Better Tips For Playing The Witcher 3

We had a tips article go live a few days ago, and there were some decent ones in there, but it was quite basic. One or two were outright wrong. Here are some tips for those wanting a little more.

Let's make this an open thing, as well. The Witcher 3 is such a huge game, there must be something you've found that others haven't, so pop those tidbits in the comments below and we'll all learn from each other. I played a lot of Gwent, for example, but I didn't collect many cards. Anyone know where to get some good ones, other than just beating everyone who plays?

I'd also love to hear how people have built their characters, and any interesting theorycrafting they're putting to use in combat. I built down the Combat tree, which is very much a "what you see is what you get" tree, so I imagine those building magic and alchemy will have some interesting stories.

Don’t repair. Replace.

The game (and our previous tips article) advises you to keep your gear and weapons repaired at all times. Don't do this. Repair costs are ludicrous, and you'll be no worse off if you just pick up gear from enemies. Much later on, you'll have upgraded your gear with gems as a part of your overall build, and this will make that gear worth keeping and repairing. But it's only at around level 20 that those theorycrafting benefits start to outweigh the numerical upgrades that you'll get from constantly replacing gear. There's a reason for this, but it's attached to a mild underlying system spoiler in the next paragraph, so don't read the next paragraph if you don't want to be disappointed by the loot system.

The Witcher 3's enemies don't scale with your level, but loot does. There's a smidge of randomness with every piece of gear, but doing a quest that's much higher than you, or killing an enemy that's much higher, will not reward you with amazing gear. It'll just be gear that's around the same level as what you have. This makes many scenes in which Geralt is handed an amazing piece of gear, remarking on the quality of the steel, not very special. Its stats might even be less than the thing you just looted from a henchman, and though it feels wrong to send that family heirloom straight to the vendor, that's where it belongs.

Two hits and get out

Honestly, if there are only a few humanoids, you can get away with mashing. Path of least resistance, etc. But when things get tougher, it helps to know that very few enemies will let you get away with more than two swipes. Rather than just laying into them, take your two, and either combo into an Axii or get out and do something else.

Later, you'll see enemies that make you really work for one hit. Do it from behind, if possible, for more damage. The special heavy cleave attack is good for these situations, too.

Axii = iWin

All of the signs are useful. Blasting harpies telekinetically hits them for six, and Igni is perfect for other enemies. But Axii is what you'll use to get those defensive buggers out of their shells. Whether it's a soldier with a spear and shield, or a monster that decided to put spikes up as a guard, this is the hard counter. Use it as an multi-purpose stun that works on pretty much all but the toughest enemies.

Three points into mind control, STAT

Following on from the last point, three points into using Axii during dialogue will pay dividends very quickly. If you have the required level, it never fails, and these dialogue options are always better in terms of story and rewards.

Quick dodge against men, long dodge against beasts

Whether or not you've put points into i-frames on your roll, this is what the combat system seems to be designed for. There are exceptions, of course, and this is speaking very generally, so break this rule when appropriate. But the wide, long swipes and lunges of monsters can render your quickstep impotent, and often their forward acceleration will outdo your backstep. Whereas when fighting humanoids, a quickstep or parry can put you in a prime position to retaliate. When quickstepping vs monsters, just remember that anything that has large, overhead strikes (not too horizontal) is something that you can step under.

Invest in the earlier traits

Depending on how much side content you do, you might actually finish the game before you get to the bottom of the talent tree. If you're doing all side missions and taking your time though, this probably won't matter. I had an adrenaline build, which was meant to come to fruition at the end when adrenaline points are used as a percentage chance for each swing becoming a one-hit kill. I had barely started to see how that went before I finished the game. You can, of course, continue after you're done and do all the post-halfway quests.

The Mid-Point

No spoilers, but there's a point when The Witcher 3 will warn you that if you go further, the world will change and previous quests will not be accessible anymore. This is not the end of the game, but those quests WILL be failed if they aren't completed, and that type of information does feed into the story of your overall world.

The locals know something

Not every clue will be in the bestiary. Sometimes, non-essential dialogue or clues spied with Witcher senses can help you formulate the "right" answer to combat. And when it comes to particular monsters, there often is a "right" answer.

