There are a lot of skills to choose from in The Witcher 3. While it's perfectly possible to forge your own path through the many available options, it can be daunting at first. As such, we've put together what will hopefully be a helpful skill guide, briefly explaining what each skill is and what we make of it. By no means, however, is this a walkthrough of how to build an optimal character – we're just trying to point you in the right direction.
Before we start, though, a few things that you should make note of. The first is that you shouldn't worry too much if you think that you've put points into something that's a bit crap. There are specific merchants in the game that'll sell you a potion of clearance for the hefty price of 1000 coins. Drinking this concoction will allow you to redistribute your spent skill points. Secondly, you should always be on the lookout for places of power. You only get one skill point each time that you level up, but finding and activating a place a power will also grant you one extra point, which may be perfect for rounding out skills or for grabbing a passive ability.
And finally, play how you want to play. Geralt can be moulded almost exactly as you'd like him to be, and in truth, there aren't too many ineffective skills on offer. If you like the sound of something, go ahead and grab it. However, with that in mind, if you really want a cheeky little tip, then manually save your game before you choose a new skill and try it out. If you don't like what you're picked, simply reload your old save and nab something different. Sly, eh?
These are skills that benefit your swordplay and evasive techniques. If you like to get in close, dodge enemy blows, and generally play the game like a warrior, then you should be putting a lot of skill points into this category.
Fast Attack Line
These skills relate to your fast attacks, which are mapped to the square button.
- Muscle Memory
Description: Each level makes your fast attacks do more damage and generate more adrenaline points.
Our thoughts: A basic upgradeable skill. There's no harm in putting some points into this since fast attacks are your bread and butter.
- Precise Blows
Description: Each level gives you a better chance of landing critical hits with fast attacks, and makes critical hits do more damage.
Our thoughts: Critical hits can save your life if you need to take a foe down quick, but pumping five whole skill points into this for maximum effect is a tall order. That said, if you're constantly using fast attacks, it can definitely be of use.
Description: A fast spinning attack. Using it drains stamina and adrenaline points.
Our thoughts: A devastating move when used correctly. If you're surrounded, Whirl can keep your opponents at bay. Against a single foe, it's capable of dealing huge damage through repeated strikes. Just don't get too greedy, as Geralt is unable to block or dodge when he's Whirling.
- Crippling Strikes
Description: Fast attacks make enemies bleed, which means that their health continues to drain away after you land a successful hit.
Our thoughts: The extra damage over time is not to be sniffed at, and upgrading it further makes the bleeding effect last longer. Deadly if you're already a master of landing fast attacks.
Strong Attack Line
These skills relate to your strong attacks, which are mapped to the triangle button.
- Strength Training
Description: Each level increases the damage and adrenaline point gain of your strong attacks.
Our thoughts: Basic upgradable skill. If you like to use strong attacks, or just weave them into your fast attack combos, there's no harm in putting points into this skill.
- Crushing Blows
Description: Increases the chances of landing a critical hit with strong attacks. Also increases the critical damage that they cause.
Our thoughts: Strong attacks already tend to do decent damage, but having a better chance of a critical hit with each strike is tempting. Five levels may be asking a bit too much for maximum effectiveness, though.
Description: A mighty blow that uses stamina. It ignores enemy defence and has an extra chance of a critical hit. On top of that, adrenaline points increase the total damage.
Our thoughts: If you like to tear through your opponent and have the timing to pull it off, Rend can be a reliable ally, especially if you favour strong attacks.
- Sunder Armour
Description: Reduces an enemy's damage resistance whenever you land a strong attack.
Our thoughts: A nice bonus, especially against heavily armoured foes. It essentially makes your opposition weaker as fights go on, which can be very useful if you already like smashing monsters or people with strong attacks.
These skills are all to do with your evasive techniques and blocking. X is your dodge roll, circle is your sidestep, and holding down L2 allows you to block with your sword.
- Arrow Deflection
Description: You'll automatically deflect arrows while you're blocking.
