The Witcher III: Wild Hunt on Xbox One – The DVDfever Review


“Winter is coming!” Yes, a favourite quote of the Night’s Watch in Game of Thrones. So, in my best Jon Snow voice: “The Witcher III: Wild Hunt is coming!” Actually, using its full title doesn’t quite work does it?

Anyway, The Witcher III is here! Oh yes, and Geralt (voiced by Doug Cockle) is back in his third and final instalment of The Witcher series. He has regained his memory and he’s riding across the Northern Kingdoms on the trail of his love interest Yennefer (Denise Gough).

Even though this is the third in the series, you don’t need to have played the other games to enjoy this one. It may tie up story threads from previous entries in this series, but it’s a title in its own right and has its own story. Talking of which, this release sees Nilfgaard forces having invaded the Northern Kingdoms. Geralt, meanwhile, is seeking Yennefer/Ciri while trying not to get embroiled in the politics of those around him.

Witcher games have always had a glorious intro. Remember The Witcher II‘s assassin climbing on board a ship, taking out everyone in his way, with style and finesse while avoiding being frozen by a mage before brutally beheading a king? Well, The Witcher III doesn’t disappoint, and turns the heat up with the opening, seeing Yennefer caught in the midst of a battle. She is using her magic to evade potential death and doing her utmost to flee the Wild Hunt who wish to use her powers for their own nefarious plans. This is spliced with Geralt who has arrived after the fact picking up the trail and using his Witcher senses to follow her.

After the intro, it’s down to business and you find Geralt relaxing in a bath. You’re coaxed out of it by Yennefer and cajoled to train with Ciri (Jo Wyatt). This just so happens to be your tutorial, too. You see a young Ciri practising her training on her own and learning the bad habits a driver does when not receiving tuition. You admonish her for such behaviour, and you both agree to a race to see the courtyard where she can continue her combat training under instruction.

The Witcher III: Wild Hunt – Gameplay Walkthrough Part 1 (1080p HD) – MKIceAndFire

So, the first tutorial involves the basics. That is, running, climbing and manoeuvring obstacles on the way with Ciri to her and as the tutorial turns out your sword fighting training. I can’t say the manoeuvering of Geralt flowed as smoothly as, say, an Assassin’s Creed game. His movements while traversing the scenery felt a little clumsy, but then The Witcher III isn’t about scaling towers and parkour style free-running. It’s about heading out over an open world as a monster hunter, and in fairness that is an area it definitely has sussed. (DVDfever Dom adds: “It must flow better than Assassin’s Creed Unity, though surely? ;)”)

Battle mechanics, on the other hand, are fantastic. The controls feel intuitive. You block and parry with your left trigger, cast spells with your right trigger, execute a light attack with X and a heavy attack with Y. You can lock on an enemy by clicking the right stick, and then use A and your left directional stick to evade your attacker. Your tutorial turns out to be a dream sequence that is interrupted by the Wild Hunt.

Now the game begins proper, and you and your kinsman, after a quick fight with some ghouls to test your newly learned sword fighting skills, head to White Orchid.

This opens up the game, which can only be described as the most impressive open world RPG I’ve played. This is one huge game that somehow manages to have no loading screens while you traverse the lands. If you can see some ruins in the far distance, you can head there. Take a swim in the sea and there might be a sunken city to investigate. The last time I felt so immersed in a game world was when I played S.T.A.L.K.E.R. on PC. That game had to load its massive sections in as you headed across its radioactive wastelands. The Witcher III, on the other hand, makes the use of the power of the current crop of consoles and PC to ensure your travels are never interrupted by pesky loading screens. Also, like S.T.A.L.K.E.R., the world in which Geralt walks feels alive. Non-player characters, going about their business interacting with each other, all adds to the realism.

Ok, it’s not the first game to do this and, like those games, the illusion can be shattered when you hear a character repeat themselves for the third time. Comparisons to a game like S.T.A.L.K.E.R. may seem a little strange as that was a game from yesteryear and there are more contemporary games to compare the Witcher III to, like Dragon Age Inquisition, but I played S.T.A.L.K.E.R. recently with a load of mods installed and I marvelled at how alive the world felt and how immersed it made me feel in it. The Witcher III gave me that same feeling, but using a modern day game engine that pushes the boundaries of what we have seen in open world RPGs to date. The REDengine was developed by CD Projekt Red for The Witcher series starting with The Witcher II, I think. It’s had a major overhaul for The Witcher III and it shows. You will find yourself stopping time and time again just to marvel at your surroundings, the scenery and the effect the weather has upon them.