Skellige Maps

I personally enjoyed riding and boating around Skellige. It was one of my favourite parts of the game. But if you aren't particularly keen on it, you can buy maps from the merchants and quick travel. These are more handy than most maps, because boating around various isles can take a lot of time, and in some cases you might not be 100% sure where you need to go. A couple of points in the game have confusing quest markers, and main quests are blurred with secondary quests. But, Skellige is beautiful, so getting lost can be a treat.

Can you think of any more to help your fellow Kotakuers? Put them below!


    Here another one, if you manage to light a monster or human on fire, be it through gear or using igni, stop attacking them and attack something else. while they flail around on fire they wont be attacking you, thus allowing you to attack something else.

    If you attack them while they are fire, then they will put themselves out very quickly and be back in the fight ready to block your next swing

      Nice one -- I never considered Igni as a CC

    Really need to get stuck into this game, the trouble is I'm just so fatigued with the fantasy setting right now, between this, Game of Thrones (which has just turned into rapefest 2015 and really turns me off ANY fantasy setting right now) and Dragon Age, I just don't feel like playing another fantasy game.... Give me a Sci-Fi RPG please!

      I feel you -- but on the upside, The Witcher 3 is very far removed from the Tolkien template. There are elves and dwarves, but it'll subvert your expectations at every turn.

        I'll agree with this in part, but the whole race hate thing is very prominent in not only Tolkien template but a lot of others, the saturation of traditional fantasy settings in games is ridiculous compared to the amount of Sci-Fi but people know it works and sells so why fix it if it ain't broke!

      I Love the witcher, it took me a while to get into as the last few games i've played have been in a fantasy setting but it's great once you do get into it!

      Other than that i totally agree, i'd love to see another sci fi rpg, think the last one i played was ME :(

        Wait until CD Projekt release CyberPunk 2077, if it is anything like Witcher 3 in size and scope it will be a treat!

          I did see this the other day but haven't really had a look into it, apparently they're not planning to release it until 2017 ?

            They're not planning to mention anything about it, to my understanding. the question: what's next for CD project keeps popping up a lot. So they said don't ask till 2017, from what I understood.

      Heh rapefest 2015. Aren't all GoT a rapefest. This season is much more milder than the previous few. Haven seen much prostitute lately with Tyrion travelling and the sept gaining power.

      Can I ask, a little off topic, was there this uproar when Theon got his PENIS chopped off in one of the most revolting cases of sexual violence seen in television? I don't remember that to be the case. Now I'm not here to debate which is worse, rape or the case in question, but it's definitely not a case of "it happening to a good character vs a bad character" because the show made a very concerted effort to show Theon as a morally confused character, not an evil one.

      Just seems "interesting" how the response is basically night and day. From jokes about one to outrage and disgust about the other. This of course is not even covering the issue that bad characters are supposed to be bad. You're not supposed to root for them or find anything they do aligned with your morals, least of which the worst things they do.

      (Sorry about the possible spoiler tags but I figure this isn't an article about the show in question with implied spoilers so better to be safe than sorry)

        I think 90% of the characters on that show are abhorrent, I find it extremely difficult to watch at time, the times you mentioned included. The only reason I still watch it week-to-week is it's almost impossible to actually go on the internet without getting it spoiled. If it was a much quieter show I'd probably binge watch it at the end of each season (hey, I'd probably buy the Blu-Ray to do so), and either a) have a better view/understanding of the larger repercussions of these horrific acts, or, b) stop watching when it becomes gratuitous (which I'm at the verge of doing now).

          Yeah I'm not talking about you specifically so much as this huge media dialogue now that says only once rape has occurred, suddenly a line has been crossed (at least as far as sexual violence goes). Now, again, I want to state that I'm not trying to say one is worse than the other, but to say what happened to the other character I mentioned was somehow not as bad as what happened last week seems really concerning and hypocritical. That there wasn't this same revulsion and concerned dialogue is concerning.

          I do think this topic is somewhat relevant as Kotaku often covers both Game Of Thrones and feminist viewings of games and media in today's society that this discussion occur.

