The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is an excellent example of an open world RPG that stands the test of time. Released in 2015, it was widely acclaimed and has since cemented itself in gamer culture. This Complete Edition upgrades the game for Next Gen consoles; PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S and PCs to reach a new wave of gamers, while offering a free upgrade to those who already own the game on previous platforms. Not only does this game include mods, enhancements and new content, but it also captures the essence of what made the game so successful in the first place.
Whether you’re a long-time gamer or discovering The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt for the first time, you’ll find everything you need to enjoy this Next Gen edition.
Before we get into the details of what this Next Gen update brings, let’s dive back into the iconic game The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
A look back at the story of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
The Northern Kingdom is engaged in a bitter war against the Nilfgaardian Empire, which for years has been expanding its territories through constant conquest. The Nilfgaardian Emperor Emhyr var Emreis is unrivalled in his political ambitions and ruthless in achieving them.
The war has left deep scars on the land and in the hearts of the people; more than ever, misery, fear and superstition weigh on the world of The Witcher. The monsters are the ones who harvest the fruits of this destruction, living on the corpses left in the wake of the army, or even the survivors of the conflict.
It is in the middle of a vast occupied zone that our Sorcerer arrives shortly after the end of The Witcher 2. Geralt of Rivia will have to move heaven and earth to try to find Ciri – his adopted daughter, but also the daughter of Emhyr by blood, who is relentlessly pursued by the dreaded riders of the Wild Hunt.
The Witcher 3 continues the legacy of Andrzej Spakowski’s novels with more human, political stories, still playing as skillfully as ever with the nebulous line between good and evil.
If you didn’t know, The Witcher video game trilogy is based on a saga of fantasy novels by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski. A huge success in his country; so much so that during a visit by President Barack Obama to Poland, Prime Minister Donald Tusk presented him with an official diplomatic gift including The Witcher 2 and two of the books that inspired the video game.
The series has been propelled internationally thanks to the video games of CD Projekt. But also more recently thanks to the series on Netflix with Henry Cavill.
Who is Ciri?
Cirilla Fiona Elen Riannon, known to most as Ciri, is a Cintrian princess.
Emhyr’s daughter by blood, Geralt’s adopted daughter, she is the first known example of a female Witch, and a legendary child of the Elder Blood. Thanks to the Law of Surprise, her destiny has been linked to that of Geralt of Rivia since before her birth.
As a child, she was taken in by the wizards of Kaer Morhen and subjected to rigorous training.
Over time, Ciri became a particularly skilled warrior, able to wield the blade with dexterity. Thanks to her education, she also has a great knowledge of alchemy and monsters.
However, her origins and status make her more than desirable to the powerful of this world. The young girl is therefore hunted from all sides, by Nilfgaard on the one hand, by certain mages on the other, but also by the Wild Hunt, a carnival of spectral horsemen riding skeletal steeds, symbols of misfortune and death. The game offers to check the character at regular intervals in order to learn more about her journey.
An RPG of choice and consequence.
Like any good RPG, the choices you make in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt can have consequences. Whether it’s the small talk or the major, urgent decisions that come at the climax of a long quest; choices you thought were harmless may have consequences immediately or further down the line. For example, it may affect the rewards you earn, the characters you meet, the people you ally with, and even the endings you reach. Through the choices you make, your experience of the game can be very different and opens up the possibility of redoing the main story to discover a new path, a new protagonist or a new ending. Not all choices are obvious, and even the most subtle ones may have greater implications than you think.
Speaking of experience, in Wild Hunt you’ll need to level up your character in order to progress. There’s no need to rush out and find a farming spot a la Elden Ring. Killing enemies outside of quests will give you little or no XP. To gain level, you will have to complete quests and contracts. If you try to rush the main quest, you might find yourself underleveled at some point, forcing you to complete some side quests. An auto-levelling system, à la Skyrim, is available in the options. Each time you level up you gain an ability point, which can be invested in one of 5 categories of your choice. Ranging from combat oriented abilities; Sword, bomb, crossbows, to abilities like alchemy, signs and more. You can only have 12 abilities in total, with slots unlocked at different character levels. Abilities are colour coded and categorised, and completing certain colour abilities with a mutagen of the same colour will increase the effects of those abilities.
After starting the Blood and Wine DLC (included in this release) and completing the Turn and Face the Strange quest, you will unlock a new additional leveling system in the Character menu, which allows you to spend skill points and use mutagens to gain new buffs related to your witcher mutations. Even if, as in any RPG, some quests seem really cliche (fetch an item, bring it back), almost all of them contain a real dimension, and enhance the narration. The exploration and the storyline intertwine with excellence and you end up with a series of quests ranging from the most basic (helping an old lady find her pan) to the most complex.
