Role-playing games (RPGs) are among the most popular video games out there. Part of their enduring appeal – they trace their roots back to role-playing using pen and paper – is the immersive nature of the gameplay and setting. Intricately defined characters in a precisely detailed world allow for a strong, narrative-driven experience, and the storylines provide much of the entertainment.
RPGs are usually thought of as slower than other types of video games, and while it's true that they make more extensive use of cutscenes and other non-interactive content, in recent years many titles feature notably more action. Take an example of superstars in the gaming world such as Fallout New Vegas and Skyrim: The Elder Scrolls, or an upcoming Cyberpunk 2077. And still counting. Many of these games not only have quests you will crack your brains about located all over the planet (whichever one that’ll be), but also feature mini-games such as card or dice games where you can even spare or win your in-game currency. Famous examples are Gwent from Witcher (which also has a stand-alone version) or 12 Men’s Morris in Assassin’s Creed 3. These are really nice add-ons that bring a bit of spice to a game.
What’s more, online gaming has also widened the appeal of RPGs, with players able to interact with other users all over the world.
One of the most successful RPG franchises is The Witcher. Comprising three main games (and some spinoffs), and providing the inspiration for a Netflix series, it has captivated players since 2007. But is the third installment, The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, actually the best game ever? It’s a bold claim, so let’s look at some reasons why.
The first installment in the video game series (based on a series of fantasy novels by Andrzej Sapkowski) is The Witcher, where players control the protagonist Geralt of Rivia, a monster hunter or witcher, who is a human with genetically enhanced, supernatural powers. He has been trained from birth to slay monsters and offers his services for money across the unnamed continent. However, he has amnesia at the beginning of the game, possibly to reboot the storyline completed by the novels.
Players can choose from three paths – the first two are alliances with continental populations, the third to go alone as a neutral witcher. The game proved popular upon release in 2007, especially for its moral ambiguity – players are forced to make decisions that may not have repercussions immediately, and, unlike many RPG fantasies, the game does not have a black-and-white moral code.
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
The second game in The Witcher series was released in 2011, and although the setting and protagonist were familiar, there were some departures from the original. More complex combat gameplay was introduced, with Geralt of Rivia now able to lay traps for monsters and enemies, and throw weapons. Drawing heavily from Polish history and Slavic mythology, the game picked up several end of year awards, such as best graphics, best storyline, and best RPG.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The third installment of the Witcher series takes things to a whole new level. You still play as Geralt, but now there are new angles to the game beyond monster-slaying – you are questing to find your adopted daughter who is on the run from the Wild Hunt, an otherworldly force.
There are side quests and mini-missions throughout the open world, and Geralt can have romantic relationships, solve quests, or gamble in a fast-paced card game called Gwent, which provides a little bit of respite between battling and slaying mythical creatures. Since it’s a great way to earn some Witcher cash while taking a break from the main gameplay, Gwent is many players’ favorite part of the game. It can also be especially inviting to poker fans due to its resemblance to the real game.
The Witcher 3 also includes a high-stakes Gwent tournament quest in Novigrad, which can get pretty exciting for the passionate gamers especially in hard mode. In actual casino high-stakes games you can be lent a helping hand that could benefit your performance considering the amount of money you are investing to play in the first place. These can include different kinds of bonuses, offered by operators to attract new players and as a form of appreciation to the loyal ones.
But contrary to the real gambling experience, in Gwent, you’re almost required to give your all and play hard, without any help. On reddit.com you can see many fans questioning if it’s even possible to win at this game. But this doesn’t mean you are destined to only have a rough time playing. This CAN be quite a challenge, but nothing that would be a stumbling block to a true Witcher fan.
What’s more, Witcher has 36 possible endings, depending on the choices Geralt makes throughout the game. And by visiting a town’s noticeboard, players can pick up freelance monster-slaying work to earn experience points, and treasure hunt quests to pick up better armor or equipment.
Is it the best game ever?
Critically acclaimed upon release, drawing in whole legions of new fans, and spawning a Netflix series, it has even led to speculation that The Witcher 3 is ‘objectively’ the best game ever.
The storyline is just as compelling as the top RPG games in history, that’s for sure. But the open-world setting is so vast, intricate, and immersive that you can play for hundreds of hours without having explored all its possibilities. And it is that rich that you can enjoy the game without even going near the missions (although you will want to, because they are perfectly paced, gripping, and challenging). It also works as a stand-alone game, no need to play through the first and second games in the series.
If you did want a primer to get you ready for the world of The Witcher, watching the Netflix series, released in 2019 (and scheduled for a second season in 2021) will tell you all you need to know and whet your appetite for the game. You’ll learn about the major characters, their characteristics and back story, and get a feel for the geography of the game.
It’s really impossible to say what the best game ever is. What we can say without a doubt is that The Witcher 3 is among the greatest RPGs of its era, and with its combination of compelling narrative and mind-blowing graphics, it sets the bar extremely high.