Here we investigate the overlooked, the underappreciated, the Shameworthy titles of the world. Jump in to an existing mission thread and give your thoughts, or start your own to kick off a discussion.
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Re: They See Me Witching, They Hatin'

by Beige » Fri Jun 05, 2015 7:17 pm

Sounds like we're on the same page. And for the record, I agree with you re: Cyberpunk. I want the entire thing to look and feel like the bladerunner bizaar on steroids.
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Re: They See Me Witching, They Hatin'

by Elanzer » Sat Jun 06, 2015 2:49 am

My copy of Witcher 3 will unfortunately remain on the virtual shelf until my next upgrade, I don't want to spoil it prematurely by running at a less than acceptable framerate. I knew those requirements were hefty, but damn.

That aside, I know enough about the series preceding it to really struggle to take any of the criticism being levelled against it seriously. From what I have seen many of these people have zero familiarity or understanding of either the source material or real world history and culture, and are illogically attempting to impose modern Americentric ideals on a piece of fictional 13th century Slavic fantasy. It's the same sort of people who had a go at Kingdom Come: Deliverance (set in a strictly historical 15th century Bohemia) for not having other racial groups (namely Africans) represented, who also attempted to use the unsubstantiated ramblings of some blogger it wouldn't be unfair to label a conspiracy theorist for political ends. It's ridiculous. This whole "it's partially fantasy, so what's your excuse for not making it a racial utopia?" is ridiculous. The accusations of sexism the last two weeks before race took its turn were ridiculous. That games media is so unwilling or incapable of defending its works of art that fringe lunatics whining on social media and blogs are actually considered serious criticism is ridiculous.
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Re: They See Me Witching, They Hatin'

by RedSwirl » Sat Jun 06, 2015 7:38 pm

Getting sucked in to Witcher 2 upon starting it. Witcher 1 and 2 are proof of how far good world building can take an RPG. What's a game you just can't stop playing for one or two particular reasons even though it has a shitload of flaws? Mass Effect 1 is like that for me. Its combat is messy and its UI atrocious, but its quests and sense of exploration make up for all that. Not only does it capture a nice 1970's sci-fi feel like basically no other game, but it makes me wonder why the fuck almost nobody else makes RPGs about exploring the galaxy.

Going back to Witcher 2 I totally get why so many people drop it early on. The Prologue makes a pretty terrible first impression in terms of gameplay and the combat is plain frustrating until you're around level 10 (when it just starts to become stupidly easy). Witcher 2 doesn't even get good until about four hours in. Loredo's "Welcome to Flotsam" line is pretty much the official start of the game. It's only when the quests and exploration unfurl and you're let free in its world that Witcher 2 becomes addictive and robs me of my sense of time. Basically the only reason I'm playing this game is because it's an extremely well-realized virtual world in terms of the writing, art direction, and graphics.

Witcher 1 has pretty much the exact same flaws -- most people hate the prologue and chapter 1, which collectively make up possibly the first eight or 10 hours of the game. Personally I like chapter 1, but I can understand if it detracts too much from the main story. Witcher 2's prologue at least picks up the pace towards the end of the prologue and maintains that pace into its chapter 1. I guess putting all the random village crap in Witcher 1 in chapter 4 made more sense since that comes off as a needed break from the thick urban action of chapters 2 and 3. I guess this is one area where Witcher 2 improved: Flotsam when you think about it is sort of a combination of Witcher 1's Vizima outskirts and Temple Quarter. You still get random quiet village crap, but it's mixed in with a healthy amount of political intrigue tying directly into the main quest. Of course Witcher 2 also improved on the technical graphics.

One more odd thing: Witcher 1 and 2's UIs have the opposite problems. Witcher 1's UI looks ugly but feels very functional, Witcher 2's UI is pretty but also a pain to navigate. Only now, four years later, did I notice that you can't access one menu from another in Witcher 2. Does anyone think Witcher 3 found a balance between fashion and function? And do you think CDProjekt solved its other main flaw -- making a good first impression?
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Re: They See Me Witching, They Hatin'

by Elanzer » Sat Jun 06, 2015 9:36 pm

The biggest flaw in the beginning of the Witcher 2 that stuck out to me (besides the difficulty in general, especially at initial release) was allowing the player to select what order the flashback is played through. My first attempt, not realising those dialogue options would branch off to different sections of the introductory level, I ended up getting thrown in the deep end with the dragon for an embarrassingly long time having absolutely no idea what was going on. I can't think of any reason why anyone would think that it was a good idea to allow a new player to do that or what kind of purpose it served. Whenever I've noticed friends dropping it early, it's almost always as a result of them making the same mistake, or failing that, the infamous stealth section that follows. Like you say, make it to Flotsam though and it's smooth sailing from then on.

