I was not impressed by The Witcher 3, and it really only feels like a slightly better than average RPG. There’s some great potential here, but it feels like the designers wanted to impress us more in the first few hours as opposed to delivering a coherent and engaging experience throughout. The narrative starts to fall apart, and the burst of excitement you get in the beginning is quickly squandered due to what feels like a lack of interest from everyone involved. The tense battles may be the game’s only redeeming quality, but it’s probably trumped by more focused games like Monster Hunter. Unless you’re really hard up for some digital ta-tas, I would maybe pass this one up.
Glorious Praise Upon:
+The game’s rich lore and fantastic writing will keep you engaged.
+The fighting system is really fun.
+Some fantastic graphical work.
Burn At The Stake:
-The story slowly devolves into fetch quests and boring side missions.
-Buggier than an IHOP restroom.
-No reason to search for secrets.
Now, I’m not a big fan of the Witcher franchise; I played a little of two when I got it for free last year- but it really didn’t resonate with me. But, everyone kept telling me I needed to try this entry; that it was a good jumping on point, that it was fun to play and had some fantastic side quests. Since I’ve now played it, I’m thoroughly convinced that gamers will ignore problems in a game, as long as they get some EA boobs in the end- more on that later. Obviously that’s not the only reason the game pulled in an audience; it really is a decent enough game. It succeeds in some area, but lacked the imagination needed to fully capture me in any meaningful way.
STORY: While I never played the previous entries, the game does a decent enough job explaining the “security over liberty” world you’re entering. You play as a Witcher named Geralt, an albino man who takes down supernatural monsters like a medieval Man In Black. He’s part of an order tasked with taking on these creature, and yet for some reason everyone hates Witchers. I’m not sure why everyone hates these superhuman fighters, considering I wouldn’t be grabbing a rake, running up a hill to take on a dragon anytime soon. I guess people just don’t trust heroes in the kingdom of the Northern Realms, a war-torn nation that’s under the control of the Nilfgaardian Empire. The empire kills anyone who appears to be involved in witchcraft or the supernatural, including some of your own allies.
The main quest is a simple enough premise of finding the emperor’s daughter Ciri, a young girl able to manipulate time and space. It’s a fun and engaging enough premise, but it’s long-winded stretch of clues always seem to end with people looking for quid pro quos. Each time, these people will request another major quest out of you for some basic information. A couple of times, this might’ve been fine, but every time you get a new lead you’re heading for some more extortion. “Hey, did you see this girl go by?” “Yep- and I’ll only tell you where if you destroy that goblin den!” “I’m looking for a girl-” “I’m looking to kill a giant snake!” “Hey, do you have the time?” “Do you kill wraiths?”
There are some awesome moments in the campaign, including one about a rogue griffin seeking vengeance for their slain love against a whole town. When the game does cleverly set up and interesting premise, they usually just end it with you killing the monster and collecting the contract. These larger battles are fun, probably the highlight of the game, but they lack any emotional or analytical value, and just feels like a checklist instead of engaging elements. Determined, I tried to avoid roads and cut across long stretches of land to find hidden stuff (horse clip) “Yeah- no”), always to disappointingly arrive at the destination the game had arranged for me. I was crazy excited when the game gave me a little skiff to take to the high seas, only to find that the islands off the beaten trail don’t have anything to offer adventurers either. I honestly feel like this is a much more barren than most RPGs.
The storylines feel overly reliant on the series’ own lightly-borrowed mythos. For example, in this scene, I’m looking for someone, so they direct me to a creature in the woods. This Godling (check name, find footage) is unable to speak, so I walk up the mountain to fight off some birds and recover a (what is it) that returns it. The act impresses a woman enough to let me talk to these witches in a painting- and this is where it all starts to become a blur- a sludge of ideas that don’t have a clear line from beginning to end, resulting in several missions where you completely lose track of how you even got there. In it’s attempt to jam in as many characters and ideas as possible, with all of it becoming incomprehensible. I remember side missions in Oblivion because they were memorable; murder party, going into a painting, CHEESSEEEEE.
To break up the monotony of the main storyline, there are side missions and monster contracts, but they aren’t any more interesting. The game also panders to its fans by including in some overly confusing moments, like this one where Geralt falls asleep, only to dream about James Franco and a delightful bird friend. Was I supposed to know what the fuck that was- it wasn’t even necessary for him to fall asleep in order to have the dream! It wasn’t necessary- at all!
Geralt, your buff sexy sploosh machine of a hero may be one of the most boring protagonists I’ve played in a while. He’s overly stiff, stotic, and lacks any identifiable traits, unless you count having a throat full of gravel. He usually only has two options in conversations; a nice one, or a mean one. Sometimes you’re able to throw someone a bullshit Jedi mind trick, but outside of that there’s usually only the two choices. Either way, most conversations won’t be affected by whatever choice you choose, so you can either have a friendly or mean 2×4 as you adventurer.
Probably Geralt’s biggest trait is that he gets more octopussy than James Bond, which for me doesn’t interest me. If I want to watch porn, I’ll watch porn- I don’t need to play a mediocre game for several hours to get a taste of some polygonal mamas. Despite my lack of knowledge in the series, I could tell that Yennifer is Geralt’s main squeeze. So, I went on some missions with her, did our usual; fucked on a unicorn, that kinda thing. And after an adventure to release a Jinn, I pledge my love to her. A very sweet scene. Immediately afterwards, she tells me that we shouldn’t put labels on anything and sends me back out into the world to creepily watch women bathing. I guess I’m free to have identical sex with every woman I come across- seriously, it’s the same animation for almost every woman you can sleep with. Guess they didn’t think we would notice.
