Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Witcher 3

Some people might call Witcher 3 old, outdated, and even irrelevant in 2020. But, the real OGs know that The Witcher 3 is still one of the best open-world game ever made. There’s a good reason that a game from 2015 can go head to head with Rockstar Games’ pet project, Red Dead Redemption 2 –  A game that was released 4 years later and with much superior graphics as compared to Witcher 3.

There are various reasons why people love the Witcher 3. It has a great story, the character development in the game is extremely entertaining, the gameplay mechanics are astounding, the graphics might not be up to 2020 standard but they’re still great, the combat is spectacular, the monsters are terrifying, the mods are great.

I could seriously go on and on. I love the game. I still think that it’s the best game I’ve ever played to date. So, if you’re just getting into the third installment of the Witcher Franchise. Here’s a beginner-friendly (and spoiler-free!) guide to my favorite game of all time.

Geralt’s Story

Geralt of Rivia is a witcher also known as the White Wolf because of his pale white hair and extremely impressive track record against monsters. He’s the son of the sorceress Visenna who left him at Kaer Morhen, the training ground for witchers. He was trained by Vesemir, the last of the masters.

What made Geralt special was his unusual tolerance to mutagens. He survived the mutations from the Trial of the Grasses which helped him gain a high resistance to poison and disease. Due to his spectacular performance, the witchers at Kaer Morhen decided to put him through even more dangerous mutations. He was the first witcher to survive these mutations and as a result of these experiments, he lost all pigmentations in hid body; hence, the pale skin and white hair.

Geralt’s story becomes interesting after he falls in love with the sorceress Yennefer, a female who’s known for her charming yet mysterious character. Yennefer had a habit of breaking the rules on more than a few occasions; both in the game and the TV series. The start of the game revolves around Yennefer who ran away and Geralt, the lady’s man he is, chases Yennefer and attempts to find her through a series of clues.

Another interesting aspect of the Witcher series would be the ‘daughter’ of Geralt, Cirilla. She’s not Geralt’s biological daughter. He unknowingly asked for the firstborn of Pavetta and Duny for his services as a witcher. Geralt unintentionally invoked the Law of Surprise. The firstborn of the couple turned out to be a female, Cirilla. Geralt didn’t take her since women cannot become witchers. But the same destiny that Geralt didn’t believe in, caused their paths to cross multiple times before Geralt finally accepted Ciri as her own and took her in.

Weapons

Traditionally, a witcher carries two swords: a silver and steel sword. The steel sword is the more mainstream weapon to be used on humans and non-magical creatures like bears. The silver sword, on the other hand, is used by Geralt to kill supernatural creatures. According to the lore, these swords are made from meteoric iron which is coated in silver and inscribed with magical runes. The silver sword is said to be extremely fragile and wouldn’t be able to survive sword-to-sword combat.

In the game, both these swords have separate slots, so you won’t have to manually swap between the two mid-combat. You will also not have to worry too much about pulling out the right sword. The game automatically makes Geralt switch swords if you’re using the wrong one. For instance, if you’re using silver swords to fight a human hostile, Geralt will switch to his steel sword.

There are dozens of different rarity and types of weapons which can be discovered. Some levels require you to be at a certain level before you can use them.

Witcher Signs

One of the benefits of being a witcher would be the signs that make the combat of this game that much sweeter. There are five types of signs that Geralt can use which consume a bit of Geralt’s stamina. Here’s a detailed analysis of each of these signs.

·         Aard

Aard enables Geralt to push back opponents during combat. It’s a telekinetic thrust that can be extremely useful in you’re surrounded by enemies and want to juke around a bit. Aard can unlock paths by knocking back any obstacle blocking your way.

You can upgrade Aard to increase its effectiveness in combat.

·         Axii

Axii is probably the most useful sign in the game. It can disorient opponents and allow Geralt to take control of them. It can be used in combat to stun opponents. Alternatively, it can be used during conversations to unlocks paths that would otherwise require tiring combat.

