Witcher 3

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - Complete Edition is available now on Switch, and if you're coming to the world of the Continent with fresh eyes, it can all be a bit overwhelming. That's why we're here to help.

Character progression in The Witcher 3 is very complex, and one of the first 'pressure points' you'll encounter as a player. The 'build' you choose for Geralt can be totally tweaked for your own personal playstyle, so if you're a fan of rushing into battle with hard-hitting melee attacks, you can.

Alternatively, you might want to take a more methodical approach and batter your foes at a distance with magical attacks. That's fine, too – as is a middle-ground between these two distinct builds. There are countless ways to forge Geralt, and we're here to help you find the build that suits you. This guide is the result of many, many hours spent not only in the Switch version of the game, but the PlayStation 4 one as well (we've adapted this guide from one published on our sister site, Push Square).

A quick note before we begin; by no means is this guide supposed to be the final say on effective builds for Geralt, but we hope that it'll at least give you some ideas as to how you want to play, and which skills you should subsequently invest in. Oh, and another thing: you must be at least level 30 to make full use of these builds, as that's when all 12 of your skill slots will become available. Ready? Let's get started.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Best Character Builds

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Pure Combat

As the name suggests, this build is focused purely on combat skills and is all about being as effective as possible in hitting enemies hard. It comprises of fast attacks, strong attacks, defensive techniques, and lots of adrenaline points, all of which combine to create a fighter who relies on his weapons and reflexes rather than fancy stuff like magic and alchemy. While Pure Combat lacks versatility, it is highly specialised and is perfect for those players who see themselves as action heroes first and foremost.

Skill categories used: Combat

Skills:

  • Muscle Memory (Combat) An obvious choice since you're going to want to do as much damage as possible with your standard attacks.
  • Strength Training (Combat) Another obvious choice, purely for the damage bonus to your strong attacks.
  • Arrow Deflection (Combat) OR Resolve (Combat) Both skills can be useful to the Pure Combat build. Arrow Deflection can come in handy against ranged attackers, but Resolve can help save your adrenaline points.
  • Precise Blows (Combat) In order to make your fast attacks as deadly as possible, an increased chance of critical hits and more critical hit damage can be a big help.
  • Crushing Blows (Combat) Again, increased chances of getting a critical hit count towards making your swordplay as damaging as possible.
  • Fleet Footed (Combat) Since the Pure Combat build isn't going to be overly reliant on potions, Fleet Footed's damage resistance bonus is a good way to help conserve your health.
  • Undying (Combat) This skill can be very important to the Pure Combat build. Spending adrenaline points to revive yourself when you're killed could easily prove useful if you're not relying on potions to heal.
  • Whirl (Combat) Whirl is a deadly Pure Combat technique when used correctly. It transforms Geralt into a spinning blade of death, great for fending off multiple enemies and capable of massive damage when fighting a single foe.
  • Rend (Combat) A powerful addition to your arsenal that shouldn't be overlooked.
  • Razor Focus (Combat) A brilliant skill for building up adrenaline points, which count towards both Whirl and Rend. A must for this build, as you're relying on your blades.
  • Crippling Strikes (Combat) Bleeding damage is a great way to add more kick to your already potent fast attacks.
  • Sunder Armour (Combat) Crippling your foes as you fight is perfect for this specialised build. As always, the more damage you can do with your swords, the better.
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Pure Signs

Focusing purely on magical signs and their related skills, this build is all about making your signs as effective as possible, taking maximum advantage of enemy weaknesses in the process. Don't expect to be 100% wizard, though – you'll still need to rely on sword attacks since signs are mostly there to augment Geralt's melee options, but mastering your full arsenal of signs can make you surprisingly versatile against a whole range of foes.