The first open-world game in the franchise when it was released in 2015, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt takes you on beautiful and perilous journeys through several regions, from the lands of Velen, which contains the city-state of Novigrad, to the islands of Skellige. You’ll see some incredible landscapes and encounter the often hostile local wildlife; wild wolves, bears, monsters, spirits and bandits all ready to pounce on you. The game starts in an area of Velen known as the White Orchard, which allows you to familiarise yourself with the game mechanics and lay the foundations of the narrative. Your exploration can be done on foot, with the help of Roach – your horse (double click on the left stick), by boat or by fast travel. The fast travel system works by using the many signs on the map, usually located near important areas such as villages, towns, landmarks, etc. Naturally, you will need to have visited these places first for them to be accessible by fast travel. They’re accessible from the game map, which has been revised in this version (more on that later).
I can only advise you to explore, especially at the beginning of the game, as the world is full of treasures, side-quests and unexpected encounters.
During my playthrough of this complete next gen edition, I sadly did not have enough time to complete the main quest. Nevertheless, you should know that it will take you between 25-30h if you rush the game, excluding the side quests. For the record, when I played the original PS4 version, it took me almost 80 hours to complete the main story. You have enough to do. On top of that, you can add the DLC included in this version. Hearts of Stone and Blood & Wine will keep you in the game for a good 30 hours (10 hours for Hearts of Stone – 20 hours for Blood and Wine); the Blood & Wine DLC is so rich in content that it could make a lot of games pale in comparison! Moreover, it is possible for those who want to start a new game and go directly to the DLC, with the appropriate level and equipment, to do so. In this Next Gen version, CD projekt has implemented a new quest from the Netflix series. It will take Geralt to the Devil’s Den, a quarry in Velen, which already existed in the game, but was never used in the final version (you will find yourself facing the door of a closed mine). As a reward, you will receive schematics allowing you to craft the outfits Henry Cavill wears in seasons 1 and 2. More outfits are always a good thing!
The quests regularly involve the sorcerer’s tracking skills. By maintaining Rt orR2, Geralt will use his Sense of the Witcher ability to uncover many clues at the scene of his stalking or investigations. Tracking footprints, studying a corpse to determine the cause of death, and following the tracks of a wild beast is our hero’s daily life. And if your peregrinations lead you to a whole host of battles, it is also possible to settle certain situations thanks to your sense of repartee, diplomacy, the subtle art of the bribe or even by using some mental tricks.
Fighting in The Witcher 3 is intense and has a strategic edge to it. You have two swords, one metal for human enemies, one silver for monsters. No need to tell you that you will have to be vigilant and not hit monsters with your metal sword or you will inflict too little damage. If swords are not enough for you, our butcher of Blaviken can also craft bombs, snipe enemies with a crossbow or use magic. 5 spells are available, they will allow you to protect yourself, to launch fire waves, to trap enemies, or to play some humans against each other. It will not be unusual to find yourself up against several enemies at once, and you will need a good amount of dexterity to parry and slice through certain enemies with your swords.
Despite this, the battles remain quite easy for experienced players even on the highest difficulty levels.
Next-gen update, what’s new in it?
CD projekt didn’t just rework the game and add an additional armour. No, they went much further. Let’s take a closer look at the list of new features in this version.
Ray Tracing and Performance mode.
The game gives you a choice between the performance mode which prioritizes the frame rate at 60fps, and the Ray Tracing mode, which prioritizes the graphic rendering, the Ray Tracing and aims at 30Fps.
I played on Xbox Series X for this review, so I opted for the Ray Tracing mode. So yes, we can note some drops in frame rate when arriving in a village and that the meteorological conditions are spoiled, but nothing really troublesome.In this mode, the game benefits from more realistic lighting and is really bluffing.
On PC, you will get the Ray Traced Reflection, which uses Ray tracing technology to present more realistic reflections throughout the game, and Ray Traced Shadows which offers more realistic shadow lighting.
Also available only for PC players is the Nvidia Upscaling technology, which uses AI to boost framerate and maintain visual fidelity (DLSS).
A Photo mode has been added, allowing players to take stunning pictures in-game.
Players can now upload their saves to the cloud and carry over their progress on a different platform, all by using their GOG.COM account on the versions of the game, they wish to play
Activities + Game Help for PlayStation 5
The game utilizes the Activities and Game Help functions on PlayStation 5 to guide players as they take on specific quests and challenges in the game.
