WARNING: spoilers throughout the guide. The first few paragraphs will contain overall tips and will be spoiler free for those who wish for help without spoilers.
Note: I no longer play the Witcher 3 actively, and so I don't actively update this guide to changes, unless a commentator gives new information. I will still help anyone with questions to the best of my ability.
Note: There have been numerous reports across different versions of the game automatically lowering difficulty. Make sure you have an old save just in case, but it appears that you should be able to simply put your difficulty back to Death March. Read the comments for more info.
TL;DR - Use puppet and delusion, plus a lot of skill and dodging. Also, read the guide...
The majority of this guide is intended for gaining the achievement on your first playthrough (NG). With the release of NG+ as free dlc you can now obtain this achievement using your end-game gear and skills. However, this guide will still provide the necessary information and tips to get through regardless of NG or NG+.
I haven't played NG+ completely, and so cannot comment on whether you should attempt the achievement on NG or NG+, however I imagine it would be easier at the start, but harder at the end (rather than a hard beginning and easy end).
Since your items carry on with you, you can fully prepare with lots of potions, decoctions, armour, and weaponry. I suggest you download the Wolf School free dlc and obtain them, this should make you very powerful.
Here is some information that will be helpful if you intend to do this on NG+:
- When you are starting NG+ you can select the Death March difficulty, the achievement will be valid for this playthrough.
- Enemies are stronger (making the difficulty effectively higher).
- Your items carry on with you (making the difficulty effectively easier during early game).
- You will begin at your character level, unless you are lower than 30, in which case it will bump you up to level 30.
- You will receive a clearing potion, which is used to reset your skills.
Bugs and fixes:
Version 1.07 Fix: Don't worry too much about this bug. You can change your difficulty back to Death March and the achievement should still be valid with that save.
Version 1.07 Major Bug: After the 1.07 patch you may find that your Death March difficulty has been changed to a lower one. Make sure you check which difficulty you are currently on. If it has been lowered then you can reload from a save which is still on Death March and the achievement will still be available from that save.
Version 1.04 Fix: The bug from version 1.03 (puppet and delusion) has been fixed and therefore one can now use both at the same time (as is suggested for this difficulty).
Bug for version 1.03: Puppet and delusion are not working at the same time. If you have put points into delusion (the first axii tree perk) then the primary method below will not work. To fix this you can either wait until the patch (assuming it will fix this) or you can go to Novigrad and purchase a potion of clearance from a merchant in a shop at the square just a little south-east from the Passiflora (next to the notice board). This potion will allow you to respec, and avoid delusion so that puppet will work.
This guide is geared towards helping people who are struggling with this difficulty, remember that what you may find difficult others may not, and vice versa. Therefore, while I try to include everything I think is required, I may have missed something. If I did then please point it out in the comments and I will add it to the guide. Alternatively if you have questions or need specific help you could private message me.
This achievement is gained once the final primary quest is completed, after playing through the entire game on "Death March!" difficulty. This difficulty makes the enemies have insane damage and damage resistance, while reducing your own relatively. This is not as difficult as many my expect because there is a trick that makes the game very easy, regardless of difficulty (not a glitch). However, until you get to the point where you can use it the game can be very hard.
This trick is the alternative axii sign, which affects most opponents (the exceptions are bosses and some enemies much higher level than you), and can be unlocked with 7 character points by getting the puppet perk. Points are gained through leveling up or using a Place of Power (found throughout the world). This alternative axii sign makes enemies your ally. The advantage from this is that enemies will take each other out with their higher attack power, and the last enemy can be killed by you while he is an ally without being able to damage you.
Furthermore, while most are distracted you can clear up enemies quickly using an upgraded aard sign to knock them over and then instant killing them on the ground. This is mainly effective for smaller enemies because aard wont knock down larger ones (it will push them, giving an opportunity for a hit).
Another tip, mainly for early game before you have axii, but also for boss fights; dodging and maintaining quen is a safe way of winning fights, particularly using the alternate quen sign which you can put up just before being hit, and it will absorb heath from the hit. Dodge roll is preferable if you are in a dire condition and need some space, while normal dodging is best for when you want some attacks. Playing defensively and cautiously will often be better in the long run so that you lose less health and manage first time (getting angry or annoyed by a particular fight often makes it harder because you may make more mistakes).
Another is to get yourself to within the recommended level for a quest (the recommended level should turn green), or above it if it is particularly difficult. Enemies which are higher level by five levels have even more damage and damage resistance regardless of your equipment (I tested this with the same equipment). Levelling up is slow at the start. Getting it up is fastest by completing quests and clearing points of interest. Hence, if you find yourself under levelled then go and do secondary quests, or explore.
