Gamers can get often get obsessed about a particular element of a game and then claim the entire thing is a mess, which is not true in the Witcher 3. If you judge this game as a whole, it's an amazing accomplishment, but even looking at the details in its stories and environments, it's is a thing of beauty.
CD Projekt Red is the poster child for how users and developers can both win and they deserve all the kudos they can get. They have done absolutely everything right from making a great game to continued support, free DLC, no DRM and big expansions that are more than reasonably priced. In addition to that, they listen to their fans and show gratitude for their support. I did something I have never done in my gaming career; I pre-ordered it and I don't regret it one bit.
Although I played this game shortly after release, there wasn't much point in doing a review at that time as the internet was inundated with them. The game was also full of little glitches and bugs, but as patches have continued to be rolled out over the ensuing months, there's nothing to be gained by listing those prior defects now. All of the free DLC has also since been released as well as an NG+ mode added at the request of fans. As of this posting, I've just finished the expansion Hearts of Stone and waiting to play the next one, Blood and Wine, and I can hardly wait. Although getting back to Witcher 3 mode after a long break requires a relearning process after playing so many other games in between.
In my review of Witcher 2, I remarked that I thought a combination of the first two games would make the perfect game. The Witcher 3 comes pretty close to that for me. But since I'm a story junkie, it's not surprising. The game delivers in spades making even the side missions interesting and not just an exercise in grinding for experience and loot. Geralt of Rivia's world is full of surprises around every corner.
The combat system in any of the Witcher games is a subject that always gets attention. This was the main complaint in the first game and even though it was vastly different in the Witcher 2, it still had its downfalls. In this game, the combat is quite fluid and you have more control, so I feel that it's an improvement again. However, some people remain unsatisfied and find the combat too easy. The game does have different difficulty modes though, and NG+ amps it up again. In addition, the developer has since made some tweaks to this.
Alchemy has also changed quite drastically from previous games in that you only have to craft something once. From there on in, as long as you have alcohol in your inventory, potions, decoctions and bombs are automatically refilled upon meditation. Speaking of which, in any mode but easy, your health does not regenerate after meditating.
As with all RPGs, collecting common items can become quite redundant, except for selling them to afford new weapons and armor, which you can also craft if you have the diagram. The thing is, in order to find diagrams, you have to search everywhere, although you can buy some of them through merchants. The map is huge and you find things to do in unexpected places. For that reason, fast travel is not always the way to go as travelling cross country on horseback will net you lots of surprises. The quests have some depth to them and are not just filler and there are mini stories going on all over the place.
One of the most significant changes is the other playable character, Geralt's adopted daughter, Ciri, who has some interesting talents that differ from your average witcher. Although you don't get to play her all that much, finding her is the main theme of the game. This character seems to have struck a cord with players who would like to see a game built around her.
There was a lot of media about this game prior to release and one of the hot topics was the graphics and whether they had caught the consolitis bug and been downgraded on PC. It's one of the dangers developers face when pre-releasing screenshots and videos before the game is finished. However, I'm not fanatical on this myself and was satisfied by the visuals and decent framerate on my AMD 7870 Gpu. Compared to the Witcher 2, I thought they had done a much better job on the character renditions. Geralt looks great and the facial features of characters are good and much more consistent. So is the voice acting. Consistent, that is.
If I had any complaint, it would be in the leveling up system. The interface gives you a recommended level for quests, but if you want to free roam, you could find your level getting too high for some quests, which makes them less challenging. Apparently however, with the latest patch, you can now toggle level-scaling for enemies, although this does not affect experience points.
I have a love hate relationship with RPGs because I have a little bit of an obsession with doing the right thing to get the best endings for all in the story. The Witcher 3 has three endings, which rely on specific decisions made earlier in the game. If you care, you should google them.
The Witcher 3 is not without its faults. No game this size could be. What can be said, though, is that CDPR has listened to its fans and made the changes they've asked for when possible. One of these was a NG+ mode, which was never intended, but was added due to fan requests. One other surprising outcome has been the popularity on the mini-game Gwent and once again CDPR has responded by developing a Gwent game. You can register for the Beta here.
It's hard to add anything new to my review with the amount of media coverage this game has already received. It's one of the best in my books, but my advice to any gamer remains "know thyself". Although the majority of people really like this game, there is still a minority who don't and you would be better off in this case reading what users don't like about it in order to judge what elements are important to your enjoyment. The top complaints about all of The Witcher games center mostly on the combat. I have no complaints about this myself, but some people do.
For any Action RPG fans, this is a must play, but if you don't like the genre in general, it may not be a slam dunk. However, on top of the fact that the game is good, the added bonus is CD Projekt RED's company philosophy. They are one of the few remaining developers that are very pro-consumer. At pre-order price, The Witcher 3 was well worth the money and I've spent hundreds of hours enjoying it. If you like the main game, I would also highly recommend purchasing the expansion pack as well. It offers two good additions called Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine, each comparable in size to many games these days.UPDATE Aug 2016: A Witcher 3 Goty Edition is scheduled to be released on Aug 30th. It will include both expansions and all of the free DLC as well as a final fix patch, which will also be available to those who already own the standard edition.