As far as I’m concerned, The Witcher 3 more than delivers everything required for it to become a game of the year. Not only does the title improve on virtually every area its predecessors had already iterated upon, but it also sweeps the floor with its competition in most regards. It’s a devastatingly huge and sprawling RPG world in which it’s so easy to get lost in for over a hundred hours it’s not even funny.

As Geralt progresses through the main storyline, he comes across numerous phenomenal side-quests, all of which are just as immersive as the main plot is, or perhaps even more so. The morally ambiguous characters fill out the map, all of whom have their own agenda behind the given questline. It’s up to Geralt and the player controlling him to take up arms and decide how the game plays out, thus creating their own, practically unique story from the get-go, and one that is set in one of the most unique RPG universes ever created in modern media. It’s a franchise inspired by Slavic mythology, thus making it all the more endearing to my European colleagues and me. With all the classical fantasy RPGs being released these days, it’s a really refreshing experience to play something of Wild Hunt’s calibre for a change. The lore behind most of the game world is firmly set in the tradition I’m well acquainted with, making it far more immersive for me in particular compared to its runner-up, Fallout 4, which feels like a bland experience in comparison.

Naturally, there were some “problems” with the game’s visual fidelity, but that can be attributed to CD Projekt RED taking just a tiny bit too much of a workload, given the Wild Hunt’s sheer size and scope.

On the gameplay side of things, The Witcher 3 controls surprisingly well, with visceral combat being the most immediately prominent feature of all. Never have I had as much fun killing vicious monsters as I had with this game in an RPG, and that’s before even getting into all the background systems, loot mechanics, Signs and whatnot that provide depth to what is almost an arcade-like experience, which is practically unseen of in the genre. Then there’s the card game Gwent, which is fairly close to Hearthstone in terms of gameplay mechanics and fun factor, which got modders working to turn each and every combat encounter of The Witcher 3 into a Gwent match, no less. Not exactly my cup of tea, but hey, it’s there in case you want to check it out!

Compared to other huge AAA releases of the year, The Witcher 3 definitely takes the cake in my opinion. The Phantom Pain, which I loved and played for 70 hours straight only to develop a gag reflex afterwards, got straight-out outlasted by the damned thing. Arkham Knight is likely to remain a bloody mess for good on PC, so that’s not even a comparison. Fallout 4, as fun as it may be, simply can’t hold a candle to The Wild Hunt regarding gameplay, replayability or story, with ludicrously extensive modding being its only real redeeming feature as far as I’m concerned. The only other release I liked almost as much as The Witcher 3 is Just Cause 3, where technical issues and relatively poor optimization ruined the experience for me somewhat. Of course, there were issues with Geralt’s latest adventure seeing how it ran on slower hardware as well, but I felt less compelled to drop it after seeing it slog on my college laptop than I was with Just Cause 3.

So yeah, ask me any time of the day and the answer will be: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The game that concluded the story of one of my favourite fantasy characters in a way that can only be described as ‘perfectly satisfying’, had me hooked with brilliantly designed gameplay mechanics and still has me coming back every once in a while, even though I’ve spent over 120 hours in it overall. If I had to make a single recommendation of the year, it would without a doubt be this game.