CD Projekt Red’s newest RPG, The Witcher 3, is the third game in the trilogy following the adventures of Geralt of Rivia, a “witcher”. Witchers are mutant monster hunters for hire, who travel the world seeking monsters to kill, mysteries and murders to solve and people looking for help – but witchers are not some knights of good; they work for hard coin. They also try to stay neutral to the politics of the world, but in these games, you will have the choice as a player to stay neutral or pick sides.
The game series is based on Andrzej Sapkowski’s Polish books series, Wiedzmin, which is a quite popular series thanks in no small part to these games. Many books are translated into English if you wish to read them, but although reading them is recommended before playing the games, it is in no way necessary.
The Witcher 3, in contrast to the previous two games, is an open-world RPG. There is always the main story to follow, but you can freely roam the two main areas of the game (Velen/Novigrad and the Skellige Isles after you paid a captain to go there) after a certain point in the story.
The game features many side-quests and explorable locations; the former include Witcher contracts to kill various monsters, and many mysteries to solve, treasure to find, items and crafting recipes to obtain. Many times you will have to make hard choices with only a few pieces of information available, and you will rarely see immediate consequences of your choices.
In The Witcher 3, Geralt is ordered by Emperor Emhyr of Nilfgaard to find his would-be princess, Ciri, who happens to be Geralt’s adopted daughter. Thus for the most part of the game, the main quest will lead you around the regions of Velen, Novigrad and Skellige in search of Ciri. As you progress, her story slowly unfolds, and you will get a few short sessions in which you control Ciri and utilize her special abilities in several scenes.
Starting a new game
Some choices of The Witcher 2 can be imported into the third game. The method of this is in the following sequence that happens when starting a new game. It will ask you a few things before the game launches.
- Difficulty settings: These mainly affect combat difficulty, and how hard monsters hit Geralt. Just the Story!, and Story and Sword are the two easier ones; when you meditate, health will regenerate fully. But in the other two, Blood and Broken Bones, and Death March, your health will need to be manually regenerated by using food, potions or the Sun and Stars passive skill. Difficulty can be changed at any time later, and in contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t affect experience gain in any way.
- Tutorials on/off: this governs whether pop-up tutorials will appear or not during the early parts of the game.
- Simulate The Witcher 2 save: If you choose Yes here, then when you arrive in the Royal Palace in Vizima (around 3-10 hours after starting the game, depending on how long do you keep playing in White Orchard), the envoy there will ask you a few questions relating to choices you made in The Witcher 2. In this way you can pick any choices you want quickly, without having to actually play the second game. If you choose No, then a default world state will be applied to the game. If you have a The Witcher 2 save file on your machine, the Import Save option will appear as a third.
It is recommended to play The Witcher 2 before starting the third game, as some of these choices mentioned below are quite substantial in that game.
WARNING: The Witcher 2 spoilers below, please skip the next numbered list if you haven’t played the second game and don’t want to be spoiled!
- Saving Ayran La Vellete, his mother will be kind or angry towards you.
- Roche/Ioverth, you get into a fistfight with the guard when you first enter Roche’s hideout.
- Saving Triss or helping Roche/Ioverth, this doesn’t have any real effect.
- Sile, she makes a 1 min appearance very late in the game if you saved her in The Witcher 2.
- Letho, if you killed him you don’t get to do his side quest in the third game.
Most of the choices, other than the five mentioned above, have no effect on the world of The Witcher 3, but nevertheless, we really recommend you to play the second for full enjoyment of the third entry.
Interface and gameplay of The Witcher 3
This is what you’ll be seeing the most when playing The Witcher 3. Most of the interface you see is in the corners, but you can go into the Options menu, and scale it by moving the UI’s borders around if you want the elements to be closer to the middle. The most important UI elements, and the gameplay mechanics that correspond to them, are the following going clockwise from the top left:
- White XP bar: shows your progress toward the next level. Kill monsters and complete quests to gain experience.
- Red health bar: your health. If it falls to zero, you die. In addition, if you are poisoned by monsters or your own potions, it will turn into a green-ish color; your Health will likely deplete at this point if you do not counter it with food or decoctions.
- To the right of the health bar, effects will appear if you have them; poisoning, enhanced armor or weapons, decoctions and potions all appear to the right of it along with their timers.
- The small bar with the skull-like icon just below the health bar is your Toxicity. Witcher potions are highly poisonous, and as you consume more and more of these over a short time, you will get more intoxicated. At around 80% full Toxicity meter, you will begin to drop health quickly.
- The curved yellow bar shows your Stamina, which is used for strong attacks, the five Signs (magical spell-like effects) and for sprinting.
- The three curved lines just below the stamina meter are your Adrenaline points; you gain this by attacking enemies, and lose it by taking damage. Adrenaline increases your melee damage, and with a passive skill, can increase Sign intensity too, making those more effective.
