witcher 3 vs skyrim

Witcher 3 vs Skyrim Compared: The Clash of the Titans

Latest posts by Adam Braunstein (see all)

If you were to take a poll of the two most mentioned names in the RPG gaming world in the last decade, there is a good chance that both The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Skyrim are the top two.

Skyrim has been rereleased seemingly every other year to the point of ad-nauseum, yet it’s still consumed at an insane rate. 11 years after its release and it’s still not only one of the top played games on Steam but also in the top 5 of VR games played too.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt had a tougher road to travel than Skyrim because it was a continuation of a story from a game that, while good, didn’t have the same fanbase as Skyrim had with the Elder Scrolls series. Despite those odds, CD Projekt Red created a world so singular in its horror and beauty that just about every RPG to come out since its release in 2015 has tried to emulate it in some way or another.

There is a ton to dig into in terms of what makes each of them so special. Are they similar in ways? What makes them different and unique, and ultimately, which is more fun to play? Let’s check out the inner workings of two of the greatest pieces of videogame entertainment ever conceived.

Main Differences Between The Witcher 3 vs Skyrim

The main differences between The Witcher 3 vs Skyrim are:

  • Skyrim Takes place on a singular land mass which has several smaller locations you can visit throughout the game, whereas The Witcher 3 takes place on multiple continents.
  • At the beginning of the game in Skyrim, you can create your own character, including facial structure, body type, race, and overall appearance, whereas in The Witcher 3, when the game begins, you are Geralt, a Witcher who is hired to kill monsters throughout the world. In this way, Skyrim gives you more freedom to create your own story rather than just following a story of a premade character.
  • Skyrim allows you to be a melee fighter, a long-range archer, a dagger-equipped assassin, a devastating mage, or a combination of all of the above, while The Witcher 3 has you strictly in the role of a master swordsman with a couple of magic abilities.
  • Skyrim is a classic fantasy world filled with familiar creatures in the genre, such as Orcs, whereas The Witcher 3 is based on Polish Folklore and has you fighting never before seen enemies in gaming, such as Leshyns, Drowners, and Necrophages.
  • Skyrim is more about exploration and discovering things on your own than following the main storyline, while The Witcher 3 presents its main story with a sense of urgency, so even sidequests are connected to the main path in some ways.
  • Skyrim’s story generally has one path to take on each mission, while The Witcher 3 gives you several choices throughout the game that ultimately can affect which characters survive and what ending you get.
  • Skyrim allows you to outfit your character in multiple kinds of armor, from rags to leather to steel to ebony or even dragon forged, whereas in The Witcher 3, you are generally getting one type of armor fit for a swordsman.

Writing/ Narrative

The Witcher 3

the witcher 3

The Witcher 3’s main weapon of choice is its writing and plot. The main plot is about Geralt being summoned by Emperor Emyr Von Emries to go find his daughter and Geralt’s ward, Ciri, after it’s been discovered she’s being hunted by a spectral force known as the Wild Hunt.

Throughout your journey, you will come across various characters from Geralt’s path, discover chilling conspiracies, and, ultimately, the truth as to why the Wild Hunt is after Ciri.

From the start of the game, you can tell how much quality there is in the writing as each character feels real, and no matter how large or small a role they play, they never feel like just another videogame NPC.

Characters like Vesemir, Triss, Yennifer, and of course, Geralt are among the best realized in videogame history, with witty, interesting, and even funny dialogue that’s all anchored by amazing voice acting and facial animations along the way.

While the main story is great, often, you won’t be able to survive it without upgrading your equipment, and in order to do that, you need gold, which is primarily earned through side quests.

The side quests in The Witcher 3 are better than the main quests of most games. The writing that takes place in these is simply genius at times, and more times than not, you’re going to be running to the nearest town posterboard marker on your map to see what interesting tasks the town’s residents have for Geralt to check out.