          I've been conditioned by journalism and the media now to see violence against women, or specifically naked female bodies in The Witcher 3 as bold (and not in a good way), even though I haven't batted an eye at the gratuitous violence against men that's been literally slow-moed in front of me for 30 hours previous. Something's gone wrong along the way I feel, we've become too fixated on a single topic that things are getting really confusing at best and completely hypocritical at worst.

            Another take would be to save your rape outrage for when it's actually non-consensual.
            There's been like 4 weddings now, the consumation of marriage on the wedding night is implicit in the agreement. She agreed to marry him.
            Is distasteful sex with Ramsay on her wedding night any more of a "rape" than distasteful sex with Tyrion would have been, that she also consented to?

    What about the number of hits before a monster reacts/counter attacks?

    I try to find out how a monster reacts after consecutive hits, find out their attack styles (like frontal cleave, charge, ground slam etc), then I attack, dodge, bait out their attacks then get in some more hits.

    on the hardest difficulty, a wyvern reacts after 3 consecutive hits, regardless of light or strong attacks, so you're better off using strong attacks for more dmg before the wyvern resets..

    what do you guys think?

    Last edited 29/05/15 1:46 pm

      Correct me if I am wrong but I am pretty sure that creature's retaliation is damage based rather then amount of hits. I've upgraded my strong attack and find one or two hits of that will have the same reaction that three or four quick attacks would .

        I just tested out the reactions, 90% of the time its 3 hits, regardless of light or strong. But then difficulty or timing could make a difference in hits before retaliate, not too sure.

        I just added this 3 hit retaliation to my head because i fought a red skull unknown level wyvern, which took a while to kill but after finding out that 3 hit reaction, it just took patience to kill something that would one hit you. Quen ftw.

      One of the things I've noticed is that some of the more powerful enemies go through raid-boss-style 'phases' at different health percentages, becoming more aggressive and desperate as they get closer to death.

      Can fuck up your whole '1-2-dodge' routine if you're not careful.

    Great tips! I put a lot of points into Axii as suggested in the last article, but I tend to favour Igni for fights. I'll be sure to try to use Axii more now!

    Loving all of the Witcher content on Kotaku at the moment. Thank you!

      It's really tempting to mainline a single sign, but they all have great uses. Try switching it up to see how much it changes how you'll approach combat.

      Having said that, hitting 5 humans with Igni and watching them all light up is pretty great :D

        Haha, for sure. Igni is such a satisfying attack. I do have points in Axii which makes the enemies fight for me, but I haven't utilised it enough yet.

      I actually find Yrden really useful, one of the abilities under it lets you cast a ward which will attack enemies for you in an AOE field

        I was having real trouble with spectres until I actually paid attention to the bestiary. Hitting a spectre outside a trap (Yrden) chips away at their health - you barely notice the drop. Attack them within the bounds of a trap and their HP start dropping by significant chunks.

        As this effect is not mentioned anywhere in the actual description for Yrden it caught me by surprise. In other areas you're scraping around for a 10-25% damage boost, but Yrden on spectres gives more like a 400-500% boost.

        Moondust bombs perform the same function as yrden, without having to confine the spectre to a small area. Also frees you up to use other signs.

      Quen is my bread and butter. If it's not up, I don't bother with any other signs until I can put it back up.

    Definitely this one:
    Quick dodge against men, long dodge against beasts

    In fact, this is such an overlooked strategy I've seen many people whinging that they're unable to beat so-and-so monster until they are reminded of this strategy. It's like we get used to mashing our way through most of the combat in the game, then we face up against a mini-boss or just simply a new creature that we've not faced before and we forget that there are some fights that do require a bit of strategy. When I got to a certain quest with Kiera by my side, I had also forgotten about quick dodge.. took me a while to realise that the quick dodge was the thing I needed to use.

    Last edited 29/05/15 1:47 pm

      I never use the long dodge on normal, becomes more useful on higher difficulties, though. The stamina cost kind of kills it for me.

    The locals know things you should definitely listen to.

    For example you can stay safe from monsters if you plug all your holes full of garlic.

    Let the Yrden Magic Traps do the work for you:

    I assume it stacks with the other Yrden buffs.

