Geralt of Rivia, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Witcher

 

 

I, like much of the world, have a really bad habit. No, not biting my nails (not any more, at least). This habit is much, much worse: starting things and not finishing them.

I know, I know. How terrible, right? Whether it’s something I’ve written (a song or a story), a video game, a TV show, or a movie, I’m terrible at finishing things.

Video games are probably the easiest thing on that list to start and not finish. When a new game comes out every 3 days and when there are so many good games worthy of a replay, it’s easy to forget (or pretend to forget) about something else you’ve been playing. The Witcher series is a great example of this.

My buddy got me The Witcher II: Assassin of Kings for my birthday a few years back, and… it was interesting. Really, my only foray into the RPG world at this point was the Fallout franchise, and The Witcher II was so god damn daunting. SO daunting. I mean, the sandbox was huge, the level of customization of weapons and clothing was insane, and the sheer amount of stuff in the game made it feel cluttered.

So I quit. I stopped. I beat about 1/3 of the game and just gave up. I couldn’t do it. There was just too much stuff and not enough time. That, of course, lasted until Christmas of that year. My then girlfriend had gone out of town for a family trip and I had quite a bit of time on my hands, so when I’d get home from waiting tables at 11:00 at night, I’d crack open a beer and start up The Witcher II. 

Coming back to it a second time was great. I loved it. I loved the story. I loved the quests. Everything about it drew me in more and more. So much so that I couldn’t put down the controller. So yes, I finally beat it. I finished the game and that was an accomplishment for me.

Thus, when The Witcher III: Wild Hunt was released last year, I was very excited to pick it up and start playing.

Good God. I thought The Witcher II was daunting? There was so much going on in III that I gave up in days. I gave it a shot, in my eyes, and I couldn’t do any more. And there was so much that I saw wrong with it (and still do).

  • I hate leveled quests. I hate that the game doesn’t level with you, like Fallout does. Sure some areas are more difficult than others, but you basically have the freedom to go anywhere and everywhere on the map to do whatever you want. But not in The Witcher III. Sure you can do the quests that are outside your level, but if you try to do anything more than 3-4 levels outside your range, you’re totally screwed. Not cool, guys. If I want to get a dumpling-selling swordsmith back to his former glory, then by God I’m going to do it at level 5. Not wait around until level 26.
  • The horse riding mechanics are atrocious. I can’t go five seconds without running into an invisible horse wall and having Roach stop dead in his tracks. I really appreciate the whole ‘follow the road’ thing that occurs when riding. It’s very convenient and a nice way to keep you on track. But when I’m trying to cut through a grassy field and my horse keeps pulling to one side to try to get onto a road, it makes it kind of difficult to do what I want to do.
  • There can be such a thing as too much customization, and III has it. I love the fact that I can make stuff. I love the fact that I can add runes to my sword to make it stronger. But there’s no tutorial for this stuff. There’s no easy way to see where to get the one roll of twine you need to craft that mastercrafted silver sword. And, who knows. You might already have that twine, but how the hell would you know? The inventory is so small (because there’s so much stuff in it) that I literally have to squint every time I want to see what I have. Granted they did add a cool feature that makes the menu a tiny bit bigger, but I still lean closer to my TV every time I open up my inventory menu.
  • Why is it always windy?! Everywhere you go the trees look like they’re in the middle of a class 4 hurricane. Well, until you look at the grass right next to the trees and see that it’s not moving at all. Even inland, not just on the coast, the trees seem like they’re having a freaking seizure.

This list could go on for a while, but these were – and still are – my main complaints.

A month or so ago, I was looking for a new game to play. I’d exhausted my available levels on Hitman, I’d grown tired of Fallout 4, so I wanted something different. That’s when I saw The Witcher III sitting in my game cabinet.

“Why not,” I thought. “I’ll give it another try.”

And sure enough, CD Projekt Red, you did it again.

I haven’t been able to put down III since I started. I really can’t stop. I think I have a problem.

I still don’t think it’s GOTY material by any means – for the above stated reasons and for the sheer amount of glitches and bugs that are still in it after a year and a half – but this game is amazing.

My first playthrough, as you can probably tell, I went ahead and did a level 26 quest when I was level 5. I still don’t like games telling me what and when I can do things, but this time I decided I would play the game how they wanted me to. I would only do quests in my level range, and so far it’s working out great.

I love how I can tell that some of the actions I’m taking in the beginning of the game will have impact later on. I just finished the quest where I have to help the conspirators get the information from the shoemaker in their attempt to assassinate Radovid. That’s all I did: I went and found a guy who was being held by trolls, got him out of the cave, and that was it. But I know that something is going to come of that later on. If I wouldn’t have done the quest, then nothing would’ve happened. I can feel Radovid’s assassination coming, but I don’t know where or when it will happen. That’s a great feeling in games.

I also love the amount of lore that’s peppered into this game. Much like Witcher II, you constantly have callbacks to previous games and the books. They did a great job making the character feel like they’re actually part of a continuing story, even though this is a brand new game.

And… Ugh… I also like the crafting, okay? I don’t hardly craft anything, but I love how I have to repair my swords, pick up new weapons, sell old ones, pick up new runes and crafting diagrams… I know this was a huge peeve of mine from my first play through, but this time, I’m really enjoying it.

For all its faults, I’m really glad I gave this game a second chance, just like I did it’s younger brother. It’s something you definitely have to experience if you’ve got a PS4. Don’t let The Witcher III slip by you like I almost did. Give it a shot. You won’t be disappointed.

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