The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
|The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt|
|Developer(s)||CD Projekt RED|
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is an open world action role-playing video game developed by CD Projekt RED. Announced in February 2013, it was released worldwide for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on 19 May 2015. The game is the third in the series, preceded by The Witcher and The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, which are based on the series of fantasy novels by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski.
Played in a third-person perspective, players control protagonist Geralt of Rivia, a monster hunter known as a witcher, who sets out on a long journey to find his lover and adopted daughter, who are on the run from a group known as the "Wild Hunt". In the game, players battle against the world's many dangers using swords and magic, while interacting with non-player characters and completing side quests and main missions to progress through the story.
The game was met with critical acclaim, with critics praising its narrative, world design, combat and visuals, and was a financial success, selling over six million copies in six weeks. The game won multiple Game of the Year awards from various gaming publications, critics, and award events. Two critically successful expansion packs were also released for the game, titled Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is more than 30 times larger than previous Witcher games, necessitating the use by players to sail by boat to some locations and ride on horseback to others. Fast traveling to already-visited locations, however, is also possible. The open world in The Witcher 3 was described before release to be "20% bigger than Skyrim". Many actions the player performs affect the world, with many of the quests having a number of options on how to complete them, and differing outcomes. CD Projekt RED anticipated approximately 100 hours for the completion of the game, 50 of them belonging to side quests, and 50 belonging to the main story.
While similar to the previous Witcher games, Wild Hunt improved on several aspects from past games. Combat revolves around an action role-playing game system alongside the use of magic. The fighting system from previous games was significantly revamped. Wild Hunt introduces some new mechanics, such as the ability to sense nearby objectives, people and resources ("witcher sense"), combat on horseback and at sea, swimming underwater and the use of a crossbow. Additionally, Geralt can jump, climb, and vault over smaller obstacles. The climbing mechanics were described as "not exactly" like Assassin's Creed, but "similar to what we have in Uncharted". Item creation and potion brewing still remain as in previous games, but were modified from The Witcher 2 to be more forgiving. Traps from The Witcher 2 were entirely omitted. The same five Witcher signs returned but slightly modified, with each one having an alternative form that can be used.
The game features responsive, advanced artificial intelligence (AI) and dynamic environments. The day and night cycle influences some monsters and their powers, similar to the common mythological motif of a werewolf gaining powers during the night of a full moon. The game also features a dynamic beard growth system, in which the beard of the playable character Geralt grows as he spends time in the world. Ciri, an exceptional sword fighter with mythical powers from the Witcher novels, is a playable character in the game. An in-game collectible card game known as Gwent is playable by Geralt, which replaces the dice games from the previous two Witcher titles.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt concludes the story of the witcher Geralt of Rivia, whose story to date has been covered in the previous titles. Continuing from The Witcher 2, Geralt seeks to move on with his own life, embarking on a new and personal mission while the world order itself is coming to a change.
The game features several locations such as the free city of Novigrad, the swamps and battlefields of Velen, the Skellige Isles, and two of the Nilfgaardian Empire's recently conquered territories: the village of White Orchard, and the Royal Palace in Vizima. The witcher school Kaer Morhen, known in the novels and first The Witcher game, also appears.
The game begins with Geralt of Rivia searching for his lover, the sorceress Yennefer of Vengerberg, with Vesemir, a senior witcher. Yennefer had previously tried to get in contact with Geralt, but was forced to flee in order to avoid the fighting between the warring powers of Nilfgaard and Redania.
It is Yennefer, however, who ultimately finds Geralt. Accompanied by a Nilfgaardian guard, Yennefer informs Geralt that Emhyr var Emreis, the emperor of Nilfgaard, has summoned Geralt for an audience in Vizima, the former capital of the recently conquered nation of Temeria. In Vizima, Emhyr tasks Geralt with finding Ciri, the emperor's biological daughter and Geralt's adoptive ward. Ciri is a Child of the Elder Blood, the last heir to an ancient Elven bloodline that bestows her with the power to manipulate space and time. She is on the run from the Wild Hunt, a retinue of spectral elves determined to capture Ciri and use her abilities for their own malicious purposes. Geralt agrees to search for her and begins by attempting to contact one of Emhyr's Nilfgaardian spies in Velen.
