How To 

What Difficulty Level to Play the Witcher 3

What Each Difficulty Does in The Witcher 3


Before starting your new game of the Witcher 3 you’ll be tasked with the classic conundrum - Without knowing anything about how good you are at the game, how hard would you like it to be?
Effects of Difficulty

The difficulty of monsters has seemingly no bearing on their AI, and has absolutely no impact on the story. It will, however, change the health and damage of enemies, while also affecting the amount of exp gained from kills and experience. There is also a clear divide between the lower two difficulties and the upper two, since in the former you can regain health by meditating, while in the latter two you won’t.

Just The Story will roughly half the damage and health of enemies, while still giving full experience. You will regain health from meditating. This is a breezy experience intended for people new to videogames, with disabilities or people who have no interest at all in the Witcher 3’s combat system.

Sword and Story is the baseline experience of The Witcher 3, giving normal enemy damage and experience. You will regain health from meditating. Intended for people who want enemies to be a threat while still being unlikely to kill you. You won’t need to dig hard into the game’s RPG systems to succeed.

Blood and Bones will more than double enemy damage, but only slightly increase their health. Experience will be slightly reduced, and meditation will no longer heal. This is the intended play experience for people who want to invest in the game’s RPG system and be rewarded for making use of the Bestiary and the game’s alchemy systems without every fight being punishing. Often the recommended experience for veteran players in general.

Death March will almost double enemy health and quadruple their damage. Experience will be slightly reduced further, and meditating still does not health. Intended for people who want to find even trivial encounters dangerous, with very high lethality. Mastery of the game’s various systems will be essential for survival. Preferred by players who want a challenge, or players who want to make the world feel as punishing as possible.

Altering the Difficulty


Don’t worry too much about this starting decision though, because your difficulty can be altered at any time in the pause menu. If you feel like the game is drifting far from your comfort zone one way or another, you can make changes without having to restart everything. This can be done by doing the following.

  1. Pause the game
  2. Select Options
  3. Select Gameplay
  4. Scroll down to Difficulty Level, and move the bar to your preference
  5. Exit the menu
 
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JSimenhoff

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Nov 25, 2019
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I am playing it on Blood And Bones and finding it a challenge, but it is really fun to play when it is challenging.
Blood and Broken Bones is quite a challenging difficulty, especially for new players. My advice is to learn the enemy patterns and always have potions on hand. You may need to grind in certain sections to level up, but with a bit of determination I am certain you can beat it.
 
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Jun 17, 2020
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Blood and Broken Bones is quite a challenging difficulty, especially for new players. My advice is to learn the enemy patterns and always have potions on hand. You may need to grind in certain sections to level up, but with a bit of determination I am certain you can beat it.
Yes, I have started to learn that the hard way , but I am improving, so I am happy at the moment.
 
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Zloth

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I remember playing on somewhat high difficulty and really enjoying it but then, very suddenly, there was some mission in the sewers involving rats that went from 'challenging' to 'uhh, no.' I played not long after Blood & Wine showed up so I wouldn't bet on that difficulty spike getting smoothed out, either.
 
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Jan 4, 2021
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I am no performance gamer, but in some games I like a challenge, and Witcher series belongs to those. Death March is the only difficulty which I perceive as challenging, as it heavily taxes you for bad movement during fights, not avoiding being hit or riposting untimely. This I like. I tried Blood and Bones, and the fights felt too easy. But if you want to play the highest difficulty, you need to play as grinder or completionista - otherwise you're level will be too low to fight anybody. This is a problem especially when going from White Orchard to Velen - even if you do everything in the first phase of the game, you'll be only level 3 and so you'll need to avoid most places in Velen and do many quests to get up to speed with the enemy environment. You get XPs basically only from quests. Kills exps are almost negligible, unless you fancy heavy grinding.
 
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Zloth

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I remember playing on somewhat high difficulty and really enjoying it but then, very suddenly, there was some mission in the sewers involving rats that went from 'challenging' to 'uhh, no.' I played not long after Blood & Wine showed up so I wouldn't bet on that difficulty spike getting smoothed out, either.
A note on this: I'm pretty sure the problem was caused by the fact that I had the level scaling turned on. That made the swarm of low level rats into a swarm of Garalt-level rats, which really wasn't what was intended. That might well have been fixed since as the feature was fairly new at the time.
 
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"Sword and Story is the baseline experience of The Witcher 3, giving normal enemy damage and experience... enemies to be a threat while still being unlikely to kill you. you won’t need to dig hard into the game’s RPG systems to succeed. "

I found this to not be strictly true. There are numerous "boss" battles where if you don't research the creature and prepare accordingly, and took the right improvements for your fighting style, you will almost definitely die, unless you made your Geralt a certain way. I guess the question there is whether one considers that "digging hard" into the RPG systems. But it becomes especially important in the expansion DLCs.

There was one really interesting quest where some sort of cosplay/LARP session had gone wrong and people were dying, so I intervened and re-created the same moments that precipitated the original slaughter, and I died at least a half dozen times, on Sword and Story mode, until I figured out precisely what the enemy's weakness was and how to avoid their incredibly unique and deadly attack.

My guess is this synopsis was written by someone who was already comfortable with Death March. Because yes, if you're used to playing the higher difficulties, then going back to the default difficulty will make it unlikely for enemies to kill you. But that doesn't mean that someone unfamiliar with the mechanics of The Witcher series will figure it out without a lot of death. It's definitely not a game where someone can just run in swinging their sword all the time and hope for the best. (Especially since lower difficulty levels also grants less XP and thus fewer abilities at different points in the game.)
 
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