A Cautious Recommendation (For Now)UPDATE
: CDPR has announced upcoming patches to issues which includes the graphical settings menu. If these are to be true to their ambition, almost every complaint on this review will be addressed and the game will be in my eyes- the closest to perfection any PC RPG has ever attained.
The hype for this game was real, with damaging expectations. But after The Witcher 2 and CDPR's reputation, it was inevitable. After all, the Witchers were never 'perfect' games, not 2 nor 1 (that godawful combat). Like Demon Souls before Dark souls, The Witchers catered to a cult niche audience on its own charms and later rose to acclaim where bad hype began.
The world from the source material has been transferred beautifully into game format, and despite technical issues, TW3 is an RPG that has sucked me in like no other game has before.
What to expect from this 'review' (it's not one, really)
An honest first-glance at the game's first ten-twenty hours. I make no claims to speak for endgame nor the massive content. Furthermore, the character limit will stop me listing everything but here's a short rundown. For an idea of how big TW3 is, I wanted to write 3x as much as this just for the first 20 hours. Read with discretion.
As usual, a TL;DR for the lazy (In no particular order):
+ The RPG development system is fleshed out
+ The Witcher's world & atmosphere is as depressing as ever
+ Great combat despite clunky controls
+ A myriad of fun things to do
+ A very nice soundtrack, albeit a bit repetitive in its thematic style
+ As expected, phenomenal
+ Graphical Fidelity of the game is superb with beautiful face models (But with some caveats)
+ Runs OK on my 770GTX/3570k
+ Mod Support
+ THE WHITE WOLF CAN JUMP
+ 16 Free DLC
- The game has been "downgraded" in its graphical detail compared to its 2013 trailer (I don't think this is significant but many do)
- There have been some bizarre performance issues yet to be resolved
- Terrible Controls
- Some texture popping, probably hardware related
- A disappointing set of PC options for a CDPR game, I expected more from the devs
- More than a few bugs
- Crashes for some players!!!
- Terrible Performance on Keplar GPUs (600-700GTX)
I shall spare you the long origins and synopsis for the game - there is an abundance of information on the internet if you wish to learn more of the Witcher franchise.
As I am a vehement believer in the significance of gameplay above all, I will address this criterion of judgement first. For those who have enjoyed previous Witcher games, there's little that will be unexpected- combat with unique enemies that requires forethought, but now with a crossbow, more gear and better lock control. The real improvements are in atmosphere and exploration.
The utility wheel for this game, however, is terrible. For those on a keyboard and mouse, one may find the wheel barely-usable due to the console nature of the controls. The developers have thankfully provisioned a means to select signs through the number row, thank the Gods. Oh- and no WASD rebinding.
But the worst offense - movement. The Witcher has since become somewhat sluggish, with more instances than I can count whereby I have moved too far forwards or back to loot a corpse or gather herbs. It is to the degree of frustration that I feel like I am fighting the controls more than anything else in the game and this is sincerely my biggest complaint of the title.
The Witcher "Sense", is an overlooked mechanic. Now a full hold-down keybind, it permits players to investigate surroundings for clues to quests and loot. I prefer games to treat me as competent. But, as I played I realised the hilarious reason for this was simply due to the sheer volume of detail in the game; clues were often so hidden in the forestry/furniture that I would never have been able to discern their existence. That said, even with the Witcher sense it is reasonable to believe that some players may still experience difficulties, struggling for five minutes finding clues. No complaints nor praise- just caution.
Finally, character progression. The Witcher 2 was lacking here, forcing the player to invest with little knowledge in skills that could or could not have benefited them with much regret thereafter. TW3 has taken a leap here - now, skill points are obtained more frequently and through more means than levelling up. Skills can be allocated to your "equipped" slots at will, this is particularly useful for those who wish to experiment and I see great potential especially with mod support.
The real reason to play. Superb writing, great cast & phenomenal setting. Quests and contracts are engaging and exploration is fulfilling. The Witcher isn't about saving the world. Simply, a skilled man and his lover/friends trying to get by (and trying to get laid) in a harsh world with mass suffering and distrust. Monsters have their own unique archetypes, all intertwined with gameplay mechanics. Characters both main cast and supporting are unbelievably interesting and you will want to talk to everyone you meet. Scenery has blown me away with oozing atmosphere and the books' world is very well transferred into game setting.
The writing is amazing and has caught me off-guard more than once. I have found situations where I didn't know how to act because choice and consequence is significant in this game, and when I do sometimes I regret my actions - you can even fail quests. TW3 is literary realism at its best.
Controversy time. There has been talk of 'downgrading' of the graphics since its 2013 trailers. I can say that some
of this is true - but I don't mind. I am somewhat partial to this- I believe there must be a discussion of dangerous complacency against fanatic gamer entitlement.
However, despite this, the game is still beautiful. Riding through the desecrated world, I could see far into the horizon, lush atmosphere and the most beautiful bodies of water I have enjoyed in my years of gaming.
But, for a CDPR game the settings definitely suck, especially compared to TW2. Only one AA option, no supersampling, no antistrophic menu, ambiguous "levels" to each setting. The good news is that it requires no restart.
There are optimisation issues for some players. Anecdotally, my 770 GTX cannot run the game at 60 with max-ultra (no surprise). With a selection of features in ultra and rendering distance lowered to medium, I can obtain a solid 60 FPS with very few framedrops. Those who wish to inquire further may contact me here on steam.
One thing I must mention is that STEAM OVERLAY IS INVASIVE
. With overlay enabled, I suffer from stuttering issues and a significant drop in framerate (15-20FPS). Disabled, I could enjoy the game with no stutters.
Textures aren't GTAV quality, but The Witcher 3 has incredibly life-like faces that express emotion extremely well. The cast is varied, with many hideous characters to contrast the rare beauties that you will encounter in your journey (Yen is very hot and this is a Witcher game after all). There is however, a large volume of vegetation that your character will simply pass through- not cool and immersion breaking.
There isn't much to say. I personally love it but the OST will be subjective. Instrumentals are great but some will find the singing quite irritating. Did you like the trailer music? That's what you can expect. I for one will be buying the soundtrack.
I'd love to write more but there is a word limit on these things. I shall simply end with this: Despite some flaws, the game is beautiful, plays amazing and I have so far enjoyed the title. The game is no 10/10 and has many issues, but I have no regrets and will likely sink many, many hours into this title.