Listeners of the IVG Podcast probably know that I’m a huge JRPG fan. What most don’t know is that I actually only recently started bothering with Western RPGs. Deus Ex: Human Revolution blew me away and I was really impressed with Dragon Age: Inquisition. Rishi has been trying to get me to play The Witcher 2 for ages now and I never gave it a chance, so when The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt got a release date, I decided that it would be the first Witcher game I play. This is the first Witcher game on current-gen consoles and the first one to launch on consoles at the same time as PC. So there will no doubt be tons of people like me, who haven’t played or don’t want to play the previous games before jumping in to Wild Hunt.
Before getting into how the game is, here is all the prior information I had of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: I’ve come into the game more or less blind with no prior knowledge of the franchise. I hadn’t watched any of the 2013 footage or any of the trailers prior to last month, with the exception of Conan O’Brien’s Clueless Gamer video. I’ve also spent the entirety of my time with the game on PS4.
Here’s what senior writer Jakub Szamalek told IGN about The Witcher 3 for newcomers:
“So, we were aware that there would be a lot of new players coming into the Witcher world to play Wild Hunt, and we worked really hard to make sure that the prologue is inviting to these new players.”
“It unravels kind of slowly so it allows you to get used to this world and get to know the characters, so we really worked a lot on the prologue to ensure that, even if you know absolutely nothing about the Witcher universe, you can get to know this universe by the end of it.”
“You’ll know who the Witchers are, who Geralt is specifically, what are their aims, what is the world like, and what’s the true state of the world right now. So, we think that, by the time you finish the prologue, you really do have a grasp of the basics of the story and you kind of learn more about it as you go.”
My first impressions of Wild Hunt are pretty damn amazing. I’ve played the prologue section a few times now and put in about five hours in the section after the prologue of the game. When you launch a new game, you get various options regarding in-game tutorials and the difficulty. I enabled tutorials for obvious reasons and stuck with the default difficulty for my first play-through. The game also feels great to control on the Dualshock 4. Having never played a Witcher game on PC, I can’t imagine playing any of them without a controller.
The prologue begins with you lying in a tub and Yennefer seated nearby. There are pop-ups with information about interacting with objects and your Witcher Sense right from the get-go. You can walk around the room but going into the balcony area and gazing at what lies ahead is when the magnitude of the game hits you. The Witcher 3’s music perfectly complements what is shown in-game and the balcony scene is really special. The important thing to notice about this game is that it doesn’t overwhelm you with action in the beginning. It eases you into it.
Your venture out to meet Ciri for the first time, and Vesemir, the oldest living Witcher. Tutorials are aplenty here ranging from basic movement and navigation ones to the actual combat tutorial. Many people have spoken about clunky combat in The Witcher 2 so I came in expecting clunky combat. Wild Hunt doesn’t have the best combat in an RPG by any means but it is a lot better than I expected and multitudes better than the joke of a combat system in Final Fantasy XV Episode Duscae.
The combat tutorial goes on for as long as you please and it really helped understand the different mechanics like the signs and parrying. My advice would be to spend ten minutes trying to parry and using the various Sign techniques against Vesemir.
Story-wise the prologue starts off light and gradually takes you to the first main story quest. Wild Hunt explains all terms that would be unfamiliar to newcomers, either with tutorials or with casual mentions in the dialogue, so don’t worry about getting overwhelmed. I do however think it should have been explicitly mentioned in dialogue who Yennefer is considering the first few hours of the game revolve around her. That said, each time you load a save, a beautifully styled cutscene plays, showing you what has happened up to that point in the story, which is useful.
The Witcher 3 is out now for PC, PS4 and Xbox One. You can get the digital PC version at G2A.com.