I know there is a witcher 3 topic already, but I figured this will be quite a long post and I figured that the previous thread was more about pre-release information. This will be a spoiler free review for this game (there may be some very minor information that you don't know but it is information that is actually really important to understanding Geralt's motivations but hasn't ever been explained in the games) but may hold spoilers for the previous two games.
First off, I have played this game for 63h 26m apparently. I completed the main quest, most of the side quests in the first act, and at most 20% of the side quests in the last 2 acts (I'm saying there are 3 acts but it's not actually split up so clearly). Of the points of interest, I went to all of them in the first, small area but only visited a few in the two very large areas.
So how is the game? Fantastic. Definitely the best crafted open world RPG I have ever played, possibly the best open world game I have played (overall, Just Cause is better for open world shenanigans, GTA and Saints Row are better for open world mayhem, etc). Is it perfect? Nope, but it is good enough that I completely lost track of time while playing. It's a game that is well worth the $60 price tag. I'm probably going to start another run through when I finish writing this (and take more time to complete witcher contracts and side quests than I did this time).
So, time to break this down into categories:
- Strong story with lots of choices to make that can have long term impacts.
- Lots of morally grey areas and tough choices to make.
- Geralt is wonderfully snarky in this one. He also acts like a witcher (one of the big things about witchers is that they don't work for free). Too bad your poverty stricken, war ravaged village can't pay to get rid of the monster! Better luck next time!
- You don't need to do many side missions to level up enough for the main missions.
- Some backstory in this part (spoilerish in this part, but it will really help you understand what is going on at the start of the game and will not ruin any of the story). Two main characters are introduced that you have never met but have a huge amount of backstory with Geralt. Yennefer showed up a bit in The Witcher 2 as Geralt started to regain his memory but all we really knew about her was he loved her and she saved his life. So now you have a character with a huge amount of backstory with Geralt that we haven't ever seen. Same goes for another character, Ciri, who was never brought up before but Geralt basically raised her and is essentially his adopted daughter. Basically, Geralt, Yennefer, and Ciri were a family (and Yennefer is talked about as Geralt's "true love"). I learned most of the backstory from people talking about the books because it takes a long time to learn any of this in the game. If you know this, the start of the game will make a hell of a lot more sense and doesn't ruin a damn thing. The most glaring problem that comes from this is that you have 2 games where you interact with Triss (and in the second one she is your love interest from the start while in the first you can choose to romance her) so you have all these statements about how Geralt is hopelessly in love with Yennefer when all we have ever seen is him and Triss.
- Some dialogue options (or lack thereof) are a bit weird in some cases. There are times when it really feels like you should be able to ask someone a question but you can't.
- As with all open world RPGs, the pacing is completely off for the main quest. In terms of motivation, Geralt should be focused on the task at hand and only take a contract if he is broke. Instead you can wander around taking contracts and brawling and racing horses without doing a damn thing to actually progress the story. It's not quite as bad as in Skyrim where Alduin is going to destroy the entire world but the Dragonborn decides building a house is much more important.
- They are fun and varied. Treasure hunts, serial killers, powerful monsters, races, brawls, and more.
- The witcher contracts are great. Someone tells you there is a monster around or someone has disappeared, etc. You investigate what happened, see what the monster is (if there actually is a monster), and take care of the problem. Then you hack off the monster's head and bring it back for a reward.
- They are also usually multistage and as engaging as the main story. Occasionally you will run into a little event where you have to deal with something quickly as well. A lot of effort was put into the side quests so you actually want to do them.
- This is true of main missions as well, but you can choose to find out more information even after you have enough to complete the quest. Sometimes, it can be the difference between actually knowing what happened and just doing the job.
- Finding someone's lost chicken sound stupid to you? You don't have to take the quest. This is actually true for a few main mission objectives as well. Geralt frequently has the option to not get involved. Who cares that those soldiers are going to murder those peasants, not my problem! Bandits just massacred a whole town and are dividing the loot? Meh, no profit in killing them so pillage away!
- Side quests are split between ones you find on job boards in a lot of towns as well as random ones you stumble across. You can also stumble across the quest givers (that the board would send you to) or quest items (say you find a cave and it happens to have signs of a monster, you get the witcher contract without having gotten the quest yet).
- Too many of them maybe? I know some people tend to get overwhelmed.
- I guess they could get a bit repetitive (oh hey, use your witcher sight to follow this path of footprints! Never done that before!).
- Some of the writing is really heavy handed.
- Sometimes, you don't get enough options and you are locked into Geralt doing something a single way (like in one case you can use axii on two people at once but in another case you can only use it on a single person so the other person freaks out about you using mind control).
- Cities are actually cities! Well, there is one large walled town and a large walled city. Very fun to explore, and you can go in quite a few buildings.
- If you look at something in the distance and it looks interesting, you can probably get there (not as well done as dark souls though).
- There are a ton of things to do. You can go around driving bandits/monsters out of towns, destroying monster nests, finding hidden treasure, etc
- Sailing is not nearly as satisfying as riding a horse.
- Swimming controls can be a bit frustrating (a patch actually improved them, they were supposedly horrific at launch).
- Exploring is sometimes...punished. You can get quest log entries by wandering into areas that progress the main quest that spoil events in the main quest that you haven't experienced yet.
- Those hidden treasures, monster nests, etc are also not really that hidden. You go to the notice board in a town and all of them are marked as ? on the map in that area. When you get close enough you figure out what it is. There are still some little chests you can find on your own but there is too much hand holding in the game.
- Along with the ? markers, you also have very clear waypoints to every single objective. Sometimes it makes sense (you are told exactly where to go) but sometimes you are told to find someone traveling between two towns and are given a waypoint directly to their position.
