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14 essential Witcher 3 tips to know before you play

witcher 3 tips
(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

You'll need some Witcher 3 tips for this huge open-world. From mastering The Witcher 3 combat system, to exploring its hundreds of missions, contracts, scavenger hunts, and more. Without a few Witcher 3 tips to guide you The Witcher 3 can become a daunting experience fast if you don’t prepare yourself properly.

Witchers are known for taking their time studying an enemy before facing them, making use of everything on their disposal and trying to find the best way to get the job done. These Witcher 3 tips follows that tradition and should give you a firm footing in that game.

1. Alchemy is important

Witcher 3 Alchemy is important

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

Alchemy is vital for a witcher, so mastering it is one of the more vital Witcher 3 tips. Most of the loot you’ll gather during your travels will likely serve a purpose later on, and it’s advised to spend a few minutes in the alchemy tab and check for available recipes. From here you can create oils for your weapons, bombs, and potions.

More recipes will become available for purchase from merchants and as loot, so always keep an eye for them. Swords and signs are important, sure, but never underestimate the use of potions or additional tools prior and during combat.

2. When using Roach, stick to the roads 

witcher 3 roach

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

Roach is probably your best partner in the game, though it can get tiresome to always have to keep an eye on its stamina if you’re galloping. If you’re on a road, however, a top Witcher 3 tip is to double tap the designated button and Roach will just keep traversing forward on its own. Just move to either the left or the right side from time to time to keep on the right track, and the rest will be automatic without the loss of stamina.

3. Invest in Quen

witcher 3 quen

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

Each sign has a purpose in The Witcher 3, and you’ll quickly learn how to make the most of them in battle. Quen, in particular, can be extremely helpful during fights when you obtain the Exploding Shield skill. This will turn it into a protective field around Geralt, allowing him to defend himself from attack while also dealing damage with a chance of knockdown.

Exploding Shield is recommended for being in the first tier of skills, as it won’t be too difficult to obtain it early on. But the second skill of Quen’s tree, called Active Shield, is an interesting alternate mode. It provides you with a much larger area of protection, and if you upgrade it, it will heal Geralt depending on how much damage he absorbed per attack. It also no longer using Stamina while it’s activated.

4 And Axii's worth upgrading too

witcher 3 axii

There's a whole host of upgrade options available for your magic but as well as Quen another Witcher 3 tip is to focus on the Axii sign. Using Axii on enemies in combat will temporarily stun them, which allows you to either land a heavy strike or two while they're defenseless, or ignore them and focus on others if there's a group attacking. More importantly, Axii can be used in dialogues to influence the actions of others, opening up new options to avoid fighting people or having to pay them.

5. Oils are your friends

witcher 3 oils

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

Oils are basically momentary upgrades you can apply to weapons on top of their default stats, and have a particular purpose. Most of them will increase the effectiveness of your swords towards a type of enemy, with strengths and weaknesses playing a big part of it. So a top Witcher 3 tip is to always have a few on your inventory, since you never know when you’ll need the extra advantage against a dangerous foe.

6. Whenever you arrive anywhere new, check the local board

Witcher 3 new location boards

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

Whenever you reach a new location a good Witcher 3 tip is to always check the local messages boards. Not only for new contracts and side missions, but also as a way to unlock new question marks to investigate on the map or even helpful bits of information on your current objectives. Worst case scenario, you always get to read a silly tale about the town and its whereabouts.

7. In combat, learn the difference between dodging and rolling

Witcher 3 combat rolling dodging

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

You don’t need someone to tell you that rolling and dodging two different actions, but in The Witcher 3, there's a key difference in when you choose to use them. Whenever Geralt dodges, he makes a short and quick movement in the direction you press with the dodge button simultaneously. Rolling’s action is similar, but you cover more ground and the animation takes longer until he’s back on his feet.

Both are great for close quarters combat, but if you’re fighting a bandit or a Drowner, dodging can grant you the small window you need to strike back as your foe misses. Rolling works best when you’re facing bigger enemies that usually have more undodgeable attacks, or those who cover a wider area with each swing, like Golems. Practicing both movements and learning enemy patterns is key to succeed in your contracts.

