CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is here, but you don’t need us to tell you that – you already know because your boss is sending you frantic text messages asking if you’re okay and why you haven’t shown up at work for the last week.
The sprawling fantasy RPG plants you in the well-worn boots of Geralt of Rivia and offers up a meaty storyline quest worthy of the books the series is based on to hack, slash and swoon your way through, but the world of the Northern Kingdoms has so much more to it than that. If you’ve seen the credits roll already, ignore the emails piling up in your inbox, get off the beaten track and try a few of these time wasters.
Go on a pub crawl
Skyrim might be the open world fantasy sandbox of choice for gamers right now, but it’s not a very realistic one: for a start, it’s almost entirely teetotal. The Northern Kingdom on the other hand is full of boozers, giving you the chance to rest, accept extra quests or to play a spot of Gwent with the locals. Skip all of that and just take Geralt on a wild pub crawl instead. Start at the Seven Cats Inn (which has, surprise, seven cats loitering outside) in Novigrad, then pop to the The Kingfisher and grab a few tankards before making your way to several more inns in the city, including the Rosemary and Thyme (and leave the Gwent battling for later). And that’s just Novigrad. With such a huge world, and so many cities and towns with inns and taverns, you’ll spend plenty of time venturing from one to the next, swigging a tankard of ale between each venue and attempting to not get into fights with the locals. Just remember: don’t drink and ride...
Stop bothering with the actual quest and just play Gwent all day
Early on in your travels in The Witcher 3, you’ll be asking a scholar of sorts for help with one of your quests, and after you’ve finished your conversation, he’ll then offer to teach you the rules to an ancient dwarven card game called Gwent. You have two choices before you jump down the rabbithole: leave him be and never play the card game throughout your travels, or start it up and become helplessly addicted to the quirky, quick drawing card game that’ll then become your sole focus for the rest of your questing days – it’s basically Hearthstone mixed with Magic: The Gathering and laced with a load of opiates.
It’s shockingly in-depth, with plenty of cards for you to accumulate throughout the game: you’ll find yourself honing your strategies as you battle innkeepers and card duellers across the land like a muscle-bound albino Yu-Gi-Oh! player. It’s not just addictive though: it’s also a handy way of learning about the game’s lore, giving you background information on plenty of the game’s cast and characters.
Grow a beard (then shave it)
CD Projekt Red’s attention to detail is pretty ridiculous: Geralt’s beard actually grows in real time. Yep, the developers have given your hero his very own dynamic growing beard as you travel through the lands, and it’s up to you to groom and style it. Geralt’s dashing silver hair is also yours to do as you please, with a few hipster choices available from the world’s barbers to give him a elven warrior look with too much hair gel, a Norwegian death metal guitarist style or a slick-backed do that makes Mad Men’s Roger Sterling look dated. Why are you still here? Get to cultivating that chic five o’clock shadow.
Go island hopping
While your trusty horse Roach is most likely to be your usual mode of transport throughout the Northern Kingdoms, it’s not the only way to get around. Sure, signposts can fast travel you quickly to other areas, but nothing beats making your way around on your own two feet, especially when you’re hijacking a boat and taking it for a ride. The Witcher 3’s gameworld is even home to a series of small island clusters that you're able to hop between on your boat, letting you live it up like you’re on a summer holiday. Only with beasts to slay, obviously.
Stalk the weird and wonderful NPCs with this PC mod
The NPCs of The Witcher 3 are usually doing their own thing, chatting, sitting, shopping, bumping into you and generally minding their own business, but as one PC mod for the game has shown, they get into some incredibly weird hijinks when you’re not actually around. This camera mod lets you jump away from your position just behind Geralt shoulder, and lets you stalk the denizens of the towns and villages littering the world. Things quickly get a bit Truman Show however: PC Gamer found out that faces start melting, heads will literally roll, and even eyeballs start popping out of NPC’s skulls as soon as Geralt wanders off, making Assassin’s Creed Unity’s mishaps look tame.
Or just follow them around and see what they do in their day-to-day lives anyway
If you lack a liquid-cooled gaming rig capable of cranking out 4K visuals, or you just don’t fancy frying it by accident with mods, you can still get a taste of what NPCs get up to – sans the face melting, of course. Simply pick a citizen of your choice, and just start following them around and see their daily routine. Whether that’s popping to the shops in the morning, or hanging with their friends in the evening, you can get a view at what all the NPCs get up to in their day to day lives, letting you live vicariously through their simple lives. We’ve not had this much fun stalking NPCs since Majora’s Mask.
Do not talk about fight club
Instead, you can talk about Fists of Fury, a set of quests that let you duke it out with just your fists up, your top off and your best Tyler Durden impression on, as you lay the smack down on the local brawlers. Run out of willing participants because you’ve KO’d them all? No problem: townsfolk get antsy if you start stealing things, which may lead to a confrontation – so you can stomp them into the ground too.
Do an ultramarathon
Your typical marathon is just over 26 miles, or 42km. That’d leave you running several laps around smaller sandboxes like Los Santos, but not the world of The Witcher. From the vast land mass of the Northern Realm to the island chains of Shelliar and the faraway White Orchard, you’ll be able to easily lose yourself within the world that measures up at around 136 square kilometres. So why not get your running boots on and embark on an ultramarathon? Going from the top of the map to the bottom, or whatever route you fancy, is sure to be a long, arduous journey (it takes around 40 minutes on horseback alone), but one filled with all the gorgeous sights and sounds of the Northern Kingdoms and its expansive surroundings. It might take you a while, but we reckon Geralt’s up for it – you could even time yourself and challenge others. Just remember to take a sword with you as well as an isotonic drink flask.
Go on a round the world voyage
To get to some of the world’s trickier places, you’ll need a sailboat. Geralt’s well versed in how to operate one, knowing the difference between starboard and port side, and that means you could ride the wind and waves on a round trip voyage. Plenty of the rivers and oceans that help make up the map of the world look to be accessible via boat, so you could leave your trusty Roach behind and opt just for the seven seas – unless you can find a boat big enough for him too.
Many of the quests that you’re saddled with throughout the game need you to make full use of your Witcher Sense; an innate ability that Geralt is able to tap into to discover hidden things. Whether that’s finding keys stashed away, footprints in the mud leading to loot or even strange smells in the air, you can use your Witcher Sense to put you on the right track to the unknown. That doesn’t mean it’s limited to quests though, as you can use it out and about in the game world to sniff out secrets and treasure, or play detective a little bit like Rockstar Games’ LA Noire and discover clues. We don’t think Geralt would rock a fedora though.
Tame wild animals
Channel Geralt’s inner Robert Redford and become the horse whisperer. Wild horses and even deer can be yours to coax and command by simply using your Axii sign on them. Deer will become your best friends and will come up to you and follow you around for a short while, but wild horses become much more useful and are able to be ridden. Just don’t make Roach jealous.
What’s your favourite pastime in The Witcher 3? Tell us in the comments below, and to get the best gaming stories delivered straight to your inbox, sign up to the Red Bull Games newsletter.