Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Windows Central
Windows Central
Zachary Boddy

Everyone's playing Baldur's Gate 3, but I just finished The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt for the first time

Screenshot of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt on Xbox Series X.

I am proud of my ability to always be on the cutting edge of video games. It's an invaluable asset for my job to have my finger constantly on the pulse of the video games industry, to be always analyzing the latest trends and obsessions capturing the time, love, and money of the billions of gamers around the world. The more up to date I am, the better my coverage as a video games journalist becomes. That's why I've been spending the last few weeks playing the newest, hottest RPG that's on everyone's mind — The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.

Ah, I'm just now realizing that everyone has actually been playing Baldur's Gate 3, not The Witcher 3. Sorry, it's easy to get them confused. After all, both The Witcher 3 and Baldur's Gate 3 are some of the highest-rated and most beloved role-playing games (RPGs) of all time; the former set a new standard when it released in 2015 and has since sold over 50 million copies, while the latter has officially taken the Metacritic crown as the #1 rated PC game and is enjoying immense success. Also, they both have "3" in the title.

Well, I've already put over 140 hours into The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, so I might as well tell my monster-infested tale. If you really came here for Baldur's Gate 3, some of my other Windows Central colleagues can't stop talking about it.

A long journey to get to the end of the game

I was thrown into the midst of the main campaign on Skellige, with only distant memories to guide me. (Image credit: Windows Central)

My time with The Witcher 3 actually began in 2017, when I bought a used copy of the base game for my Xbox One S. At the time, I must've sunk 20-30 hours into the game before wandering off and abandoning it, as I did with 99% of games then. I revisited The Witcher 3 three years later with a digital copy (my physical copy was "borrowed" by a friend), and I restarted my adventure with fresh eyes and... Still not enough determination to commit to finishing games. This time, I put a full 70 hours into my Geralt, making it all the way to Skellige (after thoroughly exploring previous regions), before abandoning the game yet again.

After 32 months away, I came back to a very different, much improved The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.

Fast forward to 2023. I have a regular, polished routine that has helped me stay interested in playing and committed to finishing video games for over two years now, resulting in 119 game completions at the time of this article. I desperately wanted to finish The Witcher 3 before the holiday season sucked every second of my free time (hello, Starfield and Forza Motorsport). After 32 months away, I finally returned to Skellige... And had no clue what I was doing or how to play.

Surprisingly, I found old habits returning quite quickly, and it only took me a couple awkward hours to fully acclimate myself to The Witcher 3's world once again. I was also coming back to a game far improved over what I had played before. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt enjoyed a massive Xbox Series X|S update earlier this year that brought greatly improved visuals (the game is stunning), far better performance (hello, sweet 60fps), and a whole host of quality-of-life improvements. The game looked better, felt better to play, and was surprisingly approachable for someone who hadn't played in over two years.

Eight years after release, and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is still one hell of a game.

An incredible adventure from start to finish

Using the new Photo Mode to show off my battle against a very ugly gargoyle. (Image credit: Windows Central)

I don't need to explain The Witcher 3 to you, right? It has been more than eight years since it released... It's about Geralt of Rivia, a Witcher that slays monsters, searching for Ciri, someone very dear to Geralt that just happens to have the power to save (or end) the entire world. That all make sense to everyone? Good. This is my first time actually seeing the latter half of the game, though, experiencing the end that I cultivated over 100 hours of actual playtime.

I explored a gorgeous, often-macabre world that feels real, with countless stories and hidden adventures entirely separate from the main campaign that are filled with heart, character, and surprises. I met a vast roster of well-written, believable characters with distinct personalities, motives, and beliefs. I cultivated a Geralt of Rivia that was ironbound in his beliefs, but still capable of compassion and selflessness. I also slashed and blasted my way through endless hordes of terrifying monsters, ethereal shades, and the lowest dregs of human society.

It has been a long time since a game so completely and utterly seized my entire brain.

After all that... Wow. It has been a long time since a game so completely and utterly seized my entire brain, fueling an obsession that inhabited all my free time and even snuck into my dreams. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt almost became a second full-time job, with over 70 hours poured into it over two weeks. I sought out every mystery, explored every corner, and experienced as much as I could. By the time I realized I was finally, actually done, it was because I had done every single quest in the game (except for finding every Gwent card... I don't know what I'm missing). I had fully explored every single region, tracked down every point-of-interest (except for many of the repetitive, countless sunken treasure bits around Skellige). I played The Witcher 3 until I ran out of game to play, and then I considered New Game+ to do it all over again.

Yennefer and Geralt tentatively explore the truth of their relationship. (Image credit: Windows Central)

There was so much game in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, so the knowledge that I had not one, but two DLC expansions to explore when the credits finally rolled... It made me a very happy gamer, indeed. Suffice to say that CD PROJEKT RED did an excellent job with both expansions, adding a ton of new content to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt with new stories, areas, side quests, and game features. From beginning to end, though, I was amazed with Blood and Wine.

An expansion that's almost an entire game on its own

Geralt travels to Toussaint, an unbelievably beautiful region that ceaselessly inspires awe. (Image credit: Windows Central)

The Witcher 3's Heart of Stone expansion is very good. It's exactly what you expect from an expansion — a modest new area with approximately 10 hours of new content and a handful of new game features (new Gwent cards, loot, and Rune upgrades). I enjoyed it immensely, but I was not adequately prepared for the Blood and Wine expansion because of it. Set in a new region, the Duchy of Toussaint, Blood and Wine is an immense DLC expansion larger than many entire games... And it's added onto an already incredibly huge RPG.

The Blood and Wine expansion is larger than most games by itself.

When I first saw Toussaint, heavily inspired by France, I was shocked by the size of the region map. Those surprises continued as I realized just how many side quests and optional content was packed onto this map, much of it with evocative storylines, full cutscenes, and even multiple layers of connected quests and adventures. Of course, there's also a fantastic new storyline featuring a murder conspiracy and plenty of deadly vampires, with different endings depending on your choices.

Blood and Wine elevated my The Witcher 3 addiction, and I ended up exploring Toussaint for 30 hours in five days before I realized my time in this glorious game was coming to an end.

All I can say is... Wow

Knowing I could travel to that distant peak if I wished is one of the best feelings in an open-world game. (Image credit: Windows Central)
It took me an additional 30 hours to finish what I started two and a half years ago, and I'm so happy I did. (Image credit: Windows Central)
Geralt needed some time to brood for a bit, as he's prone to do. (Image credit: Windows Central)
It was very exciting to get another rare sword to immediately add to my Stash. (Image credit: Windows Central)
I thought the outskirts of Velen was beautiful before I traveled to Toussaint. (Image credit: Windows Central)

In May 2015, CD PROJEKT RED set a new standard for open world RPGs and is still considered to be one of the best in the genre. Yes, it was rough around the edges at launch and filled with plenty of bugs (and some of those bugs are still there), but The Witcher 3 has also evolved since its comparatively humble beginnings. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt runs beautifully on Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, with improved visuals, performance, approachability and accessibility, and a hecking lot of extra content and features.

There has never been a better time to be a gamer, as there have been some incredible games released this year (and more to come). The Witcher 3 can still hang with the newer, shinier toys in our collective toybox, though, and remains an amazing game to play. It is now one of my most memorable gaming experiences to date. If you never finished The Witcher 3 the first time around, or simply haven't played it all due to its slowly growing age, then put it on your list. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is still one of the best Xbox games in 2023, especially if you're like me and are finishing it for the very first time.

If you want a blast from the past (not that far into the past), you can read our original The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt review for Xbox One from 2018, written by the ever charming (and still present) Jez Corden.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.