·         Igni

Igni is more of a crowd control spell that allows you to damage enemies in a larger AOE (Area of Effect). It is useful to remove poisonous gas clouds and fight monsters like werewolves and foglets.

·         Quen

Quen is more of a last-second spell to throw out before you die. Anytime you’re at extremely low vitality, you can cast Quen which will give you a shield and do damage in an AOE when burst. This skill may seem like something you’d forget about completely, but it’s actually really helpful while fighting monsters as the only spell that can keep you alive.

·         Yrden

Yrden is more like a trap you can set for enemies. It’s particularly helpful when surrounded by enemies, allowing you to reposition and attack enemies from behind. Yrden creates a magical trap that triggers the second a unit steps into it.

Tips to Get You Started

Now that you’re a bit more familiar with the background and how the game works, let’s get you started on some actual tips to help you get started with the game. Some of these tips may seem repetitive if you’ve played RPG or the previous Witcher games. But I’m still going to mention them.

Some Enemies Are Too Powerful

Speaking of RPGs, this is a classic rule of this genre of games. And, in the world of Witcher 3, you’ll face several foes that aren’t quite as killable for your weak (at least for now) Geralt. Entangling with such enemies will only be a waste of vitality and sometimes your life. Some people may find this annoying, but I personally find it a lot of fun that enemies don’t scale with Geralt. Every creature’s level will be set to a certain number regardless of which level Geralt is.

So, do be careful of what fights you’re picking. The game does make things slightly easier by putting blips for enemies on the map so you could choose to fight or avoid them. However, the map doesn’t tell you how strong/weak your enemies are. The only way you’ll find out is if you venture close to them to peek at their health bars. If you do get in trouble with creatures that Geralt can’t kill, just take the easy way out. Roach can easily outrun pretty much every creature in the game. So, keep your steed close, you may need him to bail.

Upgrade Your Axii

Axii, in my opinion, is probably the most underrated sign in the game. While most people offer something aggressive like Igni, I always leaned towards Axii and for good reason. If you’re a person that’s keen on saving resources like I am, you’ll appreciate the help Axii can provide. Axii, as we mentioned earlier, is the spell that allowed you to influence people’s minds by stunning them in combat and controlling them in conversations. But the part about controlling them in convos only comes once you upgrade Axii to a certain level.

You’ll get two huge benefits; one, you will avoid useless fights that are a waste of time and vitality. Two, you will save a lot of gold which you would otherwise need to waste on bribes to get the same information. Next time your Geralt levels up, consider investing those points in Axii.

Delve Into Side Quests

This is one aspect that I feel the Witcher 3 does differently in comparison to most RPG games. Instead of handing out repetitive quests just to gain XP, Witcher 3 put in a lot of hours to create quests that are different from the main mission and fun at the same time. I’ll admit, I’m not one of those people that play a game to 100% completion. I didn’t play Witcher 3 to 100% either.

But the side quests in this game actually made me want to do them instead of the actual story. So, don’t be afraid to talk to a stranger every time an exclamation mark pops up on their head. Talk to them, ask them what they want and if you feel like they’re asking a bit too much, just deny the quest. If you’ve found some open-world RPG games to be using side quests repeatedly, the Witcher 3 will be a refreshing change.

They’ve done spectacular storytelling with the game itself, it shows that they put a fair bit of effort into making the side quests resonate with the rest of the game. You can finish the game without doing a single side quest or Witcher contract, but you’d be missing out on half the game.

Use Healing Smartly

Witcher 3 is one of those games where health doesn’t regenerate automatically. You can’t just hide behind a corner and wait for it to go up. The only way you’re going to heal during battle is through the game’s healing potions and food. It’s obvious that healing items are one of the most precious commodities in the Witcher 3 universe.

