When I sat down unencumbered and ready to finally and fully enjoy The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt a couple weeks ago, I was…nervous? Yes, nervous. And intimidated. Before me lain no mere game. Rather, it was an RPG masterpiece that had received countless awards, industry-wide acclaim, and praise from game site large and small. And there I was with my Fable-like outlook and Dragon Age sensibilities wondering how little ol’ me was going to fare in such a gigantic escapade. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but no small part of me was very anxious over the game not living up to everything I thought I knew about it. Couple that with my own unsuccessful outings with the previous two Witcher games, and I was quite worried I’d end up in the same sinking boat with Geralt of Rivia in tow.
But, as they say, every journey begins with but a single step. And so, with my resolve steeled, I took that first step; my adventures with Geralt began. The learned of The Wild Hunt, the young witcher Ciri, the path of witchers, and what lay in store for Geralt. It was a lot to take in, but I survived. And…
And…I’m still alive! And still playing. Success! Or rather, success? Here are my first impressions.
Starting with the obvious, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is astoundingly gorgeous. Even on my non-4K TV and original PS4, I mean…I was duly impressed when I played Horizon Zero Dawn, but, as far as my eyes can tell, The Witcher 3, supplants it by leaps and bounds. The details, the sunlight, the wind, the rain, the moonlight, the seas and lakes and rivers, the sheer scope of the game’s world – the Continent, as it’s called – it’s all simply incredible. And incredible to be surrounded by and navigate. Within the first couple hours of playing, I had to stop myself from overloading my PS4 with screenshots. Everywhere I looked, every time I looked away and back, there was something new and beautiful, and sometimes beautifully ugly, on the screen.
Aside from the environments, the people of Geralt’s world are stunning. They’re also occasionally hilarious, half-baked, hideous, or haughty, but the details of and on all the character models certainly put a few favorite games I can think of to shame. That goes doubly for all accouterments – clothing, armor, weapons – all seemingly individually tailored, sewn, hewn, or hammered, into colorful, vibrant, and lively wear. The world of The Witcher 3 isn’t at all drab or dull and neither is its population. As someone who loves playing around with in-game costumes and gear in game, The Witcher 3 speaks to me on that level alone, and rather loudly.
If within my first dozen hours with the game I must name one downside, or maybe two, it’s that I’m not a fan of the combat. Or, perhaps I should say that I I’ve become so used to other combat schemes in other games that I’m having a hard time letting go of that muscle memory. (Most notably, my overindulgence in GTAV leads me to want to steer Roach, Geralt’s horse, with the trigger buttons, just as I would drive a car. When I’m on foot, I want to use the same button to attack, as I would in ESO. Ah, me.) Since the learning curve remains, I’m currently dying, a lot. Oh, but if I don’t feel like the most ungraceful lout in combat! Trying to manage swordplay, along with a crossbow, bombs, and magic spells (“signs”) is proving to be a challenge. I figure that perhaps by the time I’m done with the game, I’ll get it.
Speaking of which, just how far have or haven’t I made it in the game? Well, I must admit that I never thought I’d reach level 10 at the rate I was going, but I am, in fact, at level 10! After exhausting everything I could do within the game’s tutorial area and starting region (White Orchard), I’ve just made my way to a place called Velen, one of three regions Geralt is to explore. Here I’ve met and helped a pretty sorceress named Keira, taken on a few decent monster contracts (good for leveling up and coin), encountered a bloody baron who has quite some burdens to bear, and picked up more side quests than I know what to do with, which…doesn’t much matter, because I can’t do most of them anyway at teensy level 10. I’m starting to get the hang of inventory management (good lord, and what an inventory there is to manage), alchemy and crafting, and when to not venture off into areas unheeded. Geralt may be a witty, super man, but he has no superpowers and will bleed like anyone else. As hands-off as the game is – I could explore all willy-nilly if I so wanted – I’m grateful when it lightly nudges me to say “don’t go that way just yet.” As long I remember to notice, I usually don’t. Usually.
And so begins what looks to be a long journey into The Witcher 3. Judging by the number of “undiscovered locations” in Velen alone, it might be longer than I can fathom at the moment. Good thing, I suppose, that I have time.
All images (© CD Projekt S.A.) in this article were taken by author during PS4 gameplay of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.