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-   -   Some personal Witcher 3 reflections. (https://www.rpgwatch.com/forums/showthread.php?t=35685)

Pessimeister February 14th, 2017 11:08

Some personal Witcher 3 reflections.
 
3 Attachment(s)
I started to compile these thoughts some time ago; finally decided to finish them off thanks to Rossrjensen's post and ready them for 'Watch consumption. Enjoy!

After 147 hours over the duration of the last month and two weeks, (November-December 2016) I've been playing Witcher 3 and its two expansions. To some extent this game has been responsible for keeping me relatively quiet and post-free here on the 'Watch! I was glad to finally indulge in the adventure and what a splendid time it has been. Ending the game with Ciri as a fellow Witcher on the road with Geralt was surprisingly emotional for me, as it took me a long time to really warm to some of the new additions in this part.

Whilst it is quite the magnificent game, full of practically inexhaustible content, well constructed cinematic dialogue and high quality writing, there are still some significant "weaknesses" for me. My first criticism may sound strange, but the sheer level of polish (pun un-intended) in this game is indeed incredible - to the point where in comparison to the previous games, I have come to perceive it quasi-pejoratively as the "Hollywood Witcher", where many characters almost resemble celebrities. This is Witcher gaming for the widest audience ever - it's no longer a niche RPG for a small crowd of genre interested fans, the marriage to commercially successful open-world game-play and the streamlining of its systems evidence of this.

As a consequence, the glossy blockbuster effect made the game feel a little hollow at times, arguably without quite as many hard hitting choices as its predecessors.
Where there are time-implemented dialogue choices (a la Alpha Protocol) I very rarely found it hard or pressured to choose for whatever reason. I think the most doubt or uncertainty I felt in the choices provided by the game came in the Hearts of Stone expansion, especially at its very end.

I particularly enjoyed the contract quests and those side-quests which tied most strongly to the foundations of the first game. I did as many of these as I could and often with a level recommendation gap to enhance the challenge. I remember Jenny of the Woods beat me several times for instance.
I also liked the treasure hunts for Witcher gear and ended up going for the complete Cat set. Getting those fully upgraded over time was definitely satisfying and well implemented.

Alchemy system:
For me, this was a sad streamlining of a ritualistic and rewarding system from the first game. There were potions I simply never used in this game and not once did I observe the blade oil counters go down. I think these conveniences were designed for players to not have to think about them too much and effectively made the act of using and creating with alchemy much less exciting. This was also partly due to the nature of such an open game, as such a process becomes regular and a bit "watered down" or automated.

General game play:
Overall I felt the Witcher senses were overused as a mechanic in solving quests - though admittedly it was far more interestingly implemented than the similar "sonar search" function in Dragon Age: Inquisition. I also very much enjoyed Geralt's verbal cues and monologues in assisting the player to piece together clues and insights into the world. The first 13-15 levels I found were excellent and most tense in that here is where learning most of the game takes place. I tried to roam as much as possible at first, until I'd hit a tough stretch, where I'd simply then resume the main quest for more character progression. This general pattern marked my experience of the game all the way through.

Hearts of Stone:

The main quest with this DLC arguably represents some of the strongest content in the entire game. Whilst I didn't connect too strongly with the main narrative, the return of Shani was extremely welcome and CDP explore other "aspects" to Geralt's personality in a dramatically creative way.
The improvement in challenge with some boss fights was excellent and appreciated. The Frog Prince fight was a bit reminiscent of something out of Dark Souls 2; certainly a tricky encounter at first.

Blood & Wine:
Overall, once again I probably didn't connect that strongly to the main quest story. However, I loved the tournament quest which was a wonderful change of style, setting and atmosphere.
The last fight in this expansion featured one of my trickiest encounters in the whole game - it took several tries to learn how to avoid a potential insta-kill attack and there's some fine tension and a need to adapt throughout.

Music:
I felt the best pieces drew upon melodies and themes established in the first game. That said, the short and sweet Fields of Skellige piece is truly evocative, to me sounding like a curious blend of Enya-derived Celt folk with the vocal touches of Madonna's "Frozen". I had to stop several times for screenshots whilst this piece was playing, the hairs literally rising on the back of my neck as I took in the scene.

The Fields of Ard Skellige for the uninitiated: (or for those just wanting to hear it again…)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gokhBJWSjeM

And a little obscure cover by Mitch Murder: (For 80's synthpop and J-pop fans!)
The Wolven Storm https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDwigW9wLHA

Comparisons to previous games:

Geralt is much more humanised in this game, both artistically in presentation (just look at how his face has changed over time) and as a character generally in his speech and outlook. He no longer stands substantially outside of greater society nor expresses quite as much angst as his experiences have seemingly shaped him into this almost protective "father figure". As a result, I tried to keep the beard all the way through!