Skyrim

Skyrim

We can be honest here and say the writing of Skyrim has never been the game’s strong suit. Not only is the dialogue awkward at times, but it certainly doesn’t help that there are maybe five actors in the entire game to voice upwards of 300 NPCs that you can encounter. But it’s not all bad on the writing front.

For one, the side content in Skyrim is vast, and while the dialogue isn’t that great, the stories being told are often pretty engaging when it comes to the Thieves Guild and, most importantly, The Dark Brotherhood quest lines; they hold their own against most of what The Witcher 3 has to offer.

The Main story places you as the Dragonborn who has been reborn to take on the returning threat of Alduin, an evil dragon threatening to destroy time itself. The story is pretty straightforward, and although the missions are fun, there is nothing too intricate happening with the dialogue or even the story structure.

Presentation

The Witcher 3

The Witcher 3

The Witcher 3 is as good as it gets when it comes to presentation. From the slick before the title sequence, which depicts the events leading up to the game with beautiful, interesting art that resembles a comic book if it was drawn in the dark ages. From there, amazing cutscenes, animation that holds up 7 years later, and incredible graphics put the Witcher 3 in a league of its own.

The game world is made up of multiple continents, with each having a distinct flavor to it. You start off in White Orchard, which is a truly massive opening area that has roughly 15 hours worth of content in it if you want to explore everything. From there, you head to Velen, the war-torn and downtrodden area where the story really kicks off.

The environment here is pure dread, and the storytelling the world itself does is on another level. Trees are filled with hanging men and women, and orphans litter the streets of the various towns you come across.

This land would be enough for most games, but then we get the extravagant city of Novigrad, which is alive and bustling in a way that no other area in the game.

Nothing is too cheery for long, though, as the streets are patrolled by Witch Hunters who seek to kill all the mages in the country and actively burn them in public areas as a warning. Then you have the continent of Skellige, a snow-covered and Viking-inspired country filled with unique enemies, amazing architecture, and some truly breathtaking scenery.

The monsters in The Witcher 3 are so unique and bizarre in The Witcher 3 that they are characters of their own even though they’re without much of the time. These monstrosities are bursting with terrifying life, and the variety of creatures you’ll come across is impressive and keeps the game feeling fresh.

As far as presentation goes, The Witcher 3 is one of the best-presented games I’ve ever seen. From the gorgeous graphics to the amazing scenery and incredible characters and enemies, this is a 10/10 in this category.

Skyrim

Skyrim

The land of Skyrim itself is among the best ever crafted. The weather changes from fall to winter depending on where you’re headed, and each time you find a new area, the flora and fauna change to reflect it. In the distance, hulking buildings and majestic castles are viewable from all over and can be visited at any time too. Nothing in Skyrim is window dressing, and if you can see a place, you can go there.

The cities in Skyrim separate themselves from The Witcher 3 as there are tons of them, with each having a unique personality. Solitude is the capital of the Imperials and feels like an upscale city full of the richest people that Skyrim has to offer.

Windhelm, on the other hand, is decidedly smaller and feels like it’s home to a more down-to-earth people while still establishing the majesty and power of the Jarl’s castle, Dragonsreach.

The enemies in Skyrim are from standard fantasy lore for the most part, but that doesn’t mean they slacked on design here. From the undead Draugr to the hulking, ancient dragons that patrol the land, every enemy is painstakingly crafted, and Bethesda knows as much as the loading screen allows you to zoom in on enemy models to see just how much detail went into creating them.

The weapons of Skyrim belong in a class of their own, and one The Witcher 3 actually can’t come close to.

The weapon variety is insane as you have swords, two-handed swords, war hammers, axes, two-handed axes, staves, and daggers to choose from, with each having a ton of variation in their looks and effects. The emerald glass weapons are especially amazing to look at, as are the pitch-black ebony weapons and armor too.

