In the span of a month, I was able to finish The Witcher 3 and it took me about 60 hours. When trying to do things like work and have a social life, you have things to do that get in the way but no matter how often that would be the case, I would make time through pushing the time I’d go to sleep or even pushing back other things I wanted to work on. The great thing that makes me feel like all the time spent and the price of the game was that unlike in some recent games, I was never bored.
In one of my older articles, I compared Dragon Age: Inquisition to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. I’ve been told that I romantically wrote about Skyrim. Meanwhile, I tried writing about DA:I as fairly as I could. There was so much that Bioware could have done that CD Project Red pulled off in The Witcher 3 and it feels so fresh to love the game. So what was it about The Witcher 3 that made me excited for the expansions to come out?
1) Your Character
I appreciate the ability to create my own character in The Elder Scrolls and Dragon Age. I had different races I can pick, male or female, and I could have them look like me or something completely different. That’s one reason why Dungeons and Dragons is so much fun. You’re working through a story with the character you made and for some players, that can give them more of an attachment to who they are playing as.
What The Witcher accomplished is different. This is a role playing game based on literature inspired by folklore. The story is not about my Nordic female from Skyrim named Iris. The story is about Geralt, an already established character and the point of this story is to find your adopted daughter who has been missing to discover her years later as a fully grown adult who takes care of herself. Through playing this game, not only do I care about Geralt but also Ciri, the adopted daughter. Gameplay comes first and always should but having a great character that I didn’t create is wonderful to have.
Geralt has history. He has scars. His hair color shows age to go along with his knowledge in magic and fighting. He even has a romance history leading to difficult decisions in the role-playing. I think Geralt is fantastic and interesting so if we are going to have more games for the series, I’m never going to be upset playing as him.
Like I said, this is what comes first on if a game is good or not. The story be damned if the game isn’t fun. No matter how much I love Batman or Superman, Superman 64 and Batman: Dark Tomorrow are a couple of the worst games I have ever played.
So instead of a class system, you play as a character who knows how to use melee weapons and magic. As the game progresses, the player is able to increase abilities based off of gameplay preference. And then, you’re able to buy weapons and armor or you’ll find exactly what you need sometimes through a loot system that doesn’t always give you crap gear. But what’s nice is that the player is able to go through treasure hunts. Maybe Geralt might find a map or perhaps see something posted and this makes the character’s “point A to point B” exploration much more interesting. Maybe the player gets to learn about who planted the treasure there which is like a cherry on top.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed some of the exploration in Dragon Age: Inquisition like when I found ancient structures and dungeons that Dwarves built. The problem is that most of the exploration from Inquisition feels like it’s coming from doing chores. In The Witcher, I can become so distracted and invested into side quests, monster hunts and treasure hunts that I forgot that the point of starting it was because I needed to get enough experience points before moving on with the main part of the story.
“I suppose I need to get Geralt leveled up so he I can more easily play this part of the main story. What’s that? Dandelion has a love interest who is dying and I need to figure out the cause? I better help him so I can see what happens because I know he’s usually the type to plough women with no emotional attachment.”
That’s fun. In DA:I, I’ll find side quests but more often, I end up closing rifts, looking for shards or whatever other kind of chore there is just for the sake of racking up the XP. That is not fun. At the very least, don’t make the weather so static. In The Witcher, I can watch a sunrise while I’m hunting for a monster. In Dragon Age, I’m doing everything in one area and I could have hours and hours pass by without the weather ever changing. Maybe that doesn’t sound like the biggest deal to the reader or perhaps they never stop to think about that but doesn’t the game seem a little off when certain areas never stop raining? Each time you’re there, it’s raining and no matter how long you stay, it’s raining.
If you read my previous article about Dragon Age: Inquisition and Skyrim, you might remember my frustration about how long it takes just to kill a bear in gameplay with Inquisition.
I can run a tabletop role-playing game and have it take some time to kill a bear because that’s all a matter of math and chance but in video games, taking a long time to kill something that isn’t giving you much damage in ridiculous. However, things feel more fair in The Witcher 3.
If someone has never played any of the last two Witcher games, I might describe them as the Fable sequels done right. The combat system is a little more complex and there’s more to master about it but that’s what makes the game’s system feel so right.
The player can discover a new monster from a contract, read about it and use the knowledge to properly attack. Dark Souls teaches you how to play by making you die a lot but when you figure the game out doing a small amount of research and preparation before fighting, the end result feels amazing.
So when you do take your potions and follow along to what you know for whatever your hunting, each bit of damage you make feels like you’re accomplishing something in the game. Using a standard sword for human enemies and a silver sword for monsters is pretty easy to get used to and finding new ones of each can be very satisfying. And the magic getting to a point where you can do armor damage feels refreshing. The mixture between swords and magic during combat makes up for my lackluster experiences in Fable II and III.
In The Witcher, you don’t decide what your character is but you do get to make game and story altering choices. In one quest, I have to deal with a spirit trapped inside of a tree that’s causing harm to a village. I kill the life source of this tree and refuse to free the spirit. Later, I’m helping a Baron find his wife and daughter who fled him because of abuse. Because I was able to save the wife and show the daughter that the Baron was looking for redemption, I found a good ending for that quest. However, I could have freed that spirit from before and that could lead to the death of the Baron’s wife casing him to commit suicide.
This is in the span of a few hours of gameplay mostly due from distraction but my point is that you can make a decision and not truly know the outcome until hours later. Because I was good to Geralt’s daughter Ciri and made sure I did the small things like a snow ball fight to interact with her, she became very attached to Geralt and even decides to continue her life as a witcher.
Because I made Geralt tell Triss Merrigold he loves her, the game ends with the two living together. This lead to some very hard decisions on how to handle the quest with Geralt’s other love interest, Yennifer. I could have attempted to romance both Yennifer and Triss but I didn’t feel the story would turn out very well from doing that. I had to pick one or the other and I’ve never felt such an emotional tug from telling a fictional character that it would not work between them. The animation and voice acting made Yennifer’s reaction so realistic even if nothing about it was real.
That’s incredibly hard to nail and CD Project RED accomplished engaging role-play so well
4) Final Word
Overall, did the game have any problems? Sure, but they were so minor that I forgot what they were. For me, both The Witcher 3 and Skyrim and perfect in their own ways. People were hungry for a new game since The Witcher 2 came out four years ago and for a while, it was set to release back in Autumn of 2014. It ended up pushed back and so people ended up giving Dragon Age: Inquisition a try to pass the time and hold off their appetite.
The Witcher 3 has been the only game to truly challenge what is actually my favorite game and I can’t wait to put more hours into it when the first expansion comes out in a couple days but I have made it a point to start playing Skyrim again on the first snowfall each year. I’m hopeful. After the two expansions come out, I hope there will be a Witcher 4. If it does happen, it will take a long time to make but if the last two games have told us anything, it will be worth the wait.