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Default Some personal Witcher 3 reflections.

February 14th, 2017, 11:08
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.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Witcher3Skellige.jpg (165.4 KB, 83 views)
File Type: jpg skellige2.jpg (101.2 KB, 83 views)
File Type: jpg GamesEnd.jpg (116.0 KB, 84 views)
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February 14th, 2017, 11:36
Thanks for comments - appreciated!
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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!
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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. (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.
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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?
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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.
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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?
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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…
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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. ;)
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February 15th, 2017, 08:28
Originally Posted by Maylander View Post
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

Btw just reading through your review:

Spoiler
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February 15th, 2017, 12:35
They were both pretty annoying if you ask me.

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.

Edit:
Thanks for posting the screenshots link, Zloth! The 4:3 thing doesn't bother me, but I'll remember your advice!
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February 15th, 2017, 17:04
Originally Posted by purpleblob View Post
Spoiler
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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.
Originally Posted by Maylander View Post
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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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February 16th, 2017, 10:47
The first chapter in TW1 is by far the worst. The game gets significantly better afterwards imo.
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February 16th, 2017, 10:52
Originally Posted by Pladio View Post
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.
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February 16th, 2017, 14:47
Originally Posted by Pladio View Post
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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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.
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