In Defense Of Witcher 3 Alchemy

Why the green build doesn’t suck and will save your life.

By Benjamin Rose

As for potions and all liqueurs alchemical, verily verily ye shouldst remember: He who exceeds toxicity shall be put to death. Therefore carry with ye Superior White Honey, and shun all Decoctions, but chiefly the Katakan and all those like thereunto, lest ye are undone.

Brother Adelbert’s Bestiary

Alchemy is the unsung hero of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. From Swallow to Thunderbolt, from the health-spamming heights of the Refreshment perk to the gore-stained  depths of Killing Spree, alchemy leveling and crafting in The Witcher 3 is among the most versatile, foolproof, and satisfying ways to play. Excuse me for a moment while I utilize my Cluster Bomb perk to simultaneously throw five Superior Dancing Star grenades and luxuriate in the screams of an entire hanse. Now that’s done and 20 odd ne’er do wells have been sent to the scurvers, we’ll proceed.

The brilliance of alchemy in the Witcher 3 can be summarized best by a quote from The Witcher 2: “A Witcher without potions is half a Witcher”. Netflix obviously agrees, as a quick overview of Geralt drinking on the job in the show’s fight scenes indicates. If real world athletes strive for an edge by taking steroids, Witchers, like any other professionals in a field demanding immense physicality, are bound to do the same. Yet besides the obvious differences between bodybuilding and monster slaying, or the lack of an international Witcher anti-doping committee, the comparison obscures a more straightforward point. Witchers are designed at a biological level to be able to ingest potions, and these potions are not “performance enhancing” so much as half the performance. This goes far beyond lore-faithfulness. In my experience, on the higher difficulties of the game, potions are less an add-on than a necessity.

Today I’ll be breaking down a number of my favorite potions and perks on the alchemy path to explain just how becoming a functionally alcoholic Witcher will make your life easier.

Defensive/Healing Perks: Refreshment, Frenzy, Tissue Transmutation, Synergy, Fast Metabolism

All of these perks radically improve defensive and health capabilities. Refreshment will effectively turn all your potions into healing potions, supplying a 25% immediate health regen for each potion imbibed when upgraded to level 5. This is the difference between life and death in the Toad Prince battle in Hearts Of Stone in my experience. The Toad hits hard and spews poison. While the latter can be fully neutralized by the Superior Golden Oriole potion, he’s still just as capable of tongue-lashing or stomping on you. On Death March difficulty Refreshment is an invaluable counterweight, because it allows you to health-spam by drinking your quick slot potions regardless of their other effects, keeping you in the fight much longer. “Wait”, you say, “Won’t you just start dying of toxicity?” 

No. With the low-level ability Heightened Tolerance you will have already raised your safe threshold to 100%. With the addition of a fully upgraded Fast Metabolism perk your toxicity will constantly fall 5% per second. Combine that with Frenzy, which activates slow mo during an enemy counterattack; Tissue Transmutation, which will boost your health by 1000 points if taking a decoction; and Synergy to boost the effectiveness of your Green and Red mutagens,  and you will find yourself in the position of regenerating health constantly to a higher max with the additional stat bonuses of whatever the potions you’re taking confer. Short of deliberately waiting around to die, you’ll be unkillable.

Attack Perks: Hunter Instinct, Killing Spree, Fixative, Cluster Bombs

It’s all about the criticals, the relentless and devastating critical hits you’ll score after upgrading your weapons with oil perks and the Superior oils. Fixative fully upgraded makes these oils last forever. Hunter Instinct increases critical damage by 100% against the targeted enemy type when adrenaline is maxed (an easy thing to do with Maribor Forest potions and a few combat skills). Killing Spree will increase critical hit chance by 10% for each slain foe during the duration of the fight. And Cluster Bombs…will blow shit up. They should be banned.

The Burden Of Crafting

It must be noted however that an alchemy build is best used by serious players or those on a New Game+ looking for an edge, because to get the most out of these builds, you need to craft the best potions, Superior-level ones. While obvious candidates like White Raffard’s Decoction, Swallow, and Thunderbolt suggest themselves, I am personally partial to Superior Maribor Forest and Superior Tawny Owl in my loadout. These potions regenerate adrenaline and stamina, respectively, and so fuel most of the higher combat and sign abilities that allow Geralt to kill in spectacular ways. With Refreshment they can be parlayed into healing potions as well.

Thus alchemy, a canonically central element of Witcher-lore that in practice proves a damn good way to get some work done. Just remember to pace yourself…


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