2015 was a year that saw some tremendous releases, but The Witcher 3 was the first big game released and it is my vote as the best of the year. Today’s gaming market features specific publishers and their yearly releases all over the place, but there is one triple-A title in particular named The Witcher 3 that is a nod to the glory days of gaming. The Witcher 3 has the difficulty of learning a new system, and combines it with beautifully conceived open-world atmospheres that really showcase what the new systems and killer PC hardware can accomplish. Many gamers knew this game was a must-buy before it was released, if only on principle. CD projekt Red (the creators of The Witcher 3) announced they would provide 15-plus additional free DLCs to add to the already robust 100-hour-plus game they worked on. The open-world concept is new to The Witcher series, but was done well above the standard. This latest version of The Witcher pulled the best ideas from its series, including excellent writing, compelling characters and deep exploration of the nuances needed to be the most successful Witcher possible.
Witcher 3 has rock-solid gameplay mechanics, but they are difficult to learn. However, once you learn how to play the game it just feels fluid, deep and well thought out. The Witcher 3 then makes you plan how you are going to approach placing your upgrades; using red, blue or green mutagens can amplify your upgrade’s effectiveness.
Using high-level mutagens with corresponding colors can lead to very powerful bonuses; for example, I set my tree up to give me an extra 100% attack boost. There is also an extensive crafting system contained in the game, and I highly recommend finding witcher gear scattered throughout the world and upgrading it to the highest level, because it is incredibly powerful. I’m partial to the Ursine equipment (see below).
The story in Witcher 3 is pretty complex, but not too difficult to follow. Although it carries over from previous games, Witcher 3 does not collapse under its own weight and is easily accessible even to newcomers like myself. Without spoiling too much, players assume the role of Geralt of Rivia, who is looking to reunite with Ciri, who for all intents and purposes is like a daughter to Geralt. The story does not tiptoe around anything, and even encompasses infanticide as well as other gruesome scenarios that are quite believable in war—the setting of Witcher 3. Geralt learns that Ciri is being chased by a group called the Wild Hunt (hence the game’s title) which is trying to use her to spark the beginning of the age of frost. Witcher 3 allows you to piece together the story by letting you play as Ciri in flashbacks and see just how much more powerful she is than Geralt.
The Witcher 3 was already jampacked with gameplay, but then CD Projekt red included a New Game+ mode and allowed the player to adjust the difficulty again for the new playthrough. The amount of content and replayability you receive for your money is unbelievable. The Witcher has four types of quests in the game: main story, secondary, witcher contracts and treasure hunts. Each of these quests require varying amounts of time consumption. The main quests take 10 minutes or more to complete, with some lasting for almost 30 minutes near the end of the game. The secondary quests are usually quick and supplemental to the main story quests and include Gwent Card collection, races and fistfights. The Witcher contracts involve negotiating wages, investigating clues and reading a bestiary entry to learn the weakness of the creature.
The Witcher 3 wraps all this up nicely with gorgeous scenery and is probably one of the prettiest games I’ve played. It is not common in the current videogame market to get such an expansive game that contains this much content (I currently have 286 hours clocked in and am still playing). My advice for new Witcher players is to play on a lower difficulty until you have mastered the gameplay, then upgrade to master-crafted witcher gear and, finally, play New Game+ on the hardest difficulty level. If you can only own one game this year, I highly recommend The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.