Our thoughts: Handy when you're taking on a larger group of bandits or soldiers, but you can already evade arrows with a well-timed dodge. Arrow Deflection undoubtedly makes you look like a badass, but experienced players may not need it.
- Fleet Footed
Description: If an enemy hits you as you're evading, the attack will do reduced damage.
Our thoughts: Incredibly useful if you can't quite get your timing right. May end up saving your life if you're the type who rolls around the battlefield like a madman.
Description: Increases the damage of your follow-up attacks after you successfully perform a counter.
Our thoughts: The damage bonus can be a big help, but you need the proper timing to get it in the first place. A good skill for more experienced players.
- Deadly Precision
Description: The more adrenaline points you have, the more chance you have of killing an enemy instantly.
Our thoughts: With full adrenaline points, you can potentially kill off entire groups of foes with a little luck. Only two levels means that it could be a solid investment if you fancy your chances.
These skills make your crossbow more effective. The crossbow only becomes available a small way into the main story.
- Lightning Reflexes
Description: When you're aiming your crossbow, time is slowed down more with each invested skill point.
Our thoughts: A pretty negligible bonus unless you're having trouble aiming the crossbow, otherwise your skill points are better spent elsewhere.
- Cold Blood
Description: You gain more adrenaline points every time you hit an enemy with a crossbow bolt.
Our thoughts: Can be a decent way to rack up adrenaline points, but if you only use your crossbow every now and then, the investment isn't really worth it.
- Anatomical Knowledge
Description: Increases your chance of landing a critical hit with a crossbow bolt.
Our thoughts: Critical hits can make the crossbow do decent damage under the right circumstances, but it's a skill that's only useful to those who wield the crossbow often, and also make use of the skill detailed below this one.
- Crippling Shot
Description: Critical hits with the crossbow stop monsters from using their special abilities.
Our thoughts: Easily the most useful skill in the marksmanship line. With the above Anatomical Knowledge skill, you have a decent chance of stopping a monster's abilities for a short time, which can make some fights much easier. It is a risky investment, though, given how many skill points it takes in both skills to make Crippling Shot an effective tactic.
Battle Trance Line
These skills make full use of your adrenaline points, which build up when you're doing well in combat. However, when you take damage, adrenaline points decrease.
Description: You lose less adrenaline points when you take damage.
Our thoughts: If you rely on skills that make use of adrenaline points, Resolve may prove useful. Ideally, though, you're not getting hit to begin with, so more experienced players may find this skill unworthy.
Description: If your health reaches zero, you'll be revived as long as you have adrenaline points. The more you have, the more health you'll get back.
Our thoughts: Can be a literal life saver in tough fights, but it all depends on how many adrenaline points you can build up. If you have skills that use them up, you'll probably revive with next to no health and quickly be killed again anyway. If you're never using them, this could be a worthy investment.
- Razor Focus
Description: Gain an adrenaline point when combat begins, and get more points for each sword attack.
Our thoughts: Great if you want to build up a lot of adrenaline points, especially if you're primarily a melee fighter.
- Flood of Anger
Description: Automatically use up adrenaline points to increase the effectiveness of your magic signs.
Our thoughts: A worthwhile skill if you use signs a lot, and aren't using adrenaline points for much else. Used right, this can bolster the power of your signs significantly.
These are skills that improve the effectiveness of your magic signs. Each line of skills focuses on one particular sign. You should focus on this category if you want to make your magic as powerful as possible.
Aard Sign Line
This sign is used to knock enemies back, leaving them open for further attacks. Aard is generally great for crowd control.
- Far- Reaching Aard
Description: Increases aard's range.
Our thoughts: If you use aard a lot, the extra range can be a simple but effective bonus, especially when you're surrounded.
- Aard Sweep
Description: Aard can cover the area around you, rather than just in front of you. However, it has less chance to knock enemies down completely.
Our thoughts: Fantastic for crowd control, and useful if you're surrounded on all sides. Less chance to knock enemies down is a hefty penalty, though. Depends on how much you use the standard aard sign.
