When exploring the game world you can find and examine many optional locations. these places can be found on your own or by checking their location with the nearby notice boards. After interacting with the board, question marks are added to the map. They symbolize places that you can check. Exploring the additional locations is recommended as it gives you additional experience, gold, valuable items or even some side quests.
Optional locations are divided into few categories. Below you will find a list of the most important ones:
- Bandit camp - In each camp you will find a group of enemies and very often - one stronger leader. Try to attack enemies one after another and use your surrounding for your advantage. It's a good idea to start with eliminating enemies with ranged weapons, otherwise they can distract Geralt during more complicated attacks. In most of the camps you should find at least one chest with more valuable treasures.
- Guarded Treasure - The treasure chest can be guarded by a group of weak monsters or one stronger beast (like basilisk or wyvern). You can dispose of the enemies in a "fair" battle and search for the treasure after the combat or wait for a good time, run to the treasure chest, loot it and run away before you get attacked by the stronger monster.
- Hidden Treasure - Just as with the guarded treasure, you must be ready to meet more or less demanding enemies. Hidden treasures are divided into two main groups. Sometimes all you need to do is find a chest and take all the valuable items from it. But in most cases Geralt must find a document (for example, inside a box near the corpse). Taking it will activate the treasure hunt (one of the quest categories).
- Monster Nest - Each nest is protected by a group of monsters (usually ghouls). You can either deal with all beasts or focus only on destroying the nest. Sadly, this action is completely automatic. The nest can be destroyed if Geralt has proper bombs. Try to unlock basic bomb types early in the game and, thanks to frequent meditation, always have supplies of them. Important - While you're destroying some nests, a single stronger monster can appear nearby. It's worth to attack these monsters because you receive additional experience points for killing them (sometimes even more than for blowing up the nest).
- Monster Den - A den is different than the nest. It's usually a cave or dungeon into which Geralt can walk. To secure the den you must eliminate both enemies in front of it and the ones (stronger) that can be found inside the underground location. Additionally, it might be necessary to explore the den thoroughly and loot all interactive chests (it is wise to use torch or Cat potion). Only after you do that, the den marking will change its color to gray (which means the location has been explored).
- Place of Power - Most Places of Power are guarded by a single stronger enemy so you should be cautious. Visiting this shrines should be a priority for you. Examining a Place of Power for the first time is rewarded with a free skill point. Additionally, you can return to the Places of Power anytime you want to receive a temporary boost to one of the witcher signs (the type of boosted sign is predestined by the shrine).
- People in Distress - The general acting scheme is similar to bandit camps. You must start with eliminating a group of thugs. Once the battle ends, you must find the body of the bandits' leader and examine it in order to find a key. Go with the key to a cage and save the people imprisoned inside. In most cases you rescue people that you can meet later, like merchants or barbers. You should listen to the conversation with them, thanks to that you will learn where they will be moving (or you can follow them if you have enough free time for that).
- Abandoned Site - These locations are usually small villages, houses or fortresses occupied by monsters. If you don't see any monsters, then you must return at a different time of the day. You must eliminate all monsters. After that, you will see a cutscene informing you that people have returned to the place. Geralt is usually rewarded for such actions with experience. Additionally, there is a large possibility that in the secured site a merchant or a card player will appear.
- Spoils of War - Spoils are always found under water. You can swim to them directly or help yourself with a boat. While searching for a treasure at the bottom (it might be a single chest or few of them) you must watch out for underwater monsters, including drowners. You can try to quickly swim to a chest and, after looting it, swim away to the shore. You can use crossbow to kill monsters while remaining under water as well.
- Smugglers' Cache - The less complicated of all optional locations. After reaching the smugglers' cache you must simply look around (with witcher senses) for one or few chests with interactive items. They can be guarded by someone or not.