Monday, November 30, 2015

[REVIEW] The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PS4)

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Played on: Playstation 4
Genre: Action RPG 
Developer / Publisher: CD Projekt

I think it's fair to say that the Western open-world genre has become quite formulaic over the years. Yet, with The Witcher 3, developer CD Projekt Red proves that it's still possible to have a seriously amazing experience without necessarily innovating the genre's tried-and-true foundations.

The game puts you on the shoes of Geralt of Rivia, a witcher (monster hunter) who roams the Northern Realms in search of Cirilla, his foster daughter, who is being chased by a supernatural army called the Wild Hunt. Having not played any of the previous titles, I found myself initially intimidated by the storyline background; luckily, the game's tale is written in such a way that you can mostly ignore the finer details of Geralt's previous sagas if you want to.

The story itself is likely to please fantasy fans. It is a fittingly epic tale which uses the invasion of the Northern Realms by the southern Nildgaardian empire as a background, and it's reasonably fun and interesting. It does have its fair share of clichés and at least a couple of significant dei ex-machina (I'm looking at you, Dudu the Doppler) that render it hard to be taken entirely seriously as a piece of adult-oriented storytelling, however.

In his adventure, Geralt roams several open spaces through the Northern Realms. The landscapes look absolutely gorgeous, filled with impressive lighting effects and extremely detailed textures. One of my favorite aspects of the setting is how it mixes traditional fantasy with a bit of horror, leading to some pretty scary enemies and scenarios, but without resorting to cheap jump-scares.

There is a lot of ground to cover in the several open-world environments, with numerous towns, villages, sidequests and hidden secrets to keep you busy. Roaming the land in search of experience and loot is extremely satisfying, thanks in good part to the intuitive controls and the fluid action (no, there's not a single quick-time event to tell of, thank you very much). Like any good RPG, there are also extensive options to craft and/or buy gear, weapon, potions and assorted items, which manage to be intricate without getting overwheming.

There is only one significant deviation from this formula: gwent, a simple strategy card game, played by Geralt and several NPCs, in which you amass an army (represented by separate character cards) and control the weather to defeat opponents. As basic as it is, it's a surprisingly addictive little diversion, and sometimes I found myself setting the main adventure aside just to wind off against NPCs and win new cards.

Basically, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt plays brilliantly, looks gorgeous, and offers dozens upon dozens of hours for you to lose yourself in its very appealing brand of horror-tinged fantasy. With its compelling world, an equipment/potion/addon system that is deep yet easy to grasp, and a set of main quest missions that doesn't try to break its own boundaries in annoying ways, you have one of the best releases of the year for fans of epic adventures.

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