- Aard Intensity
Description: Makes aard more effective.
Our thoughts: No reason not to put a few points into this if you're constantly using aard.
- Shock Wave
Description: Aard now does damage.
Our thoughts: If you want aard to have a little more kick, you can't go wrong with some added damage. This skill makes aard a decent alternative to the more damage-focused igni sign.
Igni Sign Line
These skills improve the igni sign, which has various uses. Igni can be used to set enemies on fire, dealing raw or lasting damage.
- Melt Armour
Description: Igni now weakens enemy armour when it connects.
Our thoughts: Useful against tougher foes, but five skill points is a hefty investment for maximum effectiveness. If you use igni a lot, it may still be worth a try.
Description: Igni can now be used like a flamethrower.
Our thoughts: A decent upgrade if you're looking for a sign that can do significant damage. Firestream is also great at keeping some enemies bay, especially if they're weak to fire. Worth an investment if you want igni to have more versatility.
- Igni Intensity
Description: Increases the effectiveness of igni.
Our thoughts: More damage is always good if you're using igni frequently.
Description: Igni now has a better chance to set enemies on fire.
Our thoughts: Good for those who are always using igni, but perhaps not worth full investment. Having said that, extra burning damage can chip away at bigger health bars surprisingly well.
Yrden Sign Line
Yrden is a specialised sign that's used to put foes at a disadvantage by placing a magical trap on the ground. It is a necessary sign when fighting certain wraiths that are otherwise immune to your attacks.
- Sustained Glyphs
Description: Makes yrden last longer.
Our thoughts: Can't go wrong with this skill if you're using yrden a lot. More time before the sign disappears means more time to clobber anything caught inside of it.
- Magic Trap
Description: Yrden's alternate form. It becomes a single glyph that zaps nearby foes for small chunks of damage. Projectiles are also destroyed if they fly too close.
Our thoughts: A very versatile skill that's good when fighting either groups or bigger enemies, dealing reliable damage and usually knocking your opponent back. A must if you're a fan of yrden.
- Yrden Intensity
Description: Increases the effectiveness of yrden.
Our thoughts: If you're using yrden a lot, you can't go wrong with investing a few skill points here.
- Supercharged Glyphs
Description: Enemies affected by yrden take continuous damage.
Our thoughts: Useful for chipping health away from bigger enemies. If you're not a fan of other signs that deal damage, this could be something of an alternative.
Quen Sign Line
Quen creates a temporary shield around you that must be broken before enemies can damage your health. Incredibly useful for players of all skill levels, and veterans can make advanced use of it with the right investments.
- Exploding Shield
Description: When your quen shield is broken, it will push enemies back.
Our thoughts: A nice bonus if you use quen a lot, as the blast can give you some breathing space after you're hit.
- Active Shield
Description: You can now use quen as a sustained shield that drains stamina. When the shield takes damage, it restores your health.
Our thoughts: Incredibly useful when you'd rather block a powerful attack than dodge it. The health recovery that's provided as the shield takes damage is a very attractive bonus, but keep an eye on how much stamina you have.
- Quen Intensity
Description: Increases the effectiveness of the quen sign.
Our thoughts: An obvious choice if you're a frequent quen user.
- Quen Discharge
Description: Reflects damage back at the attacker whenever the shield takes a hit.
Our thoughts: A decent way to do some extra damage, but requires a hefty investment to make it truly worthwhile.
Axii Sign Line
Axii is used to control the minds of your enemies, leaving them stunned or forcing them to fight by your side in battle for a set amount of time. Axii can also be used in conversations through dialogue options, opening up new ways to persuade people.
Description: Targeted enemy doesn't move towards you when you're casting axii. Also opens up unique dialogue options at various points in the game.
Our thoughts: If you're a fan of controlling peoples' minds during conversations, it's worth the investment, although these opportunities are fairly rare. Still, you may regret your inability to do so when you're not fond of the alternative dialogue choices.
Description: Make your target an ally for a short time. Your new ally will also do more damage with its attacks.