Healing potions allow you to regenerate health rapidly but their usage is limited and they run out pretty quick. Consuming edibles is a much faster and efficient way to gain health, however, it may be difficult to find a constant supply of food in the game. You can get food from killing wild dogs, werewolves, and some other monsters. They leave a nice chunk of food behind. Alternatively, you can purchase healing items from a merchant but this should be a last resort.

If you’re looking to keep your vitality up, there are two ways of doing so. First would be to use swords that have some sort of regenerative passive ability. The regen isn’t a lot but it still goes a long way in keeping Geralt healthy. The second option is to spam Quen whenever you can afford to. It’s a great spell to block out damage and keep your vitality nice and juicy.

Meditation

I’ll admit, I didn’t know the importance of meditation while I was playing the game. Not knowing about meditation made me waste a bunch of resources. I thought it was just a way to pass time and move to a time of day you feel more comfortable in. I personally feel that the game was way more aesthetic and engaging during the nighttime, so I just used meditation to skip to nighttime.

When meditation, you’ll be able to regenerate health and cleanse toxicity. It takes an hour to heal up your vitality completely. However, if you’re playing on difficulties above “Story and Sword”, you won’t be able to use the regenerative benefits of meditation.

Meditation wasn’t just necessary because I liked nighttime. There are a lot of missions that require Geralt to be somewhere at a specific time. An example would be the “Court Reuven’s Treasure” where Geralt must meet Triss at Eternal Fire Shrine at midnight. In such scenarios, the quest won’t trigger even if you’re in the area an hour before.

Take the Least Amount of Damage in Combat

The combat in most RPG games is simple enough. It works off the basic hit-the-enemy-before-they-hit-you kind of deal. However, combat in the Witcher 3 works a bit differently. You have to play around with parrying, dodging, and rolling.

Geralt’s ability to parry is a lifesaver during combat. Parrying attacks won’t only save him from oncoming damage, it will let Geralt hit back with a counterattack that stuns the enemy and lets your White Wolf poke at foe some more before he can gather his bearings. Parrying is simple but will take a bit of practice to do perfectly. The timing is extremely critical, which makes parrying more of a skill shot than an ability.

The other two strats are just to evade oncoming attacks. Dodging and rolling is particularly helpful while fighting monsters as a lot of the creature you face in the Witcher universe will charge at you. Dodge works with human enemies and creatures with small hitboxes. If you’re facing a creature that forces you to put more distance between yourself and the enemy to avoid the attacks, go for the roll instead. Evading attacks isn’t as difficult as parrying; however, you will have to time it right. If you roll a bit too early, the monster will follow you like a heat-seeking missile.

Parrying, dodging, and rolling isn’t optional. It’s a mandatory part of combat and you should practice it accordingly.

Save Your Game!

Sort of an obvious tip, but it’s important when you’re playing a game like Witcher 3; a game that requires you to fight monsters that can kill you pretty easily. And, if you don’t have a habit of constantly saving the game, you will lose a tone of progress each time you die.

Losing your progress for when you won a boss fight can be even annoying. But, even just having to ride Roach to a specific location on the map every single time you die to the boss is aggravating enough to press Alt F4. Remember to always save the game, it’ll help you progress through the game much faster.

Grinding Isn’t Necessary

Lots of other RPG titles have this issue that forces you to grind to a certain level before you can do a quest. I’ve personally never liked these types of games. AC Odyssey was a title that I loved. The visuals were so astounding that I kept playing hours on end. But, my love turned to hatred real quick because of how much Ubisoft shoved side quests down my throat.

The company had to abandon this system in the upcoming AC Valhalla due to how much of a pain the level progression system can be. Luckily, the Witcher 3 doesn’t force you to grind. As a matter of fact, you could finish the entire game without even doing a single side quest. This lets you take Witcher 3 more casually since you only have to do side quests whenever you want to.

Personally, I took my sweet time ending the main quest. I’d play the story for hours then get worried that I’m going to end the game too early. So, after that, I would just hit side quests until I got tired. At a time when other AAA titles force you to do side quests, the Witcher 3 gives you side quests that you actually want to do.

