Whole lotta crickets in here. What, nobody wants to provide frontline analysis of a game about dick pics
? Are we the Squadron of Shame or are we not?
For the record (as you've probably already guessed) I am knee-deep in Witcher land. At the current rate, it looks like I'll be there for a while. I've spent in the neighborhood of 25 hours with the Wild Hunt so far. Here's a few thoughts:
- Everything you heard about how good this game is is 100% true. As I'm playing it I am constantly thinking to myself "Could this be one of the best video games ever made?.... Probably." I've always been a Geralt fan, but with W3 CD Project has defintely proven... something. Something long game related about Eastern Euro and its capacity to deliver top quality games without sacrificing their artistic heart and soul to focus groups.
- The quality of the writing and narrative is (so far) exceptional. Such a wide range of pathos, drama, sensitivity and dark humor on display here -- frequently all in one questline. Just finished up something last night with the Bloody Baron that frankly astonished me in terms of how far the writers were willing to push their storytelling into the uncomfortable. I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll just say that it is so refreshing and rare to have a game that treats its audience as adults and isn't afraid to bolt "beyond the family friendly PG-13" in its core DNA.
A lot of what I've experienced so far goes (strangely) into Silent Hill 2 territory. There is a strong emphasis on feelings, emotions and the motivations that explain why bad people do good things and good people do bad things. Every hour of play contains your recommended daily intake of that patented Witcher grey morality. CD project has always been at the top of their game when it comes to sketching characters who are neither bad nor good but just people trying to get by in a crapsack world. I haven't played Dragon Age: Inquisition yet, but I find myself constantly thinking "How could Bioware compete with this?" I may have a preconception of the limits of the Bioware / EA formula, and hopefully I am wrong here.... but there's no question. Even only a sixth or seventh of the way through the main storyline here (at a guess) I can already tell that the Witcher is going to be the one to beat for years moving forwards when it comes to discussing narrative in the triple-A space.
- It is possible for a game to be TOO Skyrim-ey / Assassin's Creedy though. Geralt's world here is paralyzing in its breadth. Looking at the map of Velen spread out before me, I am overwhelmed by the sheer scope of it all. Quests, quests, points of interest and quests as far as the eye can see. I wouldn't mind so much, except that so far every Witcher contract and every sidequest is totally well-realized, interseting and worth exploring. Most of them are engaging little mini-witcher arcs, usually involving a hefty mix of detective work, dialogue, exploration, preparation and ultimately killing something. I like the treasure hunts and random jobs just like I did in Red Dead, but the stars of the show outisde of the main questline are definitely the Contracts. If you see a labeled "people are having a problem with this monster" you are in for a good time. I spent about 45 minutes yesterday tracking, prepping for, stalking and ultimately killing a specific nightwraith. It felt Witcher-ey as hell.
- Their decision to frame certain collectables as Geralt following in the footsteps of other witchers is pretty smart. Following the trail of George (of the Gryphon School) all around the countryside, hearing about his exploits, tracking down his past conquests, running into little messages and stories and haunts while ultimately building out my set of Gryphon School memorabilia in the process is deeply satisfying. So far, there has been almost zero "go over here, kill 10 rat" type quests. They've made the effort to have SOME kind of emotional or consequential stake in each encounter which makes a huge difference.
- Gwent, GWEEEENT
, ho-lee shit. Is this what playing Hearthstone is like? I can't get enough of this goddamn minigame... play it every chance I get. Not since Triple Triad has a card game inside another game sucked me deeply into deckbuilding. Objectively it makes no sense that everybody in the countryside of rural mediavalia would be a boma fode Pokemaniac but who cares? Gwent is a way, way better designed game than it has any right to be. They could have left it with just Geralt rolling dice at taverns and I'd have been happy -- but having an entire countryside peppered with secret card fiends is nothing short of genius. That kid? Two towns over? Shit, he's a Gwent master. That soothsayer? The guy you got your propehcy from a few quests back? Hugely into Gwent. Plays a monster deck, big focus on a necrophage rush strategy. I CANNOT GET ENOUGH OF THIS. The fact that this is all canonical and lampshaded in-game by the NPCs themselves is even better. Here I am, playing the Baron, winning rare cards. I beat him and suddenly he's like "oh man, you're hardcore... do you know that inkeeper? Over in Oxenfurt? Runs a bar off the main street? He's got a strong Scoia'tel support strategy deck going on, you should totally play him. Oh, and that wandering herbalist who hangs out in the woods north of the pirate camp? Gwent ninja, son. I CAN'T BELIEVE THEY DID THIS.
- Crafting, crafting, crafting. Everything is made up out of things, mincraft style, and those things can be made into other things. Everything is base components. There is a big satisfaction in getting blueprints for some awesome sword, digging around in your inventory, grabbing some candlesticks you picked up from a ruined manor a few quests back, heading over to the blacksmith and having them melt down the candlesticks so you can get the silver you need to make silver ingots which you then use to make refined silver, etc. etc. Ultimately you have some awesome Glamdring style relic sword which is not only badass in combat, but has an emotional component because of all the questing you had do to assemble the bits. Reminds me of crafting guns in System Shock. I became attached to those too.
Anyway, yeah, Witcher 3 is amazing. You should play it.