CDProjekt Red's most ambitious game to date...
The Witcher 3 : Wild Hunt is the conclusion in the trilogy of the Witcher IP series, and arguably represents CDPR's most ambitious project thus far, taking the lessons learned from the first two games and applying them to the Wild Hunt, creating a large, mostly open world role-playing experience where your choices both large and small will matter. Where morality and consequence will have a telling effect on your experience, and where no single choice is always seen as the "best" choice. Full playthroughs of the game clock in at 50-100 hours, and whilst time constraints mean if I wanted to do such a playthrough -and- review the game right the way through I'd not be able to write anything for a few weeks, what I've elected to do is a OCD clearout of the opening zone, which gives a good feeling of "what is to come", and also gives a good idea of what you can expect from the gameplay and graphics and the like.
The burning question...
Everyone has seen the VGX footage by now, the absolutely captivating scenery, the high detail, fantastically furnished terrain, the incidental artistry that made it look like we'd be getting an experience that in terms of art and design would blow the predecessor "Assassins of Kings" right out of the water. Then we get close to release, in game footage comes out and what we actually begin to see is that the textures have been substantially downgraded, the details and geometry have been altered, LOD has taken a massive hit in areas (including the use of the old graphic trick of distant fogging to reduce the render budget), and overall, the whole experience feels like it's lost a lot of the fidelity.
With the 1.0 release, the criticisms came out thick and fast, and CDPR initially denied that there was a "downgrade", opting instead to keep quiet and work on patches to deal with stability, recently they've finally come out and accepted it by way of mea culpa. Presumably because of the fact that there's a Digital Foundry article due soon that would pretty definitively mean they'd have no way to excuse themselves by that point. So now it's damage limitation. The question then is - How big a downgrade is it? First, let's deal with my system specs and my settings :I run a core i5-4670 (haswell), 16 Gig of Corsair Vengeance ram at DDR3-1600, and an EVGA GTX 770, nothing overclocked, but this system is a good testbed for new games. As of 1.03 I can run the game at 1080p at 60fps, though not a lock at that framerate, at ultra for most settings EXCEPT for HairFX, which as expected wrecks framerates across the board.
The texturing as of 1.03 with sharpening set to max is a mixed bag, in places it's genuinely high quality, in others it reminds me of those crayola drawings you might have seen with "My first brick texture", with no bump or normal mapping. There's an inconsistency present that implies that either there's a serious chunk of work to do with fixing various elements, or that CDPR decided to skimp on texturing where they thought players would not pay serious attention to and just focussed on areas where players would likely be present. Grass and foliage is a mess, it's made of flat textures that can clip the geometry and other decals as well as other items, compared to the VGX footage it's a long, long way back from the highly detailed, low clip texturing that was present. Again, this is stuff that can likely be improved with future patches but right now it's a step down from what was expected.
"From a distance" the game does look genuinely impressive, but get up close and the details fall apart. This is an open world that's been created using watercolour brushes, and that's a problem for people used to the details of say GTA V, where you can go down onto ground level and there's a lot of incidental detail going on.
The life of Witchery, poverty, and brutishness...
The gameplay also, is something of a mixed bag, both in terms of combat and in terms of inventory manipulation. First and foremost you're now initially limited to three of a given potion, much like estus flasks in Dark Souls, and you can only refill them by meditating, more to the point, you tend to use these "on the fly" as opposed to preparing and using them up during meditation. Gone are a lot of the longer term things like using a mix of potions before a major fight and balancing your toxicity before engaging, now toxicity raises and lowers in a dynamic that is based more on consumable timing (in a bit like estus usage). This might be me donning my PC Master Race flag at this point but the game definitely feels like it's been blunted for the console crowd. A lot of the refined approaches in "Assassins of Kings" have been simplified to make it more accessible, and not in the good way.
The overall feel is a game that seems more 'hurried' in all aspects, there's more speed in the combat, there's more "rush rush rush" when you're fighting, and a lot of the thoughtful elements in the moment to moment play have been pared back because the console crowd might find it a bit too hard figuring out why you'd want Cat for a specific area and Tawny Owl for another and preparing accordingly.
Yet despite this, there's still hope...
The big redeeming feature of the Wild Hunt is the roleplay, I can forgive a lot when the writing and the voice acting and the story is as good as the Witcher has become. Assassins of Kings was one of my top picks at the time for it's brilliant story depth and flexibility, and the Wild Hunt definitely shows off the heritage proudly, allowing you to continue in that vein, with choices that already seem to hint at consequences down the line, even in what is supposed to be the "tutorial" area.
But then there's the price...
Fifty Quid. Nope. So much nope. If you didn't pre-order it and manage to save on it. Or you've got a friend who can source it cheaper through the global markets, so much nope. It's good, but it's not Fifty Quid good. I know there's a push by AAA developers and publishers to raise the price of big budget games up to the level of PS4 and Xbox console prices but get real, this is the internet, and we're not going to pay that for a game that's still not bug free, that -did- suffer the downgrade, and ultimately is a mixed bag overall compared to Assassins of Kings.
Verdict : Recommended, but not at £50, wait for it to come down to a more reasonable priceIf you liked this review or want to see more recommended games, be sure to follow our curator group: Follow Original Curator GroupCheck out the Original Network Groups. Win free games, make new friends on Steam, & more!
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