    When you first meet the King of Beggars there's a merchant nearby who sells 100+ inventory saddle bags.

      Cool.. I'll have to look around. I was too engrossed in the story from that point to remember doing any merchant stuff. I've just hit level 13 and done a bunch of the story quests leading on from there and decided I need to do some more side quests before become too overpowered for them... so I'll definitely look out for that merchant.

      There's an optional quest not too long after that where you can win a +50 Stamina saddle in a horse race too.

    I honestly have no idea about the oils and adrenaline in the game, I killed the wraith by the well with no oils, Geralt mentioned making some, but i couldn't.

    As for the Adrenaline, i forgot what it did almost immediately and haven't paid it any attention since.

      Same, probably because it's a somewhat hidden attribute. As far as I can tell, it just increases your damage the more you have built up. But the numbers are hidden, so hard to notice the difference.

        The numbers also feel like they're very small in value, yet if you use your gear and arsenal of oils and potions well It all adds up. Adrenalin I think can be used with some of the skills that can be unlocked with points. Also I think adrenalin causes you to do more demage for each point. As for oils, if you use them in combination with other things, such as yrden against wraiths, they help as well. Then again I'm playing second hardest difficulty and probably wouldn't need to prep as much if I played on easy.

        I love the research, planning, and setting things in motion phase. Then just execute everything. Feels awesome!

      due to the % nature of oils you start to notice more use from them the better gear you get etc.
      Adrenaline itself is similar but it does however feed into a few useful character traits like buffing signs when at 3 stacks etc.

    Do yourself a favour and find all the Places of Power in White Orchard before moving too far along in the story. While you don't have many slots to put them in early on, you can unlock 4 or 5 skill points almost immediately and swap them around depending on your preferences and situation.

      the best thing really is to not leave white orchard until you have discovered all the areas and done all the quests ( theres like 3 or 4), its not just the extra skill points but the loot you can get as well

    I have tried using the dodge system (not roll) but overall it only works best on NPC that are similar level and don't have block breaking weapons. I still mostly use roll, also because my reflexes are not that of a child's I find it hard to parry hits (often just get smashed in the attempt due to bad timing).

    I know some people are able to parry and block all blows from everyone but I just can't get it to work, esp if there is a mob of enemy (most encounters). Also I repair my gear as normally the stuff I end up using is Relic or Rare, you just simply can't replace it and even gear that is a couple levels up doesn't match its stats (I had some pants that gave me +200 HP for example).

    Last edited 31/05/15 12:08 pm

    Been playing this for a few hours...

    Every time I stop, something eats at the back of my mind saying 'I SHOULD BE PLAYING THE WITCHER 3!'....

    Goddamn it back to the Witcher 3 I go...

    The replace instead of repair tip is one I'd argue is actually not worthwhile... Unless you're getting constant upgrades, you wont be unless you're CONSTANTLY crafting them which in itself is more costly than anything, and you're not going to downgrade just because you have to repair something.

    Add to it that repairing is simply not that expensive once you get going. Every time I hear that complaint I'm like, "What the hell are you all doing with your gold?" Even as early as when I'd left White Orchard I was able to afford repairing everything I was using all the time, without it making any sort of remarkable dent in my gold flow.

    Also you'll eventually end up with repair kits here and there which make it even easier to deal with.

      I think the early game can be pretty brutal and a lot of people's perceptions are of that time. Once you hit around level 6 or 8, things become a lot smoother in terms of equipment, money and other resources. I think it took me longer to hit level 6 then it took me to get from 8 to 13.

      A little tip for cash, and food/drink, is to kill the 2 cows in White Orchard. They are just near the signpost, across the road from the inn. You can kill them, then meditate for an hour and kill them again.. over and over. They usually drop raw meat and milk but also occasionally drop cow hides which sell for around 27 crowns. 30 to 60 minutes of exploiting this and you will have enough food and crowns for a long time. I only exploit it when I am short of food, which is something that happens less and less often, but you can use it as much or as little as you'd like.

