Game review: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - travel the road less known
Week after week, we effuse about how the current generation of video games is evolving, quickly becoming immersive experiences where the individual player's personality dictates a character's action and how they interact with the immense worlds on offer.
The Witcher 3: Witch Hunt feels like the next step in that evolution, and while not every part of the RPG comes together to satisfy all gamers, there's enough here to see clearly where things are progressing.
Available for the PS4, Xbox One and PC, Witcher 3 is still based largely on combat. But there's a surprising level of complexity behind it, and you can go about each fight as you see fit: quickly or slowly, guarded or in attack mode.
That's because the main campaign is Witcher 3's weakest part, and the real meat-and-potatoes lies in venturing off on your own. Gamers play as Geralt, a monster hunter who's searching for his lost sister and daughter, and if you follow the story, you're tasked with a lot of favours for minor information - escorting dwarves, looking after goats, helping various people, that sort of thing.
But free yourself from this narrative grasp and the world is yours. And what a world it is: Witcher 3 is one of the largest games ever made, a visual spectacle that stretches mythical fantasy lands from rolling hills and innumerable towns, to end-of-the-land seascapes and massive mountaintops.
Along the way, you can take out targets or start turf wars, battle monsters or form alliances. It's incredibly rich storytelling, and all ironically away from the main story. More notable are the hundreds of forces at work in the world (including yourself) and each action leads to cause-and-effect.
Say you want to kill the Griffin, a mythical beast hiding in no man's land: your success could save numerous townships in the area - but your failure could lead to a rampage of destruction. Of course, you won't know all this until weeks, maybe months later in game-time, and that level of complexity is incredible to behold.
Why the developer didn't make this the main campaign is at first slightly confusing - but it makes sense when you consider things. For linear gamers, the story is still there, and as ordinary as ever. For the rest of us, carving our own path towards the future of gaming is just a step away from the trail.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt CD Projekt RED