By – John Williamson

The Witcher 3 PC Review

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is the epitome of a PC centric, adult themed RPG and based upon Andrzej Sapkowski’s series of fantasy novels. Witchers are renowned for their heroism but perceived as mutated beasts who should be feared by the local populace. Its concept is fascinating and CD Projekt RED’s trilogy culminates in a beautifully constructed final chapter. Throughout the game, you explore a vast number of provinces including Novigrad, Velen, White Orchard, and Nilfgaard. Each area feels unique due to cultural and economic differences which lures you into exploring every facet of cottages, farms and more. The Witcher 3’s environment is gigantic and 35 times larger than the previous game. Additionally, the setting is so vast, it even eclipses Skyrim by 20%.

Without divulging any spoilers, The Witcher 3’s narrative revolves around Geralt of Rivia and directly follows The Witcher 2’s climax. While it’s not necessary to play the previous title, I would highly recommend it so you can appreciate minor references and nuances throughout the story. Geralt’s quest begins with a dream sequence in Kaer Morhen, the Witcher’s safe haven and introduces Yennefer. She is Geralt’s love interest who enthuses a great deal of passion and asks for his assistance to find a young girl called Ciri. Ciri is a fairly impatient character and eager to train as a Witcher without proper guidance. Your task is to retrieve her and and diffuse the situation with her teacher, Vesemir. Even during this early stage, you can choose between dialogue options and how to discipline Ciri. Once Ciri has been discovered, you embark on a training mission which introduces the rudimentary combat moves. This scene shows the bond between Vesemir, Ciri and Geralt but quickly turns into a disaster zone as the Wild Hunt arrives and runs amok. After these events have been played out, the dream sequence ends and Geralt launches an extensive search to find Yennefer and then Ciri.

CD Projekt RED progresses the main story through beautifully detailed cinematic cut scenes which embellish each character’s personality. Coupled with the staggering motion capture and superbly detailed clothes, The Witcher 3 is a captivating tale which never outstays its welcome. The voice acting is sublime through witty, humorous exchanges which encourages you to engage in conversations with lowly peasants. Also, the cut scenes segue into gameplay segments in a smooth manner which feels less jarring than most story-driven games. This makes you feel more connected to the characters and understand their motives.

The Witcher 3 PC Review

The Witcher 3’s expansive open world allows you to tackle the story at your own pace and have the freedom to choose between missions or exploration. Geralt relies on his trusty companion called Roach, a thoroughbred pedigree horse who gallops around the stunning landscape filled with trees, water streams and other idyllic surroundings. In terms of controls, you have the option to increase Roach’s speed but this will reduce his stamina level. Although, it becomes a cogent tactic when fleeing from a large garrison of soldiers especially if they are wielding arrow based weaponry. The new horseback movement system introduces combat whilst maneuvering around. Throughout the world, there are wolves and other dastardly demons who attack you at every opportunity. As a result, it’s vital to coordinate Roach’s steps whilst attacking with your sword which creates a sense of momentum. Thankfully, traversing the environment by horseback is extremely fluid and allows Geralt to explore huge areas without negatively impacting on the overall pacing. However, as with any open world game, movement across vast areas can get repetitive over time. To remedy this, there are discoverable fast travel signposts throughout the landscape.

Cd Projekt RED took a proactive approach to make a constantly evolving and vibrant world. During the game, there is a simulated day and night cycle which adds a great deal of ambiance. Additionally, your actions have a profound consequence on the everyday lives of citizens and cannot be undone. Individuals behave like the onus on on them and don’t simply exist as a background character. This is revolutionary and unlike anything I’ve seen in another open world game. On another note, the dynamic weather system is sensational and showcases sudden downpours through the updated graphical engine. I was impressed by the gorgeous horizons which are lit up beautifully and cast shadows on top of buildings. Each area is bound by regional economics so prices can vary dramatically depending on how close their resources are to the village.