As for UI and controls, again they somehow managed to be even worse at release. They've definitely improved since, but still don't really feel up to scratch on a mouse/keyboard to me. In my recent replay I ended up trying a 360 controller instead and found it much, much more pleasant, handling very similarly to how the Witcher 3 does. I'm not surprised at all CDPR have been showing PC footage of the Witcher 3 with one either, it seems to be the optimal way to navigate the menus. If you're finding the UI clunky, give it a try.
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Re: They See Me Witching, They Hatin'

by Beige » Mon Jun 22, 2015 8:18 pm

When will the Witching ever end? Not anytime soon for me.

Just checking in here - play clock at around 80 hours and I'm still just past the 2/3rds point of Act 1 (of 3). Made it to the isles of Skellege after various Lankhmarian hijinx in the main city of Novograd. Skullduggery all over the place. All the skulls and duggers. Skellege is going to be intense. Majestic Skyrim geography stretching out as far as the eye can see. Boats. Beards. Jarls. Manly Men being Manly. Punched a guy out at a wake, drunk-bro clinked glasses and toasted the departed when defeat equals friendship. 10/10.

Every time they drop one of these old friends from the previous games I want to high five somebody. Cameos and stunt casting all over the place like Jabba's palace but with Vernon Roache instead of Lando. Novograd is staggeringly impressive by the way though its technical requirements will bring even a hard rig to its knees. Don't get bored of walking past the Pasaflora cathouse late at night and seeing all the paper lanterns and perfume wafting out as courtesans beckon me inside. Geralt has a frequent flyer stamp card, evidently. Not only do the prostitutes remember Geralt by name but the margins are full of noodle incident stories .

Maybe it's just a symptom of the low bar that's been set to date in these kind of WRPGs but I feel I need to give special attention to whoever is writing the romances in Witcher 3. (Sapkowski, ultimately?) It shouldn't take Norah Roberts to explain to game writers that the place you ought to start when developing romances in your games is to make them *romantic*. I love the slow build and attention to detail present in all the character interactions. Sighing glances, furrowed brows. Things almost said but then cut short by circusmstance or manly stoicism. Look at Geralt there in his expensive doublet with Triss sparkling on his arm in an evening gown as they walk through the gates of the rediculously and expensively modelled masquarade ball. We match like 2 peas in a pod because I did the optional sidequest to go to the tailors and get this thing custom made. Why? Because Triss asked me to, and also because Geralt is a straight baller. I have, no word of a lie, an entire outfit that I keep in my in inventory for special dress occasions and so far I've had to haul it out 3 times because some character *specificially asked me to dress nice* for some event or other.
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Re: They See Me Witching, They Hatin'

by Beige » Fri Jul 10, 2015 1:09 am



No happy endings, ever. Character determines destiny. NOWWWwwwww it all makes sense.

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Re: They See Me Witching, They Hatin'

by RedSwirl » Fri Jul 10, 2015 11:50 pm

I honestly got that feeling not to far into Witcher 1.
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Re: They See Me Witching, They Hatin'

by A.I Impaired » Thu Jul 16, 2015 7:53 pm

Ive played enough Witcher 3 to feel confident to talk about it to some degree now. Though from the whispers in the wind I hear I still have many more journeys ahead of me. I also have the benefit of comparison, having pushed through the wonderful Dragon Age Inquisition some months ago. Both are ridiculously big, and I hear the Witcher 3 is even more so than Inquisition.

Inquisition was a damn good game. It is very easy to compare what they were trying to do in terms of scale with Witcher 3, and they share many particular elements when you think of how they present story and choices. However these games place the main character in very different contrasting positions. I would say both at various points try to be the 'Game of Thrones' of video games. Both have moments that reach this and transcend this. How they approach this though is very different. Inquisition really wants to give you the power to shape the politics in its world in a very direct way. Your character more or less has diplomatic responsibilities, and has to deal with political consequences. Geralt in Witcher also finds himself amongst highly influential political figures shaping their actions, but is in many respects outside of their agenda and pursues his own story that only occasional intersects with the macro world events. Dragon Age puts your character at the cusp of these kinds of events. Its story as a result can seem sometimes less personal than Geralt's, but the supporting characters actually do help to round out and make human your chosen Avatar. He does seem a cypher for the player though, however articulate. Geralt is always unmistakably Geralt.

