Coming back to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt always feels like returning to a good friend’s home. Familiarity breeds safety, which is ironic in the gloomy, gritty, swamp-ridden world of Wild Hunt, where a walk through a forest could spell death written in the language of blade and blood. With the recently released next-gen update, named Update 4.00, the creators at CDPR have updated their award-winning title to match a lot of the incredible benefits that the new-gen consoles provide.
Wild Hunt is a very large, open-world dark fantasy game, in which players play the role of the titular Witcher, Geralt. He’s a mutated human, who earns his pay by slaying monsters, trained to be an extremely powerful warrior and investigator. Despite being a gruff-voiced, hardcore and gritty white man, Geralt has nuances that raise him above the typical video game protagonist: He’s loving, selfless, kind, often gentle, and thoughtful. His main mission is to assist his adopted daughter, Ciri, who appears to be targeted by a powerful band of elves known as The Wild Hunt.
The game is renowned for its writing and characters, where aside from comically evil villains like The Wild Hunt, everyone has nuances that provide dimension to their personas. Even monsters: Geralt frequently notes his role as a monster slayer is not to exterminate all monsters, only those that threaten others – including other monsters. Smaller stories carry weight with emotional resonance, seemingly benign stories that render no monetary reward will nevertheless stay with you. And the game is frequently laugh out loud funny, with the sheer stupidity of some citizens, Geralt’s dry wit and dad humour and the clever banter between smart characters.
The new update brings a whole host of graphical updates, including higher framerates and textures for new-gen consoles. Raytracing is also included by remains a janky affair, with framerates frequently dropping below 30 on both PS5 and Series X. Considering how much of the game is spent in wild lands and beautiful nature, there is little benefit with raytracing (which focus mainly on shadows – only the PC version has raytraced reflections). The game is beautiful even today and especially now with updated textures.
Aside from graphics, there are plenty of quality of life updates too including a new camera angle, faster loading times, better placed map markers, haptic feedback and so on. Further, there’s an entire new questline and associated armor with the Netflix series included: This tells the story of an older Witcher from the school of the Wolf, the same as Geralt’s. It’s a tragic but, as expected, well-written tale that is worth the 30 to 40 minutes it takes to complete.
Wild Hunt is a very special game to many of us, given our love of the characters, our familiarity with the world and the incredible stories that emerge. This is what made so many of us excited for Cyberpunk: 2077 and why so many of us were let down. Adaptation is a key foundation of CDPR’s success, since it requires them not to spend too much time on worldbuilding, as the worlds and universes are already created. Wild Hunt is a demonstration of this company in its top form, not only in what they presented but how: This next-gen update, as well as a range of sidequests, cosmetics, gear were all entirely free for owners of the base game. The only thing players ever had to fork out money for was the even better expansions, which are included in the so-called Complete Edition of Wild Hunt. (Never buy the standalone game: the expansions’ stories are not only better, but add so much depth to the game with added mechanics and access to unique gear and merchants).
I have been waiting for Wild Hunt’s new-gen update for some time. It has delivered on every front, save for the janky raytracing option which they might fix or improve in the new year. I am aware that there was also a janky drop on PC, but that was not my experience on PS5. Naturally, the most beautiful version of the game is only available PC but I recommend setting aside from weeks to dive back into this beautiful world – or, if you’ve never swam in these waters before, to finally take the plunge.