The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, by CD Projekt Red, isn’t just an amazing role-playing game (RPG). It’s one of the best open map RPGs made to date.

Its wide-ranging open map will keep pulling you off quest and drawing you back into this world. If you aren’t a “hardcore gamer,” and want to know more, this article is for you.

STEAM, a multiplayer online gaming platform built by Valve Corp, powers Witcher 3‘s gameplay. This technology allows the wide-ranging map and a richer set of interactive elements in the game. You can download STEAM free for Mac, Windows, and Linux here. The download and subscription are free, but you have to be logged in to buy games and play them.

Witcher 3 is available for Windows, the PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. At this time, there isn’t a Mac version of the Witcher 3 (though there is for Witchers 1 and 2). However, the folks at PC World have found a workaround. NVidia‘s Shield TV now has a beta version of GeForce for Macs so you can buy games and play in the cloud.

The Witcher games truly are the beautiful, addictive, and nuanced role-playing game we’ve all been waiting for. It’s like an imaginative choose-your-own-adventure ecosystem in a sublime sci-fi art book. Do you love RPGs, great graphics, and being able to explore all of the things you can see? If so, Witcher 3 will deliver above and beyond your expectations.

What Are Witchers?

Witchers are a caste of super-human killing machines who fight monsters and all manner of evil critters. Their training begins in childhood, and they also gain speed, strength, agility, and other powers through alchemic and magical processes. Like the X-Men, they’re heroic mutants who protect humans but never quite fit in with them. Witchers are mercenaries for hire if the price is right and they’re willing. In The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, we find Geralt of Rivia searching an immense, richly illustrated, and fully interactive world for his lost lover and his adopted daughter.

The Witcher 3 in Reviews

If like you’re like me, gamers might as well write their reviews in Greek — or at least beyond your level of geek speak. If so, you’re not alone. Reviewers all praise the game but it often feels like someone’s packing in extra “tech” words. Here’s one of the best, newb-friendly writeups we found:

IGN.Com:

The Witcher 3 is as dense and deep as the other two games in the series in terms of RPG mechanics, and the overwhelmingly massive open-world environment has at once made that depth more intimidating, and in the long run, more rewarding. It’s difficult to express just how huge and open this world is: verdant, rolling fields liberally dotted with swaying foliage of every shape and size fill the space between loosely connected, ramshackle townships where people struggle to scrape by.

IGN then goes on to say the breadth and details make for an incredible experience.

A full day/night cycle and dynamic weather pull it all together, cementing The Witcher 3’s landscape as one of the most authentic-feeling open worlds I’ve ever seen. A handy minimap points you where you want to go, which might seem like a crutch, but honestly, without it, I’d have been hopelessly lost. That a world this size still feels so purposeful, and full of things to do is quite an achievement.

Both Game Spot, and MetaCritic, which aggregate actual player scores for games, give Witcher 3 scores that exceed a 9 out of 10. If you know how picky gamers are, you’ll know these ratings speak volumes about this game. It’s completely worth your time.

The Witcher 3 Stories: Catch up on the Plot

The Witcher novels by Andrzej Sapkowski ($7.99-$11.99 on Amazon), can help you understand this complex storyline and universe. You don’t have to read these books or play the first two Witcher games to enjoy the third. However, getting some background information may help.

For starters, the magic that transforms witchers into badass monster hunters also leaves them infertile. But thanks to the “Law of Surprise,” being sterile doesn’t mean witchers can’t have children. Polygon explains the Law of Surprise as a life-debt a Witcher may invoke after saving a person’s life. The payment for this debt is “that which you already have but do not know.” In many cases, this turns out to be a child that was born during a father’s absence. And that’s where Ciri, who’s new to those who haven’t read the books, comes in.

Here’s a quick summary of the three Witcher games, which take place after the events in the books they’re based on.

