The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s Next Gen Update Impressions

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt‘s next-gen update adds ray tracing, 60 frames per second, and a plethora of other enhancements to the seven-year-old title. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Complete Edition on Xbox Series X looks and plays excellent and serves as a reminder that The Witcher 3 is one of the best role-playing games on last-gen – and now current-gen – hardware.

The Witcher 3 looks noticeably better in both indoor and outdoor scenes than the previous version, thanks to these new ray-tracing features. Instead of the game’s previous blocky, pixelated, and incomplete shadows, they now accurately depict their source and completely shade the way they should. In some areas, such as forests or interiors, the scene drastically changes, resulting in a darker image that only accounts for where the light actually comes from rather than the dynamic lighting solution from the previous-generation version. Kaer Morhen, in particular, looks stunning thanks to the inclusion of ray tracing (I actually restarted the game to compare the RT mode/Performance mode just to see how stunning it was!).

Hats off to CD Projekt Red for realising that the Witcher community has actually made a lot of these changes to the game already as unofficial mods and reached out to the creators to work alongside them. The Witcher 3 HD Reworked Project by HalkHoge and HD Monsters Reworked Mod by Denroth are this game’s solution for 4K textures and upgrades, and they are an absolute enhancement over the base textures if a bit subtle at times. These texture mods look best on surfaces like wood and rock rather than character models and pieces of gear, but like many upgrades here, when they are noticed, they are appreciated.

The last two significant visual improvements to The Witcher 3 come from improved water reflections and a rework of the game’s vegetation and environment. The vegetation has improved as leaves and flora both react to Geralt as he moves through it. In motion, the combination of all these graphical enhancements looks fantastic. The Witcher 3‘s ray tracing features and graphic updates make the world pop while also bringing it to a grittier place, as the new lighting effects make a darker scene at times with less emphasis on the brighter effects of the previous version.

Witcher 3’s “Performance” mode keeps most of the major enhancements of this update, including better foliage, enhanced textures, and better environment, and delivers it all at a solid 60 frames per second. The only draw backs players have to make when switching to the performance mode are losing the ray tracing enhancements, which a lot of players will happily do given just how much better The Witcher 3 feels at 60 FPS.

Making the game look pretty aside, The Witcher 3 Complete Edition does wonders for game’s quality of life to make it an even better gameplay experience. The world map is now considerably less cluttered as question marks, and boat symbols are turned off (they can be toggled back on for the masochists), the UI is now easily tweakable, allowing players only to show the minimap and quest objectives during combat. However, one of the best quality-of-life improvements included here is the instant herb looting, which might sound fairly minor as at lower difficulties you might not find yourself interacting with much of The Continents flora but given how vital potions are on Death March difficulty, not having to worry about the constant pop up box slowing the game down is a god send.

The game also includes a new way to cast signs, so instead of having to bring up the sign menu, selecting which sign you want to use with the right stick (which was a little fiddly at times) then using it now players can hold down the left trigger and press a face button that corresponds with the sign they would like to use. It takes a bit of getting used to, but the new approach to signs makes sense and keeps the action going instead of stopping and going into a menu every time players want to use a new spell.

Few people would say that the original version of The Witcher 3 was a bad-looking game that was rough to play. However, by including ray tracing and the additional performance mode, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Complete Edition has been elevated to an even greater level to what it already was, and beyond that, the smaller improvements that CD Projekt Red has added both in-house and with the community all add up to the complete edition being an absolute must play for newcomers to the series as well as hardened veterans like myself.

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