I felt the combat built quite well upon the more standardised system in the second game and even attempted to bridge the timed clicking mechanic of the first game to some degree. It was sleeker, smoother and overall easier to manipulate Geralt compared to the second game yet also faster and much easier to master. I relied upon both Igni and Quen extensively yet also Yrden for longer/slower fights.

My favorite battle was probably the one with Imlerith. I think I hit this part of the game at a sweet spot levelling wise as everything felt just right. Perhaps I shouldn't have completed both expansions before actually finishing the main game as the challenge level suffered to a degree, but it definitely felt very natural to do it this way from a role-playing perspective. I finished up at level 51.

Overall, the first game still has my heart for its beautiful folk romanticism, the second for its superior implementation of choice and consequence. The third however, looms tall above them for its production values, level of polish, accessibility and sheer scope of its world. It's a tremendous series of games well worth spending one's time with which I have many happy memories playing.

Thanks for reading, cheers. Feel free to comment, add your own reflections. :)

Hurls February 14th, 2017 11:36

Thanks for comments - appreciated!

joxer February 14th, 2017 11:48

You finished expansions before the game itself - expansions have dialogues refering what happened with Ciri in the end (if you did the game) and additional stuff about your love interest (if you've chosen one). Maybe some more but it all felt connected in my case, not sure it would if I postponed the main game.
Nice input - but you didn't mention Gwent man!

Pessimeister February 14th, 2017 13:56

I couldn't take to Gwent to be honest. I understand it was an addiction for some though. Pazaak I got into a bit in Kotor, but as for Arcomage in MM7 that's another matter entirely. :D (Where's Arcomage Anonymous?)

I guess it's only logical that expansions will refer to the original game and this is a small minus from playing the way I played. However that said, there are upsides - namely the game actually having a stronger cohesive finality and not just feeling like the finishing up of a major side quest. The immensity of coming to the conclusion of such a huge game is quite overwhelming; the sense of journey very satisfying. :)

Maylander February 14th, 2017 14:21

Nice write-up! It's been almost two years since I initially wrote a review of it, but I seem to recall mostly agreeing with you. While there is unprecedented levels of C&C for a game of that scope, CDP really did set the bar in TW2. TW2 is obviously a significantly smaller game, nowhere near as grand overall, but it still affected my expectations for TW3. I still feel that TW3 would be a (slightly) better game if they had actually cut down the scope a bit (skipped a few of Witcher-sense-quests and treasure-map-to-a-nearby-generic-treasure-quests) in favor of more TW2-like C&C.

At any rate, that's just nitpicking, as the overall game experience is amazing. In fact, I seem to recall it being one of few games that last for so long, and gave me such a lasting impression, that I was left with a feeling of.. emptyness? It takes some time to process and finally get going again, in terms of gaming. I also seem to recall the first game or two after TW3 feeling a bit lacking as a result. Feeling somewhat similar?

joxer February 14th, 2017 15:30

You're forgetting the specific audience who needs desperately to grind otherwise they consider a game as fail.
That's the reason behind stuff like smuggler trio barrels - if you're not into grinding you should skip that stuff as it won't really "enhance" your experience by any means. Call it mainstream design part if you need, but they got it right IMO, it's inside the game but anyone who despises grinding can safely progress without wasting time on it unlike for example Final Fantasy 10.

JDR13 February 14th, 2017 16:06

Wow, you were putting in some serious hours on a daily basis to finish TW3 plus both expansions in just 6 weeks. :)

Why do those screenshots seem to be in a 4:3 aspect ratio?

Pessimeister February 14th, 2017 19:06

Yeah, it was right at the start of summer holidays and this was given highest priority on my "to play list". It was only weekends at first, but then when the break finally came in full, the proverbial Witcher floodgates were opened. :)

No idea on the screenshots - didn't give it much thought. I just saved 'em from Steam and attached as they were for some additional flavor.

Cheers for the comments too Maylander.
I absolutely agree with you on the subject of a slight culling of scope in favor of greater C&C in the tradition of the second game. There were momentary lulls and dips between quests which possibly could have been tightened in this regard and more stronger choice driven dilemmas as I mentioned would have been nice. I'll have to acquaint myself with your review again for some more talking points. :)

As far as games after Witcher 3 go, my follow-up was Dark Souls 3, which was an experience admittedly riddled in some mildly apathetic disappointment, but that in itself is a topic for another thread…

Zloth February 15th, 2017 03:41

GOT to turn off the interface before taking your screenshots, Pessimeister! It's the Home key! (And I remember it's the Home key because I turned it off near the start of the game, put the game down for a month, then started it up again and didn't realize for a couple of days that there was supposed to be an interface. {eye roll}) Nice shots though.

