Watching a sunset in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is as beautiful a sight as it is rewarding. As I turned Geralt of Rivia towards the setting sun, I was instantly filled with a sense of accomplishment. And I was only about an hour into my experience with The Witcher 3. Yet, unlike any other game in the series, I was hooked.
I’ve had The Witcher 3 since early Monday morning (code provided by Evolve PR) and I’ve split my time on both Xbox One and PC. Since the console code was provided, I gave that a shot first. First off, The Witcher 3 on console is one of the best looking console games, period. I would say only Ryse: Son of Rome looks better than The Witcher 3 on Xbox One. That being said, the game on Xbox pales in comparison to the level of detail seen on the PC. Having split my time between the two, I’ve played the same exact areas on both platforms. While my PC runs the game at 60 frames-per-second with basically everything on Ultra, the Xbox One keeps around 30 FPS. However, this is one of the few games where I’ve been able to go back and forth and not exactly miss the extra frames. You can tell they’re gone, sure, but CD Projekt Red has done a tremendous job making sure the Xbox One version plays well. The PC version of The Witcher 3 isn’t without issues, but CD Projekt Red has offered some solutions to the problems.
The opening hamlet of White Orchard gives you a great spot to learn the ropes in The Witcher 3. As I walked around the area, streams, forests, fields, and swamps all greeted me and gave me a unique feel to the gameplay. The trees swayed in the wind. The grass fluttered with each breeze, in the same direction of the trees, I might add. The swamps felt dank, dark, and you paid close attention to the poisonous fumes in the area. The Witcher 3 immersed me like no other game has since Skyrim.
Combat is smooth, yet quick. It’s not as challenging as The Witcher 2 (on the lower difficulties), but still requires you to approach each encounter intelligently. In many other RPGs of this type, our hero could just wade into a crowd of enemies and come away unscathed. Not so in The Witcher 3. Oftentimes, I found myself watching monsters from a distance, planning each encounter as if it could be my last. Potions, food, bombs, and the crossbow all play as much a role in large fights as do your two swords. The Witcher 3 doesn’t redefine combat, per se, but does force you to change how it’s approached.
The world of The Witcher 3 is beautifully detailed. The hamlet of White Orchard doesn’t feel completely unique amongst the other hamlets you’ll venture through in Velen, or No Man’s Land as it’s also called in The Witcher 3, but each one has its own level of charm. Some of the best early characters you’ll meet are in these towns: a snarky inn-keep who’s upset you might’ve brought the wrath of the Bloody Baron down on him, or a charming and caring Herbalist helping ease the passing of a young girl attacked by a griffin. The Witcher 3 gives each moment its own time to shine, no matter how bleak the situation seems to be.
As I did the quests in the area — hunting down a black lock box for a weary traveler, brewing a potion of Swallow for a dying girl, finding the herbs necessary to lure the nearby griffin into a trap — there was a very real sense that time was passing. The Witcher 3 does a great job of keeping you in the moment. As I neared completion of the opening act, the sun was setting in the distance. I had spent a whole in-game day doing these quests, and it felt like it. I would venture to say the tasks I did in The Witcher would’ve taken a whole day in real-life. I turned towards to inn in White Orchard, willing to allow Geralt some hard-earned rest, the first of many days in my life as a Witcher.
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[Images via The Witcher 3]