The Wild Hunt reaches the spy before Geralt, torturing him to death. Geralt manages to recover the spy's notes, which indicate that Ciri sought refuge in Crow's Perch, the fort of Velen's self-appointed ruler known as the Bloody Baron. The Baron refuses to help Geralt find Ciri until the witcher locates and returns the Baron's missing wife and daughter. Geralt quickly discovers that the Baron's wife and daughter are missing of their own volition, driven away by the Baron's abuse and alcoholism. Geralt learns that the Baron's daughter fled to the city of Oxenfurt, but her mother's trail goes cold.
Geralt then turns to the second clue from the spy's notes, which leads him to an old acquaintance, the sorceress Keira Metz. Keira informs Geralt that a mysterious Elven mage had been searching for Ciri and after investigating the mage's laboratory with Geralt, Keira directs him to the Crones of Crookback Bog, ancient spirits that assert dominion over Velen. The Crones order Geralt to destroy the Whispering Hillock, a rival spirit in the area, in exchange for information about Ciri. After confronting the Hillock, it reveals that a group of war orphans cared for by an old woman in the bog is to be fed to the crones, and it promises that it will save them if it is freed. After either freeing or killing the Hillock, the Crones reveal that they had captured Ciri to deliver her to the Wild Hunt. Geralt vows to kill the Crones, but not before realizing that the enslaved old woman caring for the orphans is in fact Anna Strenger, the Baron's missing wife. Returning to Crow's Perch, the Baron reveals that following Ciri's stay with him, she made for Novigrad. The Baron then sets off to rescue Anna. If Geralt killed the Whispering Hillock, as the Crones commanded, the Baron manages to save Anna and vows to find a healer to restore her devastated mind while the orphans disappear. If Geralt released the Whispering Hillock, the Crones curse Anna, eventually killing her, but the orphans escape. The Baron subsequently hangs himself, and the freed Hillock exacts revenge on the nearby village.
Arriving in Novigrad, Geralt discovers that the Church of the Eternal Fire, a militant religious organization patronized by Redanian King Radovid, is carrying out a pogrom against mages in the city. Rendezvousing with Triss Merigold, his former love interest, Geralt learns that finding Ciri hinges on finding Dandelion, an old friend with whom she had made contact. This leads Geralt to navigate a web of complicated entangling alliances within Novigrad's criminal underworld, chiefly between Sigismund Dijkstra, former head of Redania's spy network, and Whoreson Junior, a sadistic crime lord. After a complicated series of events, Geralt finally finds and rescues Dandelion, only to discover that Ciri teleported to the archipelago of Skellige. While in Novigrad, Geralt may assist Triss in spiriting away fugitive mages (which can lead to a romance with her), and may begin plotting the assassination of King Radovid with Dijkstra, along with former associates and Temerian loyalists Vernon Roche, Ves, and Thaler.
After sailing to Skellige, Geralt meets with Yennefer, who has been investigating a magical explosion in an area which she believes is linked to Ciri. The two attend the funeral of King Bran, Skellige's ruler, to discover that the island nation is caught in a conflict of succession as Bran's son Svanrige is in conflict with Cerys and Hjalmar, the children of a powerful nobleman, for the throne. At the wake, Geralt and Yennefer steal The Mask of Uroboros from the druid Ermion, which can be used to see visions of the past. Yennefer has Geralt use the mask in the area of the explosion, leading them to discover Ciri traveled to the island of Lofoten. The pair travel to Lofoten only to discover that the Wild Hunt attacked the village; Ciri was able to escape with the aid of a man named Skjall, who was subsequently renamed "Craven", banished from the village for cowardice, and later died trying to redeem himself. Finding his body, Yennefer uses necromancy to get information from him about Ciri. After saving her from the Hunt, Skjall witnessed a deformed, baby-like creature wandering Skellige's shores. Summing up the clues, Geralt determines that the creature Skjall witnessed was Uma, a cursed being he had previously seen wandering the halls of Crow's Perch. Returning from Lofoten, Yennefer tests her love with Geralt by severing a magical bond (granted by a djinn) that she shares with him. Geralt can then affirm his love for her, or end their relationship. Before leaving Skellige, Geralt also intercedes in the crisis of succession, determining whether Hjalmar, Cerys, or Svanrige ascend to Skellige's throne.