The combat engine has received a major overhaul and fixates on traditional weapons and magical Witcher Signs. Geralt has a wide range of weapons at his disposal including swords, crossbows and bombs. Interestingly, the combat allows for a variety of approaches and doesn’t behave in a linear manner. For example, when slaying a Griffin, it’s possible to rely on swords or stun the enemy with an arrow before applying a few deadly strikes. Each adversary has a set number of weaknesses which are chronicled in an extensive library. Once you encounter an enemy for the first time, this information will be stored and helps you to plan a better modus operandi.

The Witcher 3 PC Review 4

Witcher Signs are simple but effective one-handed magic spells and offer a new dynamic in battle. In total there are 5 signs: Aard, Axii, Igni, Quen and Yrden. The Aard Sign can stun, repel or knock down enemies through a telekinetic thrust. It can also be used to remove obstacles or doors. Axii confuses the enemy and forces them to fight alongside you. This is very handy when dealing with a large concentration of weaker foes. Igni is comprised of a pyrokinetic burst and ignites opponents for a limited time. The Quen Sign creates a protective field around you which acts as a shield and reduces each strike’s hit points. Finally, Yrden is a force field placed on the ground and knocks back enemies within a close vicinity.

When it comes to health regeneration, The Witcher 3 employs an extremely detailed crafting system and uses potions or food to regain health. You cannot simply avoid enemies until your health regenerates. Instead, you have to rummage through the environment for consumables and craft health potions through various materials. Usually, this involves looting through houses, collecting wild flowers and excavating dilapidated areas. This coincides with the game’s huge world and encourages you to engage in exploration. While the lack of regenerating health might be a little concerning to newcomers, it makes sense and works superbly. I will say it does increase the difficulty and The Witcher 3 is not an easy game. Therefore, plan ahead and always have enough health consumables to recover at least 3-4 times.

In terms of mission variety, The Witcher 3 is impeccable and finely balances hunting, boss battles and excavations. The story missions can involve hunting for clues about Ciri’s whereabouts or interrogating locals for information. Other quests require you to retrieve lost items and slay dangerous monsters wreaking havoc in a neighborhood. Each objective is accompanied by an interesting dialogue sequence which makes each mission feel special. The boss battles are dramatic and based on a combination of quick dodges and sudden counterattacks. For example, the Golem is a heavy beast with slow, powerful strikes. In this battle, the best bet is to use Quen and roll-dodge before slashing the beast from behind. Ensure you always attack from the rear as the direct approach will resort in a huge loss of health even when blocking. In contrast to this, Nithral, a white knight, is nimble and performs very swift, harsh strikes. As a result, you need to move a lot faster and lure him into a corner. I have to commend CD Projekt RED as making an open world experience which constantly feels fresh is very rare.

The Witcher 3 PC Review 2

The Witcher 3 also includes a Witcher Senses function which illuminates key points of interest and items to collect. This is predominately used to track enemy movements and launch an investigation. For example, with this feature turned on, the ground can show red footsteps and lead to an enemy’s position. Additionally, it allows you to find criminals and their hiding location. This system works in a similar manner to the Batman Arkham series and makes it easier to find chests and other valuable objects.

Every completed quest fine tunes your abilities and grants you an additional power after reaching the next level. If you only play the main missions, it can take some time to improve your skillsets because the leveling system is quite slow. Furthermore, each mission has a recommended minimum level which advises you when to tackle it. Therefore, you need to take on the huge quantity of Witcher contacts before progressing the story or it’s unlikely you will succeed. The Witcher contracts are designed to utilize your hunting skills and help individuals in disarray. This is where the open world comes into its element as side missions take you to every inch of the beautifully constructed environment. From windy cottages to dark, dreary caves, the additional missions exemplifies The Witcher’s scale.

