The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is one of the most critically and popularly beloved western RPGs ever. The game’s positive reception and lasting legacy are very well deserved, and with a new next-gen update, fans can return to the game with it looking better than ever. On top of a few pieces of new content, the free next-gen update helps make Witcher 3 so beautiful that it is worth returning to for fans.
The most advertised aspect of the next-gen version of Witcher 3 is its visual overhaul. The improvements are divided across numerous elements and systems of the game that all add up to an impressive improvement in visual quality. The developers added support for ray tracing on systems that can achieve it. The new lighting applies to global illumination and ambient occlusion on all systems, reflections, and shadows on PC. If players are more interested in improved performance, however, the update also adds a performance mode that holds a rock-steady 60 fps.
On top of these visual improvements, the developers at CD Projekt RED also made small additions through their developments and official integrations of community mods to fine-tune the experience. One of the largest of these additions is the new photo mode, while new gameplay content can be found in the form of a small crossover with the Netflix Witcher show.
This includes a brief quest, new gear, and alternative appearance options for Dandelion and Nilfaardian soldiers. The quest itself is a bit short, but overall fine despite not hitting the quality level of the game’s better side stories. The gear and alternative appearance options are also fine, although whether or not a player uses them will largely depend on their personal preferences. I opted to use the alternate Dandelion appearance but found the new Witcher set and Nilfgaardian options to look out of place in the game’s visual style.
CD Projekt RED also added a small number of gameplay tweaks and new options to help players tailor the experience. There is a new option for switching between signs that is an excellent way to speed up options in combat, some great camera controls, and some great improvements to the fidelity and details of character models and the environment. These all help make the game look like a true next-gen title rather than just a remaster of an older one. The developers also made smaller gameplay changes, like making fall damage less punishing, removing the loot menu from collecting herbs, and improving the radial menu. All of these changes are pretty minor and likely won’t catch the interest of many players. Fans that have played through the game multiple times, myself included, are welcome additions to smoothing out the overall experience.
The new official implementations of mods also do a lot of heavy lifting to help even out the experience overall. They include a pack that completely overhauls the game’s textures and visuals to 4K resolution, various fixes to minor visual bugs, one that makes the world map more accurately represent the game world, and one that overhauls the visual design of monsters. A mod made by one of the game’s developers, Andrzej Kwiatkowski, has been partially implemented and updated to make balancing fixes to some skills and items. All of these changes are welcome, but it would be nice if some of the changes were optional, especially regarding enemies’ appearance. The new models universally look excellent, but the option to revisit the old models for nostalgia’s sake would have been nice to have as well.
Apart from these visual changes and minor gameplay adjustments, it is the same great game, just visually updated. This makes it the best way to experience The Witcher 3, regardless of whether it is your first or tenth time. The next-gen update runs beautifully on the console, and it is an incredible amount of content to get, regardless of whether you are paying full price for it or receiving it as a free update to the game’s complete edition.
While graphics are only one component of a game, these improvements’ impacts on the experience of playing Witcher 3 are pretty large. It is still the same thrilling combat, engaging stories, and darkly detailed world as before, but the improvements allow the player to be more immersed in it than ever before. Exploring has tons of new details for players to find during their journey. A smoother and higher frame rate makes combat feel more reactive and exciting. Improved textures and details help the world feel alive. All of the small changes help iron out kinks that before could have taken you out of it, even if for just a moment. It all comes together to make one of the best games ever made even more enjoyable.
The next-gen version of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is available on December 14 for PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X/S.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Next-Gen
While graphics are only one component of a game, these improvements’ impacts on the experience of playing Witcher 3 are pretty large. It is still the same thrilling combat, engaging stories, and darkly detailed world as before, but the improvements allow the player to be more immersed in it than ever before. It all comes together to make one of the best games ever made even more enjoyable.
Arron is a writer and video editor for But Why Tho? that is passionate about all things gaming, whether it be on a screen or table. When he isn’t writing for the site he’s either playing Dungeons & Dragons, watching arthouse movies, or trying to find someone to convince that the shooter Brink was ahead of its time.
March 20, 2023