Skill categories used: Signs

Skills:

  • Far-Reaching Aard (Signs) Aard is all about crowd control, and that's why its reach is important, especially to this build, where you'll want to have as much breathing space as you can.
  • Exploding Shield (Signs) OR Melt Armour (Signs) Exploding Shield is useful when you're being pushed back by smaller enemies – another skill that's good to have when you need breathing space. However, Melt Armour can come in handy when you need to do a bit more damage to your foes. If you're more defensive-minded, go for the former, while the latter will prove worthy if you're more offensive.
  • Delusion (Signs) OR Sustained Glyphs (Signs) Delusion can prove to be useful whether you're finishing a final enemy off or want to take a foe out of the game for a time. It also opens up some unique dialogue options. On the other hand, Sustained Glyphs is a decent upgrade if you find yourself using the yrden sign a lot, and it only requires two skill points to max out.
  • Aard Sweep (Signs) Perfect for crowd control if you're surrounded on all sides.
  • Firestream (Signs) Turns igni into one of the most damaging signs. A useful tool for this build when it comes to dealing raw damage.
  • Magic Trap (Signs) Very handy in multiple situations, courtesy of its multiple effects. Use it right, and you can control whole fights.
  • Active Shield (Signs) Too useful to pass up. Active Shield's bubble protects from all directions, and restores health upon doing so. Perfect for healing since you won't be boosting your potion effectiveness.
  • Puppet (Signs) Incredibly useful when fighting against groups. Not only can Puppet give you space to breathe, but it can also help you level the playing field.
  • Igni Intensity (Signs) The Pure Signs build relies on igni as a main damage-dealing attack, therefore boosting its effectiveness and chance to set foes on fire is a must.
  • Quen Intensity (Signs) Simply put, boosting the effectiveness of your shield is always going to be worthwhile.
  • Shock Wave (Signs) Adding damage to aard gives you more reason to use it, particularly when a group of enemies are already on low health.
  • Pyromaniac (Signs) OR Supercharged Glyphs (Signs) Increasing your chances of burning your foes, Pyromaniac can come in handy when you're looking to deal some lasting damage. Similarly, Supercharged Glyphs is also effective at chipping health away. Depends on which sign you tend to use most between igni and yrden.
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Pure Alchemy

Possibly the most demanding build, Pure Alchemy focuses totally on alchemy skills, and is all about making your potions, oils, bombs, and decoctions as potent as possible. This build requires patience and plenty of ingredient foraging. It goes without saying that you'll still have to make use of swordplay and signs, but alchemy will bolster all of your abilities, allowing you to exploit as many enemy weaknesses as possible.

Skill categories used: Alchemy

Skills:

  • Poisoned Blades (Alchemy) More damage from your oils can't hurt, especially when you're not focusing on combat skills.
  • Frenzy (Alchemy) Slowing down time can be a lifesaver against tougher foes, and with a build based on alchemy skills, it's likely that your toxicity level will usually be above zero more often than not.
  • Refreshment (Alchemy) Instant health restoration is a must with how many potions you'll be drinking. Pure Alchemy's main means of healing.
  • Protective Coating (Alchemy) Damage resistance against enemies is always going to come in handy, provided you're prepared for the fight.
  • Endure Pain (Alchemy) Extra health will help you survive as you continue to down potions. This skill can make the Pure Alchemy build seem somewhat tanky when used in conjunction with Refreshment.
  • Delayed Recovery (Alchemy) Perfect for battles where you'll be making maximum use of your potions. Having their effects last for as long as you're able to maintain your toxicity level can be a godsend.
  • Fixative (Alchemy) More oil charges will always come in handy, especially against groups of specific enemies.
  • Efficiency (Alchemy) Carrying more bombs can't hurt, given that they're rather limited at just two uses.
  • Synergy (Alchemy) With this build, all 12 of your equipped skills are going to be alchemy based, so with a green mutagen in every slot, you could potentially bolster your vitality by a startling amount with this skill.
  • Side Effects (Alchemy) A risky skill, but probably worth it for this build, where you're going to be popping a lot of potions. The extra effects can, with luck, change the tide of a battle.
  • Hunter Instinct (Alchemy) With this build, you won't be using your adrenaline points for much else, so an increased chance of critical hits can really come in handy when you need the extra damage.
  • Killing Spree (Alchemy) OR Adaptation (Alchemy) Killing Spree is a decent option for more offensive players, while Adaptation is more versatile. The former is great against groups of foes, while the latter can really help make your decoctions more effective overall.
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All-Rounder

