Welcome home, The Witcher 3.
The Witcher is a series with a strong PC heritage. Born with platform exclusivity in 2007, it bears great value to many PC gamer for pushing hardware, and as such, the imminent release of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was reason for many to upgrade components. It was learned near release that the console versions may have been given the majority share of attention during development, prompting worry from many in the PC gaming community. For the most part, these worries can be laid to rest.
This review is based solely on the adjustments and additions found in the PC version of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. For a write-up focused on the gameplay, content, and plot aspects of the console version, be sure to check out my detailed review.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt on PC makes proper use of new and recent hardware. Its wide variety of settings allows it to scale down for graphics card released two generations ago, inviting those who may be led to believe that this is a journey only for top-tier systems. When settings are turned up, the flat, dry, and inconsistent appearance of the console versions begins to fade away. Environments benefit from sharper textures and effects, to longer draw distances for foliage and shadows that bring out the game's greatest characteristics. Equally as important is the elimination of pop-in, an issue that is substantial enough to impact immersion in the console versions. Platform-exclusive access to HBAO+, HairWorks, and a higher frame-rate puts it at a whole other level.
Mods are capable of bringing the visual experience to new heights. With the installation of SweetFX and presets such as CineFX, the game comes to life. Improved color balance and contrasts aid in bringing out color in the world, turning it from a merely great-looking game to a phenomenal-looking game. Those seeking the version of The Witcher 3 that they were shown two years ago will find refuge in the mixture of the PC version's technical prowess and user-crafted modifications. Certainly, mods aren't made by CD Projekt RED but they should be commended for making things easy for the mod community.
The breathtaking visuals make a huge impact on the game experience. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a game driven by its narrative and well-crafted world. When experienced at its best, the game takes advantage of every word spoken and every foot explored. The better the game looks, the more it's able to disguise the game's faults, and there are plenty of them. Geralt and his horse are troublesome to control, combat becomes repetitive early on, and the character building doesn't feel impactful enough. There's no way around it; these shortcomings damage the experience, but can be muffled by the jaw-dropping presentation.
Outside of the visuals, the PC version is largely successful. Although keyboard and mouse controls can be difficult to play with, gamepad support is well-optimized. The font on the UI tends to be much easier to read, due in part to view distance in PC setups. Weird quirks such as the input transition pop-ups can be quelled with easy file adjustments.
Sadly, the PC version brings some issues of its own. For one, crashing is common, especially when Foliage Visibility Range is set to Ultra. Additionally, some hardware is having more difficult running the game than it should. This includes a variety of AMD cards as well as Kepler-based GPUs from Nvidia.
The bright spot to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt's technical problems is that so far the PC version has been patched promptly, with four updates deployed within the first week following release. These updates have contained improvements ranging from small bug fixes to noticeable visual upgrades. The future is bright.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt's PC version is a flawed gameplay experience carried by a superb presentation. It still suffers from the same shortcomings as its console brethren, but its strengths become amplified by the power of modern PC hardware. With a game world this stunning it's easy to forget about underwhelming gameplay design.