So I think we see in these approaches the difference in focus. Everything you do in Inquisition suddenly has grande scope, and you feel perhaps awkward taking on the little things. Oh and what tedious little things there are. It is in the guise of collecting War assets that you traipse about a map looking for niggling items and quest markers. Hardly a job for a grande inquisitor. Its well noted that while Dragon Age is massive, a large part of it is really caught up in these throw away tasks that I increasingly came to ignore. In contrast, Geralt's journey is personal in almost every step. I have encountered some throw away tasks, but even they seem to have some thoughtfulness to how it relates to Geralt's role in the world.

The more I see, the more I appreciate this thoughtful consistency with itself. It feels as if this world is more lived in, and lives its history a bit more than in Inquisition. The open world also seems more connected than in Dragon Age, which has you jumping between different maps. This however suits the kinds of stories that are told. Dragon Age needs to jump forward in time at different points which effects the elements of different maps, while Witcher has a slower progression and journey toward its events from what I have seen. While Witcher does get epic, it relishes in many little moments, many little details, and this all comes together to support its world.

Of course the moral choices in Inquisition are still on different ends of a good/bad scale most of the time. Not so with Witcher which has always embraced causality without such judgements. And the characters feel less like fantasy characters, and more like real people. I can't say which is objectively better.... but this is refreshing for fantasy.

I think at the end of the day we can see CDProjekt at last passing beyond Bioware's shadow to become the new major player in Western RPG's. Definitely.
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Re: They See Me Witching, They Hatin'

by RedSwirl » Thu Jul 16, 2015 9:48 pm

The game is on my hard drive now, but part of me wants to wait until 1.07 drops. Until then I can finish Baptism of Fire.

Inquisition trial looks enticing too.

A.I Impaired wrote:I think at the end of the day we can see CDProjekt at last passing beyond Bioware's shadow to become the new major player in Western RPG's. Definitely.


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Re: They See Me Witching, They Hatin'

by Beige » Fri Jul 17, 2015 8:27 pm

Do you have a mother-in-law? Would you be surprised to learn that mine absolutely loves the Witcher? No real surprise there - my ma in law is a sucker for both fantasy swashbuckling and the kind of bodice wrenching romance dreck you see plastered on the isles in used bookstores. Mix and match, it's a perfect fit.

Closing in on the end of this behemoth of a game now. I will finish it this weekend certainly, if not tonight. Many thoughts.

I'll save the real chin-stroking for the ultimate postmortem. For now:

a) I'm... 170 hours (Jesus Christ) into the game and *still* each night it grips my attention utterly. THIS IS CRAZY. Previous to the Witcher 3, the most hours I'd ever sunk into a game (ed. that wasn't Monster Hunter) was maybe Persona 3/4 or Baldur's Gate 2 ~ 100hrs. In the case of Meownster Hunter, never-ending grinding in an iterative way is the name of the game. You don't go there for the political skullduggery or the characters.

Geralt is different though. I keep waiting for the moment the romance dies and it just becomes a case of routine "go here, pick up thing, kill monster" ad nauseum. It's to CD Project's IMMENSE CREDIT that even this far into the game I have yet to reach that point. Each and every quest (eh, mostly) is a fascinating little parable.

Some of these quests are so exquisitely hidden that I have no idea how a body is ever supposed to encounter them without a trusty control officer riding shotgun with an iPad and a quest list on standby. Ancient crypts hidden deep under the city's infrastructre, totally off the grid? Guys shackled to lonely cliff faces in the high North so far from the main drag that you need to be searching for the Northwest Passage just to run into them? It's all there. 40% of the quests don't even show up on the notice board, they must be hunted down the hard way, on foot.

It wouldn't be a stretch to say that the Witcher 3 changes the paradigm and raises the bar across the entire industry for our definition of what "sidequestin'" means. Much of the kudos necessarily goes to Sapkowski and his series of Witcher Stories - the entire game is just a 200 hour long cavalcade of Witcher short stories and morality plays wrapped up with an open world bow.

b) Playing on hardest difficulty was unquestionably the right choice:
A tough row to hoe at first, but once that custom Witcher gear starts rolling in everything settles into a nice Bloodborne-style groove. Not ball-busting (even on Death March) but still tactical enough that death is possible if you behave stupidly. Death March forces you to pay attention to your tactics and strategy and to have some knowledge of potions and alchemy for the marquee fights -- as it should be. As I approach level 31 I find I'm turning to elixirs for things other than healing only irregularly, though that Fiend decoction never fails to be useful.

