By Tasmin Talbot (@TasminTalbot)

‘The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’ is the third installment in the Witcher videogame franchise. Truth be told, I have not played its predecessors (yet!) but I happen to be obsessed with both the original novels by Andrzej Sapkowski upon which everything is based and the more recent Netflix Witcher series. Witcher 3 is an action role-playing game developed and published by CD Projekt Red, a company that happen to be of the same nationality as author Sapkowski – Polish.

It was originally released on Windows, PS4, and Xbox One in 2015 and later came out on the Nintendo Switch in 2019, and it is the Switch version I have spent hundreds of hours playing Witcher 3 on.

It is an open-world, single-player game with a third-person perspective, set in a fantasy universe – my favourite! And when I say ‘fantasy’, I truly mean it. The visuals are so crisp and awe-inspiring, especially when riding Roach (your character’s steed) in the wilderness. From the woods to even the towns and cities, it is apparent that a great deal of time and energy has gone into the graphics. And all that work has seriously paid off.  TheColours range from the natural palette of trees and other such aspects of Mother Nature to the vibrant skies. In this game, time passes so we are able to see the views change as the darkness of night comes and goes and the beautiful sunshine returns. Even the weather is able to change but it does not affect your character’s health in any way. You can move forward in time using an option in your settings, which is handy when you are waiting on a weapon to be made or certain currency to be repaid to you. This action also happens to replenish your health and potions so it is most useful.

The main character in this formidable fairy tale is none other than Geralt Of Rivia, Witcher extraordinaire and one mightily handsome fellow. There is a reason that so many of the female characters in the game want to romance him, after all. For those unaware of this marvelous man and his reputation, it can be described as such:

Despite being a murderer of many species, he still has a moral code. He kills monsters only, not innocents unless he is severely provoked in which case they deserve it. He is quite a sarcastic being and pretty cynical but if you had experienced his life then you would probably be the same. He isn’t very trusting, even amongst friends, yet occasionally gives in and allows all of those who love and care about him to help. We are introduced to many of these friends as the game progresses but the main characters and his main allies are as follows:

Dandelion – A not so humble bard and extreme womanizer who has been by Geralt’s side during many an adventure. Despite his lack of muscle and abilities regarding the wielding of weaponry, he tries his hardest to help and protect those he loves with his own unique skill set, which consists of intelligence, wit, and the art of persuasion. He is loyal in regards to his friendships but not so much in regards to his non-platonic ones. However, his whole attitude seems to have changed when he met Priscilla, a fellow musician and a beauty to boot. But only time will tell.

Yennefer – A sorceress who happens also to be a lover of Geralt. They have had a tumultuous relationship, to say the least but they always seem to be drawn back to one another. She and Triss are the main ‘love interests’ of Geralt and therefore his actions regarding them both can shape the course of events and ultimately change the outcome. There are other ladies who can be ‘romanced’ such as sorceress Keira Metz but that does not affect the storyline in any way. In the expansions too, there are more options available but the dynamic is completely different.

Triss – Another sorceress and love interest of the popular Geralt Of Rivia. They too have a somewhat complicated past which will be explained in the game. Like Yennefer, she is fiery and beautiful and of course intelligent but she is timid in personality compared to the aforementioned. She tries her best to be diplomatic whereas Yennefer (also shortened to ‘Yen’) is blunt to the extreme and only cares about the opinions of a handful of people. And even Geralt is not always on that particular list.

Ciri – The most important lady in Geralt’s life by far. He sees her as a daughter and his love for her is infinite, hence him scouring The Continent and beyond (the universe in which this game is set) to relocate her and put her out of harm’s way. From Velen to Novigrad to Skellige, Geralt refuses to leave a stone unturned in his quest to rescue her, even if sacrifices have to be made along the way and this ‘straightforward’ task becomes ever more complicated as progress is made. Originally a Cintran princess, Geralt and his ‘school of the wolf’ comrades take Ciri under their wings to train her in the Witcher ways, at Kaer Morhen. A location that is tricky to find and is purposely as such. They are bound together by fate, destiny or whatever other higher power you wish to allocate to their relationship. Like Yennefer, Ciri has a fiery side and refuses to have her will bent by those of any gender or race or social standing. She is no wallflower by any means of the word. She can look after herself – mostly. Despite being trained by experienced Witchers, she never underwent the specific trials that make them who they are now but she excelled at sword work nonetheless. But being a Witcher is not all about the weaponry, one also has to have in-depth knowledge regarding their foes in order to understand how exactly to take them down. Their weak points, for example, and the art of brewing oils that will affect said ‘weak points.’

Unlike the others, however, Ciri possesses a strong magic, one which outclasses that of Geralt and his brothers in arms. While they can use basic spells, also known as ‘signs’, they differ from that which Ciri has quite literally coursing through her blood.

There are five ‘signs’ in total, all having different effects on Geralt and those around him. The ‘Aard’ sign creates a blast that is able to stun opponents or damage other obstacles, such as doors in some cases. Next is the ‘Igni’ sign and if you did not already guess from its title, it creates fire. The ‘Axii’ sign can be used for the purpose of persuasion, rendering the targets of it more amicable in regards to yourself and can cloud their minds to such a degree that you can manipulate them entirely. This sign is extraordinarily useful in this game so I seriously recommend upgrading it when possible. ‘Quen’ is a protective sign, allowing its user to create a shield around themselves. And last but not least, ‘Yrden’ is a trap sign which can be used to deal damage to unsuspecting foes. Out of all five of them, Aard and Axii are my most used.

