Review: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

 The end of the time of axe and sword is nigh.

Console: Nintendo Switch
The very first game I bought in 2020 is, without a doubt, the biggest game I’ve ever played. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Complete Edition for the Nintendo Switch. The Witcher 3 had been a game I had heard about before with how much praise it has gotten. I never bought it though as I didn’t own a platform I could play it on. When the Switch port was announced I finally got a way to play the game. Now, around 130 gameplay hours later, I finally finished the base game. Even if nobody is really looking for reviews on the Witcher 3 anymore, I really feel like talking about my experience with the game and have thus decided to review it anyhow.

So, without further ado, let’s dive into the Switch version of The Witcher 3 and let me give you my two cents on one of the most critically acclaimed games in recent memory!

In the Witcher 3, you play as the Witcher Geralt of Rivia, a human enhanced by magic and mutations to kill the monsters that roam the world. At the start of the game Geralt, accompanied by his mentor Vesemir, is looking for his lover, the sorceress Yennefer. After reuniting with Yennefer, Geralt learns that his ward and adoptive daughter Ciri has reappeared. She had disappeared years before to escape the Wild Hunt, a group of extremely dangerous (believed to be) spectral warriors who travel between different worlds. They are pursuing Ciri for the immense magical power that she possesses, a power The Wild Hunt cannot be allowed to obtain. Geralt sets of to find Ciri and thus, the journey begins.

It’s a bit difficult to accurately bring in words the scope of the game’s story but in short: it’s excellent. It’s an emotional roller-coaster with a variety of well-fleshed out, often morally complex, characters in a living and breathing world. That last part is, no doubt because the world of The Witcher had been well established in the original novels. There is a lot of lore to be found in The Witcher, from its characters, to the different races, to the monsters, to its history. It can definitely be too much at times, but luckily, the game never drags in its own lore. It tells you all you need to know with the rest of the lore stacked away in optional books and descriptions that you can read at your own choosing.

While there are some pre-rendered cutscenes, most of the cutscenes are done in-engine.

I do think that the story structure is far from perfect. The game is set up in three acts and a prologue (AKA the tutorial section). My problem with this structure is that the length of these acts varies greatly. Act 1 one is absolutely massive while Act 2 & 3 are very short in comparison. They also don't offer as many opportunities to go and set out on your own, making them feel more hindering at times. I found this a weakness of the game, as it felt to me like the game was taking away the freedom it previously provided.

Let’s move on from the story and worldbuilding and move on to the game’s setup. The game makes use of a very large quest system. The backbone of these quests is the main quest, the once that focus on the game’s overarching story. These quests are usually on the longer side, much more heavily scripted and with a good amount of cutscenes thrown in. Many of the main quests are setup in a way that it allows the player bouts of freedom to do other things in without having to awkwardly cease the story. These 'breaks; are very welcoming. Why? Because it's in these side-quests were the true meat of the game lies.

The Witcher 3 has a gigantic amount of side-quests. You can’t throw a rock around and not hit a side-quest in this game, so to speak. These side-quests come in three varieties. Normal, treasure hunts and contracts. The first two are rather similar to one and other. You run into some people (or a corpse) in need of help or in an intriguing situation and you get to choose if you help them/intervene or not. If you finish them you're rewarded with some loot, with treasure hunts giving you especially profitable/useful items and gear. These side-quests are done in a jiffy, they never overstay their welcome. I’ve rarely run into a side-quest that I didn’t feel doing because I knew that even if I were doing something else at the moment, it would be over quickly and still enjoyed my time doing them.

Lastly, you have contracts, in which you do your Witcher thing and kill monsters at the behest of others. These are always my favourite. They are more than just killing the monsters: they’re investigations. You have to use your Witcher senses (more on those later) to find out what exactly happened, learn what monster is behind it and formulate a plan to take it out. Brew potions, apply oils set up traps etc. These are always very tactical, which is exactly why I like them.

Just look at this beautiful and terrifying beaut of a Leshen!

The monsters in the world of The Witcher are very well crafted, both in look and how they work mechanically. There designs are everything you could've wished for and there’s more variety in a species then you’d expect. The Foglett that you fight for a contract looks different than one that you’ll just randomly find when you’re out and about. In terms of mechanics, each monster has its own behavioural pattern aside from a shared core characteristics. This makes the strategies you need to do easier to recognize and memorize, but still challenging to perform.

In terms of gameplay, the game has a third-person perspective. You can attack enemies using your swords (or fists) with either a light or heavy attack. As your most likely well aware, Geralt hast two swords on his back. Steel for humans, silver for monsters. You don’t have to worry about using the wrong type of sword against an enemy. The health bar colour indicates which sword is best to use. Even better: the game is set to automatically draw the correct sword when engaging an enemy.

As a Witcher, Geralt is capable of a variety of special actions and skills. You’ve got his Witcher senses, which you can activate them using the left shoulder buttons. Using them, you can find loot able items, sense enemies approaching even if they’re not on screen and find interactions points for quests. It’s all quite helpful and something that you should definitely use often. Then there are the signs. These are small acts of magic that range from a simple shield to a fire blast and can provide you with a ranged attack other than you trusty little crossbow. Some of them even have an influence during quests and can unlock new paths or dialogue options.

He can also brew potions, oils and construct bombs to help him in combat. Potions can be drunk by Geralt and can replenish your health amongst many other effects, while oils give your sword passive effects against certain types of enemies. These items are very useful but must be used wisely. The game has mechanics in place, like toxicity, that punish players if these are overused.

Overall, the gameplay is fine. There are a lot of mechanics to keep track of, but thankfully, the game gives you a lot of leeway. I do have one big problem with the gameplay: it’s sluggish. From Geralt's movements to his combat prowess, it all feels rather heavy and slow. And don’t even get me started on the swimming controls. After 130+ hours they are still a nightmare!

Graphical comparison here. Do not that this comparison was done before the post-processing patch was released.

As this is the Nintendo Switch version that I’m reviewing here, clear sacrifices have been made to ensure that the game can be run on the less powerfull hardware. The game runs at a lower frame rate and the number of textures have been reduced. A more casual audience won't notice these changes so I feel it's a good compromise. The longer loading times are annoying though, I do admit. With the added post-proccessing options you can even tailer the experience to your liking and improving the graphics and many other aspects with the right settings (which you can find in this nifty NintendoLife article).

Conclusion

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: Complete Edition is a magnificent game. It has a wonderful and emotional stor and a large breathing world amongst many other strengths. Yes, there are some problems. The controls are way too sluggish, load times tned to be annoyingly long and this version is the inferior version on a technical front. For the hardware, however, it’s actually quite impressive and can be adjusted to our own personal preference for a better performance. If you’ve never played the Witcher 3 before, or just want to be able to play it on the go, then this is an excellent version to pick up.

Oh, and while I still have you, I also dug my teeth into the games´ two expansions: Hearts of Stone and Blood & Wine. Perhaps give them a read to?

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