Our thoughts: Can be useful when fighting against large groups, and rather fun to play around with, but it's obviously useless against boss enemies and other solitary foes.
- Axii Intensity
Description: Increases the effectiveness of axii.
Our thoughts: Can't go wrong if you're always using axii to gain a bit of control over a battle.
Description: You can now take control of two enemies at the same time, but the effects are weakened.
Our thoughts: Perhaps a bit too specific in the sense that this skill is only useful against large groups of foes. It can completely turn the tide of a skirmish against a load of bandits, but generally speaking, you'll rarely be able to make good use of Domination.
These skills improve your alchemical knowledge, making your concoctions more effective in and out of battle. If you rely on your potions, or use them often to supplement your other abilities, then you may want to spend a few points here.
Brewing Skill Line
These skills bolster the effectiveness of your brewed Witcher potions.
- Heightened Tolerance
Description: Increases your potion overdose threshold, allowing you to drink more before you're in danger.
Our thoughts: May be a worthy investment if you're always worried about drinking too many potions. Usefulness is very dependant on how often you tend to use potions.
Description: Each potion that you drink restores a portion of your health.
Our thoughts: A very useful skill if you're drinking a lot of potions anyway. Instant healing is always a big plus in tougher fights.
- Delayed Reaction
Description: The effects of your potions don't wear off until your toxicity level falls below a certain amount.
Our thoughts: Very useful if you're constantly chugging potions – you can potentially keep your potion's effects around as long as you want provided you can keep within the toxicity range, but that's a tall order in most cases.
- Side Effects
Description: Using a potion gives you a chance of activating the effects of another randomly-selected potion. If it does activate, there's no impact on your toxicity level from the extra effects.
Our thoughts: A risky venture that could pay off massively if the right randomised potion is selected. Only invest if you drink a lot of potions and fancy your chances.
Oil Preparation Line
These skills add bonuses to the oils that you apply to your blades.
- Poisoned Blades
Description: With an oiled sword, each attack now has a chance to poison your enemy.
Our thoughts: A good way to do some extra damage to your foes, and worthy of consideration if you use a lot of oils.
- Protective Coating
Description: Provides additional protection against attacks from enemies that are weak to your currently applied oil.
Our thoughts: A decent defensive measure against specific enemies that you've brewed oil for. Makes the fight that much easier.
Description: Oils last longer before they wear off.
Our thoughts: If you're an oil enthusiast, you can't go wrong with this skill. More attacks before your oil wears off can't be a bad thing.
- Hunter Instinct
Description: When you adrenaline points are at maximum, you have more chance to perform critical hits against enemies that are weak to your current oil type.
Our thoughts: Against specific enemies that you've created the oil for in the first place, this skill could be their death knell, but you do need to preserve your adrenaline points.
Bomb Creation Line
These skills enhance the effectiveness of your bombs.
- Steady Aim
Description: Further slows time when you're throwing a bomb.
Our thoughts: For bomb enthusiasts only, and only then if you're having trouble hitting things.
Description: Bombs that don't usually inflict damage now cause damage along with their existing effects.
Our thoughts: A nice bonus if you find yourself using different types of bombs a lot, but not much more.
Description: You can carry more bombs in each inventory slot.
Our thoughts: A simple skill; if you use bombs a lot, then this is sure to come in handy.
- Cluster Bombs
Description: Bombs explode into damaging fragments.
Our thoughts: A decent bonus if you're using a lot of bombs, but that's about it.
These skills generally provide bonuses to your equipped mutagens and decoctions.
- Acquired Tolerance
Description: For every alchemy formula that you know, your maximum toxicity level increases.
Our thoughts: Could prove very useful for those who drink a lot of potions, but its potential will only be revealed to those who have come across many formulae in their travels.
- Tissue Transmutation
Description: Mutagen decoctions also increase your maximum health until they wear off.
Our thoughts: A good way to bolster your survivability if you usually make use of decoctions, but requires a lot of investment to be truly worthwhile.