Another positive aspect about Ciri as a character is that she is part of the LGBTQIA+ community and is proud about this fact. She does not go to any lengths to hide it, in fact there are specific dialogue options in the story where she has openly admitted it. And her comments are received well by the other characters. Speaking of which, the fact that both Ciri and Geralt possess scars of sorts – and visible ones at that – and aren’t judged on them is another plus for the game. Such things need to be ‘normalised’ and Witcher 3 helps do that.

 

The main enemy of this game is ‘The Wild Hunt’, a group of spectral beings who bring nothing but chaos and death. They want to initiate Ciri into their ‘club’, so to speak, due to her incredible powers. For she is no ordinary young woman, she is a child of the elder blood, a title which those familiar with Witcher-lore will immediately recognise and understand. Basically, she is a key character in the fate of the entire world that this series is set in.

With this game, there are also expansion packs (‘Hearts Of Stone’ and ‘Blood And Wine’, which are set after the main plot and are intricate stories in themselves) as well as a variety of other downloadable content which range from unlocking extra quests to rendering you able to change Geralt’s facial appearance. Personally, I like his hair long and his beard gone but he looks good regardless so it is all a matter of taste.

Another integral part of the Witcher 3 game is actually something that you would first perceive as quite trivial. That being the card game ‘GWENT’. This is no ordinary, run of the mill game. There are even a multitude of quests pertaining to it. The audience of this game within a game, so to speak, is pretty much every NPC you come across. Merchants, Blacksmiths, even more ‘important’ beings such as your Witcher friends like to dabble in it. There is even a high-stakes tournament you can participate in to show off the incredible decks you have been building throughout the game.

If you desire the best deck then my advice is to start collecting the cards from the very beginning of the game because certain cards can only be won from certain characters that may not even be around later on in the story. Not naming any names, of course. Plenty of cards can be bought from various merchants and innkeepers yet the most powerful and rare ones can only be won in actual matches.

On my first playthrough, I neglected the game entirely and even got quite frustrated by the fact that everyone and their mother wanted to play it with me. However, the next time around, I actually got stuck in and now I am well and truly hooked on it. Out of any card game or mini-game in general within a videogame, GWENT is my favourite by far. You can also participate in horse races which are fun but not on the same level as GWENT, in my opinion.

There are four decks that you can choose from: ‘Nilfgaardian Empire’, ‘Northern Realms’, ‘Monsters’, and ‘Scoia ‘tael.’ Different decks possess different perks. The rules are rather simple and not at all convoluted so it is not difficult to learn and which renders it highly addictive after a while due to the sheer fun factor. The ‘Northern Realms’ deck is my personal preference.

The soundtrack for Witcher 3, composed by Marcin Przybyłowicz and Mikolai Stroinski, has typical ‘fantasy’ elements, from the wonderfully whimsical to the more frantic and thrilling. This is mainly background music, however, one is privy to a performance in-game during a certain quest line. The performance is by ‘Priscilla’ (who has been previously mentioned) and the song itself is titled both ‘Priscilla’s Song’ and ‘Wolven Storm.’ Pretty apt considering the composition’s contents.

The Witcher 3 as a whole is a glorious game. It may be unsuitable for youngsters, what with it being labelled as an ’18’, due to excess violence, gore, and certain explicit scenes but if you are an adult who is unperturbed by such things then you will most certainly get extreme enjoyment from it. Due to different dialogue options leading to different outcomes, you can replay the game over and over and discover something new each and every time. That, paired with the fact that there are an enormous range of ‘unexplored locations’ to find, a player could easily spend hundreds of hours on this game alone. I most certainly have.

Something else that is interesting within this game is the attire allocated to various types of characters. Merchants wear similar things to one another, as do Blacksmiths and Armourers and even peasants in general. Yet even the attire of the lower class is impressive in its own way. Speaking of impressive, there are various outfits available for your character, Geralt, some that you can just purchase and others that you either find or craft yourself. The ‘crafting’ and ‘alchemy’ options are both very useful.

For example, if you are fighting a certain creature, you can brew up your own oil to apply to your blade to help you earn a victory. Different monsters have different weaknesses, hence why Geralt has more than one blade. One steel, one silver.

You can also brew bombs which prove to be crucial if you wish to destroy monster ‘nests’. These are worth exploring since you not only gain EXP from doing as such but you can also acquire uncommon items which you can either sell or use to brew something even better.

The gameplay itself is exciting and never gets tedious, especially since you can alternate between various moves and weapons. You are able to use a crossbow as well as swords or other such closer range weapons. The motions are fluid with no sign of lag or a delay of any kind. You can also set your own difficulty level at the beginning of the actual game so even novices or not particularly skilled people could enjoy this absolute masterpiece of a videogame.

So, because of all of those reasons and many more, I highly recommend Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and will continue to harp on about it until my goal of converting everyone to it is achieved. It is my favourite game of all time and I doubt that it will ever be topped.