The final tip is to stock up on potions (swallow, thunderbolt, cat) and food for vitality regeneration. Oils can also increase your damage, but I never used them. If you travel without any vitality restoration sources then you will find yourself with low health and in critical condition for a while if you are on quests. Potions are crafted in the start menu; most ingredients for them can be bought or easily found (just loot everything you see). Food can be found, but if you have the coin it is easier to purchase from shops such as innkeepers. Furthermore, using the Sun and Stars perk is good because it will give constant health regeneration, so this can save using food or potions. Decoctions are also useful because they provide very specific effects. The White Rafford decoction heals you for 50% health instantly. It is sold NE of Oxenfurt by a herbalist.
Spoilers beyond this point!
In order to avoid as many spoilers as I can I will only give details to parts that I think require information on. If there are any particular parts that I miss that anyone needs guidance on then comment. Novigrad and Skellige both have easy quests, especially since at that stage you should be adept in fighting at this difficulty, and you should have good weaponry and armour. Hence, I will not say much for them unless anyone wants a guide for a particular quest there.
When playing as Ciri you will have little trouble; you have health regen, even during combat, also increased base damage (far better than Geralt), and special powers which can be great for crowd control. Be warned: you cannot parry or cast signs. Your dodge is replaced with a spirit dash thing that can allow you to go through enemies.
The objective is to find Yennefer in White Orchard. This is early game and will be the hardest part of the game because you don't have very good equipment, and are without axii. Dealing with groups of enemies at this stage is hard. The best thing you can do is keep dodging and make sure quen is up, getting the occasional quick attack in. Alternatively run and keep casting igni (this takes a while). Exploration and secondary quests during this stage are particularly useful if you are struggling.
You fight a Griffin as a boss, this fight is quite difficult, just shoot the griffin out of the sky, then get a couple of hits on her. If she blocks then roll around her (do not attack her from the front when she does this) and hit her from the back. Apply thunderbolt while you are hitting to maximise its effects. Hide behind nearby trees to get catch a breath if you want to reapply quen. At low health the Griffin will fly away a short distance. The fight there is the same as in the field. Axii can be used to stun the griffin, allowing a couple of extra hits.
Igni is also effective against the griffin because it has a chance to cause burning. If it does cause burning then the damage over time will be significant and gives you a very safe way to deal damage. This method isn't just great for the griffin; this works on a lot of strong enemies and mini-bosses, so if you really struggle with a fight then try just running around and using igni. However, it can take a while, so you will need patience.
In Velen there will be two questlines: Bloody Baron and Witch/Ladies of the Wood.
The Bloody Baron gives you a few tasks. None of these are too difficult, particularly with the axii trick. I found saving the Botchling to be easier, but a lot of wraiths must be fought. These are hard to fight in groups. Axii will help a lot, even just to remove a threat for a few moments.
The witch, Keira Metz goes through a big dungeon with you. She isn't much help, in fact I found her to be a nuisance. Care should be taken with the drowners, but if you are stuck just run past them. There is a golem which has basic attacks. When fighting it be wary of its ground stomps. Be even more wary of its charge, but by now you may have realised that rolling/dodging is something you should do if in any doubt.
You will also fight Nithral with Keira, he is a difficult boss at that stage. He becomes invincible and heals himself to full at 2/3 health and 1/3 health. His attacks are easy to dodge and Keira keeps him on lockdown with spells.
The Ladies of the Woods have a lot of drowners. If you have particular trouble with this then get on your horse and swing at them while you ride. When you get to the tree thing you have a decision, I killed it (don't know what the other answer does). If you also decide to kill it then igni will solve your problems.
There is not much to say for Novigrad; the axii trick can be used to easily get through all of the missions without so much as a scratch.
These quests are just as easy as Novigrad's. Using axii will get you through the human fighting best. Foglets are quite difficult, but yrden will make them appear and axii as usual will stop them hurting you. If fighting underwater then the crossbow does insane damage for some reason.
Kaer Mohren/Isle of Mists
Kaer Mohren begins with two quests. Going with Lambert takes you through some drowners. Do not go to the child when you hear its screams, you will have to fight foglets. If you fight Old Speartip, then just use axii; it works on him. Also, I suggest not fighting the trolls, this can be done by choosing peaceful options and giving them your swords. Going with Eskel means fighting a forktail. The forktail can be entranced by axii, so it falls prey to that trick.
Before getting to Ciri you should collect everyone who can help you (Brothers in Arms quests) because I think it plays a part in making the fighting easier, also you get an achievement. Also, being level 22 at this point is what you are aiming for.
I suggest you stock up on food, good weapons, and good armour (Master armourer and sword smith). Also get the archgriffin decoction for later.
The Isle of Mists has a lot of harpies and foglets. Harpies are easy to kill. Normal axii them, they will fall to the ground and you can instant kill them. Foglets are difficult, but alt axii will make them easy.
Now you go back to Kaer Mohren. Here you have some choices to make. I chose to have the wall fixed and the traps because these seemed to be the best options. I believe the traps are fire barrels. These can be set alight with igni for amazing damage.