        You can actually farm (it's borderline exploit/cheating tbh) better in Velen. Specifically at downwarren. There are like 4 or 5 sheep that respawn almost immediately after one dies, no need to meditate. You just prop yourself up near the place where they spawn, but not too near that the sheep run away from you, and pull out your crossbow and start shooting. It's almost ridiculous how easy it is that I hope CDPR patches them up. The chickens not too far from the sheep also respawn indefinitely, but their drops are less valuable.

    That first tip is terrible. Maybe its different on easy, but I've had no issue affording repairs. The idea of not repairing and looking for a replacement is mind boggling...are we playing the same game?

      Author didn't play on Easy so I wouldn't know about that. You don't have to "look" for a replacement, you'll regularly be presented with better options. But if you want to spend gold here and there to upkeep gear you're about to throw away, good luck!

        I'd have to agree with Matty079 here and ask if we're playing the same game.

        I've played for 40-50 hours now, and from the sheer amount of equippable items dropped I'd say a very, very small number them were actually an upgrade.

        Honestly, just thinking about it I think I've had maybe half a dozen swords for each category that were non-crafted (ie- drops and/or found exploring) and also better than what I was currently using. Over 40+ hours that doesn't strike me as very regular in the slightest for how much loot the game shells out.

          It sounds like we may actually have been playing a different game then :P I was replacing gear just about every 1-2 levels. I do count crafted/bought gear as replacing. Anything that's not repairing existing gear. And it doesn't necessarily have to be an upgrade -- if you loot something that has equal stats but without a durability penalty, you might as well go with the new item.

            Yeah I only specifically mentioned non-crafted to be a little more clear, but even then I've only crafted a single set of gear thus far.

            And two of the pieces were worse than what I was using, yet necessary to have for the next crafted upgrades.

            As for 'side-grades' that are similar stats, etc... It's been to the point for a while now where any single item I get like that can pretty much be sold to cover the repair costs of what I was using in the same slot anyway. So it's really a bit of a toss up there as well.

            Last edited 01/06/15 12:17 pm

        Depends what you classify as "better" really. I've had the same silver sword for 3 levels now, repairing it has been well worth it. Sure I've found some swords that are supposedly better, but when you take the bonus stats into account (igni damage, crit chance, stun chance etc) sometimes the sword with the lower base damage is still the better option. Hell, at level 12 I had a really good pair of level 2 pants that had better stats than level 9 pants I could craft and multiple level 10+ pairs that I picked up. I've lost count how many times I've repaired my gear, and I've NEVER been unable to afford something.
        Just my 2c.

        Half the gear I find/upgrade too is broken so repairs are pretty much going to happen regardless.

    Use Quen, drop points into it, get intensity and spec into alternative mode for the sustained shield. Makes it possible to take monsters far above your level and the alternate bubble heals you for the damage it absorbs.

      This is definitely a good tip but for me, it feels like it makes the game too easy. I've put my points into Axii and Igni as well as into Fast Attack and the first Combat Stance one.. I think I wasted a couple of points on the special skills (+500 Vitality and Sun/Stars) but whatever.. never going to max out all the skills anyway. I don't think I've used Quen for almost the entire game.. I prefer to be fully offensive.. with Quen in Witcher 2, I found it altered the way I played and I found the combat much less enjoyable.. so I decided to not use it this time.

        So I have just shy of 300% intensity, quen shield damage reflect build with the archgriffin decoction (heavy attacks deal a flat 10% health damage to opponent if you have stamina when you attack) popped while fighting at night with owl potion at max (stam regen that doesn't expire during night). My stam goes from empty to full in about 1. seconds, basically the explosion animation of letting go of alt mode quen

        for mobs of small stuff I have ignii, for things that hit hard I have quen. if they hit hard, quen reflect hits on average about 8-900, if they dont but have large health pools (elementals) then I can heavy attack to cleave huge health % off them.

        I feel super dirty using this spec but I am curious to see how the last boss goes when I bump up the difficulty to max then just hold in quen. might record it if all goes well, up to last quest I think but taking a break.

    One of the better tactics I've been successful with as of late is the slowed & damaging magic trap. It works on humans monsters trolls wraiths & pretty much everything I've tried it on.

    Just crafted my full enhanced Griffon set and swords, dinged 15 and put that point into the Medium Armour/Stamina Regen talent. Igni everywhere, all the time. If you haven't done it check out the channelled Igni (even if you save before so you can undo) it's really fun to have 4 bandits running at you and light them all up.

