In CD Projekt Red‘s The Witcher games, Witchers such as Geralt of Rivia uses both his swordsmanship and Witcher Signs to dispatch targets in their mission. Essentially, Witcher Signs serve as a tactical “shorthand” of magic in their World – allowing Witchers to cast spells faster and in the heat of battle. In The Witcher 3, Geralt has access to all five Signs as they appeared through the games. Thankfully, Geralt can find multiple ways to use these Signs to make their hunts as efficient as possible.
However, players might remember that they can actually access Alternate Signs. When playing, holding down the button for a Sign allows them to access an “alternate” form of their Sign’s abilities. However, just how can players use these Alternate Signs more efficiently? More importantly, can these Alternate Signs serve them better than their original counterparts?
10 Unlocking Alternate Sign Modes
Newcomers who find the concept of Alternate Signs strange should think of them as supercharged versions of the traditional five Signs. In turn, these Alternate Signs have something “extra” to offer when it comes to pushing (Aard), burning (Igni), trapping (Yrden), or manipulating (Axii) enemies, as well as protection (Yrden).
However, players only get to unlock Alternative Signs by the time they spend six Ability Points upgrading any sign. Of course, players who want their Alternative Signs to perform more efficiently should invest in the Sign their Alternative comes from. That way, players maximize the benefits of their Alternative Signs without sacrificing its overall battle potential.
9 Using Alternate Sign Modes
Interestingly, unlocking an Alternate Sign doesn’t make it immediately usable. In fact, an Alternative Sign takes the place of an Active Skill in order for players to use them in battle. For instance, Firestream (Igni) only becomes usable once they place it inside an Active Skill. That’s because Alternative Signs have special triggers, unlike the usual Witcher Sign.
To use Alternative Signs, players need to press and hold the Sign button on their controller. They need to wait a bit depending on their particular Sign chosen, and Geralt “charges” with energy to use the Sign.
8 Timing, Situational, Specific
Despite the battlefield potential of most Alternative Signs, it’s important for players to remember that the casting caveat they hold and their effects mean they work best in specific circumstances. That means players who plan on integrating Alternative Signs into their rotations need to consider both casting time and their specific effects.
For instance, players who use Aard can rely on Aard Sweep (Aard) to unleash a devastating AOE attack. Meanwhile, players can convert the short burst of Igni into a flamethrower via Firestream. Aard Sweep isn’t too powerful, but players love it for quick knockdowns. Likewise, Firestream deals massive damage at the cost of longer casting time and constant Stamina depletion.
7 Aard Sweep (Aard)
Fans love the ever-reliable Aard for its simplicity. At its core, this telekinetic blast can knockdown and stagger enemies. However, it can punch through damaged structures, blast open barricades, and even shut off fires. In turn, Witchers love using Aard to disable opponents for quick execution. Interestingly, its Alternative Sign – Aard Sweep – takes this to the next level.
Whereas Aard projects a forward telekinetic force, Aard Sweep unleashes a “sweep” that affects 360-degrees. In turn, enemies around (and sometimes below) Geralt get knocked away at a distance. Aard Sweep becomes a great weapon against multiple enemies. Moreover, its low cost and quick charge time allow Geralt to spam Aard Sweep to get out of an ambush.
6 Puppet (Axii)
Witcher Signs don’t always require combat in order to be useful. Axii, for instance, allows Witchers to beguile and fascinate their targets with a bit of telepathy. In combat, Axii unleashes a mental wave that “triggers” targets, forcing them to fight alongside the caster. In the game, this effect lasts for a while or until the caster attacks them. Interestingly, despite being efficient with humans, this also works against other low-level monsters. Moreover, Geralt can use Axii in conversations. However, its Alternative Sign – Puppet – serves as one of the more creative uses of Signs in the game.
With Puppet, Geralt can “convert” a member of a pack into an ally. However, instead of not attacking Geralt, the Puppet essentially attacks its comrades. This ability can become a lifesaver, especially if players know they’re about to face high-level foes. Why face them fresh, when an ally can rough them up?
5 Firestream (Igni)
Players who want an explosive twist to a reliable Sign will appreciate Igni. At its core, Igni enables Witchers to unleash a pyrokinetic burst. Now, this burst can ignite surfaces and enemies, as well as start fires with the right surface. In-game, Geralt can use Igni to hunt prey, burn dangerous liquid gases and honeybees, or deal damage-over-time (DOT) against various enemies. Interestingly, its Alternative Sign – Firestream – upgrades Igni into a flamethrower.
Essentially, Firestream unleashes a continuous stream of flames from Geralt’s fingers. When used against staggering opponents, Firestorm can quickly whittle through their health. However, some opponents can disrupt Firestream by “pushing” against it, despite the DOT.
4 Active Shield (Quen)
Witchers use Signs not just for offense, but defense as well. For instance, casting Quen unleashes a protective field around the Witcher that can withstand most basic attacks. At its core, Quen can usually withstand a few attacks from same-level opponents before breaking. However, an upgraded Quen with Light Armor gives it quick regeneration that Geralt can use this multiple times. In turn, Quen becomes a great tool especially against higher-level foes, most of which end up resistant to other Signs. Quen’s Alternative Sign – Active Shield – gives a mobility element to Quen.
Essentially, Geralt can move while using the Active Shield until it’s broken or his Stamina becomes exhausted. Unfortunately, Active Shield doesn’t give Geralt an opportunity to attack. However, Active Shield does give back Geralt’s HP while enemies attack it, making it a great tool against aggressive foes.
3 Magic Trap (Yrden)
Witchers like Geralt prefer trapping enemies first before killing them – akin a hunter stalking prey. Thankfully, the Witcher Sign Yrden does exactly that. At its core, Yrden allows Geralt to set a trap that can immobilize opponents. When upgraded, Yrden can inflict various status ailments or even boost Geralt’s damage against affected enemies.
Unlike Yrden, Magic Trap not only traps enemies but also deals damage by zapping them – effectively stunning them. Unfortunately, despite its efficiency, it does need some elements to work. For instance, Geralt has to position the trap carefully as it has a long casting time. Moreover, Geralt needs to keep enemies within a certain area to ensure they trigger the trap. As such, players might want to fight powerful NPCs in a small area to force them into the Magic Trap.
2 Experimentation Is A Must
Considering how some of the Alternative Signs seem to serve as reliable tools in Geralt’s arsenal, it makes sense to want to try all of them at once. Unfortunately, players can only invest in a few Skill Points at a time, meaning they can’t enjoy the full benefits of all Alternative Signs immediately. Thankfully, the game does offer players way to reset Skill Points to ensure optimized allotment whenever players finish experimenting.
Essentially, players need to visit Yolar, a Herbalist in Skellige Islands, for a handy reset option. Players can reset their Skill Points via the Potion of Clearance, which costs 1,000 Crowns. If possible, players should save their game first before drinking the Potion so they can experiment with abilities as often as they’d like.
1 Best In Particular Situations
At its core, despite the efficiency of most Alternative Signs, players might realize that using these Signs all the time might get trickier, especially in more complex battles. In fact, players might realize that other Alternative Signs become more “useful,” while others become extremely situational. For instance, Aard Sweep (Aard) and Firestream (Igni) work against multiple enemies and when fighting up close, something Geralt does a lot.
Meanwhile, Puppet (Axii) surprisingly becomes a go-to for distractions. Additionally, Active Shield (Quen) works more efficiently in emergencies. Lastly, Magic Trap (Yrden) perhaps works best against a single target.