14 tips for getting the most out of The Witcher 3
There's no getting away from it. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a huge game that boasts over 200 hours of gameplay, if you are prepared to explore its vast world and all its missions.
Like all ambitious RPGs, The Witcher 3 can take a bit of getting used to, with a number of systems for levelling up, gaining new abilities and improving your crafting and alchemy all needed to be understood.
As you explore the gorgeously crafted world and take on some highly memorable questions, use these tips and tricks to help ease your path through the Northern Realms, and maximise your enjoyment.
Don't forget to read our full The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt review before you get started too.
1. Meditate whenever you can
The Meditation option sits in your main menu, but is never really flagged. It’s super-useful, though: when you’re down on health, a mere half-hour’s meditation (which, given the meditation engine’s accelerated time, takes a matter of seconds to elapse) will restore you to your fittest state, plus will automatically replenish your potions and bombs, as long as you have the raw ingredients to make them. And meditation is free, unlike using food or drink as health restoratives. You aren’t allowed to meditate when, say, in the middle of a long boss-battle, but you sometimes can when, for example, you’re in between waves of enemies. So experiment with meditation.
2. Do your research
Whenever you encounter a new enemy for the first time, if it’s non-human, your Bestiary will be updated with crucial details about what Signs (your Witcher equivalent of magic spells), bombs and oils (which can be applied to swords) work best against it. So, if it gets the better of you a few times, look up its Bestiary entry and adjust your approach accordingly. All humans you encounter also get entries in the Characters tab, and those can also provide clues about how best to take them down.
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3. Seek out Places of Power
As you explore, you will sometimes notice a Place of Power marked on the map. If you spot one, make a bee-line for it: each Place of Power lets you draw energy from it, which will not only enhance one of your Signs for a while, but will give you a free, attribute-enhancing Ability Point (see tip 6). Particularly useful in the early stages of the game, before you’ve really started levelling up.
4. Don’t always trust the sat-nav
When you pick out an objective on the map, you’re given a dotted path leading to it from your current position. Sadly, this dotted path can occasionally prove a tad inaccurate – although the mini-map’s marker showing the general direction of your objective always seems to be more or less spot-on. If you feel you’re being led on a wild goose-chase, open the map and zoom in or out as needs be, in order to get your bearings properly.
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5. Loot everything
No RPG worth its salt skimps on the loot, and The Witcher 3 might just contain more of it than any game in history, given how big its game-world is. It’s pretty generous in terms of the amount of gear it allows you to lug around, but eventually, you will hit the weight-limit, which will slow you down, annoyingly. There are several ways you can mitigate against that, the most obvious being to buy a saddlebag for Roach, your horse, which increases your load-carrying capacity.
Make sure you sell any extraneous items to merchants. And always loot the dead bodies of enemies whose type you haven’t encountered before: they can yield mutagens, which enhance your abilities.
6. Use your Ability Points wisely
Whenever you level up, you’re awarded an Ability Point, each of which lets you improve various basic attributes, specific fighting abilities, alchemy and Signs. You spend Ability Points in the Character section of the main in-game menu.
At first, you only have three slots available into which you can put Ability Points – although further slots open up when you level up, so keep an eye open for those. This system means that, in the early stages of the game, it’s a good idea to use Ability Points to upgrade your favourite abilities, rather than opening up new abilities. And each group of three slots has its own mutagen slot, which further enhances those abilities, as long as they are colour-coded the same way as their corresponding mutagen.
Abilities are only activated when they are placed in slots, so don’t go mad with new ones which sound good, but can only be used at the expense of others. Although in the later stages, it can be good to have a few Ability Points spare if you need a specific ability to take down a tricky enemy.
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7. Work out a combat method
Mere hacking and slashing won’t get you far in The Witcher 3: you soon encounter enemies that cause so much damage that you need to take a more strategic approach. Mastering the dodge button is key: after a few fights, you’ll get a feel for how many blows you can land on an enemy before having to dodge out of the way. The parry move only really works against human enemies with swords, although it can be upgraded using an Ability Point so that you can use it to deflect incoming arrows. And it often pays to select the right Sign before you start fighting. When you play as Ciri, you’ll find she has a super-speedy dodge move, but only one Sign-like ability, which slows time down, giving you a glorious chance to indulge in some thoroughly wanton hacking and slashing.
8. Don’t fight shy of saving
You can save whenever you want in The Witcher 3, which often comes in handy, since you can find yourself faced with enemies that you don’t feel you have any chance of defeating unless you toddle off on a few side-quests and level up a bit (although you really ought to be able to defeat anything you come across by adopting the correct strategic approach, and employing a modicum of patience). But saving frequently could prove a godsend if you get stuck, as you’ll be able to load a previous save and strike out in a different direction if you want.
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9. Eat while you fight
It’s well worth buying loads of food – easily obtainable either from a tavern or via looting. Although you can’t meditate during a fight, you can eat or drink, and the Witcher 3 has a slightly odd system in which different foodstuffs and liquids give you different-length periods during which your health will recover after you consume them. So it pays to look in your inventory, pick the item with the longest recovery period and equip that. And don’t be afraid to run away when you’re trying to replenish your health – food will have no effect if you’re taking hits.
