Games of The Year: The Witcher 3- Wild Hunt
With 2015 coming to a close, it feels like a good time to reflect. It’s been a mixed year of sleeper hits and bitter disappointments. Micro-transactions became a hot topic, as did the continued growth of season passes. We’ve seen big name franchise depart from their creators and promising games cancelled. When all is said and done, looking back at the good games is what this is all about.
Games of 2015 featured so far*
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
There’s always a genuine sense of satisfaction and attachment when it comes to The Witcher. As a video game, it represents a very traditional school of thought. CD Projekt Red were never simply creating products to sell, but games to experience. Their attitude towards the consumer is refreshing, human in many ways. Refusing to buy into heavy DRM polices, regardless of how harsh piracy has treat them. Taking time to create quality console ports and supplying tons of free content. CD Projekt Red are truly the people’s developer.
The Witcher 3 is the accumulation of three games of progression, neatly wrapped up into a complete experience. CD ProjeKt gave the player a world to enjoy, filled with it’s own stories and politics. Unlike most other open world titles, The Witcher fills it’s world with purpose. It’s this design philosophy that allows the game to flourish, breathing life into the realm.
Franchise protagonist Geralt, at this point in the franchise, carries the scars of his journey. His characteristics are in tone with his situation and past experiences, resulting in a believable character. The player’s ability to still impose their will onto the character remains. It’s a subtle touch that opens up role playing possibilities, while maintaining a sense of direction. Witcher 3′s story may be about Geralt, but it’s what the player makes of it. Contradictions and forced choices are rejected in favour of more organic options. CD Projekt created the near perfect mix of story driven action RPG, while maintaining player choice and impact.
Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s core plot is a decent climax to the franchise, but not the best tale told. The side quests steal the spotlight, mostly in a brilliant fashion . Most of the top notch side quests take The Witcher’s darker story elements, building upon them to craft oddly human stories. It’s the surrounding stories that elevate Wild Hunt onto a whole new level. The Bloody Baron side quest contains so much quality that it makes most other game’s core plots blush. Numerous amounts of quests supply glimpses of the world and it’s characters, often casting shades of moral doubt upon the player’s actions.
A part of me connects The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt to The Legend of Zelda. Both titles are love letter (with The Witcher being slightly more cynical) to high fantasy. Exploration is supplemented and enhanced by picking up various skills,items and abilities. Each title contain vast amount of Lore, allowing players to truly invest in the world. While The Witcher is of course more advanced in it’s scope and technical mechanics, both games have a lot in common. The connection is further embedded by the little things. Uncovering secret areas, traversing dungeons to obtain items, truly traditional thrills.
Collectively, as a franchise, The Witcher has always struggled with combat. From stumbling rhythm swipes to clumsy swipes and counts, It’s been a odd journey. Wild Hunt finally found it’s groove, supplying a solid combat system with various mechanics. Basic attacks, counters and evasion creates a solid base, with more advanced tools offering variation. The frustrations and struggles of systems seen in the last two games are gone.
Perhaps the most overlooked element to The Witcher 3 is it’s soundtrack. It bleeds the roots of it’s development and book series it’s based on. The soundtrack engulfs the player in wall of sound that instantly places them in the moment. Each track complements it’s place in the game,feeding into the high fantasy world. Powerful tones give high risk battles a tinge of tension, peaceful forests unwind to rustic strings. Bizarrely overlooked by many, The Witcher 3′s soundtrack is a true triumph that deserves wider celebration.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is stands out for both it’s quality and it’s developer. This year saw numerous companies slice and dice their games up to sell as DLC. Depressingly, it’s rare the release price of a game gets you the full product. CD Projekt bucked the trend, giving players a full release, free content and fairly priced expansions. Wild Hunt is a true testament to the progression of a franchise that’s quality slider has only ever went up. No blips, no questionable business practices or controversy (outside some god awful attempts by Pateron chasing Youtube/Social media ‘stars’), just pure quality. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is not just one of 2015′s best titles, but it’s one of the best games in the last ten years. A must play, just remember to turn off that mini map.