Every so often, there are games that come along and just stun you by their graphical fidelity. I remember thinking every few years "games can't look much better than this!", and I am proven wrong constantly. I remember thinking this in my youth while playing on my brother's Apple IIc or the family IBM PC Jr. So when a game like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt comes along and raises the bar to such a supreme level, it makes me delight in utter amazement.
Every sunset feels like a masterpiece painting. Cities and towns are look terrific and feel like real places. Small dirt trails in a forest meander listlessly. Everything in The Witcher 3 feels lived in. The game has a real great sense of place that other open-world games try to capture but come up short. Fallout 4 has a great world, but it isn't like this. Small towns make way for medieval townships outside of large cities. On the outskirts of the largest city Novigrad, The Witcher 3 even makes room for mundane industry like brick-making, dyes, irrigation. It is stunning and breathtaking world building.
However, someday in the near future, the graphics in The Witcher 3 will be surpassed, and I will once again think "games can't look much better than this!" about something else. Luckily, the best part of The Witcher 3 has little to do with how it looks. While other games paw at humanity's flaws and weaknesses, societal corruption, war, The Witcher 3 embraces these themes in an earnest way. The Dragon Age franchise may tell you about the suffering and class-ism that happens in Feralden. The Witcher 3 wears that on its sleeve. You feel the despair of the war-torn landscape in a way that I haven't felt in almost every other game. The amount of distrust that Geralt elicits from everyone really immerses the player into the role of a witcher. Needed but feared, being a witcher feels special in a way different from being simply a knight or wizard.
There are quests in The Witcher 3 with better story and rawer emotions than whole video games. From the epic Bloody Baron storyline to hunting down self-loathing werewolves, every quest and decision has a sense of emotional scale. Together with the immersive setting, quests that would be throwaways in other games become involved and draining. Some quest-lines don't maintain the incredible quality through the entire game, but the vast majority of encounters set the bar very high.
The combat is quite a bit simpler from the previous franchise installment, but it still retains the concept that preparation and knowledge is needed to survive in the wild. Most games like Fallout 4 makes the player feel too powerful at later points in the game even at higher difficulties. After so many skill points and better equipment, even major boss fights in other games can become trivial. The Witcher 3 maintains the aura of danger with most battles, especially at the highest difficulty setting. If a fight is too easy, you feel that it isn't because the game is easy, but rather Geralt was well-prepared with the right weapons, poisons, and potions. The game rewards a player that uses their own knowledge and experience just like a witcher would.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is an epic game that is simply the best in its genre. This is what a big open-world game should aspire to, and is the new standard. Also, it is the game of the year.
That's it. Ten days and ten incredible games. I hope that at least one of these games speaks to you like it did to me. Happy New Year!