Jack of all trades, master of none – that sums up this build perfectly. Making use of all three main skill categories, the All-Rounder is a build that's all about versatility, allowing you to tackle any given situation. The downside is that you won't be fully versed in any specific skill set, but you should have a good chance of finding victory against any type of opponent with the right tactics.

Skill Categories Used: Combat, Signs, Alchemy, General

Skills:

  • Muscle Memory (Combat) A simple start to this build, enhancement of your fast attacks is always welcome.
  • Strength Training (Combat) No harm in strengthening your strong attacks either.
  • Melt Armour (Signs) A decent way to add some damage to your standard attacks, given that this build doesn't specialise in any particular skill category.
  • Far-Reaching Aard (Signs) OR Delusion (Signs) Both skills are essentially about crowd control, with Delusion having the conversation option bonus. Picking between the two largely comes down to personal preference.
  • Heightened Tolerance (Alchemy) The All-Rounder may have to fall back on potion usage when the going gets tough, so having a higher overdose threshold could come in handy.
  • Frenzy (Alchemy) Tying into Heightened Tolerance, this skill can help you survive when things get rough.
  • Fleet Footed (Combat) Lessening the damage you receive while dodging is sure to come in handy for a build that needs to adapt to changing situations.
  • Undying (Combat) A second chance at life may be just what you need as assurance in harder battles.
  • Firestream (Signs) A good, alternative damage-dealing attack for when your swords aren't quite cutting it.
  • Active Shield (Signs) A great way to get any lost health back, and perfect for finding balance between offence and defence when playing the All-Rounder build.
  • Refreshment (Alchemy) OR Sun and Stars (General) Both skills aim to keep your health at a reasonable level. Refreshment is obviously the better choice in battle, while Sun and Stars can be helpful when you need to conserve food or potions.
  • Rage Management (General) A great skill that's bound to come in handy – especially since this build doesn't use adrenaline points for anything besides Undying.
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Offensive Warrior

Focusing mostly on the combat skill category, the Offensive Warrior build is all about supporting your swordplay with damaging signs and buff-based alchemy. This build is for players who wish to push the offensive, ideally killing their enemies before there's much need for defensive moves.

Skill categories used: Combat, Signs, Alchemy, General

Skills:

  • Muscle Memory (Combat) As always, the perfect place to start.
  • Strength Training (Combat) More damage is always good when it comes to this build.
  • Far-Reaching Aard (Signs) More range on aard means you can catch more enemies off-guard, flooring them for a deadly one-hit finisher.
  • Melt Armour (Signs) Tearing through your enemy's armour is a sound strategy for an offensive minded build.
  • Poisoned Blades (Alchemy) Yet more damage for your swords, if you've got the right oils for the job.
  • Precise Blows (Combat) An offensive build isn't going to shy away from critical hits in order to do maximum damage.
  • Crushing Blows (Combat) Again, the more critical hits, the better.
  • Aard Sweep (Signs) More crowd control, and potentially more knock downs. Perfect for opening foes up for your powerful blows.
  • Firestream (Signs) Simply one of the most damaging signs. For the Offensive Warrior, it's just another way to tear through your opponent.
  • Rend (Combat) OR Whirl (Combat) Either one of these techniques can be a main damage dealer, so it's all about picking the one that best suits your style. Rend is great for singular foes but it's slow and needs to be properly timed. Whirl is more useful in general, but it can be fast and unruly.
  • Razor Focus (Combat) The more adrenaline points that you have, the more you can make use of skills like Rend or Whirl.
  • Rage Management (General) OR Focus (General) Rage Management is great for when you're keen on using your damaging signs as much as possible, but Focus further bolsters the damage of your attacks. Either one is a worthy investment for this build.
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Defensive Warrior