I think the alchemy changes were mostly in response to the 2nd game where alchemy didn't work well at all. I basically ignored it, too, though, except to pick up every ingredient I found 'just in case.'

One thing that did irk me sometimes was loading times. I could fast travel great distances far faster than re-loading from a point 10 yards away.

I've been uploading my screenshots here but still have a ways to go: http://photos.3dvisionlive.com/Zloth…501b32100001f/
Select 2D (L) or 2D (R) below if you don't have 3D glasses handy. Also they show up as most recent first so it might be more fun to skip to the end and work back to page 1. There's about 6 pages of Witcher 2 screenshots before W3 starts up. (If you read PC Gamer's website at all, you'll know exactly which screenshot is first. ;)

purpleblob February 15th, 2017 08:28

Quote:

Originally Posted by Maylander (Post 1061435273)
At any rate, that's just nitpicking, as the overall game experience is amazing. In fact, I seem to recall it being one of few games that last for so long, and gave me such a lasting impression, that I was left with a feeling of.. emptyness? It takes some time to process and finally get going again, in terms of gaming. I also seem to recall the first game or two after TW3 feeling a bit lacking as a result. Feeling somewhat similar?

Always feel that "empty" sensation after finishing a great RPG. It's like a void that cannot be filled for a lengthy period :S

Btw just reading through your review:

Spoiler

Pessimeister February 15th, 2017 12:35

They were both pretty annoying if you ask me. :P

Yennefer because the player had built up this idea and image from Geralt's historical attachment which ultimately wasn't fully convincing emotionally and Triss because well…I resented the imposition of the relationship from the second game and wished she was Shani. :P

Edit:
Thanks for posting the screenshots link, Zloth! The 4:3 thing doesn't bother me, but I'll remember your advice!

Maylander February 15th, 2017 17:04

Quote:

Originally Posted by purpleblob (Post 1061435457)
Spoiler

Spoiler

Zloth February 16th, 2017 02:13

I was annoyed by the lack of Shani in Witcher 2, too. Hearts of Stone made up for it, though.
Quote:

Originally Posted by Maylander (Post 1061435487)
Spoiler

Witchers. Live a century and they thing they know it all. *facepalm*

Oh, that was something! Triss got a chance to REALLY show her powers in the latter part of the main game.

Damian February 16th, 2017 02:38

I personally felt CD projekt slightly missed the mark with Witcher 3. I dont know what it is but i felt laboured to continue the game after the 25 hour mark. I just wasnt having as much fun at that point and i was just rushing through. Hence why I didnt want to play any of the DLC either. It is still a good game, like 9/10 good. But I guess I get fatigued easily.

Pessimeister February 16th, 2017 04:20

I can sympathise to a degree Damian, as it is a demanding game as far as attention to detail goes. It is also quite simply huge, requiring a sizeable investment to really get fully into. I guess the thrill of exploration of the unknown and classic Witcher style contract quests are what got me through the moments where it was a little on the sluggish side.
Maybe try playing in smaller doses and stick to parts you enjoy the most - might help keep you going for longer.

The DLC are also very much recommended for choice and challenge factors.

BoboTheMighty February 16th, 2017 04:52

I'm prob only one here to have liked new alchemy system. Not lore friendly, but never liked buff prior combat approach.
Mutagens could have been designed better, thinking of making my own mod for it.

Pladio February 16th, 2017 10:04

Couldn't get past chapter 1 in the witcher 1….
Tried it three times.

Worth trying witcher 2 or 3 ?

Combat qte is a turnoff for me. Playing as Gerald, the old white dude with scars who apparently is very strong and likes to find every woman to •••• is not super compelling either.

I felt very little role playing and more of moving through a movie with a lot of action scenes played by myself.

Any hope for me ?


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JDR13 February 16th, 2017 10:47

The first chapter in TW1 is by far the worst. The game gets significantly better afterwards imo.

Pongo February 16th, 2017 10:52

Quote:

Originally Posted by Pladio (Post 1061435577)
Any hope for me ?

I haven't played the first or third one, but I tried the second one and felt the same way and didn't finish it. I could see it was a good game, but I just wasn't enjoying it - largely for the same reasons as you, but I got particularly frustrated with all the cut scenes. The third one sounds like it has removed some of these problems (eg QTE) but there's not much you can do if you don't like Geralt I guess.

