3 is one of the most ambitious and beautiful games of recent times. That rare case when the creators got everything they planned. A living and huge world, closely connected with an incredible story about bright characters. A real opportunity to role-play and fight monsters from the heart.
An adventure that you will remember for a lifetime.