One thing I did notice however was how precise the dialogue is. It’s simple enough to pick up, and does have a nice diversity of characters and ideals. DAMMMNNN. Every character feels fleshed out, which isn’t too surprising considering this being the third entry an all, but it was nice to dive into characters who were far more interesting than the grim warrior Geralt.
GAMEPLAY: CD Projekt Red put a ton of effort into the group combat system, with a balanced blend of Arkham City’s mechanics with a complex and yet approachable magic system. You have a quick attack, a powerful attack, a roll and a duck as your main forms of melee attacks, but you can also shoot bolts, throw grenades, and use potions to help change the tides of battle. Magic is regulated to 5 options; a temporary shield, force push, magic trap, confusion spell and a giant burst of fire. It’s easy to pick up and feels very complex, but it’s easily exploitable. My go-to tactic for battle was to swoop in with a heavy attack, dodge away and repeat while re-uping my shield. This thankfully doesn’t work on every enemy however, as some wraiths and other supernatural enemies require you to weaken them with spells or utilizing special oils to prevent their safeguards, adding some welcome strategy to the engagements.
Geralt also has a ‘Tracking’ mode, where you go all Sherlock to investigate your surrounding areas. I wanted to feel like a master monster hunter, but this feature really boils down to turning on some bad effects in order to see glowing footprints and scents. In the end, it feels like a boring mini-game where you follow a glowing path to something more interesting, and you never really feel like you’re discovering anything on your own. Not only that, but most of the time the discovery is ruined by some nonsensical bullshit, like finding a note sticking out of a grave that pretty much gives you the culprit on a silver platter. You never stumble upon any Zelda-like wonderment, but rather a bland acceptance of things.
My biggest problem with the game is a lack of mystery. Poking around corners and exploring the map doesn’t reward you with anything other than untimely death due to invisible walls or even falling off the map (D611:13). This wouldn’t be such a bad deal, except the game infrequently saves, meaning curiosity may set the cat back 10 minutes. In fact, the game doesn’t do much to add much mystery to the experience, and puzzles usually result in you setting lanterns on fire in the right order. The game is also constantly interrupting the action to give you controls, which can help newer gamers but does detail some pretty unneeded explanations. Some basic explanations however are not explained, and you may want to look up a tips video to get the most out of your experience.
I once wrote a review where I questioned if there has ever been a good card game in a RPG, and thankfully I’ve been proven wrong. Gwent is a fantastic distraction away from the humdrum world of killing monsters, and most shop owners are willing to bet on games. The basic rules is that you have three rows of engagement; close combat, ranged, and siege. You place numbered cards on these rows, which all add up to your total point count. Your goal is to place cards down to either help your cards or to minimize your opponent’s units. You’re given eight cards from the start, so using your cards effectively across three rounds is important, and you may want to throw the first round to stack the odds on the later two. Like Magic: The Gathering, it’s a simple premise but with a lot of strategy. If I had one negative thing to say, it would be the game uses different in-game armies to represent different deck types, and finding enough cards for the other decks takes way too long.
GRAPHICS: In terms of visuals, man on man- this game looks fantastic. The high-res models glisten and represent the pinnacle of today’s graphics, and the lighting gives everything fantastic depth. It might be one of the best looking games I’ve played this year. HOWEVER, it does have mixed results due to technical errors and lack of environmental additions. All the environments are flat, repetitive and rife with texture popping and rendering problems. Each tavern feels the same, and every shop has the same worthless items. I don’t know how many times I had trees shaking through a wall during deep conversations with characters. This is really unfortunate, as all the pieces’ finer details look amazing, I just wish they were handled with more care. For example- no matter how you approach it, the camera in this shop always has a flag flying in front of your face.
NPCs are lifeless, jobless and soulless. Either posted up against walls or forever shoveling the same spot, they fail to have the essence needed to sell them as real people. While some work pretty well, most tend to look and move in very similar ways to others regardless of the situation. They also are indifferent to everything happening around them; this sword fight failed to impress this vendor at all. “Nothing dude; not even a head turn? There were swords being swung right by your head!” I wouldn’t mind that so much, if it weren’t for a guy who asks me to throw a fight for him so he can impress his lady. I agree, lose the fight, and then when I return to him he forgets who I am. He doesn’t even take his girl anywhere, he just continues standing there, insulting me with a completely different voice. Despite the game having some decent writing and voice acting, character animations are without passion. Even the main bad guy from The Wild Hunt has no personality, and looks like Zed from the Power Rangers.
TECHNICAL: On a technical level, this game is a bit of a mess. Load times are ridiculously long, and will sometimes play an animatic recap constantly. The horse, which is suppose to run along roads and through paths on their own, for some reason just books into random directions on occasion. I had several moments where the game froze up, or I just straight fall through the map and end up in an evil limbo with random voice clips. I mean, just look at all these immersion breaking moments!
AUDIO: Audio is a mixed bag. Some actors really put in the effort, and you can tell they’re attempting to convey proper emotions. Then there’s deliveries like this. Music works well, but after a while the shallow amount of tracks become more and more obvious. There’s like 5 go to tracks the game alternates between, and having each location or area have it own music would’ve done wonders to add diversity to an already repetitive experience. Mixing and sound effects are very good however, and scenes do feature some subtle design that should be appreciated.