8. Parrying can save your life often

witcher 3 parrying

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

Speaking of combat, Geralt can also perform a parry that can be a bit hit or miss depending on the enemy, but it’s still worth your attention. During fights, the white wolf can block incoming attacks with his swords. Depending on the timing, he can trigger a parry and deny all damage. The trick is when to do it.

If you're having trouble with the timing of a good parry, a good Witcher 3 tip is that as you’re holding down the block button, wait until an enemy’s name turns red (an indicator that they’re about to land an attack), lift your finger and press it again right before the strike lands. Just keep in mind that not everything can be parried, and that is best used with enemies from a similar or lower height as Geralt.

9. Check for armorer’s tables and grindstones

witcher 3 armorer’s tables and grindstones

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

Armorer’s tables and grindstones are usually found near blacksmiths and armorers. These two small stations can be activated for free, and grant a 20% boost to armor and weapons for 15 minutes. Always make sure to pass by and activate them before a tough fight or mission.

10. Get a saddlebag for Roach to increase your inventory limit

witcher 3 saddlebag for Roach

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

Weight is a crucial element in The Witcher 3, and taking it lightly can make for some painfully slow walks for Geralt. Luckily, a great Witcher 3 tip is that Roach can give a helping hoof. Saddlebags aren’t easy to find, but they’re worth the investment to increase your inventory limit early on.

If you’re playing The Witcher 3 for the first time, look for a quest concerning horse races near to Crow’s Perch, in which you’ll obtain one as reward. If you’re looking for more tips regarding weight and inventory space, read everything you need to know about armor and item dismantling in our guide.

11. You can change Geralt’s hair and beard style

witcher 3 beard and haircuts

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

Okay, not exactly a Witcher 3 tip but you'll be doing it all the time: once you get to Novigrad (and on other major cities as well) look for a shop that has giant scissors on the front door. For a small fee, a barber will change Geralt’s hair and beard style independently, with different options available if you activated the corresponding free DLC. This is great to give Geralt a fresh look, or to trim his beard whenever it gets too long after a few in-game weeks.

12. Save regularly outside of missions

witcher 3 save

Your progress is automatically saved after each completed objective and at various other checkpoints while working through quests, but due to the unpredictability of events in the world it's risky to rely on this while out exploring. So a top Witcher 3 tip is that of you're not following a particular quest then make sure you make regular manual saves. That way you won't lose too much progress should you get ambushed or accidentally fall off a cliff.

13. Keep your vitality up

witcher 3 vitality

Your vitality only regenerates automatically when not in combat, and even then it only ticks up very slowly. Make sure you have at least one type of food item equipped to a consumables slot, so you can quickly use it during combat to recover some health - the longer the regeneration effect duration the better. If your vitality gets too low during a fight and it looks like you can't recover in time, there's always the option to flee and live to see another day. Unless you're playing on a higher difficulty level, you can also meditate to recover vitality, and you only need to move the clock on to the next hour to completely refill your meter.

14. Loot everything (when no one's looking)

witcher 3 loot

A vital Witcher 3 tip is to make sure you loot everything you see, as there are all sorts of useful items that can be found in crates and barrels, as well as lifted from the bodies of defeated enemies that are marked with an X on your minimap. Use your Witcher Senses to highlight any items nearby that can be nabbed, but be wary when guards are around as they don't take kindly to light fingered Witchers, so don't take anything while you're in view of them or you'll end up in an unnecessary fight.

The 'grab everything in sight' approach particularly applies to alchemy ingredients such as plants and animal parts, as there are hundreds of different components to harvest and you'll need specific combinations of ingredients in order to craft new alchemy items. The good news is that once you've successfully made a particular item, you no longer need to harvest the ingredients to make more, as you can just use alcohol to keep your supply topped up.

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Diego Arguello

Diego is an Argentinian freelance games journalist. His words can be found at Eurogamer, Polygon, The Verge, Washington Post, and GamesRadar, among others. He's now a Featured Contributor at Fanbyte, and is also the Editor-in-Chief of Into the Spine. Diego also hosts the Turnabout Breakdown podcast.