The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
I’m almost ashamed to admit that I have only just got around to completing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and its DLC, Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine.
I mentioned previously in a post about ‘Beating the Backlog’, that I was going to focus this year on trying to get through more of my gaming backlog. You know, that thing which grows when you start and stop games, jump between new games, new releases, picking up endless amounts of games on sale but never actually finish. I decided to properly tackle games that I’ve got already, because there’s quite a few of them – across PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch and a fair few of the older consoles.
I picked up Witcher 3 (Game of The Year edition with DLC included) several years ago for PS4, on the recommendation of a friend who knew that I would enjoy it as an RPG fan.
I did start the game and maybe put about 10 hours into the main story but for whatever reason, I ended up moving onto something else that I can’t even remember at this point. So now was as good a time as ever to finish it – I’ve been working on this since December 2019 would you believe. One of the reasons I decided to give Witcher 3 another attempt was – yes, laugh and joke – the release of the Netflix series, which I really enjoyed. Some folk said it was a bit slow to get into, but that’s for another time.
Jumping forward to my second take of Witcher 3: I started a new game again. One of the things I’ve been finding when switching between different games is that I really lose track of where I am in the story, what I’ve done, who the characters are, what the relevance is, and it really does affect my enjoyment of the game. I’ve got the same issue watching television series – you leave it too long until the next season comes out and you can’t really remember what the plot was… Best to start afresh.
So, yeah… I underestimated just how big Witcher 3 was. I knew it was going to be a big game, that’s from map size, to content, side quests to main missions but nevertheless, I underestimated it. To sum it up: just incredible. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get around to completing it. In many ways I’m quite surprised that I fell away from the game in the first place (around the Bloody Baron mission….), had I just stuck it out slightly longer, I would have totally got hooked on the gameplay.
The thing that stands out for me most just now – having finished the main story in February, before moving on to the DLC – is that CD Projekt Red left us with the best for last. Not to downplay the excellent story and gameplay of the base game by any means, however Witcher 3’s Blood and Wine DLC was absolutely the highlight of it all.
There is a huge amount of lore that you can pick up through books, notes and through the story. It’s one of these games that you’re able to jump in midway through a series and pick up the story. You’re able to appreciate it without necessarily needing to get all the previous references (I must admit that I’ve not played the first or second game yet).
The DLC just took Witcher 3 to another level in my opinion, especially Blood and Wine. The new area you visit, Toussaint, looks fantastic. It’s got quite an engaging main story line, absolutely inundated with side quests. In that DLC alone I easily put 30 hours into, and I’ve still got side missions, treasure hunts and contracts in my quest list. That’s not even to touch on the base game. The amount of areas to discover and explore is staggering, however it never feels bloated for the sake of simply having a massive map.
Getting into graphics side of things, it’s been almost five years since release but doesn’t look dated in any way. Graphically it’s stunning (even on a standard PS4), especially the Blood and Wine DLC. There is such a rich vibrant array of colour, great scenery and landscapes, and the palace the main town, Beauclair just – with its towering architecture viewable from almost anywhere on the map, absolutely lends itself to some spectacular screenshots which I made thorough use of.
Mechanics wise and combat, I thought it was a really satisfying combat style, taking advantage of different tactics depending on which sort of enemy you faced. For humans, blocking and counters worked well, however for monsters the best approach was dodging and striking.
I found that a vital resource was collecting ingredients and crafting potions to give that extra edge against enemies, though having to balance your toxicity level meant you couldnt simply spam endless potions to recover mid fight.
I suppose it’s a similar combat style to Shadow of Mordor, which is another game I absolutely adored, and one of my favourite games of this generation of consoles. You’ve got a huge range of abilities, great customisation in terms of the RPG elements and levelling up, through choosing your perks and upgrading Witcher signs and perks to help during battle. A great addition with the DLC is obtaining the additional mutations of course, which gave an incentive to continue levelling up and increasing your powers.
There were only a handful of negative aspects I encountered throughout the game. The main one of these would probably be fine motion controls, if that’s how you want to best describe it. If you’re in small rooms, especially if you want to loot certain crates, or dropped enemy items, I found that accurately and precisely moving Geralt can be a bit of a challenge. Also, on horseback, you often gets stuck in trees, getting stalled by invisible barriers on the ground, which also happens when running as well on rare occasion. Those are minor complaints however.
Side Quests range from horse races, to hunting monsters and plaing cards – Gwent was quite a big side quest of the game. I couldn’t quite get into it, but that’s fine, it was primarily an extra, you weren’t really required to play (other than for some trophies if that’s your thing).
The Witcher 3 is filled with memorable characters throughout the story, and although many were returning from previous games, a read through the menus provided some backstory and lore to bring you up to speed. Had I played previous games first, I may have appreciated certain aspects more, in terms of how all the story lined up, but for someone who is discovering the series for the first time, it is quite difficult to criticise.
As a whole, I loved the variety of environments on the map, never mind the different areas you can travel to. As I touched on earlier, thankfully it doesn’t fall trap to one of the issues in some open world games, as being large for the sake of being large. Each area did feel like it had its own use, its own function, not simply just to hide secrets or explore for explorations sake.
To finish up – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is definitely one of the best games I’ve played in recent years. It has only increased my interest and desire to work through more of my games backlog that I currently own. Like many, I’m guilty of overlooking or taking for granted some of the brilliant games that you’ve got at your fingerprints, you just need to dust them off, load it up and play through. So for this edition of Backlog Diary: thumbs up, recommend, I did good. Not that you need me to say this, but play Witcher 3.
Keep an eye out for what’s next on my Backlog list:
Nearing the end of my Witcher 3 playthrough. What game on my backlog should i finish next?— Side Mission Blog (@SideMissionBlog) March 8, 2020
Check out how we’re doing with our Gaming Backlog here.