- Top right are the Minimap showing your immediate surroundings, the time of day/weather indicator, and the distance to next quest object (yellow) and personal waypoint (green). Weather affects some skills and Signs, depending on how you build Geralt with the available skill points.
- Just below the minimap is the Quest tracker, which shows one tracked quest; you can change the actively shown one in the Journal.
- In the lower right corner, you see the context-sensitive control help, which changes according to whether you’re o nhorseback, in a ship, on foot, or near people / interactable objects etc.
- In the lower left corner, you see the two selected potions and the Item Slot, which can contain a bomb/quest item/crossbow. There are quick keys for these, and there is also an in-game menu for changing Items mid-combat.
Minimum and recommended system requirements for PC
Minimum System Requirements
- CPU: Intel Core i5-2500K 3.3GHz or AMD Phenom II X4 940
- GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660
- RAM: 6GB
- OS: 64-bit Windows 7 or 64-bit Windows 8 (8.1)
- HDD Space: 40 GB
- DirectX 11
Recommended System Requirements
- CPU: Intel Core i7 3770 3.4 GHz or AMD AMD FX-8350 4.0 GHz
- GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770
- RAM: 8GB
- OS: 64-bit Windows 7 or 64-bit Windows 8 (8.1)
- HDD Space: 40 GB
- DirectX 11
The Minimum system requirements shown here (from official source) are adequate to run the game with a constant 30 FPS on the lowest settings. This means that PCs with lesser specs can run the game, albeit a bit poorly.
Basics of Alchemy
Witchers use various potions and decoctions to aid them in battle and give them even more enhanced capabilities, thus alchemy plays a huge role for them. Recipes for alchemy can be found in crates across the world and bought from herbalists. Potions and bombs have three levels of effectiveness: basic, Enhanced and Superior, with the latter two requiring you to have created the previous tier potion or bomb.
Unlike armor and weapon crafting, you can brew potions, decoctions and make alchemy ingredients and bombs anywhere in the world without the need for a craftsman. Also, unlike the previous games, potions and boms only need to be made once; to refill them, you need to have at least one Alcohest or White Gull in your inventory. When you meditate, one of these is consumed, refilling all bombs, potions and decoctions. When you upgrade potions and bombs, you gain more uses per meditation. Here is a more detailed description of products created by Alchemy.
- Potions: short-term (from 20-30 seconds to 3-4 minutes) benefit: these items briefly enhance your ability to partake in combat, heal your for a portion of your health or grant similar other effects. Adds some Toxicity, which will slowly start to dissipate the second you drink the potion.
- Decoctions: these provide beneficial effects for a longer time (half an hour or so), and can only be used once per rest. Most of these have a high Toxicity which doesn’t reduce at all while the effect is up, so you’ll most likely only be able to use 2-3 at once if you don’t want to use any potions in addition to them.
- Bombs: these go into the Items slot. You can throw these bombs at opponents for various effects, such as freezing them, preventing them from using magic, and making them explode. Most monsters have weaknesses against various bombs; look them up in the Bestiary for more info. For example, Wraiths are severely weakened by the Moon Dust bomb.
- Alchemical components: these are used in various Superior-level recipes.
- Alcohol: Alcohest and White Gull, used in various Enhanced and Superior-level recipes and to refill your bombs/potions when meditating.
- Oils: you can put these on your weapons to increase damage against specific kinds of monsters. Oils are infinite, they don’t need to be refilled, but they only last for around 30-40 hits.
TIP: When visiting a Herbalist, note that you can switch back and forth between the shop interface and your Alchemy panel without leaving the NPC. Use this to your advantage to quickly check out what ingredients you need, and also to craft the items!
Basics of Crafting
Crafting plays a very important role in The Witcher 3. There are several treasure hunt missions concerning Witcher gear sets (Cat, Bear, Griffin and with the new DLC, Wolf) which can be obtained and then upgraded in three steps as you progress through the game. Geralt is not a master smith, so he needs smiths to make weapons and armor for him. There are two types: Armorer and Blacksmith. To make matters more complicated, recipes also have proficiency requirements, consisting of three tiers: Amateur, Journeyman and Master, the latter of which will need to be unlocked via two quests (one for armor and one for weapons).
To obtain various materials for these items, you’ll need to collect them from lots of sources and salvage other items. You’ll need to visit any smith for the Salvage option to be available, where you can break down many items into their components.
Crafting recipes can be found in many places in the wild, and bought from various vendors. The treasure hunt quests under the Treasure Hunt specific category always involve hunting for sets of Witcher gear. To initiate these missions, you’ll need to buy map pieces from various smiths, so always be on the lookout for these items!