The magic spells on display here remain impressive to this day. From ice to fire, to poison to lightning, the magic here is simply a joy to behold. There are also powerful dragon shouts, which physically burst from your character and cause all sorts of dazzling effects like meteor showers, wind blasts, or even turning your enemies into pure ice.

No expense was spared with a presentation for Skyrim, and it remains one of the most expertly crafted experiences out there. Over a decade later, games are still trying to mimic the presentation on display here.

Audio/ Score

The Witcher 3

How many games are cocky enough that they come with an audio CD when you buy them? The Witcher 3 is one of those games, and thankfully, they back it up in a big way.

The music in The Witcher 3 is true genius and combines interesting, middle eastern vibed music with soaring orchestral pieces that complement the world perfectly.

The battle songs here are numerous, and depending on where you’re fighting and who you’re fighting, you’ll hear different songs. Each one is full of intensity while also being expertly crafted songs, and it’s a rare combination and a welcome one.

You’ll be humming the songs from this game for years after you play it, and hearing the ambient strings begin to play in Skellige as you look over a snowy mountaintop as the winds pick up will never fail to inspire awe.

Throughout the world, the music changes depending on where you go and tends to fit the mood perfectly. For example, this droning violin will accompany the depressing tone of Velen, but as soon as you make for Novigrad, a more upbeat yet still mysterious tone will accompany the proceedings.

Sound design-wise, I can’t think of a better game. From the outstanding voice acting to the explosive sound effects in combat, the sound design here is insane. Swords clash, your magic sign spells crackle and hum properly, as you’d imagine, and the screeches and roars of the terrifying monsters you face off against will stay with you for life.

If you’ve got good speakers or headphones, this is absolutely a game to turn the volume up and just get lost in.

Skyrim

As amazing as The Witcher 3’s music is, for me at least, it isn’t quite the iconic collection that Skyrim has assembled. If I had to compare Skyrim’s soundtrack to something, it would be the soundtrack for Lord of The Rings. That might seem outlandish, but it really is that good.

Throughout the land of Skyrim, you will hear some beautiful tunes, and they tend to fit the mood perfectly wherever you are. The opening title theme on its own has been the source of much praise over the years with its over-the-top orchestra and energetic pace, and it fits the adventure that’s about to take place perfectly.

The battle theme in Skyrim is pretty static throughout, but it does a good job of depicting the mystery and magic taking place in this world. My favorite songs here are the ones that play out across the mountaintops or hear the epic music that accompanies the arrival of one of the many terrifying dragons that inhabit Skyrim.

The sounds of Skyrim are another thing entirely. This is a rich, alive and vibrant world in a league of its own when it comes to what you can hear throughout the course of the game.

Greatswords and long swords each sound different, and the wails of the different spectral enemies you face off against in the game each have their own timbre too. The sound design for the enemies here is simply outstanding, with the highlight being the ferocious roars of the dragons as they approach you throughout the land.

It’s hard to stand up to The Witcher 3 when it comes to the audio and score, but Skyrim is certainly up to the challenge, and it basically comes down to your preference on which game does it better. They’re both incredible-sounding games.

Gameplay/ Core Mechanics

Skyrim and The Witcher 3 may both be medieval-styled RPGs, but where they differ greatly is in the gameplay and core mechanics that are involved in each game. Let’s check out what you’ll be doing through the countless hours in these games.

The Witcher 3

witcher 3

The Witcher 3 is among the most straightforward of most RPGs out there, but within that approach lies intricate systems that all affect each other.

Gameplay

The Witcher 3 is a massive game that can take you upwards of 100 hours to do everything, and throughout the game, you’ll be fighting a large variety of monsters and human enemies on your main quest to find Ciri and defeat the Wild Hunt.

When you’re not engrossed in the main quest, you have a massive, open world to explore that’s divided up into continents. Helping make your travels more tolerable is your trust horse Roach, who you can summon pretty much anywhere throughout the game.