The pair retrieve Uma from Crow's Perch, and present him to Emhyr in Vizima. Discovering that lifting the curse on Uma may hold the key to finding Ciri, the trio decide to take him to Kaer Morhen, an abandoned witcher school. There Yennefer and fellow witchers lift the curse on Uma, who reveals himself to be Avallac'h, Ciri's Elven companion. Avallac'h reveals that following the attack on Lofoten, he teleported Ciri to the abandoned Isle of Mists for her own safety. Geralt resolves to rescue Ciri and return her to Kaer Morhen, but realizes doing this would attract the Wild Hunt. After assembling a small group of companions at Kaer Morhen in preparation for the coming battle, he travels to the Isle of Mists. Although he finds Ciri in a deathlike state, a magical firefly (provided to Geralt by Avallac'h) awakens her. Ciri reveals why the Wild Hunt wants her power: Eredin, the King of the Wild Hunt, has his own world being destroyed by a plight known as the White Frost, and is determined to use Ciri's power to conquer a new world. Ciri teleports Geralt to Kaer Morhen while the Hunt trail them. After a brief reunion with Yennefer, Triss, and Vesemir, the Hunt attacks. During the battle, Vesemir is killed by Imlerith, a Wild Hunt general, trying to protect Ciri. Distraught, she releases an uncontrollable power, causing Eredin and the Hunt to retreat; Avallac'h then casts a spell rendering Ciri docile. Geralt, Yennefer, Triss, Ciri, and the other allies, then hold a funeral for Vesemir.
Seeking revenge, Ciri and Geralt travel to Velen and kill both Imlerith and two of the three Crones of Crookback Bog. Emboldened by these victories, Geralt and Ciri travel to Novigrad and help Triss and Yennefer reform the Lodge of Sorceresses to aid in their fight against the Wild Hunt. They also learn about the Sunstone, found on Skellige, that can lure Eredin out and trap him into a location. Geralt may follow through with the assassination of King Radovid; afterwards he must side with Vernon Roche or Djikstra on future political plans, resulting in the death of whoever he does not side with. In Skellige, Geralt finds the Sunstone with the help of Phillipa Eilhart, the blinded sorceress who (if Geralt follows through with the assassination) struck the killing blow on Radovid.
Making their attack on Eredin in the Skelligan isle of Undvik, Avallac'h uses the Sunstone, which draws the Hunt and their fleet out. Geralt and his allies, along with the Nilfgaardian fleet, attempt to defeat them. Ciri and Geralt defeat Caranthir, the Hunt's navigator, and Geralt moves on to face off against Eredin in a fight and emerges victorious; however, the White Frost begins to descend on Skellige. Ciri insists that only her Elder Blood can stop the White Frost before it consumes all life on every world. Ciri goes through a portal opened by Avallac'h and confronts the White Frost, ending the threat.
The epilogue of the game varies according to the choices the player made in the game. Concerning Ciri specifically, there are three possible outcomes: if Geralt presented her to Emperor Emhyr, the assassination of Radovid is carried out and he subsequently sided with Roche, then Nilfgaard wins the war and Ciri will accept the Nilfgaardian throne, reasoning that she could do more good for the world as an empress than as a vagrant monster-hunter. If Geralt did not present her, then Geralt and Ciri fake her death, and Ciri becomes a witcher like Geralt (with the outcome of the war depending on the assassination plot). If Ciri died stopping the White Frost, then Geralt hunts down the last Crone to recover Vesemir's medallion, his only memento of Ciri. This ending ends with monsters swarming the house Geralt finds the medallion in, with his fate left ambiguous.
