The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt Early Impressions
After an hour or two of playing The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt on PS4, I am finally able to give my first impressions of Cd Projekt Red’s new RPG.
Firstly a key factor in deciding to get this game or not, was in fact the way the game was marketed. It doesn’t seem to have been well publicised but, the normal, basic, standard edition of the game actually resembles what you would expect to pay a premium for most special editions of games these days.
Upon opening my copy of the game, I was treated to a small manual on gameplay, which is a rarity in itself. I also found inside the case, a physical CD copy of the games soundtrack, some promotional stickers, a physical map of the games world printed on textured paper, a small compendium notebook outlining key information from previous games on the characters. Not only that, but also a code for DLC skins for an arena game and a code good for a digital copy of the Dark Horse comic. The games developers also left a thank-you note inside the case, for buying the game, and a promise of 16 pieces of DLC for free. Regardless of how the game plays, I have to hand it to Cd Projekt Red, in a world of freemiums, and day one DLC paywalls, this was a decent move.
Now, onto the game. I’m sure by now you’ve read information regarding some issues, that the developers have been interviewed on. They include issues with the games graphics and frame rates, along with minor glitches. I can tell you that, yes these issues do exist, and they are noticeable. The developers admitted to it immediately and have promised a patch to fix these issues, I’m satisfied with this response, so until the patch, I won’t base the first impression on graphics.
The game has a pretty standard HUD you’ve come to expect from Western RPG’s. Health bars, stamina bars, your currently equipped weapons and items. It’s fairly basic, but basic is not bad, there is no delay in getting into the gameplay by explaining some bizarre meter nobody ever asked for, for half an hour. You learn some basic combat and magic at the very start in a prologue, again this is done swiftly and due to its simplicity, you can get straight into your adventure.
The world, however it may currently look, is certainly expansive. Luckily for you, you have access to a horse from the very start, which really makes getting around the country easier. The game has a fast travel option, allowing you to travel from crossroad signposts, which is good because you don’t have the tedium of having to ride everywhere. In the same breath, you do have to go to the signpost so, you aren’t an omnipotent being with the power to teleport wherever you please.
You set out on the trail of your ex lover, and have to do battle with monsters, including a Griffin. This is your first real combat, and I have to say, the combat is better than I expected. I had thought it would be slow, with awkward hotkeys that work better on PC than console. I was very quickly proved wrong. The combat is dynamic, and reminds me of Assassins Creed, with a bit of Dark Souls thrown in, maybe a tiny bit of Skyrim. You have two main swords, a steel one for human foes, and a silver one for monsters. You will need to change them according to your enemies weakness. You can preform fast attacks and strong attacks, in a hack and slash fashion, but may be required to dodge, roll, parry and counterattack your opponents blows. You have a limited number of spells that can be cast easily from a hotkey menu, again these come in handy depending on the enemies weakness, but due to the limited variety of spells, you should note, this game is not all about the magic. You can regain lost health from eating food or meditating depending on your difficulty settings.
Your character can be upgraded through a fairly standard skills tree. Skills purchased at level up can be assigned to a slot to become active. This coupled with a colour coded system for other buffs and skills produce special stat bonuses. Weapons and equipment also come in sets and various rarities as you’d expect from a typical Western RPG. Item degradation is a feature in this game as is a maximum carry weight, both features can be annoying, as repairs are expensive and currency is hard to come by early in the game. Vendors have a limited amount of money on them, so even selling old equipment, you can still only gleam so much cash. Its a feature that I don’t like, but I can see the logic behind it.
You can create potions from herbs you gather using alchemy. At first, I hated this, spending ages picking flowers to make a single potion that I’d probably never use. Again I was proved wrong. Creating a potion, makes at least three of the potion, and once it has been made, you don’t need to gather the flowers again. Instead, your stock of a particular potion is refilled by consuming any alcohol in your inventory while you rest. There is a similar system for creating and upgrading weapons and equipment. It seems awkward and I didn’t spend a lot of time with it yet.
The Witcher 3 also features a mini game where you play cards against NPC’s. It’s a nice idea, its a novelty though, its probably very rewarding if you stick with it, but I found it slows things down, and isn’t all that entertaining. It kind of boils down to simple maths, a numbers game with a few MTG styled “commander” cards with special abilities.
Early quests will have you fighting monsters and bandits, and interestingly enough, there are different ways to get a solution. You don’t always have to fight, being a Witcher, means you are a master tracker, and can investigate battle sites or find enemy tracks. At one stage, I deciphered a load of clues, in a village, instead of just fighting my mark, and it lead to better rewards and other quests. I suggest investigating everywhere, you have senses not unlike eagle vision in AC, they make sense as part of the story, you will make use of this skill a lot.
However, one of the glitches currently effecting gameplay is that if you explore an area, kill an enemy or such, before you pick up the side quest, you will be unable to complete the quest. Watch out for this one and tread carefully at the moment, although the developers have promised to patch this, so wait and see how it goes.
Verdict: so far, The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt is an enjoyable game with a fun simplicity and interesting story. It also appears to be value for money, if you are thinking of getting the game, shop around, chances are you can save at least ten euro depending on which retailer you purchase from.