The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

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Tips and Tricks - Death March Difficulty

By
Nathan Garvin

Death March difficulty in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt calls for different strategies - enemies are stronger, hit harder, can withstand more damage, and when combat is over - assuming you’re still alive - you can just take a breather to regain all your lost Vitality. These changes require you to alter your approach to combat in The Witcher 3, and we’ve provided numerous tips and tricks that’ll help you on the path.

Death March Tips and Tricks

  • Save often. There’s no penalty for dying and trying. Not every effort is our best effort.

  • Avoid skulls. The game is very rigid about power scaling, and if you fight an enemy that’s a higher level than you, you’re fighting at a far steeper statistical disadvantage than even those imposed by Death March difficulty.

  • Do side quests. Questing gives you more EXP than any other activity, and while you’re only earning 80% of the normal EXP on Death March difficulty, you can easily make up the difference by indulging in some side quests. If an enemy isn’t outleveling you, it’s going to be much easier to handle.

(1 of 2) While it may seem beneath the dignity of a noble monster hunter, deer can be chased down and killed,

While it may seem beneath the dignity of a noble monster hunter, deer can be chased down and killed, (left), and they'll often drop raw meat, which you can consume to gain free Vitality regeneration. (right)

  • Go hunting. This is mostly early-game advice, as before long you’ll have looted enough tables to amass a veritable banquet of grapes, bread, chicken sammiches, meat, fish, water, and other delectable noms. Early on, however, you don’t have many healing solutions (especially before you get all three ranks of “Active Shield”!) and snacking is one of the few solutions you’ll have to replenish your Vitality without waiting half an hour (real time). Find deer and rabbits roaming around and either kill them with the crossbow or burn them with Igni. They’ll often drop meat, which you can consume raw (don’t worry, Witchers are immune to disease!) to give yourself some increased Vitality regen. It’s not a lot, but early on you won’t have a ton of Vitality, either, and one gobble of raw meat will restore 300 Vitality over 30 seconds. Witchers don’t work for free, and it’s only fair the local wildlife pays their fair share for all the nekkers and wolves you’ll be killing.

  • Get all three ranks of Quen’s “Active Shield” upgrade ASAP. Using Active Shield will block damage, stun enemies and heal you. Quen is largely what makes Death March difficulty manageable.

(1 of 2) Apply the correct oil to your blades to boost your offensive output and perhaps your defense.

Apply the correct oil to your blades to boost your offensive output and perhaps your defense. (left), A blade coated in fully upgraded oil deals significantly more damage - a huge boon on Death March difficulty. (right)

  • Use oils. A Superior-grade oil gives you a +50% damage buff against the enemy it’s designed for, and with “Protective Coating” you’ll also take 15% less damage from said monster type. If you have the “Fixative” perk, oils last indefinitely, making is a solid buff any time you can be bothered to open your inventory to apply the correct oil.

(1 of 2) Dodging attacks give you iframes and makes it easier to counterattack,

Dodging attacks give you iframes and makes it easier to counterattack, (left), you can usually get away with around three fast attacks before the enemy will regain their poise and launch more attacks. (right)

  • Dodge. Don’t roll. Rolling is, in the astute words of my co-worker, a n00b trap. Rolling might keep you safe, but takes longer and travels further, often putting you out of position to counterattack. Dodging gives you TONS of iframes, and is sufficient for avoiding damage from almost every attack in the game… even when they look like they should still hit you. Dodge, then counterattack.

  • Remember the rule-of-three: Many enemies can be punished after you dodge an attack, but after three fast attacks they’ll regain their poise and likely be ready for a counterattack of their own. Battles often become a ballet of dodges, and a series of (usually three) fast attacks. This isn’t a universal rule, but it applies to a surprising amount of combat.

(1 of 2) instead of a flurry of fast attack.

instead of a flurry of fast attack. (left), Against some foes, you'll want to dodge-and-counter with strong against, (right)

  • Strong and steady will suffice, when the rule of three breaks down. Some enemies recover faster than others. Some enemies have AoE attacks or are otherwise too dangerous to safely apply the “rule-of-three” to. This especially includes Golems, Ice Elementals, and other heavies. Against these foes (assuming they’re not susceptible to Igni), dodge as normal, and when there’s an opening perform a single strong attack, then immediately dodge away. Repeat until victorious. This also works surprisingly well against mobs of bandits - some of them may block your attacks, but not all of them will, and you’ll often kill stragglers and outliers by repeating this.

Enemies with high health who also lack resistance to fire are prime targets for Igni.

  • The bigger they are, the better they burn. While Igni isn’t a great spell for every enemy, some foes - especially ones with large health pools - are especially vulnerable to damage-over-time effects. If it’s not immune or resistant to fire, consider hitting it with Igni, and if it catches fire, just stand there and let the DoT do its job. Once the DoT wears off, hit them with Igni again. Some bigguns can be completely trivialized this way, including cyclopes and bears.

  • Superior Golden Oriole causes poison damage to heal you. This makes fighting poison-spewing enemies like endrega and archespores much, much easier. Also allows you to turn some poison traps into sources of healing.

Check out the following pages for more information about Death March difficulty:

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Guide Information

  • Publisher
    CD Projekt
  • Platforms,
    PC, PS4, Switch, XB One
  • Genre
    RPG
  • Guide Release
    24 June 2015
  • Last Updated
    2 January 2023
    Version History
  • Guide Author
    Nathan Garvin (Haeravon)

Share this free guide:

You are Geralt of Rivia, a professional monster-hunter known as a Witcher. You’ve fully regained your memories since your miraculous revival and escape from the Wild Hunt, and have cleared your name of the false accusations of regicide. In the wake of the assassination of Foltest, king of Temeria, the north have been rent by warfare as Nilfgaard launches its third major invasion, and the northlands have been united under the insane king Radovid. Overshadowing these petty politics is the mysterious return of Ciri - Geralt’s adopted daughter, who is now being pursued by the Wild Hunt.

The guide offers the following:

  • A full walkthrough that’s more than just a listing of quests-it’s an “ideal chronological order” that will get you through the whole game and allow you to see and do everything the game has to offer.

  • Side quests, including monster contracts and treasure hunts for obtaining powerful Witcher sets.

  • Descriptions of decisions, quests, and events that influence the various endings of the game.

  • Crafting and Alchemy information.

  • General strategies on how to take down foes large and small, monstrous and humanoid, boss or mundane.

  • Information on how to complete all the Gwent quests and obtain all the Gwent cards, including detailed Gwent strategies.

  • Trophy/Achievement information.

MASSIVE UPDATE: 7th September 2016 ongoing

  • Added DLC quests “Fool’s Gold” and “Scavenger Hunt: Wolf School Gear”.
  • Organisational changes in the Velen section of the walkthrough to reflect the increased level of Griffin School Gear.
  • Organisational changes throughout the walkthrough to provide a “no skulls” path through the game.
  • Added Death March difficulty tips and commentary throughout the guide.
  • More XP reward numbers included.
  • Walkthrough now includes additional information based on patch changes.
  • Various typo and grammar fixes.
  • Added DLC pages for Blood & Wine, Heart of Stone
  • Lots more quality of life improvements

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