During the fight, you may notice that the hounds cannot be entranced by axii, but the warriors can. This means you should focus on the hounds. When within the castle walls there should be fire barrels to help you, but besides that use the same strategy that you have found when outside the walls.
There are two boss fights here:
With Ciri, you will fight the Ladies of the Wood, Their movesets are pretty much just the same as Hags (e.g. Water Hag), so you should be able to beat them without much difficulty.
Use the archgriffin deocoction if you have it (you can make one before the fight if you have the ingredients and diagram. This will make your heavy attacks do 10% of Imlerith's health at the expense of all of your stamina. This means that when it is active quen is not much of an option, however it makes the fight much quicker, and you should be able to dodge through the entire fight as described below, thus not taking hits anyway.
With Geralt you will fight Imlerith, a general in the Wild Hunt. He will be a difficult fight. Of course axii does not affect him, so you must go back to quen and dodge if you don't have the archgriffin decoction active. For the first 2/3 of his health maintain a distance about his club's length from him. This should make him do a lunge attack. As soon as he attacks dodge to the right then dodge back towards him (he will have moved past you) and heavy attack (you can only get one hit in, so you may as well use heavy). Repeat this, with thunderbolt it wont take long. Sometimes he will teleport. If he does then use igni to remove his protective coating.
The second part of the fight is very hard. You may have to do this a couple of times to get used to it. He will have permanent protective coating, so your attacks do little damage, also he teleports behind you repeatedly (sometimes as combos of 3, sometimes 4). Rolling causes him to teleport in front of where you roll sometimes, and you get hit. Therefore dodge and walk away from him, then as soon as he teleports dodge forwards, do this until his club gets stuck, then one heavy hit, and back to dodging. This will take a while but remain cautious and you should be able to do it. If you must then skip attacking him and take the time to compose yourself.
Here you will do a few quests for your gang.
The space and time quest doesn't have any particularly difficult parts.
The enemies are under the control of Philippa, and as such cannot be affected by axii. So, back to old school quen tactics here. Also, you can avoid fighting Bart. The fire elemental Philippa summons can be easily killed just be using aard to remove the flames, and then it becomes a normal golem fight, which by now you have probably mastered.
When saving the sorceress from the jail, you will have to go into the main courtyard. This is full of enemies who will surround you and archers will also pick you off. You could either draw them back and pick them off where the archers cannot see you, or run past them to the captain (your target) kill him using axii, then run back through. You can also run past them again
There are a few quests here. None are of particular note, because all of them can be completed easily using axii strats or quen and dodge.
I suggest you stock up on food, good weapons, and good armour (Master armourer and sword smith) before proceeding to the final battle.
Caranthir - When fighting as Ciri he will be easy, just keep slashing and dodge when he teleports. A cutscene will occur at 2/3 health. Then Geralt takes over. It is a difficult fight. Caranthir will fire magical projectiles at you. You must dodge these by rolling (I roll into them). When you get to hum you can hit him twice, do two strong attacks for maximum damage. After a few teleports he will summon an ice elemental. Stand with the elemental between you and Caranthir, and he will kindly kill them for you. If he has white frost on him then use igni before doing your two hits. At very low health he will be defeated.
Once you have swum to the surface and a short cut scene, you will be at the start of a path with ships and ice. You can take this opportunity to save, meditate, and apply any character points you have.
Eredin - At first this may appear to be an extremely difficult fight. I found a cheese method for those who just cannot beat him. The method is to stun lock Eredin using axii, a wall, and your sword. When you use alt axii on him he will fall back stunned, hit him once with a heavy attack, and then axii him again immediately. Each alt axii should only take a split second to cast, and your stamina wont go down much. Be careful, when he gets to about 9/10 health he will open a portal. If he is stun locked then weird glitching will happen, so its best to give him a chance. Through the portal, dodge his magic attacks then run to a wall. He should teleport behind you, so just dodge then begin stun locking, repeat until he does another portal. There is no cutscene for this one so run into it yourself. Then you are back on the boat, so proceed to stun lock him to death.
Now you have an easy time ahead of yourself, so enjoy the ending, you've earned it. The achievement will pop once you have reached the end credits.
Thanks to WulfTek for the griffin fight igni method.
Thanks to Drorelith for the archgriffin decoction method for Imlerith.
Thanks to TheMaize for pointing out the aard sign's usefulness.
Thanks to Yung Darwin and gamerevolution.com for pointing out the bug (1.03).
Thanks to Mr Snuggles 888 for the alternate quen tip and White Rafford Decoction.
Thanks to zedgehog for the 1.04 update information.
Thanks to FindlayFiend for the 1.07 bug, and dlmyers1990 for confirming it.
Thanks to SallyNasty for the 1.07 fix, and ImaginaryRuins for confirming it.
Thanks to all the people who gave info with regard to version bugs, in particular the difficulty reset. Special thanks to NJC Omega for checking and confirming fix information.