10. Watch your adrenalin meter
Below your red health meter, there’s a smaller meter with a skull-like icon next to it: that’s your adrenalin meter. As you land blows during a fight, it fills up (although blows landed on you bump it back down). You can spend Ability Points on making it fill up quicker. When it fills up, you can launch a special attack by pressing and holding the fast attack or strong attack buttons. Bizarrely, the game doesn’t really explain that to you in the combat tutorial.
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11. Buy all the repair kits you can find
Weapons and armour, in time-honoured RPG style, take damage. In return for money, blacksmiths can repair weapons and armourers armour, but they aren’t always at hand. However, they do sell repair kits for both weapons and armour, letting you effect repairs while on the hoof. Random merchants rarely have such things for sale, so whenever you find a blacksmith or an armourer, make sure you clean out their supplies of repair kits.
12. Buy a Potion of Clearance
This super-rare item may just be one of the most useful things you find in the entire game. So, if you see it being offered for sale, buy it. It provides the only means of reallocating your Ability Points so, if you feel you’ve taken your character’s strengths down a blind alley, it will let you reconstruct your attributes from scratch.
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13. Visit the bank in Novigrad
The city of Novigrad is one of the best things about The Witcher 3 – developer CD Projekt Red reckons it’s the biggest city ever found in an open-world RPG, and it’s certainly stunningly vibrant and teeming with life. It’s also where you will find the only bank in the game – Vivaldi Bank, run by Vivaldi, a dwarf who, conveniently, is a mate of Geralt’s. The only currency that anyone will accept in The Witcher 3 is Crowns, but as you progress, you also amass Orens and Florens. Good old Vivaldi provides the only means of exchanging them for Crowns. Vivaldi Bank isn’t marked on the map, but has a sign in the shape of a giant gold coin hanging outside it.
14. Collect your rewards
Some of the more minor quests can involve the promise of a reward, but you tend to have so many quests going on at a time in The Witcher 3 that once you finish them, you might move onto the next quest without claiming your reward. Indeed, the game often switches you back to a main storyline quest in such situations. So it pays to check the list of Quests in the game’s main menu, to see if there are any instances of having to return to the character who commissioned the quest and claim your reward. It’s always worthwhile, since XP will be on offer as well as financial rewards, and usually some tasty loot, too.
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15. You aren’t defenceless underwater
The waters of the Witcher 3 map are littered with supply caches and treasure, but they are protected by enemies that can kill you in a few hits.
Now, while you can’t use melee attacks or spells underwater, you can use one weapon to take out enemies when submerged – your trusty crossbow.
As you may know, you pick up the crossbow for the Griffin battle early in the game, and you can hold R1/RB to pull it out while swimming.
Don’t forget you can forge a variety of bolts for it too and your damage is slightly increased when swimming – just as it is on horseback – meaning you can take out enemies with a single well-aimed shot.
16. Quen can be your saviour
The enemies you’ll come across in theWitcher 3 can be really, really evil – even on the lower difficulties. They’ll deal out significant amounts of damage and you’ll quickly learn that sometimes the best battle trick is protection.
That’s where Quen comes in. It’s Geralt’s magical shield and it can deflect a few hits before it shatters.
At higher levels, Quen’s alternate form actually creates a barrier that absorbs damage and coverts it into health. It’s a lot faster than eating food or using potions to heal yourself and actually will change the way you fight.
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17. Don’t ditch any Witcher gear – regardless of its level
You’ll come across various levels of gear in your time with the Witcher 3 including common, magic, master and relic, but the most important is the Witcher gear.
Witcher gear can be spotted in your inventory quickly as it has a green background.
While it might be tempting to sell off older Witcher gear as Geralt can only carry so much, hold onto any Witcher gear you might come across, regardless of how out of date it is.
That’s because Geralt can actually upgrade Witcher gear and sometimes you’ll need to be wearing Witcher gear to craft something new.
18. Dismantling is often better than selling
Most merchants will pay you next to nothing for your loot – especially those Drowner brains you seem to have millions of. That’s particularly true of areas like Velen and White Orchard where there’s high peasantry.
But, you’ll often find that dismantling your swag rather than selling it is much better for your wallet. Head to the dismantle tab within your inventory – not the option that you get at sellers – and take apart anything you don’t need or have equipped.
Many of the key ingredients you need to create powerful potions or Decoctions you can get by dismantling. Plus, you can even get back any Runestones you might have previously attached by dismantling.
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19. People don’t care if you loot them
There was us politely ignoring all the glittering loot just lying in wait within people’s homes in the Witcher 3. But apparently they really don’t care if you rob them blind.
Watch out for the authorities though, because they will get you if they catch you looting. But they’re rarely about, so pilfer away.
20. Merchants Level Up as you do
You might have started making mental or physical notes as to which vendor as Silver Ingots or Meteorite Ore, but you don’t need to. Merchants will Level Up as you do.
That means when you need to craft more advanced items, merchants will suddenly start stocking all the materials that you need, when you need them.