  • The Witcher 1: Geralt of Rivia wakes up with amnesia, so you get to discover his world as he does. He learns more as he encounters friends and enemies from his past. Meanwhile, he (and you as the player) choose paths in a world of roiling politics and devious machinations. Unlike in so many other RPGs, good and evil are not what they seem.
  • The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings: Our hero fights to keep peace in the land of Temeria amid sex, intrigue, and betrayal. Meanwhile, Geralt keeps hearing and finally meets his best bud, Dandelion the bard (and spy). This dubious friend’s habits of drinking, gossiping, and womanizing get them into all kinds of scrapes. Dandelion later commits his highly-embellished versions of his adventures with Geralt to paper and song.
  • The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt: Geralt accepts his most important quest. He’s asked to track down an elusive child of prophecy, described as “a key and a weapon which can save or destroy all.” Meanwhile, he’s still determined to find his lover Yennefer and adopted daughter Ciri. But where are these women he seeks?

Who the Heck Is Ciri?

When Witcher 3 first came out, a lot of gamers were asking, “who the hell is Ciri?” Also known as Cirilla Fiona Elen Riannon, she’s Geralt’s apprentice and his adopted daughter. Also, Yennefer was a mother figure to her and highly involved in her training. Finding them both is an obsession for Geralt. The storyline in Witcher 3 centers around Geralt’s stoic, unrelenting drive to bring that little family of hardcore monster hunters for hire back together.

It’s hard to tell you much about Ciri without any major spoilers. But here’s some backstory for her. She was trained at Kaer Morhen as a Witcher … Yet for some reason, she did not receive any of the physiology-altering mutagens. Despite the lack of these drugs and magic spells, she’s a powerful fighter and wielder of magic. Her character plays a major part in the Witcher storyline. Yet it appears Projekt Red may not have done enough to help people who haven’t read the books understand her importance.

VINCE INGENITO for IGN weighed in on what he thinks of this “mysterious stranger” to his readers:

…Ciri is more or less a complete stranger until the last quarter of the journey, which made it difficult to care about finding her as much as The Witcher 3 expected me to – especially given the slew of intriguing characters who are relegated to supportive background roles.

Rumor has it the Ciri and Yennefer storylines play an even larger role The Witcher 4. Oh, and did we mention, there is going to be one?

Projekt Red Confirms There Will Be a Witcher 4

WARNING: There is a real possibility of a major Witcher 3 spoiler if you click this link! However, we are not going to do that to you.

The ending of Wild Hunt raised questions about whether CD Projekt Red would continue with the series. Happily, though, they have confirmed that Witcher 4 is in the works. They won’t be “franchising” this game into oblivion, though. Instead, they’ve opted for the kind of nuanced and varied storytelling players have come to expect. After all, they’ve spent about over a decade in the world of The Witcher and the immense universe has a lot more tales to tell. Plus, it must be a lot of fun to create these awesome games.

The Witcher 3 Gameplay

The Witcher 3 is honestly just drop dead gorgeous. Yet the sheer amount of data sometimes makes the frame rate laggy on PS4 and Xbox One. This means the graphics slow down unpredictably while playing and hobble the player’s reaction time. Given the massive popularity of these gaming platforms, we hope Projekt Red addresses this issue in the near future.

Here’s over a half hour of expert gameplay from a senior level project manager from Projekt Red.

The Best Witcher 3 Mods

For many of us, a game is much more fun when we get to play God with it: enter mods. Mods on other games can include things like infinite money, or health, or ammunition or simply different weapons or clothing. The Witcher 3 is no different: mods can make the game.

Here is a great article from PC Gamer that lists some of the must-have mods. We’ve also found a video that explains the top 5 mods you won’t want to go without.

The Witcher 3 Documentary

Once you immerse yourself in this world, you’re bound to want more. That’s where the Witcher documentary comes in.

The Witcher 3 PS4 Pro Update

The PS4 pro update came out in October 2014 to bring the game up to speed with the systems 4K resolution. This performance boost helps the lag issue described above. Although the Witcher still isn’t perfect on the PS4, it’s close. Here’s a framerate test so you can see for yourself.