      Also definitely point some points into the 1st right alchemy talent (first tier, forget the name). Whenever you are above 0 toxicity it slows enemies down when they go for attack on you, making it really easy to dodge/parry. This is super helpful when your getting low and pop a swallow.

      Last edited 01/06/15 1:12 pm

      With the griffon set, something I've neglected though I'm going to rectify it tonight when I play, do you need to get all pieces before you can make them? or can you just find a piece and make it straight away? Also.. I have only 3 of the "map" pieces.. will I still be able to find all the pieces without buying the map pieces?

        can find just the one pattern and make just that one piece
        having said that, a lot of the scavenger hunt chests are actually in pretty safe locations even if the quest says lvl20+ and so on. There was maybe 2 or 3 treasure hunts that forced me to kill a mob that was the level of the quest, so check em out.

        Last edited 01/06/15 2:15 pm

          But don't forget you still need standard before crafting enhanced, made that mistake and had to craft standard Griffin sword before I could craft enhanced. Is there more than Griffin, Ursine and Feline armour/sword sets?

          Awesome thanks. Yeh I did all the griffin set now. Now doing enhanced as most of the griffin set is underlevel for me at the moment.. enhanced seems to be more where I am at (I am halfway to level 14, so yeah)

            lvl32 with full sets of mastercrafted armour and weapons though I still need to glyph them all

            Griffin has a nice balance, you can drop points into attack spec or sign spec and get your money's worth out of it, sign is generally better for griffin, it is built for it but your overall raw damage output is lower. Good for low to mid level play when you don't have as many spec points to play with and rely on lower tier abilities. The spec can be very versatile however, giving you the freedom to focus on any of your trees and achieving success regardless of your choice, you can also get the armour earlier and upgrade it earlier than the other 2. Shame the griffin armour set makes you look like a fatty.

            Cat is tricky I found, you get slapped about quite a bit and a poorly timed dodge or attack can leave you struggling for health. When you get to the light attack adding a bleed (top of the tree, or bottom, whichever way you look at it) it is fantastic for dodging in and out of combat and letting your status effects do the work for you, and I recommend playing it this way when taking down higher level stuff. For low level stuff spamming light attack is more than enough.

            Bear I have only played a little of. Considering going back to it because the armour set looks the coolest in my opinion and I enjoyed playing heavy attack spec in Star Wars Jedi Knight 2 :P Now that I know a little more about using proper potions and so on I think it could probably come out on top of the huge burst damage but it is to my knowledge far better suited to taking down large monsters. Heavy attack is quite slow for necrophages and smaller beasts but for big things like wyverns, griffins, bears and things that stand still you can smite huge chunks of damage off them with well placed strikes.

    Wow, I must be playing this different to everyone. I have two red mutagens equipped, with 3 differing sword skills attached. Each quadrant gives me 20% attack power. I haven't even started putting points into signs....weird. On top of this I keep what I have repaired but having said this I have two of both steel and silver swords for combat till I get back to repair them. My main silver sword has a 15% stun and in two of the three slots I have 2% stun on top making 19%. I hit a monster and they pretty much stay stunned, unable to attack until they are dead. They keep getting stunned, especially with light attacks. It feels like a massive cheat. But killing lvl 25 monsters at lvl 15 is pretty satisfying. :)

      ive gone the alchemy route focusing on oils and bombs, its fun as hell having upto 9 uses from each bomb and then the added 6 bomblets with the clusterbomb talent.

    On a side note, If they are considering a Witcher movie, Chris Pine could nail the look and feel of Geralt if he can swallow a cup of gravel. Google 'chris pine with beard' for proof

    Must be a very slow news week for Kotaku....

    I haven't seen anyone mention this, even though it may seem like a massive drainer, but read every book you come across, A lot of the books will provide information that will add information into your bestiary. Only found this out last night and definitely seems worth it because some of the enemies can surprise you and you don't know anything about them

    If you get the general skill perk that allows you to use adrenaline points to cast signs when stamina isn't charged they become super helpful,providing you use your extra casting ability to good effect.

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