The game was officially announced on 4 February 2013 via Game Informer, with a 2014 release on PC and "all high-end platforms available". The latter was then clarified to mean the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on 21 February 2013 and 10 June 2013 respectively. According to the official information from Microsoft, The Witcher 3 was originally not going to be available on the Xbox One in Poland, the country in which the game's development process took place, but this was changed, as regional restrictions were later entirely removed from the Xbox One. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was developed over the course of three and a half years, with a total of 240 in-house staff working on it. Majority of the staff were Polish, while 1,500 people were also involved in the game's production globally.
On 11 March 2014, it was announced that the game's release date was delayed from Autumn 2014 to February 2015. According to an official statement released by the development team, they had successfully created "a story that flows naturally, cinematically, rendered it in amazing sound and visuals, while preserving full freedom of choice" - suggesting that the core game and its main story were practically finished; however, the statement then goes on to cite the main reason for the delay was manual fine-tuning of many details and thorough testing of the final product to bring it up to the desired standard of quality. On 8 December 2014, the developer officially informed about postponing the release date to 19 May 2015. On 16 April 2015, CD Projekt RED confirmed that the game had been declared gold, indicating it was being prepared for duplication and release. The development budget for the game was 306 million Polish złoty.
Game director Konrad Tomaszkiewicz and senior game designer Damien Monnier cited Dark Souls and Demon's Souls as influences on the game's combat system. Level designer Miles Tost and senior environment artist Jonas Mattsson cited The Legend of Zelda series and Red Dead Redemption as influences on the game's level designs and environments.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt features the REDengine 3 game engine, developed by CD Projekt RED and designed specifically for nonlinear role-playing video games set in vast open world environments. It is supposed to help eliminate many of the game development trade-offs previous developers faced, allowing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt developers to create "an open environment with a complex, multi-thread story". CD Projekt RED has integrated the Umbra 3 Visibility Solution into its engine to handle occlusion culling. Engineers from Umbra and CDP demonstrated the use of the technology at the Game Developers Conference 2014. As in the previous two Witcher games, players are presented with a complex story featuring multiple choices bearing associated consequences. But REDengine 3 allows for a complex story line without sacrificing the design of the virtual world.
After being delayed a few months from the original date of 24 February, The Witcher 3 was released worldwide on 19 May 2015. Physical copies of the game were distributed to retailers by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment in North America and Bandai Namco Entertainment in PAL regions.
On 7 April 2015, CD Projekt RED announced two expansion packs for the game, titled Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine. Hearts of Stone was released on 13 October 2015, and Blood and Wine was released on 31 May 2016.
The first expansion, Hearts of Stone, follows Geralt coming in contact with a mysterious entity known as the Man of Glass and an immortal man named Olgierd von Everec. The expansion was met with critical acclaim, scoring a 9/10 across media outlets IGN and GameSpot. The second expansion, Blood and Wine, follows Geralt as he travels to Toussaint, a Nilfgaardian duchy untouched by war, as he hopes to track down a mysterious beast terrorizing the region. The second expansion was also met with critical acclaim, scoring a 9/10 from IGN and 8/10 from GameSpot. A Game of the Year edition, which includes the base game and both expansions, was released on 30 August 2016.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt won several awards at E3 in both 2013 and 2014. The title was voted as 'best role-playing game' at the Best of E3 Awards conducted by IGN consecutively in 2013 and 2014. Furthermore, it won IGN's E3 People's Choice Award in 2013 and 2014, and won GameSpot's E3 People's Choice Award in 2014, as well as the Most Wanted Award in the 31st and 32nd Golden Joystick Award. It also won the Most Anticipated Game award during The Game Awards 2014 in Las Vegas.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt received critical acclaim. Aggregating review website Metacritic has the Microsoft Windows version at 93/100 based on 32 reviews, the PlayStation 4 version 92/100 based on 79 reviews, and the Xbox One version 91/100 based on 12 reviews.
