The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a huge open world game where player choices matter. The rich story is full of difficult decisions that shape the way gamers develop their character. The player has over 50 abilities to choose from and a platitude of weapons, potions, bombs, glyphs and armors. With such a vast amount of choices, each gamer can create a witcher they can call their own.
In Hearts of Stone, we are introducing new mechanics that provide another layer of customization — Runewords and Glyphwords. These are powerful enchantments that can be applied to the highest quality swords and armors.
I’d like to share a few ideas to help you start customizing your own unique witcher, as well as a few examples of how Runewords and Glyphwords can enhance your customization. To do that, let’s explore in detail the three paths players can embark on while developing their character: Combat, Signs and Alchemy.
The Combat tree was designed as an entry point for new players. Early abilities are straightforward and make your standard attack more effective. As you advance in this path, you open new possibilities, like Whirlwind (which allows you to strike multiple opponents) or Rend (a very strong attack against one opponent). More advanced players may consider going after abilities related to Battle Trance and its resource, Adrenaline. These abilities can be very powerful when used under the right circumstance, but also require special equipment to achieve their full potential.
Speaking of equipment, the Combat tree is not very demanding in this regard — just grab the hardest-hitting sword and you should be fine… should. One of the drawbacks of going the Combat route is that you maximize damage at the expense of your protection. This problem can be fixed with Hearts of Stone’s Runewords and Glyphwords. For example, you can grab the Runeword Placation to increase your health regeneration once you’ve built up enough Adrenaline. Another option, Glyphword Deflection, deflects all arrows — so you no longer need to worry about archers sniping you from afar.
Overall, the Combat tree is the simplest way to start, but can be difficult to master. It is not heavy on item-use and, in most cases, all you will need is a good sword. Of course, on Death March difficulty — things can become a bit more complicated, but that’s another story…
The Signs tree is slightly more advanced than the combat tree and requires more thought into what ability to choose. At the start of the game, choices are limited — both in what you can buy and how many abilities you can use. Each sign is strong in one situation, but weak in another.
- The first sign I’d like to cover is Ignii — it allows you to attack enemies from a relatively safe distance, can set enemies on fire and effectively remove them from a fight for a moment.
- If you need extra protection, Quen is the way to go. If you invest heavily in the Signs tree, you can turn Quen into a potent offensive tool. Even without upgrades, it is still a good tool to use… especially if you’ve invested heavily in the combat tree, as it lacks strong defensive options.
- Yrden is a must for some fights, as it has the potential to disable some monsters’ abilities (check out the in-game Bestiary log for more details). Yrden alone is still a potent sign, but it may need a bit of practice for optimal use.
- Axii is an interesting sign, as it can help you avoid a fight altogether through proper dialog choices and influencing another person’s mind. On the highest difficulty levels, Axii can be a real lifesaver! Who doesn’t like having enemies help you win a fight?
- Finally, the Aard sign: Aard is sometimes overlooked because of the power of other signs, but in the right hands it can be devastating. Knocking an enemy off of his feet means you can finish him off with one strike.
The major drawback of the Signs tree is that you need a full stamina bar to cast them. It takes a few precious seconds to refill it, so casting the right sign at the right moment is critical. There are some Runewords and Glyphwords that can help with maintaining stamina. The Rejuvenation Runeword restores a bit of lost stamina instantly, and the Protection Glyphwod will activate Quen without reducing stamina when you enter combat. There are a few more Runewords and Glyphwords to help bolster the Signs tree, but I will let you discover those when Hearts of Stone arrives.
The Alchemy tree is the most advanced of the three and requires dedication and effort to make the most of it… but it is well worth the investment. If you want to become almost undefeatable, grab Refreshment, Protective Coating and Tissue Transformation. With heavy armor and a few green mutagens, you might just become an unstoppable juggernaut. With the Invigoration Runeword active, any type of healing you do when your Vitality is at maximum will be used to increase the damage of your next sword attack.
You may go after Cluster Bombs and Efficiency to create mayhem with the sheer number of bombs at your disposal. For those of you who like living on the edge, Trial of Grasses abilities might be the way to go. They require the player to consume poisoned potions, but grant some of the most powerful abilities in the game in return.
The major drawback of the Alchemy tree is that it requires a lot of crafting. You really need to get as many alchemy recipes as you can and upgrade to level 3 as soon as possible. This requires a lot of time and money, so alchemy is the path that starts to shine at a later stage of the game. On the flip side, this path does not require any particular weapons or armor to be effective. Just grab what you like and enjoy blowing stuff up!
This should be enough to get you on your way to becoming an ultimate monster-slaying machine. Remember that there are lots of choices in the game, so don’t be afraid to experiment!