It's as simple as the headline makes it seem: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is something special. Although we're not quite ready to forge our final opinion on the game, we've put together this relatively quick impressions piece for you, and hopefully, it'll give you a decent idea of what to expect from CD Projekt Red's open world epic.

First off, let's just confirm that the game's world is incredibly large. Vast, open fields, woodland that seems to stretch on for miles at a time, and deserted, bloodstained battlefields make up a bulk of the environment – but the most impressive part is how rich it all seems. For a map of this size, the detail that the developer's crammed into each location is staggering at times, making the land a joy to explore. In that sense, it's very much following in Bethesda's footsteps, and what the studio has achieved with its The Elder Scrolls series.

White Orchard[1]

Adding to the already tangible world is a dynamic weather system, alongside an impressive day and night cycle. Atmosphere can be difficult to fully convey in video games, but The Witcher 3 makes it look ridiculously easy. Traipsing around a forest at night as the moon shines through the trees, hunting down a pack of wolves – or perhaps something a little more mythical –is as engrossing as taking a stroll through a bustling city street. No matter what you're doing or where you are, Geralt's adventure seems to be able to pull you in with a whisper, if that.

As such, it's not really a role-playing game that you can switch off to. Combat can be utterly brutal, and the wilderness is teeming with beasts just waiting to tear you limb from limb. The almost constant sense of danger forces you to remain aware of your surroundings, but make no mistake – sitting on the edge of your seat, carefully listening to you surroundings, and running away from fights with a slither of health left is what makes the release so gripping. Whether or not our feelings on this change as we continue to spend time with the game, we can't say, but it's certainly looking promising right now.

Kaer Morhen[1]

Speaking of combat, the whole system's neat, tidy, and intense. On the harder difficulties, it's a little bit reminiscent of Bloodborne: if you make one wrong move, you're probably dead, or at least edging dangerously close to the end. The difference here is that you can't just swig a potion to restore your health, as healing – whether natural or accelerated through the use of a tincture – happens over time. True to the franchise, The Witcher 3 emphasises the importance of preparing yourself before a battle's even begun. Tainting your blade with oils, drinking powerful potions, or equipping specialised gear are all important factors in ensuring that you walk away from a fight in one piece.

But if all of that sounds like too much of a hassle, have no fear: the title's easy and normal difficulties appear to offer a nicer balance for those who maybe don't have the patience to brew countless concoctions or gather raw materials for crafting. You'll still need to rely on timely dodge rolls and careful sidesteps, and going up against creatures above your current level is still going to be a challenge, but you won't necessarily have to make use of every possible tool and option available to you.


So far, we've described what is essentially a pretty good open world game, but The Witcher 3 is much more than that. Laying something of a path for you through the gargantuan map is an overarching narrative that's filled with player choice. The story is implemented thoughtfully, as it allows you the space to breathe between each plot point, to get back out into the wild and hunt some monsters. That said, the story's pretty lengthy, but from what we've played so far, it's rather well paced.

Weaving a narrative into an open world game is never easy. Dragon Age: Inquisition handled the task really well overall, but it still felt like there was a touch too much filler in between each story-driven scenario. This simply isn't the case here, because even the side stories that you'll stumble across as you travel are fully voice acted, complete with cutscenes and usually a moral choice or two. As a result, nothing that you take part in feels like it's inconsequential. Again, it's all about adding to that incredible atmosphere that we mentioned before.

We're impressed, then, and in truth, we're eager to finish this feature off and get back to our fantastical journey. The Witcher 3's world is both inviting and somewhat frightening, and that's the beauty of it. The detail is rich, the atmosphere is astounding at times, and the the gameplay is rock solid. This is usually where we warn of a title's potential flaws, but to be honest, nothing springs to mind.

You can read our full and final thoughts on The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt in our review, which will be published before the game is released on the 19th May. Are you excited to jump into Geralt's boots, or are you cautious of the snake-eyed monster slayer? Treat the comments section like a countryside tavern below.