Maylander February 16th, 2017 14:47

Quote:

Originally Posted by Pladio (Post 1061435577)
Couldn't get past chapter 1 in the witcher 1….
Tried it three times.

Worth trying witcher 2 or 3 ?

Combat qte is a turnoff for me. Playing as Gerald, the old white dude with scars who apparently is very strong and likes to find every woman to •••• is not super compelling either.

I felt very little role playing and more of moving through a movie with a lot of action scenes played by myself.

Any hope for me ?


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

TW3 is a completely different game. It's apples and oranges really. Same characters and world, and that's about it. If you like open world RPGs, TW3 is top notch.

Zloth February 17th, 2017 04:34

Quote:

Originally Posted by Maylander (Post 1061435602)
TW3 is a completely different game.

I wouldn't say that at all! TW1's areas are far smaller (I think it used Neverwinter Night 2's engine, didn't it?) but it's still the same basic formula you see in most RPGs.

Pladio, I'm not really sure what you're after. These are computer RPGs, after all. The Witcher games are good at giving you choices (Witcher 2 has a huge divide depending on choice) but there's only going to be one overall story. If you really want to have a say in the overall story, you need to play pen & paper games with a live game master that can make things up as s/he goes along. That's how it's always been. You aren't going to play Baldur's Gate and find some alternate main quest that never takes you near the city of Baldur's Gate, for instance.

Maylander February 17th, 2017 11:09

Quote:

Originally Posted by Zloth (Post 1061435723)
I wouldn't say that at all! TW1's areas are far smaller (I think it used Neverwinter Night 2's engine, didn't it?) but it's still the same basic formula you see in most RPGs.

That's the thing though: One is divided into small areas, lots of loading screens, no z-axis (jumping etc), very timing based (almost tactical) combat and the other is a massive, open world action RPG. TW3 like Skyrim with a better story and more interesting characters, but with slightly less options (Geralt being Geralt and all that). Of course, they're both RPGs, but I think it's entirely possible to enjoy TW3 without having enjoyed TW1.

And yes, TW1 used a heavily modified Aurora Engine. I never liked that one personally. Didn't have the smooth touch of the Infinity Engine, nor the freedom of more traditional 3D engines.

JDR13 February 17th, 2017 22:57

TW1 kind of sucks from an engine/mechanics standpoint, but it's definitely worth playing for the story and characters. It also has some of the most atmospheric music I've ever heard in an RPG.

It has to be played on the hardest difficulty though for maximum enjoyment. The normal difficulty is far too easy, and playing on hard also removes that stupid icon that makes combat feel like a QTE.

BoboTheMighty February 18th, 2017 00:53

Quote:

Originally Posted by Pladio (Post 1061435577)
Couldn't get past chapter 1 in the witcher 1….
Tried it three times.

Ehhh, isn't that Azar Javed? Similarity is uncanny.

http://vignette1.wikia.nocookie.net/…20130619011216

https://www.rpgwatch.com/forums/imag…ine=1481063705

Zloth February 18th, 2017 03:51

I don't know - Witcher 1 was zoned but they were pretty big zones. Exploration didn't seem to be that big of a deal in either of them. It could have been in W3 but they plopped ?'s down on every point of interest.

The combat was different with its timing based attacks, wasn't it? I didn't even remember that and wondered what Padio was talking about "QTE combat". You were supposed to click the attack button in rhythm with the actual swings instead of just mashing away and, at lower difficulties, they popped up an indicator to help you do that. I guess you could see that as QTE combat. (There's no cutscene playing and, to me, that's a critical part of the definition.)

Pessimeister February 18th, 2017 05:13

People often forget that the first game actually had a modifiable stat system and I still actually quite like the skill-tree for differentiating stance styles and signs, something which didn't feel quite as engaging in the two later games. I barely used the mutagens in W3 or found the skill/talent tree especially compelling either to be honest. There was also a degree of inflexibility of the first few levels in the Witcher 2 for adding skill points which I also didn't especially like.

So for me, the first game still stands out in some further ways from a role-playing and character building point of view. I like its soundtrack the most as well.

Pessimeister February 18th, 2017 07:01

Quote:

Originally Posted by Pladio (Post 1061435577)
Combat qte is a turnoff for me. Playing as Gerald, the old white dude with scars who apparently is very strong and likes to find every woman to •••• is not super compelling either.

I remember you told me off once for accidentally calling you "Plaudio'. Well, here's my chance for some karmic revenge. :D It's Geralt!