GameSpot's Kevin VanOrd awarded it a score of 10 out of 10, making The Witcher 3 the ninth game ever to have received a perfect score from GameSpot. He described the exploration, enemy-design, and the character progression as "excellent". He also praised the rich content featured, the extensive armor and weapon customization and potions system, and the game for making gameplay choices meaningful and intriguing. He also praised the well-crafted open-world, which he stated "finds a nigh-perfect sense of balance between giving you things to do and allowing its spaces to breathe", as well as the combat for being satisfying and easier than The Witcher 2. He summarized the review by calling the game "one of the best role-playing games ever crafted". Erik Kain of Forbes had similar praise, with him calling it "one of the greatest open-world games" he had ever played.
Daniel Bloodworth from GameTrailers gave the game a near-perfect score of 9.8/10. While he shared similar thoughts on the design of enemies, he praised the game's extensive and mature story, and he stated that it "intertwined with the original books" the most among all the entries. The rewarding combat, as well as the stunning environments, meaningful consequences and missions, along with the sense of discovery and connection delivered and the distant characters were also strongly praised. In addition, he praised the details featured in the game, such as the gestures, the volume of speaking, and the facial animation of characters. He summarized the game by calling it "a thoughtful, diverse, and frequently awe-inspiring adventure".
IGN's Vince Ingenito awarded the game a score of 9.3 out of 10, praising its authentic environment, dynamic weather and day/night cycle, decent voice-acting, well-crafted dialogue, interesting characters, complex character progression, diverse equipment and flexible skill system; however, he criticized the game's over-emphasis on fetch quest, and the story for being too long and for not being as fulfilling as the other aspects of the game. He summarized the review, however, by saying that "The Witcher 3 ends Geralt's story on a high note."
Writing for Game Informer, Kimberley Wallace considered the game the most ambitious and accessible entry in the series. She praised the immersive game-world, intriguing narrative, varied landscape and environments, improved user interface, as well as the side-missions for delivering unexpected content, and the responsive and challenging combat, which requires players to employ strategy; however, she criticized some minor issues, such as the game's long loading times, weapon degradation, and the disappointing fast-travel options.
In contrast, Chris Carter from Destructoid, despite calling the combat "action-packed", stated that it discourages strategy. Furthermore, he criticized the repetitive witcher sense and the occasional frame-rate issues and bugs. Tom Senior from GamesRadar also criticized the bugs included in the review build of the game, as he thought that such issues had significantly hindered the combat and the cut-scenes of the game. In addition, he called the combat "inconsistent" and "frustrating".
Prior to release, over 1.5 million people pre-ordered the game. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt debuted at No. 1 in the UK software sales chart in its first launch week and the income grossed by the game is 600% higher than predecessor The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. It was also the best-selling video game in the UK in 2015 as of 26 May 2015, breaking the record previously held by Battlefield Hardline. It debuted at #1 on the Japan video game sales charts, selling 67,385 copies during its first week. Four million copies of the game were sold two weeks after its launch. By June 2015, over 690,000 players activated copies of the game through GOG Galaxy. The game sold over 6 million copies in the six weeks following its launch. Those sales drove the studio to make a profit of 236 million Polish złoty ($62.5 million USD) in the first half of 2015. In March 2016, developer CD Projekt Red reported that the game had shipped nearly 10 million copies worldwide.
Awards and accolades
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt received critical acclaim before its release. The game garnered many awards for its previews at E3, Gamescom, and other video game industry events. CD Projekt claims that The Witcher 3 has accumulated over 800 awards since its release, including 250 "game of the year" titles.
Among all the accolades received by the game are from several different events, including the Golden Joystick Awards, The Game Awards, D.I.C.E. Awards, Game Developers Choice Awards, and SXSW Gaming Awards. The game received acclaim in many different categories - gameplay design, visual design, sound design etc. The Witcher 3 was recognized as Game of the Year by IGN, GameSpot, Game Informer and many other gaming publications. The game received a Golden Joystick Award for Best Storytelling, Best Visual Design and Best Gaming Moment as well as The Game Awards for Best Role-Playing Game and Studio of the Year for CD Projekt RED. It also won Outstanding Achievement in Game Design, Outstanding Technical Achievement and Outstanding Achievement in Story at D.I.C.E. Awards, and won the Game of the Year and Best Technology awards at the 16th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards.
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