Witcher III

The Witcher III has now been out for over two years. Throughout that time, I’d heard naught but positivity about the game, but had not actually found the time to play it. That is, until recently. I’ve moved into a new place, and as I was internet-free for a few days, I was finally able to sit down with it. Amazingly, I’ve managed to stay completely spoiler-free from the game, so I was pretty excited to see what Projekt CD Red had to offer in their critically acclaimed game.

Developers with Witcher talents

This was my first try at a Witcher game, so I wasn’t aware of quite how good the functionality was. Having the Witcher senses is not only useful when sleuthing a crime, but immensely useful when dungeon crawling. Every bit of loot is nicely highlighted, so I can see at a glance what I still need to plunder, instead of walking into every object and wearing out my X button. Using it to progress quests – which happens quite a bit – is decent as well. I never got stuck on a mission, and found the variety with the detective aspect quite enjoyable.

I’ve not really played many third person games, other than Metal Gear Solid. I feel much more comfortable with first person view, especially when it comes to combat, as you can be certain about where you’re attacking. Witcher III definitely has some strong combat though, and it has turned my way of thinking around. I was initially a little unsure of it, as I’d never really done much combat in third person before, but it really is incredible in the game. Dodging out of the way of a foe’s attack, before slicing him in half, is an amazing feeling. Battles feel real, and are a good challenge too. You have to be careful though, employing strong tactics to ensure your continued survival and victory in the battle, which is something that I’d not considered too much at the start. Launching headstrong into a fight, it turns out, isn’t the greatest idea.

Towns look and feel exactly how you would expect a medieval town to look

I’m used to games that have an open world to have large areas where there is almost nothing around. Perhaps an Easter egg dropped occasionally, but large expanses between settlements with nothing to see is normally par for the course. Witcher III definitely bucks that trend, with worlds feeling alive, people walking around, having conversations and requiring your assistance when they get themselves into a spot of bother. There are plenty of highlights dotted around the map that you just have to walk for a minute and you’re intruding in someone’s back garden – sometimes they’re friendly, sometimes you’ll have barged in on a bandit’s home. The best part is that if you do away with the miscreants at a settlement, they will be forever gone, and settlers will start to move in, offering shops and a fast travel point. It’s a remarkably well made world.

Maybe they put the trolls in charge of these features.

For a game so lauded, I was not expecting some of the issues I came across in it. The worst of the bunch was the voice acting. It’d be generous to say it’s adequate for the game, with only a handful of characters providing us with actual good quality voice acting. The vast majority were pretty terrible, and at times felt like I was playing Oblivion, with only a few voice actors trying to pad out the characters by putting on ridiculous accents. Not only this, but it did seem as though they hired a lot of people who really didn’t have any idea how to read. They all tried to blurt out their lines as quickly as possible, without pausing for breath. It was remarkable at just how poor some of the voice acting was, it felt like I was watching a nativity play with a bunch of seven year olds as the cast.

Rings true to real life!

Following on from that, it also seems that the majority of characters, lead ones aside, all look very similar. I’ve already compared the game to Oblivion once, but it feels very apt here too. With such powerful hardward at their disposal, you’d expect the developers to be able to conjure up more than a handful of generic people to roam around. Immersion breaking and lazy, I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t have put a little more effort into making the massive world a little more believable on close inspection.

There may be a theme here, with me comparing this game to the Elder Scrolls series, and this final complaint is no different. Projekt CD Red seem to have taken a leaf out of Bethesda’s book when it comes to having a few bugs in their game. Admittedly, it’d be hard to avoid bugs in such an enormous game, but there are some very strange ones left in. For example, in the screenshot below, the Elf Elihan could not put down his book for love nor money. Every gesture he made was with his fist through the central spine of the book – truly a book he was not able to put down! This wasn’t just limited to him though. I happened upon a sorceress, who was casting a fire spell, and upon talking to her, she did not stop casting the spell, just had it idle in her hands while chatting to me. Flames eating at her midrift and face as she gestured around during our conversation, but she didn’t miss a beat! I’ve also had a couple of irritating bugs, where I had to restart my game. One where I hopped off of Roach, the horse, and was stuck falling forever. Fortunately the game has an aggressive checkpointing system, so I didn’t have to backtrack too far, but still a pain in the arse.

Witcher III

This guy had some fun lines, though… And a book attached to his hand.

The Final Word

Playing the Witcher III was certainly an experience. It was thoroughly engaging, with numerous side quests and a wonderfully told story. It isn’t without it’s failings, and some of them are quite immersion breaking, but it is absolutely worth sticking with, because the rest of the game is incredibly fun. I’ve sunk many, many hours into the game, and every time I’m off, I’m just waiting to get back into it. It’s evident why everyone loves it.

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Nice write up, Edd. I’ve been tempted to pick this up based on the universally positive reviews but been a bit put off by the time commitment required to get the most out of it.