You will need to put Geralt’s abilities to good use early on. My first boss encounter was to kill a griffin who was troubling the lands. First, you have to speak to different people who may be able to give you a clue to the whereabouts of the Griffin’s lair. From the information you gather, you have a better idea where to search and use your Witcher senses to spot more clues that will lead you to its Lair. (Your Witcher senses are activated by pulling your left trigger. Anything of interest will glow) Once you have the Griffin’s location, you will set out on another quest to find an item you can use to set a trap for the Griffin. Once the Griffin is lured into your trap, all hell breaks loose and it’s up to you to defeat it. The battle spills into two open areas, one larger than the other, but this early battle cements that feeling that your hunts are in wide open spaces and not just a set piece, even though that’s what it is in reality.

The Witcher III: Wild Hunt – Gameplay Walkthrough Part 2 (1080p HD) – MKIceAndFire

I haven’t played the PC or PS4 versions yet. The Xbox One version displays at 900p and runs at 30fps. I’ve read the PC and PS4 versions look better than the Xbox One release. Well that may or may not be the case but in my experience the Xbox One version is beautiful. There’s the lens flare effects of the sun, the weather effects like the howling wind to the lashing rain which all look and sound amazing. The level of intricate detail on Geralt’s armour during his conversations with characters is incredible. The chain mail and the leather straps holding his two swords look so realistic. The cycle from day to night, and back again, give the world to life. This is truly a next-gen game – the scope and scale of the open world is breathtaking. It’s also the best looking game I’ve seen on Xbox One to date. This is a vicious land, though, and as beautiful as it is, the place is overrun by monsters. Some of those monsters are human too. The lands are littered with dead bodies hanging from trees. When wondering, you will often find a dead body lying around in the dirt. It’s wise to use your Witcher senses if you find one as there may or may not be a back story to it.

The third in the series The Witcher has finally come of age. There was always a great game hidden in The Witcher series, as proven by its legion of fans, but it took some delving to find it. My first attempts at The Witcher II were initially abandoned. I was left confused by spells and potions and even struggled to get out of the training arena.

The Witcher III has been tweaked to be more accessible to the masses. The masses after all are where big sales numbers come from (Nintendo Wii anyone?) Though attempts have been made to make the thirrd in the series a more attractive proposition to everyone. It still has the charm that gained it’s fans in the first place. Geralt is still the brooding character he was in the first two games. Though now he has regained his memory. Yes, it has higher production value which will help catch the eyes of gamers sat on the fence. That cinematic intro lures you in from the offset. The pace is set slower this time as your gently eased into the game, unlike the confusion I faced playing The Witcher II for the first time. Basically the first two games in the series were are somewhat akin to birth and puberty. The series has matured now and it’s ready for to take on all competitors in a punch-up down the local pub. Dragon Age, Skyrim all receive black eyes at the hands of Projeckt Reds manling. (That’s a new word I’ve just created and if it catches on I want credit for it!)

Massive is a term often thrown around for games of this type, but for The Witcher III it’s true. Whereas in other games secondary quests can feel like padding, the side quests on The Witcher III are fleshed out by having their own background story. They aren’t just a chore to be completed to earn extra XP, you can make a choice that can seem straight forward but that can have unforeseen consequences. One such quest saw me investigating a dwarf blacksmith’s home being burnt to the ground. When I found the culprit, it all seemed straight forward what I should do, but the outcome of my actions made me pause for thought even though it was a minor quest. There are also Witcher contracts that can be picked up from the boards in villages and treasure hunts, too. All these additions are more than just distractions. They add to game and whilst attending to them you may discover a dead body, a prisoner tied up or someone else requiring your assistance. Completing them obviously will help you increase your experience and it is wise to do so.

