Witcher 3 vs Skyrim – Which Fantasy RPG Is for You?
It’s hard to find two games with so much in common, like Skyrim and Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Both are great games representing the fantasy RPG genre which has been popular like forever. Not only that, as they were both extremely popular even before they were released. However, Skyrim’s gameplay is strongly undermined by the tooth of time. Stiff animations and a mediocre combat system could be forgiven in 2011, but it looks bizarre nowadays.
Don’t get me wrong, though, it’s still an amazing game focused on exploration and living your own life. It’s one of the most interactive games in the world, with complete freedom and no boundaries. It’s been the strongest asset of all Elder Scrolls games since Morrowind and the sole reason why it’s so popular even today.
On the other hand, the third Witcher game by CR Projekt RED is more technically advanced and far superior to Skyrim in many aspects. But despite the four-year gap between both games, fans are still debating which one is better overall. In this article, we’ll compare the most important aspects of both games and declare a winner once and for all.
And if you decide to give one of them a try, remember that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt GOTY GOG CD Key and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Anniversary Edition Steam CD Key are available on RoyalCDKeys at the best prices you’ll find.
Table of Contents
For many gamers, advanced graphics is the least important factor in the overall value of a video game. I can sign with both hands under that statement; thus, we’re starting with the graphics. Bear in mind that we’re comparing vanilla versions of both games. With no surprise, Witcher 3 wins here at first glance. Bethesda’s Creation Engine shows its age and the game's Xbox 360/PS4 versions didn’t do it justice either. The game has been remastered a few times since its release, but it’s out of the competition. Skyrim’s visuals didn’t age well, sadly.
On the other hand, Witcher 3’s REDengine creates a rich, colorful environment with sharp textures and atmospheric lighting. Whether it’s Velen’s gloomy swamps or Skellige’s snowy mountains, Witcher 3 provides better graphics than Skyrim in every scenario and looks mesmerizing up to this day. Skyrim is plain in its landscapes, with just a snow tundra filled with grays and browns.
Winner: Witcher 3
Virtual Reality Support
Ironically, Skyrim has the full capability of going into VR, thanks to being not so technically advanced. Sadly, it’s sold as a separate game for PSVR instead of a free update. However, I would probably do the same considering Skyrim’s popularity even after all these years. You won’t slaughter the golden goose, will you? Actually, running around Skyrim in virtual reality is quite immersive in first-person mode, especially when fighting with dual swords or casting magic. It won’t make those browns and grays any prettier, but you can fully immerse yourself in Skyrim's world.
Making VR support for Witcher 3 is pointless due to third-person gameplay. Also, the graphics had to be cut down dramatically to achieve a reasonable framerate. Overall, VR support isn’t the most important aspect to have, but it’s worth mentioning that Skyrim has one.
Both games have plenty of cutscenes during the main story or several side quests. The big difference between the two is the player’s perspective and camera work. In Skyrim, you will witness cutscenes either in a first or third-person mode with a fixed camera. While it certainly helps to get into the character’s boots, it feels hollow and empty. You can’t see your character’s reactions like you do in Witcher 3. Your character never moves, and NPCs act like they’re talking to a wall with facial expressions comparable to emojis.
In Witcher 3, almost every conversation is like a separate cutscene with different camera angles that feels like you're watching a movie. Also, characters react to each other with plenty of facial expressions and gestures. And when an NPC is talking about a certain place, the camera shot changes and shows it to you while slowly zooming out. This approach delivers a truly cinematic experience that gives so much depth to all characters.
Winner: Witcher 3
Similar to graphics, the difference between combat mechanics in both games is striking. Apart from the occasional cinematic kill-cam, characters swing their weapons chaotically as if attacking a wall or a dummy. You’re also a man of steel – even a powerful slam from a troll won’t budge you, only giving you a small camera shake. Skyrim feels extremely clunky in this regard.
Witcher 3’s animations we’re made with a motion-capture technique offering a fluid and satisfying experience. Geralt is an expert with swords, and the dance-like movements complement his fighting style gracefully. You’ll actually feel every hit dealt or taken, and powerful attacks can knock out you and your enemies. On top of that, you can dodge and parry incoming attacks and combine it with powerful Witcher spells. Skyrim’s combat is definitely more diverse with all the weapons and magic available, but the overall “feel” is much more pronounced in Witcher 3.
Winner: Witcher 3
Main Quest Line
This is another factor where Witcher 3 excels. The story presented in Witcher 3 is multi-dimensional, ranging from dramatic moments with a roster of memorable characters to comedy scenes with punchy one-liners. The engaging story is one of the main things that draw players in when completing quests in Witcher 3. There are plenty of decisions with short and long-term consequences that are worth replaying the story all over.
Skyrim, on the other hand, is extremely criticized for its main story. While being the chosen god of dragons is cool, that’s the only twist you're getting from Skyrim’s narrative. Most players were disappointed when following the main questline as there weren’t any plot twists, the characters were bland, and the outcome was extremely predictable. Skyrim’s story is easily forgotten after a single playthrough. A good story is a fundamental aspect of most RPGs, but it’s not the case with Skyrim, unfortunately.