In this world, you’re a Witcher who hunts monsters for coin. Along the way, you’ll be able to explore local towns and villages to see if they’re in need of your services, and these serve as the side quests in the game. Side quests are much, much more involved here than they are in most RPGs.

Aside from the side quests, you have Witcher contracts which involve you hunting down a monster for someone. These are some of the most difficult quests in the game and often reward you the most gold. You will need to prepare carefully to survive these encounters, and it’s where the combat mechanics shine the most.

The combat here is incredibly unique and revolves mostly around your skill with a sword. You have two swords on you at all times; one of silver and one of steel. Silverswords are stronger against monsters, while humans are weaker against steel. Knowing which to use per situation helps you out immensely here.

Core Mechanics

Since you’re playing as Geralt and not a blank slate, you are bound to his expertise as a swordsman and occasional magic user through the sign system. You have access to these from the get-go, and they grow stronger as you progress through the world. Each one has a different effect, such as Igni lighting your enemies on fire, Aard blowing your opponents away with a powerful force, or Agni hypnotizing enemies to fight for you.

They all have their uses and can be integral to winning tough battles. Your sword skills are basic, but they grow as you progress, and you’ll eventually unlock whirling flourish attacks and be able to parry projectiles out of the air.

Parrying and dodging are paramount here, as the combat is very much based on your timing. You can parry most creature’s attacks and are encouraged to do so as it can result in hitting a weak point, like, for example, cutting off a monster’s tongue so it can’t poison you.

Alchemy is a huge part of The Witcher 3, as you’ll be using it to craft special oils that buff your swords against different types of enemies. You’ll also be using alchemy to craft Witcher potions that can heal you, make you stronger, slow down time or even provide you with night vision. You have to collect ingredients to make these, so make sure you know when to make them count.

Throughout the world, you’ll be able to talk to tons of characters, and they may either help or hinder you depending on your dialogue choices. There are 1000s of lines of voiced dialogue throughout the game, and you’re often encouraged to talk to people whenever you arrive at a new place.

Skyrim

Skyrim

Skyrim is one of the most open-ended games ever made, and with that comes a variety of ways to spend your time in the world.

Gameplay

There are many massive cities to explore throughout the game, but unlike The Witcher 3, there is no town board telling you where the side quests are, instead, you come upon them naturally, which is a welcome breath of fresh air to most icon-filled RPG maps.

Sidequests in Skyrim are broken up into miscellaneous quests, which generally are handled in a pretty quick manner; normal side quests, which can range from short to very long depending on the nature of the quests; War for Skyrim quests, which involve you taking the side of either the Imperials or Stormcloaks and fighting through a lengthy storyline, or the best of the bunch, the guild questlines. You can join the Fighter’s guild, the Mage’s guild, The Thieve’s guild, and The Dark Brotherhood, and each one has an intricate plot that unfolds and feels like a game in itself.

The variety here is astounding and can really just swallow your life if you’re not careful. There are also countless optional dungeons to explore that house powerful bosses and legendary weapons, and incredible vistas such as the now iconic land of Blackreach. The mysteries you can uncover just by your own exploration are unmatched in RPGs to this day.

Core Mechanics

The combat in Skyrim gets a lot of flack, but what it lacks in its animations and precision, it makes up for in its variety. Attacks are performed either in single button presses for quick strikes or power attacks by holding the button down.

For your magic attacks, you can cast them one-handed or dual-wielded, or you can wield a different spell in each hand for more variety. Archers will eventually be able to slow down time while aiming and can even disarm enemies with certain skills unlocked.

Apart from the combat, there is alchemy, leather making, crafting, blacksmithing, and even the imbuing of weapons with magic abilities to play around with in Skyrim. While they are all optional, they provide a depth to the world that truly makes the game feel real in many ways.

