The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is an absolutely massive game. CD Projekt Red has done an amazing job of creating a virtual world that isn't just big, but feels real. The inhabitants don't just meander about; they all have something to do. Quests don't just end when you've killed all the bad guys; there are major consequences for each outcome. Monsters aren't just roaming piles of experience points; instead, they're vicious, dangerous animals that always pose a threat.
While all of that manages to evoke the feeling of a beautiful, breathing world, it also makes The Witcher 3 infinitely more complex. The game does a good job of explaining itself most of the time, but some of the finer points can get lost in the shuffle. It's definitely worth it, as the game wouldn't be nearly as fun without its epic scale, but beginners may have a bit more trouble getting into it than usual.
That's why we've put together this beginners guide: there's a lot to see and do in the world of The Witcher 3, and it can be a bit overwhelming. If you're having trouble dealing with packs of Drowners or can't figure out why a quest won't start, this guide is for you.
Don't Play On The 'Blood And Broken Bones' Difficulty
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is not an easy game. Anyone hopping into the game for the first time will want to stick to the Normal difficulty option - otherwise, expect to see the loading screen every few minutes.
Not only does The Witcher 3 refuse to hold your hand, but on the 'Blood and Broken Bones' difficulty setting, each and every single enemy is a legitimate threat. Even a pack of simple Ghouls will drain your health in seconds, and unless you're saving the game every 15 steps, you're bound to lose some progress.
For longtime RPG fans, or for those who are just finishing up The Witcher 2, the game's higher difficulties shouldn't be too big of a challenge. For newcomers, however, 'Blood and Broken Bones' will likely lead to more frustration than anything else. Stay on 'Normal' until you're confident in your skills - unlike most games, you can bump the difficulty up at any time if the game's starting to feel too easy, so don't be afraid to tweak it as you go along.
When It Comes To Combat, Take Your Time
With games like Bloodborne, players are expected to attack enemies as quickly and frequently as possible. In The Witcher 3, that's just not going to work: when in combat, make sure to take your time.
The Witcher 3′s combat is vastly different from most action games out there: it's not so much about mashing buttons as it is carefully planning and executing your attacks. There are a lot of different combat options right out of the gate, so you're bound to go through some trial and error - just make sure that you're not trying to mindlessly wail away on a single enemy, or you'll spend more time respawning than exploring.
Instead of button mashing, take the time to learn your enemy's tells and how to counter them, and always make sure to test out spells on new enemies - some elemental weaknesses aren't quite as obvious as others. Bombs and oils don't appear until later in the game (save for the opening tutorial) so spend your opening hours mastering the parry system, your spells and ranged attacks - it'll be an immense help once the game really gets going.
Read Absolutely Everything
There's a lot of dialogue in The Witcher 3, and it's all well-done...that being said, there's also a lot to read. Every time you pick up a book or journal, make sure to pop into your inventory and read it as soon as possible.
As previously stated, The Witcher 3 doesn't hold your hand. There's a lot of information tucked away in the game's books and journals - and it's not just extra story tidbits, either.
While some missions may tell you to read through a journal, there are some quests that won't even begin until you take a look through that burnt-up old book - and the game doesn't tell you which ones hold quests. It may sound obnoxious, but the game does a good job of organizing the important materials from the extraneous ones, and the journals really aren't all that long. Plus, there are some fantastic rewards for those who take the time to peruse all of the game's written material.
Finish Your Side-Quests
Most RPGs offer up a few side objectives for players to tackle, though most don't really have much of an impact on the game. The Witcher 3 is the exact opposite: there are tons of side-quests, and all of them are worth playing through till the end.
Have you ever plowed through a side-quest in a game, only to find out that the hours and hours of grinding simply weren't worth the effort? Yeah, The Witcher 3 doesn't do that.
Yes, The Witcher 3′s side-quests offer up all sorts of valuable gear and supplies for those who take the time to complete them. In fact, it's enough to swing the advantage in your favor: even in the game's first zone, there are some rewards tucked away that'll make Geralt a much more powerful fighter. If you're having trouble making it through the game's main quest, just take a break and do some exploring.
However, loot's not the only reason to finish off the game's side-quests. In The Witcher 3, each and every interaction can have major consequences, and that holds true for the side-quests. For example: will you turn the arsonist in, or will you let him escape so long as he promises to follow the laws? It may seem like a no-brainer at first, but there are serious consequences for both outcomes - seeing how your actions impact the world is reason enough to complete the game's side activities.
Familiarize Yourself With The Map And Explore Everything
There's a lot of ground to cover in The Witcher 3, and it might be tempting to ignore all of the side areas and blaze through the main story quests. Don't do that.
Remember how we said that some side-quests can't be started without reading documents? Well, that was only the tip of the iceberg: if you don't venture off the beaten path, you're likely to miss a lot of what the game has to offer...and there is a lot to miss.
A good place to start is each town's message board: collecting notices will generate Points of Interest on your map, and each of these locations has something for Geralt to do. Sometimes, these points are nothing more than a small bandit camp or a monster nest: other times, however, they're far more interesting. You may stumble upon the remains of a royal spy, or find an abandoned village, or walk right into a trap - either way, the rewards are always worth it.
Again, these side-quests can vastly change both how you play through the game and how the world reacts to you - without exploring, you'll miss the vast majority of what the game has to offer. So, if there's a blank spot on your map, go explore. You never know, there might be something out there waiting for you.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is an absolute beast of a game, and one that can be daunting for those who've never played anything like it. That's not to say the game's not worth playing - to pass it up would mean missing out on one of the most immersive RPGs in recent memory - but it might take a little getting used to.
Now, get out there and get exploring: The Witcher 3 isn't going to finish itself!
For more on The Witcher 3, check out our Alchemy Guide.