Also, your comment is unfortunately stereo-typically inaccurate about him, as there are various ways to interpret and play his character - "finding every woman to ****" as you put it, is simply not necessarily one of them.

Pladio February 18th, 2017 10:39

Quote:

Originally Posted by Zloth (Post 1061435723)
I wouldn't say that at all! TW1's areas are far smaller (I think it used Neverwinter Night 2's engine, didn't it?) but it's still the same basic formula you see in most RPGs.



Pladio, I'm not really sure what you're after. These are computer RPGs, after all. The Witcher games are good at giving you choices (Witcher 2 has a huge divide depending on choice) but there's only going to be one overall story. If you really want to have a say in the overall story, you need to play pen & paper games with a live game master that can make things up as s/he goes along. That's how it's always been. You aren't going to play Baldur's Gate and find some alternate main quest that never takes you near the city of Baldur's Gate, for instance.



I like games like gothic where there's a feeling of choice during different quests.

When I was playing the witcher 1 I felt like I was simply going from place a to b to kill something then that was it.

I know gothic had a lot of fighting too, but I can still remember deciding whether to help that guy with his ornamental sword or taking it and running away :-)

I didn't have that feeling in the witcher.

It's also very much that the combat in the witcher felt boring to me.

That's why I was asking if the second and third game made sense to try.


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Pladio February 18th, 2017 10:42

Quote:

Originally Posted by BoboTheMighty (Post 1061435853)



No, although I did have Azar as an avatar for a while too.

It's a character from age of decadence.




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Pladio February 18th, 2017 10:44

Quote:

Originally Posted by Pessimeister (Post 1061435880)
I remember you told me off once for accidentally calling you "Plaudio'. Well, here's my chance for some karmic revenge. :D It's Geralt!



Also, your comment is unfortunately stereo-typically inaccurate about him, as there are various ways to interpret and play his character - "finding every woman to ****" as you put it, is simply not necessarily one of them.



Lol [emoji23]

Poor me.

Yes, I know it is a choice but it is pushed on you quite strongly since the first conversation with a female character and then again in the first chapter.


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Zloth February 19th, 2017 05:14

I remember some choices in the game with respect to humans vs. non-humans but they may not have started up until you got into town, which would have been Chapter 2 at least. Oh, and one that seemed kinda obvious to me toward the end of Chapter 1.

sakichop February 19th, 2017 06:15

Quote:

Originally Posted by Pladio (Post 1061435884)
I like games like gothic where there's a feeling of choice during different quests.

When I was playing the witcher 1 I felt like I was simply going from place a to b to kill something then that was it.

I know gothic had a lot of fighting too, but I can still remember deciding whether to help that guy with his ornamental sword or taking it and running away :-)

I didn't have that feeling in the witcher.

It's also very much that the combat in the witcher felt boring to me.

That's why I was asking if the second and third game made sense to try.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Sorry I have to disagree with some of this. Even if you just play up until you get in to the first town (vizima) you have a number of choices.

- fight frightner or go to the laboratory
- let Scoia'tael take weapons or kill them
- help zoltan or not when he's being attacked
- save abigail or turn her over to the villagers

I'm sure I'm missing something, but all these have consequences small and large such as items, weapons you get, amount of experience you get, wether certain npc lives or dies, how your first boss battle before you enter vizima goes down, even wether a character shows up all the way at the end game to assist you.

That's just decisions in the first few hours of the game. The witcher 1 is full of C&C like this. The thing is though at the time you make the choice you really don't know you're even making one until you see the consequences later. So if you quit shortly after you'd never know all the choices the game offers.

I actually like the witcher 1 combat but I understand people that don't. Be aware though that the game has 2 combat systems. It has a point and click system ( which imo was terrible) but it also has an OTS system that I thought while not great was quite serviceable.

Zloth February 22nd, 2017 04:07

Oh, so you do deal with the Scoia'tael in the first chapter! Abigail was the 'obvious' choice I was thinking about.

I did like seeing the Witcher 1 references, particularly around Kaer Morhen. Heck, the fortress itself was *very* much like I remembered it! Oh look - there's the table where Eskel told me about the gnome that made gunpowder. And that's the ledge along the wall where the tutorial taught me about fast vs slow attacks. And the stairs up go to Triss' old room where… <ahem> which I remember, too.

Nephologist February 24th, 2017 21:04

Quote:

Originally Posted by Zloth (Post 1061436523)
And the stairs up go to Triss' old room where… <ahem> which I remember, too.

and when Yen arrives in TW3 she promptly tosses the bed in that room off the balcony….heehee……


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