Among the plethora of fantasy role-playing games (RPG), there is one that you must play in order to call yourself a true RPG gamer: Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
The story revolves around a magical medieval factotum (a witcher) named Geralt of Rivia who is hired by the ruthless and calculating Nilfgaardian emperor, Emhyr var Emreis (voiced by Game of Thrones’s Tywin Lannister, Charles Dance) to find his missing daughter, Cirilla (also known as Ciri), who is being relentlessly pursued by an extraterrestrial elven horde (called the Wild Hunt) who aims to use her secret power for world domination.
Your typical RPG makes you go through tedious and predictable side quests to level up, interact with forgettable non-playable characters (NPCs) for information, watch long and boring cutscenes, laboriously scavenge for loot boxes containing subpar items, and recklessly and unethically destroy your enemies.
Fortunately, Witcher 3: Wild Hunt avoids all these RPG tropes.
First, the side quests are surprisingly as interesting as the main quests. Each secondary mission is unique and never makes you feel that you’re constantly doing the same thing. Your tasks will range from having to deal with menacing monsters, to lifting a dreadful curse afflicted on a single person to a whole village, to carefully negotiating with captors for them to release their hostages, and to even playing the game’s very own card game, Gwent, for a large amount of in-game money.
Second, the NPCs are captivating, multi-layered and memorable. They appear to be simple in the beginning but then become more complex as the game gradually reveals their hidden agendas, sorrowful backstories and dark secrets. Every time they’re on-screen, you never feel the urge to skip the cutscene because they capture and sustain your attention through their unique personalities, witty remarks and moving speeches. More importantly, you begin to sympathise for them as you realise that, despite their scheming, swindling and back-stabbing (both figuratively and literally), they are either doing it to merely survive in a cruel and merciless world that has unfairly hurt them, to protect their loved ones or for the greater good. Not surprisingly, this makes them interesting morally grey characters who you sometimes find yourself siding with or going against.
Last, despite having to face beasts, spectres and criminals in this game, Witcher 3: Wild Hunt teaches you to not immediately judge your enemies and to not make rash decisions. Instead, you should try to find out why your supposed adversaries are acting in a hostile manner, calmly assess the situation and then carefully think of a solution. There are moments when you discover that your enemy’s violence is a result of a traumatic experience or a horrible injustice done to them, which then motivates you to help them and completely abandon your original objective of eliminating them. In fact, there are times when you can easily solve a problem just by talking, which is much more fulfilling because you avoid unnecessary bloodshed, prevent yourself from gaining a bad reputation as a cold-hearted killer and your target even becomes an ally who will help you in the future. Of course, some difficult situations put you in a position where the only option is for you to fight, but the game generally encourages you to always try and diplomatically solve your issues. It even gives this aspect of careful thinking and diplomacy more importance by making your actions and decisions have significant repercussions that can determine the fate of characters, a kingdom and the whole world. More simply, you need to think carefully in certain situations because your actions and decisions can tip the scales of life and death. ***No joke, there was one moment in the game that was so morally challenging that I had to take a week to think about it before I made a decision.***
Admittedly, Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is not without its faults as it does have weird glitches, forced plot devices and anti-climactic boss battles. However, its strengths strongly outweigh its weaknesses and therefore you should definitely play it.
By the time you’ve finished the game, you’ll feel like you’ve completed an arduous journey as you recall your fun, yet difficult, emotional and morally-challenging situations, experiences and choices, only to wish that you could do it all over again with a fresh mind like when you first started.