The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PS5/Xbox Series X) Review – Like An Old Friend

    Title: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
    Developer: CD PROJEKT RED
    Release Date: 12/14/22
    Reviewed On: PS5
    Publisher: CD PROJEKT RED
    Genre: Action, Adventure, RPG

The Witcher 3‘s reputation, by 2022, absolutely precedes it.

The game came out seven years ago to massive critical acclaim, racking up over two hundred Game of the Year awards, selling over forty million copies, and joining the ranks of “The Best Games Of All Time.” In addition, it was heralded as the true arrival of “next-gen” in 2015, a marvel that absolutely could not have been accomplished on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Then in 2020, along with the PS5 and Series X versions of Cyberpunk 2077, developer CD PROJEKT RED announced that Wild Hunt would also receive a generational upgrade, coming after the Cyberpunk one. But, of course, that was before the many delays that title went through. Though now, more than two years later, the big, shiny Witcher 3 port has finally arrived.

It’s no longer generation-defining, but I’m happy to say that The Witcher 3 is better than ever.

The Witcher 3's protagonist Geralt, bathing in the game's opening scene.

This version of Wild Hunt brings with it many features console players had long requested, and PC players already had the opportunity to enjoy. Pulling in a few fan-made modifications to improve visual quality (with compensation given to their creators, a massive win for developer-fan relations), console players can now enjoy a steady 60fps framerate (or a “quality mode” targeting 4K 30FPS), tons of bugfixes, and several quality-of-life improvements.

While it definitely doesn’t feel like a fully-modern title in the way Cyberpunk now does, it doesn’t need to – what it aims to be is the absolute best version of a modern classic, and in that way, this version delivers in abundance. Smoothing out almost all of the bugs that plagued the original release has finally made this the polished, definitive way to play The Witcher 3.

As for The Witcher 3 itself, well, it’s all here. The world of Geralt of Rivia has gotten a lot of attention in the past two years with a wildly popular Netflix adaptation, the announcement of a brand-new trilogy of games, and a remake of the first game in the series.

Witcher 3 ss3

But Wild Hunt is genuinely The Witcher at its very apex, showing off a stunning world that manages to be both vast and deep. The time period of the aftermath of war creates a politically intriguing setting where things are changing rapidly for the citizenry of The Continent, and everyone has a lot to say about it. The very first quest of the game sees Geralt being contracted to kill a gryphon that has attacked local townspeople. It hasn’t been taken care of yet simply because a different kingdom recently annexed the area, and the people who usually take care of such tasks were murdered during the hostile transfer of power.

This sets the stage for the even more impactful machinations that Geralt gets pulled into later, with the most powerful person in the world seeking out Geralt’s long-missing adopted daughter Ciri (who is also the biological daughter of the ruler of Nilfgaard) to amplify his power and secure his legacy.

WItcher 3 ss2

The story of Ciri forms the B-plot of the game as Geralt searches for her, and she becomes fully realized as her own character in the process. While the player makes decisions for her, Ciri develops a mind, personality, and playstyle totally distinct from Geralt. During my original playthrough, I ended up growing so attached to her that I was fully willing to upend the whole world just to ensure that she could keep her agency.

Still, that’s not to say the rest of the cast are lightweights, either – returning and competing love interests Yennefer and Triss both bring a unique, Betty-and-Veronica dynamic to their relationship with Geralt and his choices. Further, the supporting cast of Geralt’s friends may not have much bearing on the plot, but they do bring a welcome levity to this often-tragic tale.

On the gameplay side, while not to the level of something like Elden Ring, Wild Hunt‘s action-adventure trappings haven’t aged a day in seven years. The fast and frenzied combat is responsive, fun, and tense, leading the player into rhythmic attacking and making certain that their shield is up since Geralt is only ever a few heavy blows away from death.

The world is divided into geographically-separate zones, but each is huge and densely packed with quests and plenty of other engaging content. It’s been four years since I last played Wild Hunt, and I still remember every detail of the stories of the Bloody Baron, the Isles of Skellige, and even the personal subplots of Triss and Yennefer.

Witcher 3 ss5

Graphically, while I admit that the character models don’t look quite 2022-level, they have been updated to be as in-line with recent titles as possible. As a result, the world is just as stunning as you might remember it being in 2015, and the bump in framerate only makes it even easier on the eyes.

The only minor issues I have with The Witcher 3 are the ones that couldn’t have been fixed without a significant overhaul to the game. The sandbox opens up sooner than most players will likely be ready for, and it originally left me with the impression that there was a balancing issue. However, I eventually realized that just proceeding with the main story would level me up enough to take on the open world and side quests.

Witcher 3 ss6

Progressing with the main plot after you reach Velen essentially fixes that problem. And once you’re past that point, the world is your oyster. It’s massive, exciting, and more enjoyable to explore than almost any other one in the medium.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt earned its place in the pantheon of video games a long time ago. While this release is a victory lap, and CD PROJEKT RED has pretty much admitted to that, it’s still a massively deserving one. This developer’s reputation has taken a considerable blow since 2020, and this release serves as a reminder of why they had room to fall so far.

As I mentioned, The Witcher 3 is commonly cited as one of the best video games ever made. While I would never have called it “perfect,” it was always close. This final release brings it even closer.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

This post may contain Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate Noisy Pixel earns from qualifying purchases.