I just finished Witcher 3 after more then a hundred hours, and I can finally talk about an overall opinion of the game! There are zero spoilers in this review.
I think that the game is an incredible achievement for CD PROJEKT RED and the European gaming industry. From a $67 million budget they made an RPG with content and quality that is up there (in my opinion) with the best titles of this genre.
For comparison Skyrim was done from an estimated $80 million budget and Dragon Age Inquisition shipped from est. $150-200 million. They are all different games so I don't want to ♥♥♥♥ around and say which one is better, but I think it's very fair to say Witcher 3 holds up and actually improves upon many aspects of these games while being developed from much less money and by a significantly smaller team.Strengths:
Story & Setting
Simply incredible how detailed and lengthy the story goes. They must have put a ton of effort into the story boards and scripts because it really showed. It has content enough to fill a several seasons long TV series! Both main quests, secondary quests, witcher contracts are done very well, the dialogue is clever, the options and different approaches yield interesting results. The game is not afraid to explore mature content, and some of the quests feature pretty heavy, grim and dark elements. I'm very satisfied with the conclusion I've got which is exactly how I wanted it to end.
Characters & Voice Acting
Doug Cockle returns from previous Witcher games to portray Geralt. He must have had hundreds of hours worth of dialogue and I think he has done an excellent job. Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister) totally 'ruled' as emperor Emhyr var Emries. The ladies Jo Wyatt (Ciri), Jaimi Barbakoff (Triss) and Denise Gough (Yennefer) did very well to bring these complex female characters to life. Steven Hartley (Eredin) was menacing as ♥♥♥♥. All the supporting actors were likable and delivered. The emotional scenes were buyable for the most part which is not easy in a video game. The characters had depth, realistic motivations, and in general great design. I think there was nothing missing in this area.
Graphics, Environments, Overall Visual Aspect
Simply stunning. It's the best looking RPG I have played and the places I got to visit especially later in the game made my jaw drop left and right. Skellige was my favorite, but you also get to go to a few surprising and totally epic environments during the main quest that you cannot visit otherwise. The armors and weapons in the game sell this medieval fantasy world very well, they are realistic and practical unlike what we see in most fantasy games. The creatures are varied, there are flying, floating, swimming enemies (some even do a combination like fly and swim) and their designs are excellent.Weaknesses / Should be Improved:
Movement and Controls
If I would have to pick the worst of this package it's definitely the movement and interaction for me. Geralt handles like a freaking spaceship or a racing car. Not only that he gets stuck around everything, you have to manually jump over small boxes instead of the Witcher using common sense to lift his feet 10 cm higher. The horse is even worse... the double tap mechanism to sprint is complete aids, and likewise the horse gets stuck everywhere. Jumping in general is weird and you connect to surfaces in awkward ways. Falling from 2-3 meters high causes INSTANT death which will frustrate you greatly. Looting a simple box can be annoying as hell as Geralt is unable to target directly under his feet. Like many console aids games that came before Witcher 3, you can only loot things directly in front of you from a certain minimum and maximum range. They felt to include a mechanism to lit candles and other light sources with the same button that you would use to loot items... imagine what happens when you have a candle near a small box that can be looted. This is the area where you can really feel the missing polish, and that they focused on other areas of the game. It's a shame because movement animations are otherwise beautiful and done by expert motion capture artists.
Combat System & Combat Design
It's sad that this needs to be mentioned under the weaknesses. I would like to point out that Witcher 3 is still an improvement when compared to Witcher 1 & 2, but the combat is average at best. The fighting style of Geralt is very cinematic and the motion capture animation are beautiful, but there is just no substance to it on a gameplay level. It's not very responsive and it's too random for player skill to consistently triumph in challenging situations. Most monsters have a limited move set and often shared between similar species. Boss battles are largely forgettable from a game design perspective. CD PROJEKT RED clearly needs to improve in this area, but they are better every time from what I've seen.
Leveling System & Skill Trees & Loot
I can't help but feel that this game would have been much better if it had some sort of a scaling game world at least when it comes to quest objectives. Quests are often red (10 levels higher) to you in the beginning, and then later you have a large pool of gray quests which are not worth doing. In the story and game world perspective it does not make sense either to have a High Vampire or Royal Wyvern that is a complete pushover because it is 5-10 levels weaker then you. I was literally killing some of the Draconids in one hit on later levels. It's also strange when you are handed a legendary viking sword that was forged from the finest steel and in dragon fire only to notice your mediocre crafted weapon outperforms it by a mile. Some enemies and some items should have scaled with Geralt and quests should never become gray in a single player game of this type.Conclusion:
I really loved some parts of Witcher 3 and I really hated others. Overall I can describe it as a masterpiece that is very rough around the edges. I've added it to my favorites because the story took me on a memorable journey with breath taking environments and epic battles. The saga of White Wolf Geralt was done justice! I can easily recommend buying this game for RPG fans if it's on a decent sale or if some kind of 'Game of the Year' polished version sees the light of day.