Reuse and Recycle

The crafting and material system of Witcher 3 is a lot simple than most games. You’ll pick up a lot of resources from bandits and treasure chests you find on your journey. If you look thoroughly, you’ll gain lots of weapons and armor which will be more than you need. In case you have extra items lying around, you should just toss them away. You’re one-stop to clear your inventory should be the blacksmith. Once you’re at the local blacksmith, you have two options. You could either dismantle the weapons for parts or sell it.

The items you get from random bandits are most probably just common stuff that won’t get you anything more than a minuscule amount of gold. The better option is to dismantle it. Dismantling will get you the materials used to forge that weapon. For instance, if you dismantle a sword, you’ll get some metal and a wooden haft. You can keep these materials and use them later on in the game to craft more powerful weapons.

Things Take Time

The first monster you face will be in “The Beast of White Orchard” where you’ll face a Griffin. The first time I faced the Griffin, I died like 4 times because I didn’t know what I was doing. You may think that it’s weird that the mighty Geralt, the most powerful witcher that Kaer Morhen has ever known, is struggling to beat a Griffin.

Well, Geralt isn’t the one that’s weak here. It’s you. I feel like the devs made the first few hours of the game intentionally difficult to teach the player of what’s to come. There’s a huge learning curve when it comes to combat in the game so you shouldn’t be disappointed if you have some trouble getting used to the mechanics and combat.

If you fight the Griffin head-on, you’re going to die. That’s what I did. You have to learn its patterns, strike when it has it’s guard down, and just trickle down hp one at a time. If you try to fight your monsters head-on without any rhyme or reason, you will die a couple of dozen times. The Griffin mission lets you adapt to the mechanics and prepare for everything to come in the future.

If you feel like the monsters are a bit overwhelming for your taste, you could try turning to the bestiary for help. The bestiary is Geralt’s journal containing information about every beast you’ll come across in the world of Witcher 3. Check the journal for any weaknesses about your particular creature and work off of that.

Don’t Insult the Game

Weird heading, but I feel like modding sometimes becomes an insult to the game. No, I’m not talking about the various mods to further sexualize every female in the game (not that CD Projekt Red didn’t do a good enough job with that already). I’m talking about God Mode. God Mode isn’t exactly a mod but it does require you to activate the console which is done through a mod.

In God Mode, Geralt doesn’t take any damage, he doesn’t die and is pretty much invincible regardless of the enemy you’re facing. You can also give yourself an infinite amount of money, automatically win Gwent matches, and spawn the rarest swords in the game. While it’s not a bad idea for people playing the game solely for its story, I do feel like its an insult to the game.

The game’s progression, the story, the items, everything is placed throughout the world carefully to make the experience fun for all users. Dying is part of the journey in games like Witcher 3 and if you think that dying is in any way damaging to the experience of the game, you’re entirely wrong. Its part of the fun and if you’re using God Mode purely because you don’t want the game to be challenging, it’s pretty childish in my opinion.

If you’re a casual gamer and just want to walk through the game, you should lower the difficulty instead of going for God Mode. A lower difficulty will make things a lot easier and still take you through some of the hurdles of the game that contribute to the experience. This is only my personal opinion, but yeah – cheating the game and putting it into super ultra-easy mode is an insult to this masterpiece.

Closing Thoughts

So, Witcher 3, without a doubt, one of the finest games ever made. It’s a game that absolutely revolutionized the way stories were being told in the gaming industry. Even after five years, the game still has 20,000 average players on Steam alone. It’s a game that did fabulously without much to top its brilliance Except maybe Cyberpunk 2077? CD Projekt made the best game in the world before, maybe they can pull off that same magic once again.

Omer Nadeem Awan

A university student that makes games during the day and plays them during the night. I've been a gamer from the day I got a PS2 and have stayed loyal to the habit ever since.

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