If you stumble across a group of bandits who have skulls above them, it means they are far above your level and are best avoided for now. Complete either the side missions or another part of the main story and you may have gained enough experience to challenge them. If you don’t fancy galloping from one side of the map to the other, fast travel markers (road signs) can be used to get to where you need to be quicker. As long as you have visited an area before, then you can fast travel there again. This is a feature seen before in games and will be seen again. Borderlands titles use it for one and, even though it may detract from the realism, it’s convenient and this isn’t a simulation on real life so that’s ok.

The Witcher III: Wild Hunt – Gameplay Walkthrough Part 3 (1080p HD) – MKIceAndFire

Something I’ve never loved about The Witcher series is the crafting and potion-brewing. There has been some tweaking to the system, as now, once you’ve crafted something then as long as you rest those items will automatically be replenished. It’s still a daunting prospect for those new to the series, but it’s a necessity if you wish to progress further into the game. You can also add skills points to level-up your characters skill; this is a staple diet for all RPGs, but the added crafting and potion-brewing can make The Witcher feel more complicated than some of its peers. Then again, this is what fans of the genre expect of their action role-playing games, and these additions add an extra lair of depth to the gameplay. The various beasts and monsters you meet will have a breakdown of what potions and magic they are susceptible in the Bestiary. Preparing these potions will involve searching for the correct ingredients to help you defeat them. This does add to the game as it means you are venture further afield to discover your ingredients, rather than finding a beast and mindlessly hacking at it with your sword till it dies and then moving on without a thought.

As with any game of the scale, it’s not without fault. Summoning your horse, Roach, can see it spawning in less than ideal places. Often getting stuck on the scenery, I came out to my horse at one point to find all four legs were on the surface of the floor. I was still able to mount Roach (what a wonderful name for a horse) and ride off, the camera correcting it’s self as I set off at a trot. I haven’t faced the game-save issues some people faced on the Xbox One version that some people have face. There was a recent 600Mb update, so I’m guessing that was to fix that issue. You would be well-advised to save often manually while wandering around earning XP. Many a time I discovered a hidden area, fought hard to earn some useful items and experience only to die a few minutes later and find that my last auto save point was in a village on the other side of the map.

The sound hasn’t be left out, either. You hear the sound of wolves howling or packs of wild dogs growling, just of sight but traceable as ghost-like orbs when using your Witcher senses. The voice acting is high of a very high standard and the screeches of flying assailants, flapping of wings, and mutterings from NPCs as you brush past them are all top notch.

The Witcher III is a candidate for Game Of The Year. It’s also a fitting end to Geralt’s story in The Witcher series by giving him the game he deserves. There is so much to see, travelling the land by horse, or the sea by boat, and there is so much to discover and do, that gamers will be captivated for months. If your a fan of The Witcher series then you already had this pre-ordered. If you’re new to open world RPGs then what better place to start your journey than at the end. If you only buy one game this year, then this is it. What are you waiting for?

Thanks to MKIceAndFire for the gaming footage.

The Witcher III is out now on PS4, Xbox One and PC, and click on the packshot for the full-size image.

The Witcher III: Wild Hunt – Gameplay Walkthrough Part 4 (1080p HD) – MKIceAndFire

Important info:

  • Publisher: Namco Bandai
  • Players: 1
  • HDTV options: up to 1080p
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 sound: Yes

Director: Konrad Tomaszkiewicz
Cinematography: Robert Stoneman
Music Marcin Przybylowicz and Mikolai Stroinski

Voice cast:
Geralt of Rivia: Doug Cockle
Emperor Emhyr var Emreis of Nilfgaard: Charles Dance
Yennefer of Vengerberg: Denise Gough
Ciri: Jo Wyatt
Triss Merigold: Jaimi Barbakoff
Keira Metz: Katie McGuinness
Baron: James Clyde
Lambert: Christian Contreras
Dijkstra: Richard Hawley
Dandelion: John Schwab
Zoltan Chivay: Alexander Morton
Avallach: Michael Maloney
Eskel: Tom Clarke Hill
Crach an Craite: Gary Lilburn
Ermion: Patrick Drury
Vesemir: William Roberts
Priscilla: Emma Hiddleston
Hjalmar an Craite: Allen Leech
Cerys an Craite: Sarah Greene