Description: Increases the statistic bonuses of equipped mutagens
Our thoughts: A skill that's great for bolstering your mutagen stat boosts further, but you'll need specialised character builds to get the most out of it.
Description: Makes all decoctions last longer.
Our thoughts: Can't go wrong with this skill if you're popping plenty of decoctions.
Trial of the Grasses Line
These skills grant bonuses that are dependant on your toxicity level.
Description: When you toxicity level is above zero, time will slow when an enemy is about to perform a counterattack.
Our thoughts: Slowing time is always going to be useful, and if you drink a lot of potions, then this is the perfect fit.
- Endure Pain
Description: Maximum health increases when your toxicity level goes beyond the safe threshold.
Our thoughts: You're already dicing with death if your toxicity level is too high, but this could prove useful against tougher enemies. A very specialised skill not for the faint of heart.
- Fast Metabolism
Description: Your toxicity level decreases faster
Our thoughts: A specialised skill that assumes you're not using a heightened toxicity level to your benefit. If you drink a lot of potions and don't make use of any skills that activate when your toxicity level is high, then this will make it easier to stay within the safety threshold.
- Killing Spree
Description: When your toxicity level is above zero, every enemy that you kill increases your chances of getting a critical hit.
Our thoughts: If you already have skills that give you a better chance of critical hits, this could be the icing on the cake, but the drawback is that you need to be fighting groups of enemies to make the most of it.
These skills are general, passive bonuses. Each of them only requires one skill point to reach maximum effectiveness.
- Sun and Stars
Description: Your health regenerates faster during the day when you're not in combat, and your stamina recovers faster at night when you're in combat.
Our thoughts: A nice bonus skill if you've got a spare point. Better health regeneration means that you won't have to consume as many items after a fight, while better stamina recovery means you can make more frequent use of signs during moonlit battles.
- Survival Instinct
Description: Boosts your health by 500 points.
Our thoughts: As simple as skills come. More health is never a bad thing, so it's worth a shot if you have a spare skill point.
- Cat School Techniques
Description: For every piece of light armour that you have equipped, your critical hits do 25 per cent more damage, and the damage of your fast attacks is increased by 5 per cent.
Our thoughts: A late game skill, perhaps, when you've found a full set of effective light armour. The bonuses that this skill provides are worth the investment if you've got the right gear.
- Griffin School Techniques
Description: For every piece of medium armour that you have equipped, signs are 5 per cent more effective, and stamina regenerates 5 per cent faster.
Our thoughts: A late game skill, perhaps, when you've found a full set of effective medium armour. The bonuses that this skill provides are worth the investment if you've got the right gear.
- Bear School Techniques
Description: For every piece of heavy armour that you have equipped, your maximum health increases by 5 per cent, and the damage of your strong attacks is increased by 5 per cent.
Our thoughts: A late game skill, perhaps, when you've found a full set of effective heavy armour. The bonuses that this skill provides are worth the investment if you've got the right gear.
- Steady Shot
Description: Crossbow bolts deal 25 per cent more damage.
Our thoughts: If you're a crossbow fan, this is an obvious choice. You can't go wrong with more damage.
- Rage Management
Description: If you don't have enough stamina to cast signs, you'll use adrenaline points instead.
Our thoughts: Very, very handy if you're in desperate need of a specific sign and your stamina hasn't recovered. Works best for those who don't tend to use their adrenaline points for much else.
- Adrenaline Burst
Description: Increases how quickly you gain adrenaline points. On top of that, signs now also generate adrenaline points.
Our thoughts: A must if you use adrenaline points a lot.
Description: Adrenaline points increase your damage from your swordplay and your signs.
Our thoughts: Can't go wrong with this skill, especially if you hardly use your adrenaline points. Bonus damage is never to be sniffed at, particularly when it's this easy to come by.
- Metabolic Control
Description: Increases your maximum toxicity level by 30 points.
Our thoughts: An obvious choice if you drink a lot of potions and don't want to fall down dead quite so easily.
What are your best skills in The Witcher 3? Check out our other The Witcher 3 guides and then spend some skill points in the comments section below.