I’m going to preface this article by saying that I’m only now reviewing this game (which is outstanding by the way) because I almost always buy games on sale. I don’t make a ton of money so I have to be judicious with how and where I spend my money.
With that said, I picked this game up last December with PlayStation’s Christmas sales, and my oh my has it been worth it.
I will admit that during my first attempt to play the game, I immediately fell in love with the story and world and characters, but the combat felt off to me. It felt slow and far too methodical and Geralt felt far too underpowered, even for the beginning of the game. So, I took a few weeks away from it, continued to see people talking about the game, and decided that I needed to give it another shot. I remembered how in Batman: Arkham Asylum you couldn’t just mash the attack buttons; that you had to quickly plan each button press and time them to chain together combos. Once I slowed down and figured out the dance of Geralt’s sword and (light) sorcery, I was hooked.
Oh How Pretty It Is
I’m not one to put a lot of weight on a game’s graphics to determine it’s quality, but my goodness this game is gorgeous. Unlike a lot of western RPGs of the last decade or so, it’s very colorful. Yes, there are areas you travel through that are quite drab – very brown and gray – but those areas also tell you why they look that way. The rest of the world is very diverse in its visuals, with very bright pinks, purples, greens and blues popping off the screen. The water effects are outstanding and the shading and lighting are immaculate.
The only area where I’ve experienced even the slightest hiccup is with the character models. Every now and then, a book will be stuck in the hand of a character I’m talking to during a conversation cutscene because they were reading it before I initiated said conversation and the game couldn’t keep up.
Also, when the game comes in really close on characters, you can see some muddy textures on clothing, but these are all minor quibbles that don’t break the game or the immersion into this game’s world.
Tell Me Your Story
I haven’t finished the main story as of this writing, but honestly, I don’t have too much of a desire to. Not that there’s anything wrong with it; it’s just that the rest of the world has so much to offer! Witcher contracts, helping random strangers, being ambushed by random strangers that you think need help, and the myriad side quests you discover by just roaming around fill this world with so much to do.
The writers for this game did a fantastic job of fleshing out even the most minor of NPCs and making this world feel alive. There aren’t many games that have achieved this level of world building.
The choices that you’re forced to make during quests are also not always black and white. Yes, they may be binary choices, but they’re far from inconsequential afterward. Saving or killing certain characters early in the game can effect your ability to complete other quests later on, and some moral and ethical choices you make for Geralt aren’t always the easiest to make and can make you feel uneasy no matter what you choose.
Swords and Sorcery
In between marveling at how pretty this game is and making world-altering choices, you’ll be fighting monsters – lots of monsters. Some of them are figurative, like the mage hunters, and some are literal, like water hags and drowners.
And just like me, you need to learn the dance and rhythm of this game’s combat. Now when I say rhythm, I do mean it. You must have patience and learn the timing of combat; button mashing will not work. You need to learn when to advance your attack, when to fall back, how to create distance, when to use your signs (Geralt’s light form of magic), when to use your crossbow, etc. Even when your facing enemies levels far below your own, you have to be careful because you can bite off more than you can chew. If you get surrounded by too many nekkers you can easily be overwhelmed and killed.
The combat in this game is also very deep. Geralt has a skill tree that the trees of the redwood forest envy. Using the right combination of skills with your play style is very important in having success in this game, and not just in combat. If you have the right skills equipped, you can affect dialogue options and influence the outcome by force.
His Blades are Sharp
This is one of the finest gaming experiences I’ve ever had. I’ve played a lot of western RPGs, and this is near the very top for me. Every aspect of this game combines to make a can’t miss experience if you love video games. It’s one of the crowning achievements of this generation of games and will be talked about for an extremely long time as one of the very best ever made.