This is what I waited for. This is THE game, not just A game.
First part of the game, Witcher 1, hit the stores in 2007. Being a fan of saga written by Andrzej Sapkowski, I couldn’t just ignore this release. But it’s an epic saga! You can’t make a good game out of it! Yep, this is exactly what I thought. And then cdp.pl came and knocked me off my feet. This was something new, this was amazing, a true breath of fresh air. It was amazing. Maybe this is why I finished that game like 14 times. When cdp.pl announced W2, I was puzzled. You can’t repeat the success like that, it’s a one time thing! I was partially right – W2 was better but it lacked that something from part 1. I don’t know, maybe it was too far from saga itself? Anyway, commercial success meant we will see more of Geralt.
I was right again – cdp.pl announced Witcher 3 to be bigger, better and all that bla bla bla you hear from every gaming company before they release a game. Yeah right, better, shesh, stop those lies….OMG, are those real screenshots?? Bang, I was sold. Apparently you CAN create two masterpieces. So we waited and waited, lured by new features, pics and bits of story. Collectors edition? Ordered the minute the sale page went up. And waited more and more… We postpone the premiere to make the game better. Damn you! But luckily the wait was over. The delivery guy knocked on my doors with a huge box and I just knew this is a beginning of a new journey. A gorgeous one for sure.
However the early moments of that journey were…bumpy to say the least. But we will address it a bit later. Let’s focus on the game itself.
If I wanted to describe how I feel about the graphic, I’d sound like a damn fangirl. Gorgeous sights, attention to the details. Unique views, adjusted to each localization – Skellige vs White Orchard anyone? Breathtaking graphics, well done! What needs to be said as well: the transfer between locations is very smooth, graphic wise. One location kinda merges into another. A great example is a battlefield in Act I or should I say – a meadow and forest that was turned by force into a battlefield. A quest – no spoilers! – takes you to this place and if you look closely, you will see a fight between nature and what is left of armies. Here’s a sword covered by dirt, there’s a shield covered by bushes and here, just look – the grass smashed by the boots of soldiers is laying low, drying up. Look around and you will see a fresh, juicy green grass, tall and proud. Not sure if it is me projecting things or if the devs actually planned for people to have such impressions, but it takes a bloody good game to consume me fully and a damn epic game to make me feel like I am actually in that world. During W3 i could almost smell the forest while roaming in the world. Yes, roaming. When I first heard about the open world in W3, I had mixed feelings. On one hand – yay! open world, on the other – nay, I hate the idea behind Skyrim, please don’t screw witcher this way! Well they didn’t – they perfected the open world. Yes, you can follow main quests and just like in W1 you can do side quests, but just the idea of getting on the boat and swimming around, just because i want to, is awesome. Open world is not forced on you, *you* decide how *you* play the game. Well done, cdp!
Also, W3 doesn’t suffer from the same problem as W1 – the graphics are unique or customized for each character you meet. You don’t meet 10 same human beings, you can clearly recognize most of the toons you talk to. W1 had few main chars you interacted with, rest was the same character over and over again. W3 fixed that issue and dear devs – thank you for that.
The quests are well designed and thought through. However – SPOILERS AHEAD! – what I can’t understand is how and why you see Yennefer in this game? So, you love to hate and hate to love a witcher, Geralt, you avoid him all the time yet he is a love of your life so you die trying to save him (saga!) but yet you are somehow ressurected and you have an amnesia ( W2!) but you somehow remember him so you send him a letter and he drops everything to come help you (W3). Are you trying to tell me that Geralt suffers from Stockholm syndrome? Or maybe he is a masochist? Ok, maybe he doesn’t remember she was kinda a bitch to him, but Vesemir surely does know about it, so why does he not help Geralt remember? Why is Geralt like a puppy? I mean, that guy kills monsters for living. Yes, his humanity is still there since the mutation wasn’t full, but…but this? Their first meeting is…weird to say the least. Yen, you meet a guy you died saving, love of your life, be less of a bitch? And Geralt, you just met a woman that loved to torture you mentally. I know she is beautiful, but please, for Cthulhu’s sake, don’t try to get into her pants while people are watching? You’ve spent one game (W1) screwing everything you saw while making a family with a nurse (Shani) or a sorceress (Triss), you’ve spent another whole game trying to save Triss, who *cough* is yet another love of your life, have some dignity, man! Don’t get me wrong, I like the fact Yen is in the game and I am really happy she got introduced as one of the major characters. But please, if I am abused over a long period of time, I don’t forget it just like that, just because my offender needs me? Introduce her gradually, reignite the old flame, don’t act like the whole saga didn’t happen. And yes, saga is one thing, game is another, but there is plenty of bows towards the saga in the game to actually assume you do acknowledge what happened in the books. W1 is full of referrences to the stories, so if we see that not only characters are based on the books, why not be consequent? It’s a bit like the devs didn’t have an idea of how to build that relationship between Yen and Geralt and they just opted for lesser evil (pun intended*).
Yes, I complain about this aspect of the story, but I have to admit that apart from this one “nay”, the construction of all other characters was a big “yay” for me. The characters are three dimensional, and I am not talking about graphics. Nothing is black or white, the amount of shades of Grey would make Mr. Grey blush. Just like in W1, you have to think before you say or do something, but also the characters you interact with show how torn they are in some cases. They are so…real? Take Baron for example. No worries, no spoilers, but a big grats to devs.