Focusing mostly on the combat skill category, the Defensive Warrior build is all about supporting your swordplay with defence-orientated signs and buff-based alchemy; you might not be the heaviest-hitter, but you'll outlast your enemies. Indeed, this build is largely about survivability: defending against your opponent's attacks effectively while waiting for the perfect chance to strike back.

Skill categories used: Combat, Signs, Alchemy, General

Skills:

  • Strength Training (Combat) Strong attacks are this build's main method of damage. You're dealing out powerful attacks whenever you get the chance.
  • Arrow Deflection (Combat) Going down the defensive route, deflecting projectiles can really come in handy when you're surviving against humanoid groups.
  • Far-Reaching Aard (Signs) OR Delusion (Signs) Both of these skills allow you to better control battles. Personal preference will determine which one is better suited to your style of play.
  • Exploding Shield (Signs) Quen is obviously going to come in handy for a build that's based around survivability. Exploding Shield gives you time to strike back if the enemy manages to break your defence.
  • Heightened Tolerance (Alchemy) Gulping down potions like swallow helps keep your vitality up, further enhancing your survivability. The more you can drink without collapsing, the better.
  • Frenzy (Alchemy) Being able to react properly to your opponent's attacks courtesy of slow-motion is a good fit for a defensive build.
  • Fleet Footed (Combat) Reducing damage while evading is an obvious choice for the Defensive Warrior.
  • Undying (Combat) Another obvious choice. If the enemy does manage to break through your defences and bring you down, you'll rise again.
  • Active Shield (Signs) A must for this build. Having protection from all angles will always come in handy, and health restoration is just the icing on the cake, making you even harder to kill.
  • Magic Trap (Signs) OR Puppet (Signs) Magic Trap has its uses in slowing down your enemies, while Puppet can turn the tide when fighting against groups.
  • Refreshment (Alchemy) Healing your vitality every time that you take a swig of a potion is a solid addition to this build.
  • Survival Instinct (General) OR Bear School Techniques (General) Survival Instinct provides a straightforward vitality boost – an obvious choice, you might think, but Bear School Techniques is perfect for this build if you've got a full set of heavy armour.
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Alchemical Warrior

Splitting focus between combat skills and alchemy skills, the Alchemical Warrior is a build that's all about supporting your swordplay with plenty of alchemical knowledge. Potions, oils, bombs, and decoctions will give you an advantage with the right preparation, and then you'll utilise your combat prowess to finish the job. This build strikes a neat balance between raw power and buffs, but remember you'll need to scrub up on your alchemy knowledge to make the most of it.

Skill categories used: Combat, Alchemy

Skills:

