I've waited for this game since 2013. I just finished the game, right before writing this review, on the Blood and Broken Bones difficulty, and only now can I say that writing a review would do it any form of justice. I started playing on May 18th, around 6 PM (it had only been out for a few minutes then)
After sinking a significant amount of time into this game, I have only this to say: Its the most satisfying gaming experience I've had in a very long time. Probably since before 2010 (when gaming practices were far better IMO). In a day and age like this, this game gives me hope about the industry. Yes, it has managed to move me that much :P
An important note before going into this game:
Before you decide to pick this game up I STRONGLY recommend at least going over the entries of some of the characters on the Witcher wiki,
This will help you develop a better connection with them as the story progresses. Furthermore, make sure you finish the first 2 games for the best possible experience. All the better if you've read the books too (but the wiki sufficed for me :P )
Now to the meat of the matter: the game itself.
In my opinion, this game is well worth its full price. Every aspect of it literally reflects the amount of time and dedication the devs spent into it to make it what it is. For one, combat has been balanced greatly; its far from annoying, and you progress further in the storyline, you can't help but feel like a badass when you've mastered it all and see Geralt pulling off all those maneuvers that you could only imagine in the last 2 games.
Make no mistake, this is probably the only game of the trilogy where you'll TRULY feel like a Witcher. Every aspect of the game feels truly organic. Everything gels in well to form a beautiful picture: the music, the general ambience, Geralt, the supporting characters and the side activities - all of them contribute to making this a wonderful experience.
The key point being that in this game, whenever you do something- you actually feel like you've made a small difference in some way: destroy a monster nest by an abandoned village and it will get repopulated, finish side quests and people will respond to you differently.
Characters from all the previous games make an entrance in one way or another, some as a happy surprise, others not so much.
Now to gameplay mechanics:
You need only collect ingridients once to brew anything: after this, they replenish with the usage of strong alcohol. I like this, especially since its a pain in the ♥♥♥ to find specific ingridients in this large open world. Potions act as both preparatory measures, and reactionary ones. You can drink Black Blood to poison Vampires that feed on you, drink Cat to see in the dark, consume Killer Whale to dive to great depths and the list goes on and on.
Horse riding is fairly simple, did face a few hindrances about ~10 times in my 68 hour experience, but far from game-breaking.
You can equip your horse with various equipment: saddles for stamina, blinders for making it calmer in the face of adversity (monsters) and even saddlebags to increase the load you can carry. Any trophies you collect may also be featured on the horse for some paltry bonuses.
Combat is extremely satisfying. You still have light and strong attacks, but nothing as clunky as 2, or as boring as 1. Signs, bombs and potions still pay a significant role, but flesh out the combat tree and Geralt can whoop ♥♥♥ with just his sword (if you get that good, the difficulty I played on, I used everything). Chop something up well enough, and you can dismember it. Nothing more satisfying than watching a third of a drowner's body chopped off, or seeing Geralt behead a bandit in a brutal finisher.
Key being that you actually feel like a sword-wielding killer mutant, but you're still human in the end. Make no mistake, this game will punish you for stupidity, but not in an unfair manner.
The story itself is awesome: the locations range from your Northern Realm's Velen (no man's land), the free and beautiful city of Novigrad and my personal favourite: The Skellige Isles (very norse-like in several aspects, feels like you're in the land of the Vikings to an extent).
Side quests have just the right amount of weight associated with them. The choices you make matter right at the end, and you might have several outcomes depending on what you did on your playthrough.
The optimization's great. I played this beast on my Laptop, with only a GTX 850M, an 8GB RAM and a 2.3 GHz processor overclocked to about 3.4 GHz. The amazing thing is, that at 1920x1080, I could clock in 35+ fps with medium specs. Needless to say, I was very happy.
Sadly, there is no end-game content, but that would just be me acting spoiled :P
This game, is bloody amazing, and I like how I'll just be seeing ploughin' instead of "f*ckin'" simply because it will remind of the number of times I hear it in this game :P :P
All in all, if you've been a fan of the Witcher franchise, do not hesitate: pick this game up. Its well worth the price, and if you liked the first 2 games for only their story, well then, you'll be in for multiple pleasant surprises in this one. You'll clearly be able to tell that they put a substantial amount of effort into EVERYTHING.
If you are strictly new to the franchise, I'd recommend you get yourself familiar with the lore before investing yourself in this game. Read the wiki, play the games or read the books. Do at least two of the previous things, and you should be good to go.
All in all, I thoroughly recommend this game, because even after spending almost 3 days' worth of time on it, I can confidently say it was worth it. That's something I haven't been able to do in a very, very long time.
And finally, remember: steel for humans & silver for monsters, though you'll have a hard time distinguishing the two figuratively.