Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Witcher 3

The Witcher 3 Review

Rating: 9.2
Happy Price: 59.99


40 hours into The Witcher, and it feels like I haven't even put a dent into the game, yet I've done so much. This is both the beauty and flaw of the game. The amount of content in the game is endless, but the universe isn't compelling enough to stay inside it for players like me who are interested in many types of games. The Witcher 3 is that pretty girl everyone has a crush on, and you yourself can see she is pretty, but don't feel that attraction toward her.


The Witcher 3 struggles most with pacing. True open world games like this will struggle with pacing due to the nature of the world being open. However I can't deny it is frustrating yet fun to run into some strange monster that is 7 levels ahead of you while exploring. There is an "oh shit" moment where you essentially run for your life when that happens, and then you find yourself surrounded by a pack of low level wolves that will provide some raw meat to stock up your health. The player can go from overwhelmed to underwhelmed in a matter of 20 seconds. 

This also happens when trying to get through the main story. It seems that to progress through the story, you have to do many side quests to level up, but at times there are no side quests available at your level. This forces the player to enter these dead moments where they have to figure out what to do on their own. Like search out a bandit camp just to level up a bit. Witcher contracts are sporadic, you can enter a pub and talk to the locals, only to be offered a witcher contract for level 24 players when you're at level 16. The difference of 8 levels is enormous and that witcher contract has to wait. Leveling up can take hours so that contract will sit in the queue for days on end.


Combat has to be approached as a true professional, just as the game states. Health does not regenerate automatically, and the player has to stock up on food items to replenish health. The cost of losing health is great. Approaching enemy types like low level bandits can usually end up in an awesome fight of heads being chopped off and bodies chopped in half, but they can easily go south and leave the player depleted of resources if not careful. The player has to constantly be aware of their position and try to isolate enemies when taking on multiple enemies at once. The mix of magic powers and the power of the sword will always help with this.

Approaching Witcher contracts is different. The player will typically be presented with one enemy, and will have to actually READ the game's codex to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the enemy, like a true professional. Not taking the time to read will cause an indefinite struggle. Enemies in witcher contracts will be powerful, have unique abilities, and different rhythms to their attacks than other enemies. This creates an environment where the player has to learn quickly how to defeat this enemy, and it may not apply to anything else for the rest of the game. The best part about Witcher contracts is the large EXP gained and the money acquired after.


Gwent is the card game that many merchants play in this world. It is a simple game but is one of the most fun things to do in the game. Anyone that sells things usually plays, and when they are beat the player can acquire their powerful cards. There are instances when beating a player in gwent will result in some other reward, like a favor or discount on an item. I found myself searching for merchants selling Gwent cards so I could build up my deck and compete in tournaments or win side quests related to Gwent. It's setup similar to magic the gathering where you have 4 deck types. In the beginning of the game you will be asked which starter deck you want, and then naturally build out that. If resources are plentiful, you can build out another deck but it's costly.


Environment/Level Design

The environment is huge but the regions have character. When navigating the world via horseback, your start to recognize areas and have a sense of where you are in the world. When I hit a certain swampy spot with toxic gas, I know to expect drowners soon and am on high alert. As large as the world is, there are spots all over the place that seem to tell a story. Something has happened here, and you can imagine what it was. There might be an abandoned house with a diary entry there, so you go from thinking of what happened to discovering what happened. This happens all over the world, and can even end up as a side quest. The fine details of the placement of trees in the forest or bedrooms in houses is appreciated, and makes each place feel unique. 


There are some fierce beasts, elegant phantoms, and everything in between. The design of these characters takes you back to when games were full of imagination and character. You get the full creative stimulation that the character designer wished to invoke in the player. There are familiar interpretations of enemies such as golems or ghouls, and then completely original ones like drowners. Each character has a strength and weakness, and the player has to approach each character differently based on how the skill tree is built out. Have a strong fire attack, sure approach this enemy with confidence. If lacking fire skills, stay away from certain ones. The attention to detail is appreciated and the sense of passion to create something from ones imagination is felt through gameplay.


This is a superb game, but its not for everyone. I wouldn't buy it if swords, magic and horses are not your thing. If they are, and you enjoy a challenging game, then you can easily spend 100+ hours in this world. The depth is endless, and can sometimes be overwhelming. It comes down to how invested you are in the game and how much time you have to play and commit to it.

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