Over the weekend, The Witcher 3 got a new patch that brought with it a bunch of changes. None of the tweaks are earth-shaking on their own, but taken together, they make the game feel noticeably more polished, user-friendly, and complete.
Since The Witcher 3 came out back in May, developer CD Projekt Red has been releasing regular free updates and downloadable content, from performance tweaks to outfits and weapons to full-blown story missions. I've been following along with interest, and have been impressed with what I've played so far.
Last weekend we didn't get any new missions or gear, but we got something just as good — the substantial new 1.07 patch. It was about 5GB for me on PC, and brought with it a ton of small improvements, some more noticeable than others. I got home from vacation on Sunday and fired the game up to see what was different.
I've played more than 90 hours of The Witcher 3 on PC, in addition to the 60-ish that I played on PS4 back when I reviewed it. I've gotten pretty used to the game's many little quirks, so some of the little changes feel more noticeable to me than they may to another player. I haven't tried the patched game out on either PS4 and Xbox One — Digital Foundry reports that it actually lowers the game's average frame-rate in some places on consoles, which is a bummer, but one to which I can't directly attest.
First, the biggest change, which is a real megaton. Per the patch notes:
Fixes an issue where in certain circumstances gravity ceased to apply to the player's horse.
No more flying horses! We live in an age of wonders. The other major change is that you can now turn on an alternate control setting in the game options:
The result is that Geralt turns on a tighter radius and as a result is a lot easier to handle. For a not-very-scientific look at the differences, here's what happens when I try to turn in a tight circle with the original control scheme while using a controller:
And here's me turning with the new alternate control scheme:
It may not seem like a huge difference, but it will be immediately noticeable to anyone who's spent a lot of time playing the game. To test it out, I spent a few hours hunting down the new Wolf School armour (Side note: Worth doing! You'll explore some places you may have missed back at Kaer Morhen, and the armour itself is cool.) As I explored, I found myself much more able to climb twisting staircases and navigate cliffs and walkways without Geralt stumbling off edges. Combat also feels tighter, particularly if you decide to flee mid-fight or relocate to a better vantage.
As much as I may love Geralt's horse Roach, there's no denying that steering her can be a pain in the arse. Roach's controls have also been improved with the new patch. It's still not entirely smooth sailing — it's easier to get Roach through a tightly packed corridor or across a bridge or other choke point, but still not quite easy, and the auto-navigation on trails still doesn't work entirely correctly. I still found Roach taking forks in the direction leading away from the path on my minimap.
The inventory menu has also gotten a new Books tab, which will allow you to hoover up all the books and documents you can find without worrying about your Usable Items tab filling up with copies of My Evening With A Vampire and Witchers: Not Quite The Devils You Thought.
It's a big improvement, and while it doesn't undo the general awkwardness of the game's menus, it goes a long way toward making the most important tab (Usable Items) less crowded.
Geralt also has access to a storage Stash, which is great news for armour-hoarders like me who craft every possible set of custom Witcher gear and can't bear to part with any of it. There aren't that many stash locations — one for each of the game's major locations — and they're marked by a green chest icon on the map.
Once you're at your stash, you can store whatever you'd like:
I stored all of the Witcher gear I don't use, along with my precious purloined portrait of Hierarch Hemmelfart, which I'm sure you will agree deserves to be kept safe.
In another nice interface improvement, you can now "pin" crafting and alchemy formulas. The ingredients you need for pinned recipes will be highlighted in the shopkeeper menu, which makes it a lot easier to figure out what you need for the stuff you want to make.
Those are the most noticeable changes, but there are a lot of little ones, too. (Apparently, the patch changes the level requirements for some armour? Which is a head-scratcher.) As I mentioned earlier, you can see the full changelog here, but among the things I noticed: When Geralt goes into a conversation with a Quen shield active, it no longer loudly explodes off of him at the start of the conversation. (Hooray!) The mini-map seems much easier to read when you're in small caves and dungeons, which makes it easier to tell where you are and how to leave. Your equipped armour and weapons are now highlighted in the repair menu, so you don't wind up accidentally repairing the sword you were just going to sell anyway.
There are some new graphics options, including a bunch of new settings for the game's notoriously performance-killing Nvidia HairWorks tech. (I still leave it off.) The patch also promises more general performance increases. As I already mentioned, I can't directly speak to the lower performance that Digital Foundry discovered on consoles, but the game has always run very well for me on PC — I'm using a GTX 970 and have gotten solid 60fps 1080p performance at high/ultra settings with HairWorks off. After the patch, I'm still in the same high/ultra ballpark and am still getting a solid 60fps.
The 1.07 patch contains many more small tweaks, and more than a few that I'm sure I've missed. Overall, though: It's yet another welcome bit of post-release support from a developer that was already doing a great job of it.