I briefly mentioned quests. In my opinion they are really well prepared. I also love the fact that they correspond loosely to your level – if you are level 6, a monster lvl 15 can kick your back but it is up to you to challenge him or run. You don’t have to kill that monster, you can totally focus on different quest, it is your choice. I’m not gonna spoil the quests by giving away their content, but the fact you shape your word and gameplay is just amazing. And the quests are really well written – it’s one of those rare games where I don’t skip the description of the quests, but read them fully. And the amount of references to popculture and folklore in whole Witcher franchise? Amazing, truly amazing. Often you can find yourself discovering sudden wink wink, nudge nudge from the devs, a reference or a quote that just makes your day.
As for the gameplay itself – techtalk inc! – game controls are simplified when compared to W2 and it was a really good change. They are pretty much intuitive which allows you to fully focus on the game itself, without going all so how do I draw sword again? Where are my signs? It’s a perfect game for click/keyboard hybrid players like me. The menu and tutorials are well organized and easily accessed. In-game knowledge base – a guidebook with all controls and overview of characters and abilities is clear, straight-to-a-point and free of clutter. Really nice improvement from W1. The option of fighting while riding a horse is very interesting and adds a nice aspect to the game itself. Controls of the movement of the horse aren’t always as responsive as they could be, but it doesn’t disrupt game at all. Well, not much at least – sometimes horse “chooses” to lead you in a different direction to what you chose. Just like in real life, bloody stubborn animals! Meditation system is also very easy, as is equipping items and creating potions. 10/10, fixed everything that was broken in w2 and even took it a step further. Quality over quantity, bravo!
There is one thing that deserves a separate part in this review – music. W1 had great soundtrack, W2 was weaker, W3 is just pure epicness. As a great fan of soundtracks I can easily say that this is my absolutely #1 soundtrack ever, Marcin Przybyłowicz and Percival created something amazing, something that stands out on its own. Perfect arrangements, perfect balance, perfect “vibe” – this is not just an addition to a game, this is an entity of its own. Best. Soundtrack. Ever. Seriously, close your eyes and listen to “Silver for Monsters…” – don’t know about you, but I can “see” a witcher “dancing” with his sword among monsters trying to reach him. “Geralt of Rivia” – beautiful version of the “classic” Witcher theme with that unique feeling of open world, a great taste of things to come. “Ladies of the Woods”? Look around and you might see a driad somewhere! Masterpiece, this soundtrack is pure masterpiece.
Enough of those yays, time for nays. This will be a short one. Biggest nay for me and an actual reason of -0.1 in total score is the graphic card requirement. Listen, dear cdp.pl, I understand you make a game with epic graphics. I understand you want to make sure everyone gets the best experience while playing. But if someone has atypical card, a card you haven’t listed, they are basically screwed. Not because the game won’t launch but because system automatically disables the game. Can I please decide on my own what quality and hardware I will have on my own pc, thankyouverymuch? How come we have to refrain to actually tricking the system? Why do I have to send a message like “yes yes, good card, good, pl0x let me play” to be able to play? And how come I actually CAN play when I do that? Do you really expect people to buy a new card every year? That’s not gonna happen. I’m one of those people who got screwed by settings. The limitation to just certain types of cards is not fair. Especially if cards that are not listed are actually good enough to handle Witcher 3. Just like my card is! And let’s not forget the fact your technical support needs a week to write polite “fk off, we don’t care” when I *know* it is actually perfectly possible to play on my hardware. This plus the mess with GOG? I know you want your own platform but for Cthulhu’s sake, don’t go that way! GOG that doesn’t see DVDs, DVDs don’t “see” GOG, for crying out loud! Messy launch, messy installation. Resetting settings of GOG – GOG wants to install the game on C drive, I choose D, yet it still resets to C because potato. You created a masterpiece yet you screwed the first impression. Luckily I have two gaming pcs and one of them just had graphic card replaced to one that is officially supported, but most people don’t have such option. Please be more considerate in the future?
As for actual game bugs – the funniest and yet most annoying one is related to the horse. When you call it, it spawns in random place and chooses a direct path to you. Which is fine, as long as there are no obstacles on its path. One of the most hilarious moments in game happened to me when I called the horse while being in a village. Damn those villagers had to be proper pissed after being kicked by my horse for 10 minutes. Yes, 10 minutes, because I was dying from laughter – after my initial WTF moment – when I saw my dear Roach prancing next to villagers. their swearing and comments were one of the comedy relief moments in the game. Shame that bushes are not swearing – bet that would be another reason to giggle after I had Roach stuck in bushes next to the road for few mins. Sadly, they didn’t swear so there was no giggle, just plain frustration. Yes, horse spawns in random place, but can we be sure it actually uses its virtual tiny brain?
One major thing I miss in W3 is the option to take screenshots. I know, I know, I can use external software, but why not have it in game? with such views option to take screeenshots is pretty much mandatory.
Overall, this is the game I waited for. The flaws are minor and the whole game itself can easily be set an example for other developers. This is how you make games, this is how you get feedback from players, this is how you make dreams come true. Thank you, cdp.pl, just…thank you
*Lesser Evil is a story about Geralt, written by Andrzej Sapkowski. Before the actual saga, Geral existed only in a series of short stories, of which Lesser Evil was chronologically third to be written. Geralt’s nickname, Butcher of Blaviken, is related to the events presented in this tale. More (watch out for spoilers!) here: http://witcher.wikia.com/wiki/The_Lesser_Evil