After only a few extended gameplay sessions, even the least resourceful of players will have grasped the basics of the Witcher 3 backstory. Essentially, the game revolves around a horse called Roach, whose cowardly impulses cause him to hastily gallop round in concentric circles, defy the laws of physics by getting stuck inside inanimate objects and generally disrupt the combat of lesser characters by screaming in their faces.
Of course, the above is almost entirely untrue. But you’d be forgiven for reaching this erroneous conclusion, due to the particularly attention seeking glitches in the behaviour of this mental horse. The game is actually set in a medieval fantasy world inhabited by mythical beasts, dirty peasants and pretentious royals. You play as Geralt of Rivia, a Witcher (or a kind of odd job man of the mercenary world) who is as talented at sarcastic and witty retorts as Roach is at getting in the way. Gameplay is open world, with an intimidating number of missions, side missions, Witcher contracts and treasure hunts that will keep you with the perpetual feeling that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. But in the best way possible.
Prior to the release of the Witcher, I had not invested a great amount of time in open world fantasy gaming. Skyrim was the industry’s most successful attempt and yet it too has been unable to hold my attention for longer than an hour at a time; I’ve never felt that unquenchable urge to return to these games that I’ve so often been overcome with in regards to linear games. The difference in this case is to be found, for the most part, in the charisma of our facetious hero and the quality of the central story quests. These qualities are well supported by how simple it is to integrate the use of signs and the alchemy abilities into casual combat. The game is entirely immersive and it will grab hold of your attention and keep you transfixed long after you’ve stopped playing. I found that even when I had left the house, my head was still very much with the Witcher rather than on whatever task I was presently engaged in. I would look outside my window at work, see plants and automatically think about gathering them as ingredients. Or plan what missions I was going to do that evening, rather than planning what to have for dinner. But then, I am a massive nerd. Nerdy tendencies aside, it is such an addictive game that we’ve known at least a few players who play it fervently and proceed to talk about it even more passionately.
It’s obvious that the developers have laboured over this game with a truly weighty consideration for the player enjoyment resting on their collective shoulders. As it should be.
There has been a lot of discussion about the graphics of the Witcher 3. The swelling and ever strengthening anticipation for greatness when it came to the graphics, threatened to promise something so fantastically remarkable that it could never be delivered in reality. Thankfully, all expectations have been met and all potential disappointments have well and truly been defeated. The artwork is amazing. And it is a piece of art. Geralt’s hair could draw an envious glare from every man and woman within a twenty mile radius; although no one could hold a begrudging thought for long in those incredible vistas (the gloriously bright and radiant appearance of the surroundings does well to counteract the general sombre mood that the war has inflicted on the inhabitants. Which is just as well, because if the graphics had been more realistically dull and in keeping with a war ravaged land – you’d probably never finish the game due to all that crying you’d be doing).
With the exception of the frame rate issues and some scenes of wooden voice acting (although that’s just me being overly scrupulous), the Witcher 3 is a game that you should not miss. Even if you normally have a predisposition to hating any game that even suggests an inclination towards spells or fantasy; The Witcher is certain to parry your prejudices.