DLC

The Witcher 3

The Witcher 3 has two of the best DLC expansions ever made. First off, you’ve got Hearts of Stone, which not only feels right at home in the Witcher world but also provides us with a villain so iconic, that he has vastly overtaken the relevance of the villain of the main storyline itself.

The tale is dark and lengthy and will take you to several new locales while adding entirely new game mechanics, like the extension of the sign system. All in all, it can take you 15 hours or so to get through everything, which is longer than most games.

Blood and Wine is the second expansion for The Witcher 3, and honestly, it might as well be its own game. It’s upwards of 40 hours in an entirely new land filled with brand new enemies, incredible new cities to explore, and an awesome storyline involving vampires. It’s an amazing change of scenery from the main game and feels like the perfect bookend to any playthrough, and stands on its own as a must-play game.

There is also about to be another update to The Witcher 3 with a brand new quest, multiple new armors, and a complete visual overhaul set to be released on 12/14/2022.

Skyrim

Skyrim is nearly an endless game, but despite that, Bethesda has added several pieces of DLC over the years.

Dawnguard is the first quest-based DLC that has you joining the Dawnguard in a fight against vampires. You eventually get the choice to fight for them or the vampires, and the quest goes completely differently depending on your choice.

Dragonborn is the next quest-based DLC, and it’s truly massive. It takes you to the land of Solstheim, which is a huge new continent that is filled with dungeons, cities, and new areas to explore. The main questline has you tracking down a former Dragonborn and takes you to the world of Hermaeus Mora, which is an absolutely wild-looking dungeon that eventually culminates in you getting to summon and ride your own dragon. Solstheim adds 30 hours’ worth of content on top of the already massive main game.

The Hearthfire DLC adds the ability to adopt a child and build your own home, so it’s more aesthetic than anything and ultimately adds very little to the game.

Which is Better?

Skyrim instills a sense of wonder in me to this day that I don’t think will ever be topped. Throughout all its version and releases, I’ve put in over 600 hours of gameplay here, and I’ve never beaten the game. Read that again. 600 hours, and I’ve never defeated Alduin.

That should put into perspective how enormous this game is. Skyrim is easily one of the best games ever made and deserves to be on the Mount Rushmore of gaming.

So what about The Witcher 3? Well, I’ve completed the story of The Witcher 3 three separate times. That totals roughly 300 hours or so, and then add another 60 on top of that with the DLC.

It’s one of the most incredible game worlds I’ve ever seen, but what makes it stand out are the characters and relationships you experience throughout the game. It’s personal in a way that Skyrim isn’t and presents a whole different flavor of game because of it.

Both of these are absolute gems, and I would pay someone to wipe my mind so I could experience them again for the first time.

Best Alternatives

Assassin's Creed Valhalla, Odyssey, Origins

Luckily, once you finish these games, you can still find plenty like them out there. Here are a few that should satisfy you.

The Witcher 3

  • Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Odyssey, Origins
  • Horizon Zero Dawn, Horizon Forbidden West
  • Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arizen
  • Elden Ring
  • God of War: Ragnarok
  • Greedfall
  • Cyberpunk 2077

Skyrim

  • Fallout 4
  • The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion
  • Outer Worlds
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition
  • Mass Effect
  • The Elder Scrolls Online

FAQs

Question: Is The Witcher 3 getting a sequel?

Answer: While it was thought to be the end of a trilogy, the recently announced The Witcher 4 has put that to bed. Details are sparse on the title for now, but it is in production.

Question: Is Skyrim the best Elder Scrolls game?

Answer: This is a much-debated question, but for my money, it is far better than any Elder Scrolls game that came before it. Add to that the fact that you can play it in VR on multiple systems, and it wins easily.

Question: Is Skyrim multiplayer?

Answer: Not officially, but a mod called Skyrim together actually lets you play through the entire game with a friend.

Conclusion

Skyrim and The Witcher 3 are two of the most popular games of all time, and while each has its strengths and weaknesses, you really can’t go wrong, regardless of the one you choose.

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