Xbox One X Enhancements for the Witcher 3

You can play Witcher 3 can be played on PS4, and will be playable on Xbox One X in 4k, though the announcement from Projekt Red did not say whether it would be native 4k or not.

“When enhancing the game for Xbox One X, we wanted to use the additional power of the console to deliver an even more visually stunning experience. When playing the game on Xbox One X, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s visuals are sharper and the overall presentation more vivid than ever before on Xbox.”

Windows Requirements for Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Projekt Red recommends the following, for the best gameplay on PC (minimum requirements to play are below):

Recommended requirements:

  • OS: 64-bit Windows 7 or 64-bit Windows 8 (8.1). DirectX 11 is necessary to run the game.
  • Processor: Intel CPU Core i7 3770 3,4 GHz, AMD CPU AMD FX-8350 4 GHz
  • Graphics: Nvidia GPU GeForce GTX 770 or AMD GPU Radeon R9 290
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Disk space: 40 GB

Minimum requirements:

  • OS: 64-bit Windows 7 or 64-bit Windows 8 (8.1). DirectX 11 is necessary to run the game.
  • Processor: Intel CPU Core i5-2500K 3.3GHz, AMD CPU Phenom II X4 940
    Finding a Gaming CPUs performance chart and comparing one’s CPU with the minimum is suggested.
  • Graphics: Nvidia GPU GeForce GTX 660 or AMD GPU Radeon HD 7870. Projekt Red only officially supports full-size desktop graphics cards.
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Disk space: 40 GB

If that is clear as mud, or you just aren’t sure what your PC is running “under the hood” you can check out this link to find out “can you run it.”

Cost and Availability of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

The Witcher 3, and it’s expansion packs are available here. You can download and buy digital (a complete version from $49.99) for Xbox, PS4 or PC through GOG or Steam. Or you can buy a basic retail version from Amazon ($44.85), Best Buy (Xbox One and PS4 from $19.99 for the basic version), and Game Stop ($49.99 complete).

GWENT: A Game within a Game

Gwent is a Witcher card game that’s inspired its own full video game, something like Pokemon or Magic the Gathering. The rules are so simple the PlayGwent website claims you can learn them in just 15 minutes. Once you read through them, you can grab a chair, pick a side, build your deck, and start playing with gamers from around the world.

This video gives you a sneak peak.

When You’re Done with the Witcher 3, You May Also Like…

The following games feature exceptional artwork, fascinating plots, intriguing characters,, and open maps, like The Witcher:

Skyrim: The Elder Scrolls: The latest in the Skyrim series, Bethesda Games’ The Elder Scrolls has set the bar for RPGs, in fact, it was an inspiration to the creators of The Witcher. When it comes to open map games, Skyrim definitely holds its own – and is one of the few to challenge Witcher’s top dog position.

Dragon Age: Inquisition: Another open map game, developed by BioWare Edmonton and published by EA (Electronic Arts), Dragon Age is a partially open map game that allows you to move around areas as you open them up. It is big, with one game review saying that it took them 85 hours to get to the end credits, even though they ignored several sidequests. If you are looking for a game that will last you, this one is a good choice.

The Fallout Series: Bethesda Games’, Fallout 3, Fallout 4, and Fallout New Vegas are all open map and they will suck you into their post-apocalyptic world. The game backstory is that China and US nuked each other out in the year 2077. The remnants that remain are in a huge radioactive wasteland filled with ghouls, super-mutants, ghosts and some lucky human survivors. You usually start out as a vault dweller, someone who has never seen the outside world, and emerge to explore the MadMaxian landscape.

What’s next from CD Projekt Red? Cyberpunk 2077

This much-anticipated game was announced in 2012. PC Gamer declares it a “behemoth of a game, even bigger than The Witcher,”  but when’s it coming out? “When it’s good and ready,” the peole at Projekt Red declared. Rumor has it, the release date will be somewhere 2018 and 2020.

Here’s a sneak peek.

Featured image: Promotional artwork via Projekt Red.

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