With the upcoming series of the Witcher coming to Netflix starring Henry Cavill I decided I needed to gen up on an IP I know little about. I once attempted Witcher 2 but only got a very short way into the game, for some reason it never grabbed me.
This is odd. Fantasy is very much my thing and The Witcher has all the DNA for a great fantasy IP. Its star is Geralt, one of the eponymous Witcher. Witcher are mutated humans that hunt monsters and the supernatural. The computer game is loosely based on a series of novels by Andrzej Sapkowski whilst the TV series is designed to be more representative of the source material.
The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt is an engaging RPG with a nuanced combat system. The over arching plot concerning the search for Ciri is fun if a little weak in places. There are some great moments such as the Battle of Kaer Morhen but all to often you are trading favour after favour with various NPCs to gain allies or just to get small snippets of information. The finale has a great build up but ultimately falls a little flat.
As an RPG The Witcher is very convincing. The real day to day work of hunting monsters is excellent. The idea that you need to research a creature before facing it is amazing. If you go unprepared you very quickly find yourself in trouble. Side missions are on the whole engrossing, some silly and others tragic. Decisions have real weight and the addition of timed responses mean that these decisions have to be made quickly and add extra emphasis and peril.
The world of Witcher is rich with political intrigue and historical depth and its very easy to become sucked into the narrative. You really feel that this is the end of the road for the Witchers and we are seeing the dying embers of their order. Choices and actions are a nice shade of grey and although black and white choices are possible many decisions require a third way. Are you going to take the moral high ground or forge your way onwards to complete your goals regardless?
Geralt as a character is an interesting one and at first pass seems to be your average bad-tempered anti-hero, world weary and over competent he blasts his way through each mission leaving behind a trail of bodies. Dig a little deeper we find a man used to fighting monsters in the real sense having to deal with men and women who are in themselves monsters. His complicated love story with Triss and Yennefer and multiple options for other assignations will keep most adolescence happy although it is the story regarding Geralt and Yennefer that holds the most interest and is in fact not fully explored. I could see the direction this plot was heading but didn’t feel like it was given the due pay off at the end.
Game mechanics were good and the crafting menus whilst boggling at first soon became easy to use. Resources on the whole were easily available through drops and abundant lootable items although sometimes you levelled too quickly during the game and specialist weapons and armour son became redundant. I got an amazing sword from an Elf weapons master but within a few missions those dropped by enemies were better than it.
Levelling was a little fast at times, probably because I was playing on story mode but it meant that in later parts of the game you could blast through a Bandit Camp like a dose of salts and some of the key encounters lost their edge. You knew you could take on anything and I found myself missing those moments early in the game when you had to really weigh up your options, several times I found myself running from a monster which was tougher than expected and knowing that I could take maybe two human enemies but not three made the dialogue options more weighty.
Witcher is a solid RPG with a good story and I look forward to the TV series but I will also look forward to Witcher 4. Unlike many RPGs their side quests have some charm and I hope that the continue to blend this with a more balanced levelling experience to complement the excellent storytelling.