Winner: Witcher 3
It’s the first section, where picking up a winner is a tough call. While you cannot praise Skyrim for its main quests, side quests are a completely different story. With the sheer number and diversity of quests available in Skyrim, everyone will find their favorite. Skyrim lets you join 11 factions in total, each with a separate quest chain. Assassins, thieves, wanderers, institutes – Skyrim has them all.
Most of these factions and guilds have compelling storylines that will immerse you in the world and allow you to properly roleplay your character. There’s also a large Civil War going on, where you can pick a winning side. Apart from factions, there are dozen of single side quests that are exceptionally written. In this regard, Skyrim shines exceptionally and even has memorable characters in certain factions (I’m looking at you, Serana).
Witcher 3, on the other hand, is packed with random jobs that evolve into lengthy and tricky quests with moral decisions. Considering the overall intrigue and the influence of other characters involved in those quests, Witcher 3 wins considerably. However, both games can hook you for quite a while in this regard, so I call this a tie.
Want to play a powerful mage, ruthless barbarian, or swift archer? Apart from traditional builds, Skyrim offers an unlimited combination of skills where you can define your original playstyle. The major and minor skill system from previous games is no longer present and got replaced with an impactful skill tree for each skill.
This made build variety truly exceptional with unprecedented levels of flexibility. You can burn down cities with powerful magic spells, strike from the shadows with a trusty bow, or steal everyone’s weapons before starting a fight. All of this can be done with a single build. You can spend hours planning your next playthrough, and that’s the beauty of it.
In Witcher 3, you’re forced to roleplay as… Witcher. There’s no workaround around that, and everyone will refer to you as such. This means that your build is fairly limited to certain skills like sword fighting, sign intensity, and alchemy. While you can try creating a mage Geralt, there’s no doubt that the game was created with melee combat in mind and playing like this just feels weird. If you’re looking for unlimited freedom in roleplaying your character, Skyrim is the way to go.
Many RPGs incorporate romance options into their games based on the player’s actions throughout the game. While successful, mutual romance feels rewarding, Skyrim simply doesn't do it right. Here, you are rewarded with NPC’s love after a single quest.
What’s more, you must equip a special amulet signing that you’re actually looking for a partner. This system is extremely objectifying: instead of chemistry and genuine romance between the two, they marry because of simple, scripted requirements. Apart from a slight boost to skill training, Skyrim’s romantic relationships are basically non-existent.
Witcher 3 builds relationships through cutscenes and dialogue options to feel more authentic. It means that you have to say the right things to your affection – just like in real life. And if you’ve proven unfaithful, there will be consequences. Romances with major characters are concluded after beating a large portion of the game, thus making them rewarding and believable.
Winner: Witcher 3
Skyrim’s popularity is defined by mods – there’s no doubt about that. Modders already fixed combat, clunky animations, and certain questlines, on top of adding completely new features. There are over 60 000 mods on SkyrimNexus, and many players can’t even imagine playing vanilla Skyrim. Heck, I’ve spent more time installing mods than actually playing the game! With the right graphical mods, it can even surpass Witcher 3 if your hardware is powerful enough. Add to that incredible land and story expansions like Beyond Skyrim: Bruma or Forgotten City, and you’re in for a real treat.
WitcherNexus isn’t nearly as big, sporting around 5000 mods. Most of them are graphical mods, bug fixes, retextures, etc. CD Projekt RED didn’t provide any mod tools for Witcher 3, so the modding capabilities of this game are fairly limited. In this regard, Skyrim is a way better game than Witcher 3.
The exploration gameplay is a strong aspect of every open-world action RPG. Both games feature extremely large maps. Skyrim covers 37 square kilometers, mainly consisting of lush woods and rocky peaks. Witcher 3, on the other hand, covers 136 square kilometers divided into six regions – Velen, Novigrad, White Orchard, Skellige, Kaer Morhen, and the Royal Palace in Vizima.
Design-wise, these locations are far beyond what Skyrim has to offer. Not to mention the colorful Toussaint region, which isn’t part of the main game but a hefty Blood and Wine expansion. The world is very diverse in Witcher 3 and a joy to explore. The only category where Skyrim wins is freedom. After leaving Helgen, you can go virtually anywhere without limitations, while many areas in Witcher 3 are locked until you make some progress in the story or reach a certain level. However, it’s not enough to take the crown from Witcher 3.
Winner: Witcher 3
There’s no doubt that Witcher III: Wild Hunt and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim are one of the most popular games ever released. No matter which one you’ll choose for your next playthrough, you’re up for an epic journey.
The Witcher series is more focused on storytelling and cinematic experience, while Skyrim lets you roleplay your character however you see fit. In many aspects, Witcher 3 is an evolution of Skyrim and provides a better overall experience. The story of Geralt searching for his adoptive daughter is more thrilling than any questline in Skyrim. To conclude, pick Skyrim for immense freedom and Witcher 3 for storytelling.