The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - Complete Edition is out on December 14 as a free upgrade, and we had the opportunity to play it for a few hours. The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S upgrade of CD Projekt Red's beloved open-world RPG features several visual improvements, a photo mode, and a new quest.
This new quest is the most notable inclusion and, even if you don't plan on replaying The Witcher 3 in its entirety anytime soon, I highly recommend revisiting The Northern Realms just for this. Thankfully, all your saves will carry over, and it introduces cross-save. The quest itself features new characters, Henry Cavill's armor from the Netflix show, a new monster to fight, and a new-ish location. I won't say too much in order to preserve the surprise, but it fits nicely within the context of The Witcher 3 and expands on an area that felt underutilized in the original release. At the very least, it's nice hearing Doug Cockle reprise his role as the White Wolf, even if the quest itself is brief.
The meat of the Complete Edition is the visual and performance enhancements. On PS5 and Xbox Series X, there is a performance toggle. One favors the visuals with some subtle ray tracing added, while the other favors performance. During my time with the game, I preferred performance mode. The ray-traced visuals add some extra warmth and detail to interior environments, but it wasn't worth sacrificing the high frame rate available in performance mode.
No matter which graphics setting you choose, the game looks noticeably better than the original versions. This became abundantly clear when I started messing around with the new photo mode. It's not as robust as other photo modes, even when compared to Cyberpunk 2077, but I don't think it needs to be. Instead of goofy poses and facial expressions, the real star of photo mode will unequivocally be all the stunning vistas. For a significant portion of my demo I traveled all around the world just to take advantage of interesting photo opportunities.
CD Projekt Red has also baked in some popular fan-made mods to round out the visuals. These include World Map Fixes by Terg500, Nitpickers Patch by chuckcash, The Witcher 3 HD Reworked Project by HalkHogan, FCR3 - Immersion and Gameplay Tweaks by Andrzej Kwiatkowski (now a CD Projekt Red developer), and HDMR - HD Monsters Reworked Mod by Denroth. The Nitpickers mod in particular is a nice inclusion because it fixes some small graphical inconsistencies that nitpickers like me might notice, such as Geralt’s sword clipping through the sides of boats.
This update also brings with it a few tweaks to the gameplay. My favorite one is the new camera angles. CD Projekt Red has added an alternate camera angle that's much closer to Geralt for exploration, combat, and horseback riding. You can mix and match different angles, and the camera will automatically adjust as you transition between these three activities. When I inevitably replay The Witcher 3, I plan on using these new angles exclusively. During combat, I felt much closer to the action, and while exploring, I felt like I could fully appreciate all the tiny details. The new camera angles may not be as functional in all scenarios due to how they limit your field of view, but they feel much more cinematic.
The other major tweak to the gameplay is quick sign-casting. Instead of switching signs, or spells, with a radial menu, you can hold down R2 or right trigger and press a face button that corresponds with a specific sign. The purpose of this is to give you easy access to all of Geralt's signs without having to slow down combat. It seems like a handy feature, but after multiple playthroughs of The Witcher 3, I found it difficult to wrap my head around. My feelings could change once I spend some more time with The Complete Edition, but the radial menu felt more comfortable during my demo.
While none of these tweaks and additions fundamentally change The Witcher 3, they do make one of the best games of the last decade even better. If you've never played The Witcher 3, The Complete Edition is the perfect opportunity to jump in. If you've already played The Witcher 3, I'd still encourage you to check out this update when it drops later this month. The new quest is well worth your time, and the new photo mode makes it fun to revisit some of The Witcher 3's most iconic locations.