Haptics and adaptive triggers for DualSense controller
Feel every impact Geralt feels thanks to the immersive nature of DualSense haptic feedback and adaptive triggers! Whether you’re in battle, playing Gwent, investigating clues or riding your horse, haptic feedback is there throughout the adventure (can be turned off)
Additional weapons & armor, and a special Gwent card, can be claimed and used in-game by signing up to the My Rewards program. Players can also use this program to claim a card to be used in the standalone game GWENT: The Witcher Card Game
The Witcher Netflix goodies
Find a selection of items inspired by The Witcher Netflix series. Equip new steel and silver swords, new armor sets modeled after armor seen in seasons 1 and 2 respectively, admire a new alternate outfit for Dandelion, and new armor for Nilfgaardian soldiers. You’ll also find a new quest to take on related to these additions. Witcher worlds have truly collided!
Performance and Quality modes for Xbox Series S
Choose between a mode that prioritizes performance at 60FPS or higher visual fidelity at 30FPS (including better resolutions and textures).
Various mods were developed by The Witcher 3 fan community, including some by CD Projekt developers.
A mod which identifies and fixes inconsistencies between the 3D game world and the 2D map/on-screen minimap.
A mod that targets “lingering visual bugs” present throughout the game, including on objects such as armor sets, visual inconsistencies in water, objects within buildings, and more
A mod that reworks original models and textures of the game, preserving the original style but significantly improving detail. This mod includes 4K textures and models, high-quality, smooth meshes, improved object LOD (level of detail), as well as increased draw distance for a selection of objects, specially customized materials and shaders for all reworked objects.
A mod from a developer who worked on The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and both expansions, which “mainly aims at fixing immersion breakers, buffing underperforming skills and items, cosmetic changes, and bug fixing.” We took a curated approach to this mod, with some elements further tweaked from what you’ll find in the mod by default, while other elements were omitted from inclusion.
A mod which reworks over 1000 textures related to the monsters in the game. The mod increases details while aiming to preserve the artistic intent from the original monster designs. However, there are some cases which have seen a partial or complete overhaul to bring textures up to the standards of other reworks.
Quick Sign Casting
Those who have played the original console version will remember how laborious it was to cast spells in battle. CD Projekt had an excellent idea to implement a new system to cast your spells. From now on, you just have to hold Rt (Xbox Series) or R2 (PS5), and the spells become available thanks to the X-Y-B-A-RT (Xbox Series) or X O Square Triangle (PS5) keys.
This is very useful in combat.
A new camera appears, and is closer to Geralt. The camera is slightly off-centre on the left and makes the immersion in exploration mode more pronounced. However, after a few hours of play, it becomes a bit of a handicap in combat, especially when you have 4-5 enemies to cut at the same time. Personally, I switched it off for battles in favour of the original one.
Dynamic Toggle for UI Visibility
This option allows the minimap and HUD to be displayed only when fighting or using the Witcher’s senses. Previously, you could only enable or disable these elements completely.
It’s cool because it enhances the immersion during the exploration phases.
New default map mode
The world map has been given a slight facelift and is now less overcrowded. Icons such as question marks and ship symbols are disabled by default to reduce the flood of icons that made reading confusing.
Character model improvements
All main characters, including Geralt, now have high resolution shadows. This was only the case during cutscenes in the original version. The bugs of hair going through the armor have been fixed.
Environmental improvements and special effects
New scenery elements (mountains) and weather, grey skies, have been added. The vegetation is denser and dramatically improves the rendering of landscapes, which was already highly detailed in its time. Environmental visual effects and the rendering of water have also been improved.
It is now possible to perform a slow walk, and three walking speeds are now available, depending on the pressure on the analogue stick. In the original game, you could only walk, run or stand still. Clearly, this gives Geralt’s animation a modern look. An alternative sprint mode is also available by pressing the left stick.
Radial Menu Improvements
Selecting consumable items and bombs is now easier as you no longer have to go into your inventory to switch equipped items out. Now, you can do this seamlessly, all within the radial menu. Like the quick cast sign, this features significantly improves the gaming experience, especially during the fight.
We end with the two updates that will change the lives of all former players of The Witcher 3. Raise your hand if you have never complained about Geralt dying in a fall from a cliff. CD projekt corrects one of the most controversial points of the game at the time of its release. Now our Witcher can survive falls from high places. Honestly, it’s about time!
Last but not least. The collection of herbs and plants. God, it was horrible. Each time you looted a herb, the menu opened… horrible, especially since during your exploration sessions, it’s not uncommon to pick up dozens of herbs in a row. From now on, the loot is instantaneous, so there is no more menu that opens, and your pickings go directly into your inventory. This is, for me, a drastic improvement, as picking was so laborious.
It’s a regret that picking while riding Roach is still impossible. PC players can fall back on a community mod.
We thank CD Projekt for allowing us to try this version of The Witcher 3 in advance. This test was done on an Xbox Series X.
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