Gwent is a mini-game in The Witcher 3, replacing the dice poker from the 2nd game. This card game is a full-fledged, albeit simple one, akin to the real-life trading card games like Magic. Many people in the Northern Kingdoms play Gwent, and Geralt will have the chance of playing with most innkeepers and various more famous people. You are introduced to the game first in White Orchard, at the inn, and it is there that you’ll get your first few cards. Cards can be earned in two ways.
- Buy them from vendors, usually innkeepers
- Win them from people by beating them in Gwent
The basic rules of Gwent:
The two players take turns in placing cards on the field. The goal is to have a higher Attack score (shown on the left) than your opponent when both of you pass. Winner is declared by 2 out of 3 rounds, but hands are carried over between rounds. Thus it is very important to have enough cards to keep playing in all three rounds (if you don’t win the first two).
There are several types of cards in Gwent, which are the following:
- Unit cards: three types of these, siege, archer and melee.
- Hero cards: same as above, but Hero cards are much stronger and other cards, such as Decoy, Scorch etc. do not affect them.
- Weather cards: these affect any given row for BOTH players (ex: Biting Frost: all melee units except Heroes have their attack reduced to 1)
- Leader card: can be used only once per game. Each leader card has a special ability, and each leader also has several cards made of him or her. You need to choose which you’ll use before beginning.
- Utility cards: these include the Commander’s Horn doubling a row’s attack and Decoy cards which can be swapped to one of oyur units on the board.
Four types of decks are available, but you can only use the Northern Realms set for a while, because you won’t have enough cards to fill up a basic deck of the Monster, Elf or Nilfgaardian sets.
You’ll get exposed to Witcher contracts as soon as you arrive in White Orchard. These contracts are always found on notice boards around the world, and most of the time they involve some horrible deed done by monsters. Picking up these pages initiates their respective quests. Most Witcher contracts go down in the following manner:
- You enter a village, and pick up the one or two Witcher contracts from the notice board. These quests are always marked as WITCHER CONTRACT: XYZ in the Journal, and are found under the Witcher Contracts category. This can help in differentiating between side quests and Witcher contracts, both of which are available on various notice boards.
- You’ll need to find the NPC who issued the contract. Refer to the map to find them.
- Talk to the NPC for more details about the quest. Most of the time, you’ll have the option of haggling with them for a higher payment. All NPCs have a fixed budget, which varies per NPC, but in general, you can’t go above a 10-15% plus.
- You’ll have to look for clues in most of these quests. This often involves using your Witcher senses at specified locations. Look for red-colored marks on the ground, examine items, and follow trails of blood or footsteps. To make this part easier, rely on the minimap, as examinable items and objects will appear on it, marked by red magnifier glass icons.
- After finding enough clues, Geralt will often say his conclusion of the story, which usually means that he guesses what kind of monster did the deed. Use this information in conjunction with the Bestiary to select what kind of bombs, oils and Signs you will use against the monster, and prepare for the fight.
- Kill the monster by employing proper tactics, then go back to the NPC for rewards.
As you progress through the game, you will gain experience points from quests and monsters, and you will level up a lot. After finishing the game, you will be around level 32-35, depending on the amount of side quests done. Each time you level up or use a Place of Power (these are scattered around the world), you earn a Skill Point.
Skill Points can be spent on mostly passive skills in 4 trees. To actually use a skill, you’ll need to drag it to one of the unlocked skill slots on the right side. The 4 trees are the following:
- Combat (red): gives bonus damage on fast and strong attacks, on crossbow shots, gives more Adrenaline and enables you to unlock two special attacks.
- Signs (blue): enhances your various Signs, and gives alternative methods for each one.
- Alchemy (green): increases max Toxicity and length and strength of various potions and their effects.
- General (yellow): various passives such as “Sun and Stars”, which gives you health regeneration during day and faster Stamina regen during nighttime. Also contains the skills which grand bonuses for wearing several pieces of light, medium or heavy armor.
The last, fifth tab shows your available Mutagens. These are dropped from monsters, and grant you passive stat bonuses when slotted. These bonuses are amplified depending on the number of skills slotted, whose color is the same as the mutagen. In the picture above, the two green mutagens, which give Vitality, are amplified to 200% and 150%, due to having 3 and 2 green skills slotted.
Effect when slotted
Sign intensity +%
Attack power +%
In addition to Geralt, there is his horse, Roach, whose stats can be increased by using horse equipment such as saddles and hooves. Most of these can be bought at various vendors or won through horse racing.
TIP: The best inventory-increasing saddlebags, the Zerrikanian saddlebags can be bought at a vendor in Novigrad, after infiltrating a certain alleyway concerning one of the gangs in Novigrad.
Written by Adam Vogl, follow him on Twitter @Hurricane1989.
Phew! That should get you off to a great start, thanks for reading and good luck on your adventures. For even more Witcher 3 content try our Witcher 3 Gold Guide and check out our reasons to love Witcher 3.