Skyrim vs. The Witcher 3: Which is the better fantasy RPG?
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt are two of the finest fantasy role-playing games (RPGs) ever released. There have been many debates about which title is the better RPG for quite a while now, and different people have their own opinions regarding this.
While both provide players with an engaging story, set in a fantastical world that allows them to play out a hero’s journey, they also differ in terms of gameplay, style, and world design.
Bethesda’s Skyrim is an original tale in their very own fictional universe of Nirn, while CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher 3 is a continuation of the novels written by Andrezj Sapkowski.
In this feature, the two RPGs are pitted against each other and analyzed based on five different categories. As either game scores or loses a point in each round, a final tally is assembled that determines which is the better title amongst the two.
Note: This article reflects the writer's opinion.
A head-to-head comparison of Skyrim vs. The Witcher 3
The first and most important aspect of any game is its story, and The Witcher 3 does not hold back in this regard. The game’s narrative opens with Geralt in search of his adoptive daughter, Ciri, and sees him reunite with many old friends along the way. With many choices affecting the outcome of various stages of the main campaign, this plot manages to draw players in from the get-go.
Skyrim’s story is also quite epic, albeit with a much different take. This RPG gets players hooked on with a simple narrative device: by starting the game in medias res i.e., in an ongoing plot. As a simple individual caught crossing the border, the player is due to be executed but is unwittingly saved from this predicament by the arrival of the game’s main antagonist, Alduin, the World Eater.
When comparing the two narratives, The Witcher 3 takes the point, as it soars high, in regard to the well-written, intricate plot which takes into account many player choices. Skyrim’s overall story is exciting and gives player's character a far greater degree of importance, however, it is still quite a straightforward journey of good vs. evil.
Skyrim’s gameplay is diverse, and includes melee weapons, long-range weapons, magical abilities, and spells. This ultimately lends into its capacity to offer a choice of options to players and how they can play the game. Players can therefore create various different builds in this RPG, which is what makes it so replayable.
The Witcher 3, on the other hand, has its strength in its combat system, with intuitive controls, a parrying mechanic, and a doge button. All of this contributes to making the game’s monster slaying - and fights in general - engaging and rewarding affairs.
However, out of the two games, Skyrim’s gameplay will be taking the win here. Despite its general combat mechanic being quite simple, the fact that it allows players a huge level of freedom to hone their own playstyle is quite commendable. The Witcher 3 may excel in combat, but it has little to offer in terms of ingenuity aside from that.
For a game that came out in 2011, Skyrim’s visuals were quite splendid as it contained a diverse landscape that featured wide plains, hilly regions, and ice-capped glaciers. With the release of a number of mods that further enhance the game, Skyrim feels like a modern title even in 2022, with HD resolution and 4k textures.
The Witcher 3 showcased a similarly stunning world to have adventures in. Released four years after Skyrim, the advanced technology implemented in the game is noticeable in every frame of gameplay. Furthermore, its second DLC, known as Blood and Wine, introduced new areas which sported a vibrant aesthetic that was unseen in the main game.
In this particular round, The Witcher 3 will get the point, not only because of its advanced graphics but also due to the fact that even after many enhanced re-releases, Skyrim is no closer to capturing the quality of visuals seen in the former.
4) Open world
The open world seen in Witcher 3 is one of the larger maps seen in RPGs, at least for games around the time it was released.
Aside from the main story, it also contains a tremendous amount of side activities and additional content for players to immerse themselves in. The title also features scripted micro-events around the map, which can be missed if players aren't in the right place at the right time.
Skyrim’s world is also filled with hundreds of additional activities and questlines to follow, brimming with lore. Random events can occur around the map any time players choose to venture out on their own, and getting from point A to point B is always a more exciting experience than one normally expects it to be.
In terms of the open world, Skyrim gets the point. In The Witcher 3, the open world features enemies at set levels, with respect to certain areas. This means that at the beginning of the game, many areas are unexplorable as the enemies are just too difficult to take on.
In contrast, Skyrim’s enemies, with a few exceptions, scale up in level with the player and some have a cap as to how high a level they can attain. This gives players the freedom to explore nearly the entierity of the map from the very start of the game.
One of the core aspects of an RPG is its level system and Skyrim’s is one of the best there is in the business. Instead of relying on gaining experience by completing quests, players get better at a skill the more they perform it. Leveling up a skill in turn doles out points for a character to level up, which can be used to increase the player's overall HP, stamina, or magicka.
In The Witcher 3, leveling up is done via gaining experience points by completing quests, like in most RPGs. This in turn can be used to unlock new skills and boost various stats, although these perks can be activated selectively. Only a certain number of perks can be active at a time, and as players gain more levels, more and more perks can be activated together, to a final total of 12.
As stated above, Skyrim has one of the best leveling systems in an RPG to date, and therefore it will get the point here as well. Its rare mechanic adds to the freedom offered to players to design their very own character builds. In comparison, The Witcher 3’s leveling is rather complicated and requires a lot of grinding to even feel consequential.
Skyrim’s diverse gameplay, immersive open world, and intuitive leveling system still sets it apart from other RPGs, even to this day. As a result, it takes the crown for best fantasy RPG in the head-to-head. It is no wonder that fans are constantly on the lookout for an Elder Scrolls 6 on the horizon, although it would seem that they will have to wait a little longer.
The Witcher 3 still gets props for being the game with a better story, and stunning players with its splendid visuals. With CD Projekt Red seemingly working on a new Witcher title, things are looking up for this series once more.
Abu Amjad Khan