Too Long; Didn't Play: The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt

Sponsored By: My own morbid curiosity

Time Witched: Holy crap, has it really been six hours?

My First Monster Hunter Review

Hey! Look at that! Greg’s late to the party again!

The Legend of Zelda For Grownups Review

Longtime readers are probably aware of my difficult relationship with popular consensus. It’s not that I try to be a contrarian, it’s just that everyone persists in being wrong all the time.

Well, nearly all the time, anyway. I managed to ignore The Witcher for ten whole years. It struck me as one of those games that fell neatly into the “Not For Greg” genre, which is vast and colorful, and includes a great many games that people are wrong about.

But contrary (heh) to the identity that I worked so hard to cultivate, I am occasionally plagued by a mind so open that my brain falls out. Sometimes it bounces off a game and right back into my head, and I know I’ve made a terrible mistake. Once in a while, though, my brain lands with a resounding splat and immediately sets about oozing into all of the nooks and crannies so that it may be in contact with as much surface area as possible.

Ok, that metaphor got weird, but my point is that sometimes I like things that other people like. So mark your calendars, because I’ve fallen in love with The Witcher 3.

Maybe it’s because it’s an open-world game, which is the best kind of game. Maybe it’s because I like how gravelly and emotionless Geralt’s voice is, like the voice actor who played Gob in Fallout 3 had all of his personality removed and can’t find a lozenge. Maybe it’s because it plays like a cross between Monster Hunter and a Bethesda RPG.

Yeah, it’s probably that last one. Hunting monsters in The Witcher 3 is all about prep work, and the open world solves one of the problems I always had with the Monster Hunter series: If you need supplies to craft something, you just walk to where the thing you need grows and take it. You don’t have to take a garbage mission you’ve already completed just so you can access the cave with the right sort of mushrooms in it.

Combat is similarly Monster Hunterish, where you have to pick your weapon to suit your prey (silver swords for monsters, steel sword for people) and maintain them so they stay sharp. You also spend a lot of time dodge-rolling because parrying is too difficult. Overall, it’s a combat system that’s just complex enough to make playing other third-person action games almost impossible while simultaneously being simple enough that I can feel like a tough cookie for defeating a griffin.

When you’re not hunting monsters, you’re talking to people and making Important Choices, like whether to turn in criminals to the authorities, or what sort of fancy doublet you want to wear. Some of these choices are supposed to have Real Consequences, but I wouldn’t know because most of them don’t play out until you hit the forty-hour mark or something, and I’ve only played six hours. (And an hour of that was deciding which doublet to wear: I’m sure it will impact my relationship with someone at some point.)

There’s no morality system, as such, which I’m conflicted about. I’m sure the developers have clear ideas about what is The Right Choice to make in any given situation, but they’re pretending not to. So instead of a karma meter which you can quantify, they just make you feel like a jerk when you do something they don’t like. Or maybe not. There was one choice that I actually looked up on the wiki because there didn’t seem to be a right answer and the wiki confirmed that no, there was not. So it’s possible that the developers just throw a bunch of Sophie’s choices at you and make you feel like a jerk regardless, which I suppose is realistic (for certain definitions of the term) but not particularly satisfying. I seem to recall the masthead of this place used to have some quote about how it’s better for games to be fun instead of realistic, but it’s been a while since I’ve looked.

Regardless, I’m finding the world interesting to explore and the monsters interesting to fight, and my horse knows how to follow roads, which is refreshing after spending a few hours getting my robot horses stuck on level geometry in Horizon; Zero Dawn. I won’t say it’s a good horse-riding mechanic, because up to now there isn’t such a thing, but it’s about as close to good as anybody’s gotten. Good on them.

Kudos to the developers. They’ve made a game that makes me understand what all the fuss is about. That happens just often enough to encourage me to keep trying to engage the zeitgeist.

Witch On?

I’ve taken a break from The Witcher 3 to play some other games with similar mechanics. Usually I can keep multiple control schemes in my head at the same time, but there’s something about The Witcher's controls that make me play other games badly. Once I finish with that one, though, I’m sure to come back to Geralt and his silver sword. There’s enough going on in the world that I want to see it.

Is it the Dark Souls of Monster Hunter Starter Kits?

The Witcher 3 shares many things in common with Dark Souls. The combat is heavily animation based, and timing often matters more than power. However, you can throttle the difficulty down if you just want to tour the countryside, and it’s got one of the better combat tutorials available on the market today so I’d say it’s not the equivalent of Dark Souls. It’s more like Dark Souls’ kid brother who’s grown up to be a real nice guy who you want to hang out with, even if he does need a lozenge.

Four out of eighteen decoction flasks.

Comments

decoction flasks.

IMAGE(https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CqBSdyfUEAEIaZB.jpg)

At last, this underrated gem gets the attention it deserves.

Fun read!

Re: morality system, I found it to be more of "how would your Geralt react." You NEVER have complete information, and most major choices have unforseen consequences (some good, some...less good), which is freeing in it's own way.

It hides the strings in a way Bioware & others have struggled to do lately, and in doing so allows for you to roleplay in a roleplaying game, instead of making decisions toward a specific outcome.

And some, you just choose a thing and it doesn't come back to help or haunt you at all, you never know which it is.

You also spend a lot of time dodge-rolling because parrying is too difficult.

Damn straight!

Great piece. I was strangely relieved you didn't hate the game ... the Venn Diagrams should have at least some overlap I suppose

I tried playing the original Witcher about 3 times. Loved that intro movie! But I just couldn't get into it. I don't know if it's the 'bad boy' main character or hard-to-grok combat system, but I just lost interest somewhere after the tutorial level each time.

I tried picking up Watcher II, but I couldn't get into it because I felt guilty for not finishing the first one. Same deal: just after the tutorial, I kind of gave up and didn't care.

One problem I MIGHT have is that old D&D habits made me a 'don't-waste-it-bird'. Health potions are to be used only when half the party is down, just before praying for divine intervention. This moves to all non-automatically-refeshing consumables in all games.

But I don't think so - I never got deep enough into those games that I was losing fights; I THINK I just lost interest in the characters. The women (as far as I got) look like softcore props for the hero, who broods for the sake of brooding and appears to have no moral compass or personality.

Again, maybe I just didn't get far enough in...

Oh no Greg... Not you too........

Just kidding.
Great read, thanks so much.

When you’re not hunting monsters, you’re talking to people and making Important Choices, like whether to turn in criminals to the authorities, or what sort of fancy doublet you want to wear.

Definitely my favorite sentence in the piece.

We should put a freeze on new content just so Geralt can be up there all the time. So dreamy.