Game Review: “The Witcher 3” lives up to expectations

Let’s cut straight to the chase: does “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt” live up to the incredible hype that’s been surrounding it for years?

The short answer is an absolute yes. The long answer is below.

In 2007, obscure Polish game developer CD Projekt Red released “The Witcher,” an RPG based on a series of obscure Polish fantasy novels. It was released to the United States with little fanfare, until it gained a surprise cult following. “The Witcher 2” was released four years later, with a much larger budget, a better English translation, and louder marketing. It was a smash success, being acclaimed as one of the finest RPGs ever made. Many still consider it to be so.

So now, the developers had the tough task ahead of them of following up a masterpiece. And as difficult and overhyped as it seemed, they’ve accomplished this goal with flying colors.

“The Witcher 3” takes place in the Northern Kingdoms, a fantasy world consisting of elves, dwarves, and horrific monsters. The Southern empire of Nilfgaard has set their sights on the Northern Kingdoms, and the emperor proposes a deal with the hero, Geralt of Rivia: find his daughter and receive a hefty reward. Since the girl, named Ciri, was once under the ward of Geralt, he has no choice but to accept.

A trademark of the Witcher series is that Geralt’s choices always have far-reaching consequences, and there’s no such thing as good or evil. Almost every character has their motives for doing what they do. A choice you make in one sidequest may turn up several hours later and really bite you.

Adding to this is the combat, which feels like a mix between “Monster Hunter” and “Dark Souls.” At higher difficulties, it’s deliciously challenging, although you’re advised at those difficulties to save and save often. Fights feel l ike they’re actually worth something, and victories are made all the more satisfying.

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One new feature of “Wild Hunt” is its large, open world. “The Witcher 2,” while not entirely linear, wasn’t a huge world in the same vein as something like, say, “The Elder Scrolls V.” “The Witcher 3,” however, is, and it fits the existing “Witcher” structure very nicely.

The last particular note is the game’s looks. On a competent PC, “The Witcher 3” looks jaw-droppingly gorgeous. It’s easily one of the best-looking games ever made.

I haven’t gotten around to a lot of the smaller details, but I’ll be brief here in this closing statement. “The Witcher 3” is one of the few must-play games of the last two years. It doesn’t matter if you’ve played a “Witcher” game before or not; “Wild Hunt” is a fantastic experience regardless.