It has been seven and a half years since the launch of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. To put that into perspective, as of this writing, that is 90 months, nearly 400 weeks, 2,764 days, over 66,000 hours, approximately four million minutes, or almost 239 million seconds, depending on which unit of time you prefer. Aside from a few interruptions to maybe sleep, eat, handle basic hygiene, etc., I personally have spent most of that huge amount of time playing, pondering, and reminiscing about my many hours in CD Projekt Red’s game of the year-winning RPG, which released all the way back on May 19, 2015. While that might be a slight exaggeration, nevertheless, when whispers of a Witcher 3 next-gen remaster started, I could not contain my excitement, anxiously waiting and poring over every morsel of news for when I would get another opportunity to relive Geralt of Rivia’s adventures on the latest, greatest gaming hardware.
Finally, after the many years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, and seconds of waiting, the generation-defining masterpiece has officially returned, making its foray into the current era of gaming in the form of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s free next-gen upgrade, arriving on December 14, 2022, for PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X|S.
If you’ve come to this review looking for an in-depth analysis of The Witcher 3’s narrative, gameplay, and genre elements, then I’m afraid you’ve arrived seven years too late. Unless you were turned into a statuette by a vengeful mage or locked in a dungeon by witch hunters since 2015, you probably know by now that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is among the greatest gaming experiences of the previous generation, if not in the history of videogames. The game is a perfect 10 out of 10 in every respect, from its combination of swordplay meets sign-casting combat to its engrossing narrative full of well-written characters, deep lore, and an unparalleled open world of monsters and fantasy. Still, despite all of the effusive praise and accolades heaped upon the game and my nostalgia, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s next-gen upgrade has not only met but exceeded all of my expectations in every conceivable way.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Revamped
I re-entered the Northern Realms of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt not anticipating any big surprises. After all, I had already platinumed the game twice on PS4, witnessed all of the possible endings, completed every side quest I could find, collected all of the Gwent cards, slayed every monster, and reached the credits of The Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine expansions numerous times. What more could I expect from a free next-gen remaster outside of some graphical improvements? How wrong I was. The Witcher 3’s next-gen upgrade not only recaptures everything that made its previous-gen version great but also adds a host of new features that make it a fresh, exciting new experience built for the modern generation of gaming.
First, there is the choice of smooth 60-frames-per-second gameplay, or ray-tracing graphical settings, with each significantly improving the visual splendor of an already jaw-droppingly gorgeous world. Although both options have advantages, the 60 FPS performance setting is where the upgrade shines. While most remasters would call it a day at updating the graphics, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is not like most games. Among the gameplay refurbishments found in CD Projekt Red’s next-gen upgrade (too numerous to denote all of them), the ones that stand out most include the introduction of a closer, over-the-shoulder camera view that enhances the game’s combat, exploration, and horse-riding mechanics, as well as the new “photo mode,” which players can utilize for countless hours of entertainment, snapping pics of Geralt’s trials and tribulations through the beautiful landscapes of The Witcher’s world.
While these features do not necessarily change the core gameplay experience of The Witcher 3, they are welcome new additions that help to revamp CD Projekt Red’s flagship title. However, one textbook example of a bona fide game-changer in the next-gen update can be found in the introduction of a new quick-casting mechanic that allows Geralt to alternate between his magic “sign” powers in real-time (instead of requiring the use of the time-slowing menu that interrupts the pace of combat). While it is not a default setting, I highly recommend testing out the quick-casting option for Witcher veterans, as it vastly improves the game’s already stellar combat.
Lastly, among the myriad of new gameplay features, there are also a variety of quality-of-life improvements, including lightning-fast loading times, control improvements on the console version, immersion settings, as well as time-saving adjustments and accessibility options that truly make The Witcher 3’s next-upgrade a revelation.
The New Adventures of Geralt of Rivia
An additional aspect to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s next-gen upgrade is a brand new side quest that gives players an opportunity to obtain some Witcher gear diagrams inspired by the Netflix TV series, The Witcher. The DLC even brought back Doug Cockle to reprise his Game Award-nominated role as Geralt of Rivia. While I initially expected the quest to be a quick jaunt to locate a treasure chest, with maybe a ghoul or two to fight, instead, I was treated to a bold, philosophical, action-packed haunted mine descent. Once again, CD Projekt Red completely and utterly transcended all of my expectations. The DLC mission, “In The Eternal Fire’s Shadow,” is not merely a fetch quest to locate Witcher gear but is a culmination of everything that makes The Witcher such a special franchise. I would easily rank the newest side mission among the greatest, most memorable moments that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has to offer.
Kudos to CD Projekt Red
After spending many hours exploring The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s next-gen upgrade, as my eyes feasted upon the 60 FPS graphics while my hands honed their newly-acquired quick casting skills, and my heart thumped at the chance to experience a new Witcher quest for the first time since the Blood and Wine expansion, a thought ran through my head… ALL OF THIS IS FREE?! It is true. If you already own the game on PC, PS4, or Xbox One, then you can obtain The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt next-gen upgrade free of charge, including the base game, the Hearts of Stone DLC, the Blood and Wine Expansion, and all of the new previously discussed features introduced in this update.
CD Projekt Red should be commended for their devotion to The Witcher 3 and its fans. They are leaving millions of dollars in potential revenue on the table by giving this superb content away for no extra cost. This generosity is something that has become uncommon in the current gaming industry landscape, which has seen even the most respected developers sink to promoting shameless cash grabs, greedily siphoning every last dollar from their most loyal fans. While CD Projekt Red has lost some credibility following the disastrous launch of CyberPunk 2077 two years ago, The Witcher 3’s free next-gen upgrade should go a long way in regaining gamers’ trust and helping to restore some of the lost faith in the developer’s name. One can only hope that other studios will begin to follow CD Projekt Red’s example for future remasters.
Bugs and Glitches
While I would love to say The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s next-gen upgrade is flawless, with all of its previous version’s bugs fixed, and the game runs without a hitch, unfortunately, it would be untrue. In reality, there is a high likelihood that you will encounter some very minor bugs that may break immersion, like NPCs clipping into the floor momentarily, bizarre menu glitches, and the incredibly rare, extremely brief frame rate drop. The truth is that many of these glitches existed in the critically acclaimed previous-gen version of The Witcher 3, so it should not be a shock that a free next-gen upgrade would inherit these flaws. If the newest version of The Witcher 3 had a $70 price tag, these rare, immersion-breaking problems might be more concerning. Still, since the update is free, gamers should be willing to overlook the very minor problems that don’t hurt the gameplay or the overarching experience.
Pros and Cons
- It’s free
- 60 FPS Performance Mode or 30 FPS with Ray Tracing
- Engaging new gameplay features
- Tangible Quality of Life improvements
- New immersion options
- Improved accessibility
- Memorable new side quest
- Photo Mode
- Maintains everything that makes The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt one of the greatest games of all-time
- Occasional immersion-breaking bug or glitch
Whether you previously explored The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt when it first launched in 2015 or are a newcomer inspired by the Netflix series, you owe it to yourself to experience the game’s next-gen upgrade. With its combination of graphical improvements, inventive gameplay features, and impressive new quest content, CD Projekt Red has set a high bar for remasters, making The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt a game that truly stands the test of time.
A copy of this game was provided to Prima Games for review.