  • Muscle Memory (Combat) A solid fit, of course.
  • Strength Training (Combat) More raw sword damage is never a bad thing for this build.
  • Poisoned Blades (Alchemy) Further enhances your sword's damage when the right oils are used.
  • Heightened Tolerance (Alchemy) OR Frenzy (Alchemy) Heightened Tolerance is a safe pick if you're one to use a lot of potions, while Frenzy is obviously based around survival during combat.
  • Precise Blows (Combat) OR Crushing Blows (Combat) OR Fleet Footed (Combat) OR Undying (Combat) None of these skills are crucial to the Alchemical Warrior build as a whole. If you prefer a more offensive approach, go for Precise Blows or Crushing Blows, while Fleet Footed and Undying are geared towards a more defensive mindset. Or, you could mix and match.
  • Precise Blows (Combat) OR Crushing Blows (Combat) OR Fleet Footed (Combat) OR Undying (Combat) The same as above. None of these skills are crucial to the Alchemical Warrior build as a whole. If you prefer a more offensive approach, go for Precise Blows or Crushing Blows, while Fleet Footed and Undying are geared towards a more defensive mindset. Or, you could mix and match.
  • Protective Coating (Alchemy) Making better use of your oils, Protective Coating works well with Poisoned Blades.
  • Refreshment (Alchemy) OR Endure Pain (Alchemy) Both skills count on your potion intake, so the choice largely comes down to whether you want to be restoring your health, or relying on your extra maximum vitality.
  • Whirl (Combat) A versatile move to have in your arsenal.
  • Rend (Combat) Another reliable technique, which is a solid addition to this build, since you won't be using too many adrenaline points.
  • Fixative (Alchemy) Further enhancing the effectiveness of your oils, Fixative grants a nice bonus to their longevity.
  • Efficiency (Alchemy) OR Fast Metabolism (Alchemy) This choice largely depends on how many potions you use. If you're drinking a lot of them, Fast Metabolism can help you stay safe, while Efficiency can make bombs more reliable and versatile.
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Spellsword

Splitting focus between combat skills and signs, the Spellsword is a versatile build that's all about combining the powers of sword and spell for the best results. Signs are used to take advantage of your enemy's weaknesses, while your combat prowess will allow you to kill them off with the minimum of effort when the time comes.

Skill categories used: Combat, Signs, General

Skills:

  • Muscle Memory (Combat) You know why this is here by now.
  • Strength Training (Combat) And this one.
  • Melt Armour (Signs) Melt Armour is a snug fit for this build, as it allows you to weaken your enemies for your incoming sword attacks.
  • Far-Reaching Aard (Signs) OR Delusion (Signs) Once again, it's all about your preferred method of crowd control. Aard is great for forcing openings against multiple opponents, while Delusion can render a single foe helpless.
  • Precise Blows (Combat) OR Crushing Blows (Combat) This one comes down to which type of sword attack you prefer. Precise Blows tends to be the better choice when you're taking advantage of slight openings, while Crushing blows is perhaps best for strikes following a successful sign attack.
  • Fleet Footed (Combat) The Spellsword build relies on your ability to stay alive while your stamina regenerates so that you can cast another sign. Fleet Footed helps ensure that you don't take too much damage from a mistimed dodge.
  • Aard Sweep (Signs) OR Firestream (Signs) OR Magic Trap (Signs) This all depends on what sort of Spellsword you want to be. Aard Sweep is good for keeping enemies at bay, Firestream is great for raw damage, while Magic Trap is versatile, and can help you control battles when used correctly.
  • Active Shield (Signs) Active Shield is the Spellsword's main defensive option. Regaining health with each blocked attack is just too useful to pass up when you're not making the most of potions.
  • Rend (Combat) OR Whirl (Combat) Either technique is perfect for bringing down the pain on a foe that you've just left wide open with your signs.
  • Razor Focus (Combat) Great for building up adrenaline points, which will come in handy for this build, especially with the Flood of Anger skill.
  • Flood of Anger (Combat) Expending your adrenaline points to maximise the effectiveness of your cast sign, Flood of Anger can make the Spellsword a force to be reckoned with.
  • Rage Management (General) OR Griffin School Techniques (General) Another use for your adrenaline points, Rage Management can be very useful in helping you ensure that you have the means to cast your signs no matter what. However, Griffin School Techniques can bring out the full potential of this build if you have a good set of medium armour.
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Scholar

Bookworms, rejoice. The Scholar build combines signs and alchemy to fully exploit the weaknesses of enemies. It's a versatile build to be sure, but it can take some time to get used to, and you'll need to keep on top of your alchemy supplies, but your vast knowledge of magic and potions will keep you one step ahead of your foes. If you like swinging a sword, then it's probably not for you.

