The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has finally arrived. It’s deep, it’s fascinating, it’s gorgeous – and it’s huge. There’s so very much to do in this game, and even the most fundamental systems are so rich and complex that any strategy guide could go on for days. But for those of you looking to jump into the world of The Witcher 3 as quickly as possible, these five basic tips will help you perform better in any situation.
1) Take Your Time
Many role-playing games these days tend to increase the challenge of the main quest or story in time with the progression of the player. Some even scale the difficulty dynamically, so that no individual element is too challenging at any given point. Wild Hunt takes a more old-school approach. The main quest line can move you very quickly into areas populated by enemies far beyond Geralt’s level, so you need to prepare yourself. You don’t need to worry about “grinding,” but you should do a bit of exploring before each next phase of the main plot (the game helpfully points out a suggested level for every quest, so it’s easy to see if you might be getting in over your head). Fortunately, there is a ton to do in every huge area of this massive game, from side-quests to undiscovered points of interest to simply freelance beast-slaying.
On a similar note, just as you don’t want to stick too closely to the main story path, you don’t want to stick too closely to the literal paths that crisscross The Continent. It’s nice to be able to hop onto a well-trodden road and let your trusty steed Roach auto-pilot you to your destination, but you’ll miss a lot if you don’t head into the interior, too. One area in the starting area of White Orchard, for example, contains a settlement overrun by ghouls. Exterminate them, and the original settlers will come back… and bring their grindstone, which will lay a nice buff on your swords. And you’ll pretty much only find places of power by heading off the beaten path; these places boost one of your magical Signs – and award an ability point to upgrade Geralt’s skills.
Most RPGs feature a potion system for topping off health, and some feature a rest or camp system for bigger benefits. Wild Hunt’s Meditate mechanic does even more: Not only will it recharge your vitality (i.e. health) and stamina, meditating also replenishes any of your potions, as long as you have some Strong Alcohol on hand. Furthermore, it’s a great way to advance time if you’re waiting for something in particular – or if you just don’t like roaming around in the dark. And note that can meditate just about anywhere you can stand up; as long as you’re not in combat, you should be able to take a quick breather. Even the shortest period of meditation will refresh you fully.
4) Take Combat Seriously
Combat in Wild Hunt is real-time, and it can move very, very quickly. That might give you the impression of a hack-and-slash action-RPG, but don’t be fooled: Even on normal difficulty, combat requires strategy, care, timing, and knowledge. Pay attention to enemies’ attack patterns to learn the proper timing for blocks and parries. Try out different signs to discern what each enemy is susceptible to. And take care to maneuver into an advantageous position. Attacking your enemy from the back offers a huge bonus in the form of guaranteed critical hits.
5) Prepare Properly
On a related note, understand that just about any enemy encounter can put a world of hurt on Geralt. So any time you know you’re about to start swinging those swords, take a moment to prepare. Make sure your vitality and stamina are fully refreshed. Take a look at your bestiary to see what kind of attacks the monster is vulnerable to. Equip a useful Sign and any applicable potions. Oil up your sword, if you have an oil suitable for the battle to come. Make sure none of your equipment needs repairing. And once you’ve done all that, save your game. Wild Hunt is delightfully stingy with auto-saves – another wonderfully old-school trait – so you want to get into the habit of saving early, and saving often.
You can see for yourself how brilliantly deep The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is, because it’s available right now for Xbox One.