The Witcher 3 came under some scrutiny for being graphically downgraded and catering to the console market too much. While the game’s graphical fidelity has been reduced from the initial reveal, it is exquisite and one of the best looking titles around. On maximum settings at 2560×1440 using a GTX 980Ti, the game ran flawlessly but I expected better given the hardware in my system. The recorded maximum framerate was 76 fps with an average of 63 and minimum of 51. Whilst this was perfectly playable, I do wonder how other systems will cope with less powerful hardware. However, once you scale back from Ultra to High, the performance becomes very stable and should work proficiently.

The Witcher 3 PC Review 3

Graphically, the game contains stunning vistas, gorgeous lighting effects and upholds and an excellent level of texture quality. At QHD or UHD resolutions, the environment becomes so crisp that I would spend time just staring with glee at livestock, housing and foliage. The wind effect is staggering and accurately depicts the tidal direction in rivers. In all honesty, pictures are a poor reflection of the actual in-game graphics which are a sight to behold.

The options menu features a number of settings including Shadow Quality, Terrain Quality, Grass Quality, Water Quality, VSync, Detail Level, Hardware Cursor, Foliage Visibility Range, NVIDIA HairWorks, Ambient Occlusion, Depth-of-Field, Chromatic Aberration, Anti-Aliasing, Bloom, Sharpening, Motion Blur, Light Shafts and Vignetting. The most glaring omission is Anisotropic Filtering which for some bizarre reason is tied into the wider graphical preset. For instance, Low settings = off, Medium = 4x, High = 8x and Ultra = 16x. Another important point to make is the AA adopts temporal post-processing so it is there but implemented in a different way to other engines. If you find the AA isn’t good enough, then FXAA can be manually applied through your graphical control panel. Personally, I didn’t encounter any issues with the integrated AA. One other problem is the lack of an FOV slider and the default value is set to 60 degrees. In 3rd person games, this isn’t a deal breaker but might cause a few problems for users with severe eye fatigue. Thankfully, you can download the install the “Cheat Engine” to manually tweak the FOV.

Moving onto the more positive aspects, the game supports full key rebinding, a windowed mode, 16:9, 16:10, 21:9 and 4k resolutions. As someone who recently upgraded to a 21:9 34 inch monitor, I’m ecstatic with this level of support. The fps is completely uncapped and works perfectly with 144Hz and 244Hz monitors. Amazingly, there is even a colour blind mode which enhances the visibility of tracks, marks and footprints when trying to collect clues. It’s not perfect though as mouse acceleration is enabled by default. This is easily fixed by navigating to Video then Graphics and setting Hardware Cursor to On.

Throughout my 184 hour playthrough, I used an Xbox 360 controller and keyboard/mouse. Both seemed to work rather well, but I felt the combat was more responsive using the keyboard and mouse. Also, the controller cannot be rebound which may be an issue if you struggle with the default mapping. On launch, the keys couldn’t be completely modified which was a major problem, but at least this has now been resolved.

The Witcher 3 PC Review

Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?

The Witcher 3 is not only the best RPG I’ve ever played but possibly one of my favourite games of all time. CD Projekt RED have constructed an expansive, vibrant world with no loading times which never ceases to amaze. The narrative and character development is unrivaled and offers a memorable experience. I even began a second playthrough which is very rare these days due to time constraints.  The term masterpiece is thrown around too much these days, but The Witcher 3 certainly deserves that title.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Technical Summary:

The Witcher 3 PC Review

  • Time Played – 184 Hours
  • Widescreen Support – Yes
  • Windowed Mode – Yes
  • Resolution Played – 2560×1440
  • 5.1 Audio Support – Yes
  • Bugs/Crashes Encountered – None
  • DRM – DRM-Free
  • System Specs – Intel I7 4770K, 16GB RAM, 6GB EVGA GTX 980Ti
  • Control Scheme – Keyboard and Mouse, XBox Controller
  • Game Acquisition Method – Review Copy
  • Availability – GOG, Steam
  • Demo – No
  • Saved Game Location – My Documents\The Witcher 3\gamesaves
  • Version Tested – 1.04
468 ad