Skill categories used: Signs, Alchemy, General

Skills:

  • Melt Armour (Signs) Since you won't be taking any combat skills, Melt Armour can help you do increased damage with your blades.
  • Delusion (Signs) Delusion can be great for buying you time while you wait for a potion's effects to fully kick in.
  • Heightened Tolerance (Alchemy) Useful for this build, since you're going to be drinking quite a few potions.
  • Acquired Tolerance (Alchemy) This build's all about knowledge, so this particular skill makes too much sense to leave out, but it won't reach its full potential until later in the game, when you've discovered plenty of formulae.
  • Firestream (Signs) One of the Scholar's primary means of dealing out raw damage.
  • Active Shield (Signs) As with any build that makes use of this skill, survivability goes up a notch. Coupled with the Scholar's alchemical abilities, Active Shield can make the build quite resilient.
  • Refreshment (Alchemy) Restoring a portion of vitality for every drank potion is sure to come in handy. Another skill that increases your resilience.
  • Endure Pain (Alchemy) The increase to maximum vitality may just be what the doctor ordered when all you need is to cast just one more sign to turn the tide of battle.
  • Igni Intensity (Signs) Bolstering the likes of Firestream makes a lot of sense for this build.
  • Quen Intensity (Signs) Increasing the effectiveness of your magical shield can pay dividends when you're waiting for your stamina to recharge.
  • Pyromaniac (Signs) Together with the other igni skills that this build makes use of, Pyromaniac can help you cause lasting damage to your enemies.
  • Rage Management (General) Since you won't be using adrenaline points for much else while making use of this build, you may as well keep them in reserve for when you really need to cast a sign.
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Rogue

A specialised build that's all about maximising the damage of your fast attacks, while staying alive by dodging. Quick, deadly strikes are this build's bread and butter, while evasive techniques, various signs, and adrenaline points also play a role. A build for those who prefer to use agility to get the best of their enemies, and like swift blows compared to meaty combos.

Skill categories used: Combat, Signs, Alchemy, General

Skills:

  • Muscle Memory (Combat) Fast attacks are the basis of this build, so they need to do as much damage as possible.
  • Resolve (Combat) Worth taking purely so that you can retain as many adrenaline points as possible, no matter the cost.
  • Melt Armour (Signs) Great for getting the most out of your fast attacks; Melt Armour ensures that you can always get some decent damage done.
  • Delusion (Signs) Perfect for when you need some breathing space. Plus, tricky dialogue options seem to suit this build especially well.
  • Poisoned Blades (Alchemy) Handy purely for the extra damage.
  • Precise Blows (Combat) Your fast attacks are on their way to becoming incredibly deadly with this skill.
  • Fleet Footed (Combat) The Rogue's lack of magical and alchemical defences means it's up to your evasive prowess when it comes to avoiding damage, so Fleet Footed is an ideal skill.
  • Whirl (Combat) Great if you manage to get surrounded, or if you want to deal out some serious damage to a single enemy.
  • Razor Focus (Combat) Got to keep building those adrenaline points.
  • Crippling Strikes (Combat) Maximising the damage of your fast attacks, Crippling Strikes ensures that you're almost always chipping away at your enemy's health bar, whittling them down for the final blow.
  • Deadly Precision (Combat) Instant kills are the icing on the cake of this already deadly build.
  • Adrenaline Burst (General) OR Focus (General) OR Cat School Techniques (General) A tricky choice since each skill has its uses. Adrenaline Burst can help with the likes of Deadly Precision, while Focus is a good choice when it comes to strengthening your strikes in general. Meanwhile, Cat School Techniques is perfect if you've got a good set of light armour.

What do you make of the builds we've listed above? Do you have any of your own custom builds you think people should know about? Post in the comments below to tell us.

More The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Guides

The above guide is adapted from an existing guide on Push Square. You should check out that site's exhaustive library of Witcher 3 guides if you want even more info on this epic game: