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Hello. My name is Ewan, and I am completely and utterly unable to stop playing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
For the last six years, CD Projekt RED's RPG masterpiece has been a part of me, never far from reach. It's very much a security blanket to me in the same way I assume actual blankets are to small children, and bucket hats are to people who become unbearable to talk to after one pint of Strongbow Dark Fruits. I first picked up the game in 2015 for PlayStation 4, knowing very little about what to expect beyond the fact that it was an open-world fantasy adventure - exactly what I was after at that moment in time.
Take a look at Skellige in all its glory below!
It took a while to click. The Witcher 3's introductory hours are slow, laden with dialogue and references to characters, places, and adventures I had never been privy to. I persevered, adjusted to the game's pace, and soon became engrossed. Never in my life had I experienced an adventure so massive and packed with detail. The writing and performances in The Witcher 3 are absolutely next-level. Whether it's a part of the game's gripping main adventure, or one of its many, many side quests scattered throughout the gorgeous open world, you're guaranteed a level of quality that the vast majority of other open-world adventures before and since have never quite been able to match up to - at least as far as their optional missions and diversions are concerned.
Over the course of my first playthrough of The Witcher 3, I was pretty much fully obsessed with driving the main story forward, much to the detriment of some of the game's best content. Still, that first run through the game will always be a special one to me. Finding Ciri and realising the adventure was far from over. The battle of Kaer Morhen. Everything and anything involving the Bloody Baron. Exquisite writing, complicated characters, and truly memorable performances that really show the sort of stories video games can tell, and the impact they can have in a way no TV show or movie ever could.
A second playthrough on my PlayStation 4 came not long after, and this time I resolved to take my time. I was truly blown away by the quality of the quests I'd missed in my initial haste to find Ciri. Suddenly I was chasing down a serial killer through the grimy streets of Novigrad, hunting werewolves, and getting to the bottom of a grisly massacre in a long-abandoned tower. Each adventure felt like an entire game in its own right, introducing fully realised new characters, mysteries, and agonising decisions that could come back to haunt Geralt in all manner of unexpected ways.
The third and fourth times I played through The Witcher 3 gifted me new ways to fall further in love with the game. The third time I picked up the game again because I wanted to see how it looked running at 60fps on Xbox Series S (amazing). The fourth time was because the game had finally arrived on Nintendo Switch, and while I didn't expect to be blown away by the visuals, I couldn't turn down the promise of one of my favourite games on a handheld device.
In both instances, I still managed to find new quests, secrets, and hidden dangers. All of this on top of the excellent Hearts Of Stone and Blood And Wine expansions, which built on everything that made The Witcher 3 such a special game in the first place. During these playthroughs, I also developed a real appreciation of the game's open world.
It's not that I hadn't realised The Witcher 3 was a beautiful game, obviously, but I'd never really clocked just how thoroughly packed with stuff the world was, especially relative to its formidable size. From the war torn wastes of Velen to the craggy peaks of Skellige, it's pretty much impossible to steer Geralt from A to B without bumping into a few dozen diversions.
Whether it's a monster nest, hidden, treasure, or even just a truly massive monster that's capable of tearing Geralt apart in just a few hits, CD Projekt RED crafted a world with a real sense of place. Of history. Part of that comes from the advantage of being based on a series of long running fantasy novels, yes, but much of it comes from the fact that CDPR put everything it had into making this world feel truly alive, and ensuring that no two points of interest ever quite felt the same.
To this day, as I idly play through The Witcher 3 for a fifth time (once again on Switch), I'm stunned by just how much new stuff I'm still finding. There are plenty of things about The Witcher 3 that I believe are fair game in terms of criticism - its combat is absolutely an acquired taste for example - but I'll not hear a bad word said about its meticulously crafted open world, or the many, many stories waiting to be discovered within it.
As I stand ready to dive into the enhanced next-gen version of the game on PlayStation 5, I realise that there's never been a game of this size that I have played through quite so many times. I'll make my way through old favourites like Pokémon Gold and Super Mario World at least once a year, but sinking over 350 hours into the same RPG across five (soon to be six) separate playthroughs on three separate consoles? I never thought I was that guy. Six years on from release, I'm still completely and utterly unable to stop playing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. And I couldn't be happier about it.
Featured Image Credit: CD Projekt RED
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