Fantasy is a genre where you feel like you know it all. There’s magic? Sure. Werewolves? Fine. Griffins? Great. It takes something special for a world to really make a distinct first impression when some of the ground has been so well trodden in the past.
The gameplay takes an open world approach, throwing detailed and substantial side quests at you while you, initially, try to track down sorceress and love interest Yennefer. In combat there’s a familiarity to the way Geralt brawls, without the flourish of Arkham City’s Batman but with all the brutality. The witcher signs, such as Igni which causes flames to spring up spontaneously, add another dimension to combat as they can be quickly thrown in to catch enemies off guard, and for some enemies using these skills to exploit their weaknesses is crucial.
Like many RPGs the game’s journey is more significant than the destination, but the experience is slightly tailored by both your Witcher 2 save (if you have one) and offering three endings depending on how you progress through the game. In reality this amounts to a slightly different fate for both the world and some of the characters and some different coda-type ending missions.
The story itself lives and dies on the strength of Geralt as a character and his dry wit and gravelly voice, oddly similar to Jim Caveizel in Person of Interest, remains endearing the more time you spend with the characters. The Wild Hunt itself is an undead horde of specters which acts more of a symbol of death and destruction with hangs over Geralt through the game.
...the game is well thought through and put together to deliver the first experience to deserve hours and hours of your time...
On the flipside, and something which is fairly well known about the game, is the adult content, which amounts to Geralt getting his rocks off on potentially multiple occasions. Stylistically it’s perhaps a bit more risque than the endless fade to blacks you may have come across in Mass Effect, but really in terms of the experience of the game you can take it or leave it.
Like most games there are niggles that never quite feel right, and the one thing which stuck out is that Geralt doesn’t seem to have a fast walking pace, he goes from a slow walk to a run with only a small movement of the analogue stick, which reflects the fact that this game was truly made for PC. This also explains why the graphics are another level above on the platform, though the detail offered up on Xbox One definitely sets the standard for what the console can reliably produce.
With hundreds of quests and side quests to explore in the game it’s likely that your experience of the Witcher will differ a fair amount from ours, but what’s clear is that the game is well thought through and put together to deliver the first experience to deserve hours and hours of your time since Skyrim but in a way which makes the genre much less daunting for new players.
If you haven’t picked the game up already, then it’s definitely an adventure worth taking.