At first glance, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt might seem intimidating. Even though its largest areas are broken up into several different maps, the beginning definitely instills the player with an overwhelming sense of awe.
After having done everything in the game there is to do, I figured I'd offer five imperative tips to those just starting out. These might make the quest seem a little less daunting and hopefully, more exciting.
1. Don't worry too much about difficulty and death
If you're playing on the default difficulty level and you're a regular gamer, you really don't have to worry too much. There's a reason many hardcore gamers played the game on a harder setting, because the standard difficulty might feel a little too easy after a while. It may not seem that way at first, as Geralt isn't a high enough level to deal with most enemies he encounters but really, don't get all scared. You'll gain plenty of experience and find decent enough gear simply doing the main quests and going after some of those question marks. You hardly have to do everything to feel competent.
However, one standard rule applies: Save frequently. Just in case.
2. Don't ignore the potions, oils, bombs, etc.
I've noticed that some people really don't pay much attention to these, as they're perfectly happy whacking away with their blades, dodging, and using Signs. But it's the potions, oils and bombs that can make all the difference in the world. They can give you a significant edge, especially when taking on Witcher Contracts; you'll notice that the game will tell you what sort of creature you're hunting before you have to face it. This is so you can prepare: Douse your blade with the correct oil (check the Bestiary if you aren't sure which one), and get some bombs ready. I love Dancing Star, for instance. As for potions, you really can't go wrong with Swallow (greatly increases Vitality restoration) and Thunderbolt (ups attack). Making the better versions of these bombs and potions will also have a huge effect later in the game; Superior Dancing Star and Superior Swallow are quite useful.
3. Maximize your experience
Here's the deal with the Suggested Levels for the missions you have, and this applies to almost all of them (Main Missions, Secondary Missions, Contracts and Scavenger Hunts): If a mission is 6 or more levels lower than your current level, you won't get any experience for doing that mission. Well, you'll get a tiny amount, like 5 (which is basically none). If it's within 5 levels, you will get experience. Now, Main Missions give you by far and away the most experience in the game, so make sure not to over-level to the point where the Main Missions are worthless. And remember that you'll likely gain a level or two when taking on certain Main Missions, so if you're 5 levels over the Suggested Level, you'll start by getting experience but once you level up, to where you're 6 over, that's it.
I'd recommend simply doing the quests with the lowest Suggested Level (no matter what they are), and try to keep as many quests in green – meaning you'll still get XP – as you can. It's a balancing act.
4. Frequently check in with blacksmiths and armorers for maintenance and upgrade purposes
First, maintenance: When you're out and about, your weapons definitely take a beating, and you'd be surprised how much less effective your blades are when they're in need of repair. Your armor can be damaged as well. By keeping your equipment in tip-top condition and amping up your weapons and equipment using the grinding wheel and armorer's table is a very good idea. Also, if you've been out for a while and you picked up a lot, check to see if you picked up a diagram for new weapons and armor. Just go to a blacksmith and an armorer and see what they can make for you. I wouldn't, however, recommend making something great that's two or three levels ahead of you (as you're thinking you'll just hold onto it until you reach the necessary level). You might find something even better in your travels. I'd only go one over your level; if you see something really sweet that's significantly better, make it and hold onto it if it's only one level above you.
Later, try and get into Witcher Gear as quickly as you can. You have to complete the Scavenger Hunts for each school: Griffin, Bear (Ursine), Cat (Feline) and Wolven (if you downloaded the free DLC).
5. Getting surrounded is always bad
If you find yourself fighting a group, do not get caught in the middle. Even low-level enemies can really hurt you if they start attacking from all sides. Not only do enemies do more damage when attacking from the side and behind, but they'll keep staggering you so you can't attack or block. It can be immensely frustrating. The solution is simple crowd control: Try and keep as many enemies in front of you as possible, and use various bombs that wreak various forms of havoc. The Quen sign (your shield) is especially effective in dealing with lots of enemies, because you'll invariably get hit and Quen will save you at least once. Powered-up Quen – you can increase your Sign power by adding Glyphs to weapons and equipment – can survive for even longer; at the end of the game, I had 98% boosted Quen, thanks to a lot of Glyphs, the only items that can be attached to Mastercrafted armor.
Okay, that should be enough to get you started. I'm sure you can figure out the rest. 🙂