Again, the Witcher shines here because of the work that Andrej did up front in creating this intelligent martial hero character who defies archetypes and who isn't quite Batman but who yet some combination of guile hero and Solid Snake. Noir Detective is the corect metaphor, as Extra Credits pointed out. Part gumshoe, part alchemist, part stone cold badass - always flexible, always the coolest guy in the room... when he's not being sort of quietly sorrowful of course or full of subtly repressed feelings which, no, he doesn't want to talk about but which much be excised at the point of a sword. Geralt is the metaphor for the modern man - Sorceresses love him, men want to be him. You can't help but fall under his cool sway.

c) Gwent. GWEEEEEENT!
So satisfying. Sleeper hit of the year. I understand that it's not really built for competitive play - more like another stat or piece of equipment that levels up along with Geralt to the point where he's just a card-toting CCG badass wandering the lands in search of worthy opponents. I would 100% play an RPG that was just walking around fighting guys for their cards.

d) So beautiful.
So many times I've just stood and gazed over a lonely vista, contemplating CD Project's world in tranquil solitude as the wind blows. That men could make such a thing is truly remarkable.

Witcher 3 showcases art at the top of its game in all regards. It is an experience that is not afraid to be mature in that Lonesome Dove way as opposed to the Kratos Way. How much of its soul I wonder is tied to and inexorable from that dour, drunkenly sorrowful heart which beats inside the breasts of Slavs and in the pages of Dostoyevsky novels?

Tender scenes full of real feeling, quests which evoke genuine anger or confused and mixed emotions of sadness and ennui. Quiet scenes, rowdy scenes - humor all over the place in unexpected places. A man must ACT and yet, no glowing blue Paragon answer ever presents itself. You must choose what is right - often on the spur of the moment - then live with your choices. Plouging ploughers and the ploughing plows that loves them. There's something just so Eastern Euro about the whole thing, I can't get enough.

Nothing ever ends happily or well for Geralt and friends. 95% of the time taking on a contract is almost certainly a guarantee of unearthing gnawed pieces of someone's beloved child -- except, except those few exceptional and rare and remarkable cases when it isn't. Those moments keep you going as a Witcher. A hand on someone's hand. A smile. A child brought home safely to their parents unharmed and uneaten from some godawful hole. A keepsake returned to a dying old man. We see in the game that it is these moments that keep Geralt grounded on the marginal side of humanity.

Aging and time are such critical components to this game. I can't count the times Geralt has looked quietly off into the distance and said something about getting old. These themes of the passage of the torch from ancestor to youth are strong and well executed.

As I stand at the edge of the finish line, I see everywhere the results of my previous choices -- so many things which started out innocently enough and have now grown to significance. I am particularly impressed at the segments involving Ciri - both the "chase" flashback sequences as well as the late-game stuff. Sequences with Yennifer, Triss and Geralt's friends (going on 3 games now) are mature and heartfelt too. Wabi-sabi. Learning to guide, sure.. but also learning to let go. How many games reward you for NOT doing something? Witcher does all the time.

All this and massive boss fights and epic knuckle-dusters too. How you going to keep them down on the farm after they've seen Novograd? It's a real question for Electronic Arts I think, especially going into Mass Effect.

I dunno. I think there's a level of real vulnerability going on with the Witcher 3 which is intrinsic to great art and yet which you don't see in very many interactive experiences outisde of HideoTown. Something about putting it all on the line, putting it out there for people to accept or reject.

There is a difference between CD Project swinging so utterly for the fence and EA Bioware doing the safe and sound thing. Witcher 1->2->3 represents just this huge leap out into the unknown -- something technically audacious as Battlefield but with the heart and soul of the most Indie Indie. It couldn't have come from the West, I don't think. That part of our industry has a callous on it.

It's a game made by a confident team trying to just swing hard for the fence, damn the torpedoes, not for profit's sake but for the sake of their own art. It reminds me in a way of Fire Emblem: Awakening, when the team was told that This Was Going To Be It - No more Fire Emblem. Everybody just rolled out all the stops, resigned to their fate, realized it was now or never and consequently worked like hell to make the absolute best Fire Emblem we've ever seen.

More thoughts after I stare it down tonight, but yeah. Game of the year? Could be RPG of the decade, no lie. I haven't been invested in a series like this since Mass Effect. Here's hoping that Geralt vs Star Child isn't my reward for my hours of service. It's the first game I've played since Planescape which has had good odds on being "the best RPG ever made". That kind of assessment would only be apparent in long hindsight, but the fact that I'm even saying it in the first place is as high a recommendation as I can make.
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