I highly recommend playing this with a controller though it is not necessary. I played on the "Blood and Broken Bones" difficulty (second hardest) for reference (currently playing on the hardest difficulty and what I said still stands).
- So much better than the second game's combat. Just more fluid and intuitive. You can use potions in combat, fast attacks don't have long animations that make it easy for enemies to smack you (though it still happens...it is a good example of why nobody ever did spin attacks when sword fighting), you can dodge in the middle of an attack animation (you can't once you get too far through it though), and using signs is easier and you cast them faster.
- Powerful creatures are not easy to beat.
- You can't just spam attack and survive. If you do, you will get massacred by most enemies. Any group of enemies will take you apart if you focus on one for too long.
- Very few slots for your inventory. 2 consumables (potions and food), 2 bombs, and 2 misc items (like a torch) equipped at one time and you have to go into the inventory to switch them. Luckily, you can use potions from your inventory (there are a few long lasting potions with one charge)
- You can't parry most monster attacks making the fights dodge fests. Not really a bad thing but can get annoying when you face monsters who are in a group (I really hate drowners...and nekkers...they come in swarms and have fast attacks where they leap forwards a long way).
- The default movement system is wonky and will have you running into people and off cliffs until you get the hang of it (Geralt apparently is a semi truck and makes wide turns). Luckily, there is a (slightly funny looking) alternate mode with the 1.07 patch that makes turning a lot sharper.
- Damned good looking. Yes, it isn't as good as in the early trailers but it runs very well and I still enjoyed looking at the scenery.
- Colors are too saturated for my tastes.
- Pop in. Riding in a city led to NPCs materializing next to me. In cutscenes, people's hair will fade in if they were out of view previously. Supposedly 1.07 reduces how often this occurs.
- The rain. It looks really bad to me and completely takes me out of the game. It's unfortunate, because I love the ambiance of the thunderstorms otherwise (well, the cloud cover is iffy but I comment on that in the "random" section).
- Standing in a forest while the wind is howling is magnificent (oh yeah, Geralt loves to state the obvious about the weather like "the wind is howling" or even better "looks like rain" when it is already raining).
- The music, like in the last game, is very good.
- Footsteps are too loud. I don't think my footsteps should be far louder than a thunderstorm.
- Sometimes the lack of music feels inappropriate considering the circumstances. When I am riding full speed to someone who I know is in danger, I would hope there would be some music instead of just having the sound of rain and a galloping horse.
I decided to split this out into its own section. There isn't much good here.
- There is a lot of it?
- The crafted witcher sets are the most difficult to make and are the best gear.
- You can now pin formulae and diagrams! Crafting mats for pinned items are highlighted in the shop view!
- Crafting mats no longer count towards your carry weight. This will free up at least half of the weight I was carrying around.
- There is a lot of it. And 99% of it is worthless.
- The crafted witcher sets are incredibly easy to collect. You buy maps that mark the locations, fight 4 or 5 wraiths (or other monsters), then loot a chest to get a schematic and a letter telling you where to go next. Then, in 2 levels you do the same thing for the enhanced gear. It's really easy to get and it isn't spaced out very well.
There is no way to store gear. No problem you think, except that you have witcher sets, which are easy to get and the best armor in the game. These sets can be upgraded but they require you to have the previous tier item to craft the new one. So you get your Griffin gear, then the basic Cat gear is better, but in a couple levels you can use the enhanced Griffin gear. So you are left with a dilemma: either keep the gear for every witcher school in your inventory (that consists of 2 swords, boots, gloves, pants, and shirt) and never have any space for new items ever again or sell the gear and have to recraft all the tiers if you get an upgrade.Yay for gear storage in 1.07! Crafting equipment is fine (go to the appropriate person for weapons or armor and bring them the mats). However, alchemy can get a bit annoying. It's not clear that you don't need to recraft potions and bombs (it just states they are "already crafted" in the menu). Once you create a potion or bomb, meditating will replenish their charges with alcholest (or whatever the crafting mat is called) so you don't ever need to craft them again. And that brings me to the last crafting annoyance. There are a lot of herbs, monster parts, ingots, etc that you can have at one time. Unfortunately, there is no indication of what (known) recipes you actually can use these in on the item itself. So you end up with 40kg of random crafting mats and have no easy way to choose which you can sell (your weight limit starts out at 60kg but I have seen it go as high as 120kg). There are also no filters in the crafting menus so you end up scrolling through a large number of useless items (like those that you have "already crafted") before you find the one you want to create.You can now pin formulae and diagrams! Crafting mats for pinned items are highlighted in the shop view!
- A lot of the gear can look really stupid. If you mix and match you may end up with purple gloves, blue pants, and an orange and black jacket...hooray?
- No Area Loot - this is one that gets annoying. You've killed a huge number of monsters/people and have to run up to every single pile of loot and check it. Same with sacks, crates, barrels, etc. Would be nice to just have to loot one of them to loot all the other ones next to them.
- Alchemy schematics are randomly dropped. So you can have an enhanced version of a potion but not the basic version (and you need the basic version crafted to make the enhanced version). I still don't have the "golden oriole" basic potion that grants immunity to poisons.
Here are a few more annoyances I ran across that don't really fit into any of the above categories.
- Dialogue - Same problem as the arrow in the knee from skyrim. People yell at you, a lot. Unfortunately there isn't much variation on what they say to you.
- Subtitles - You have to play with subtitles turned on because turning them off also turns off the subtitles for people speaking in other languages. So you will miss some very important information if you turn them off.
- Escort Missions - Now, they get the escort missions right 90% of the time. The person you are following/leading matches the speed you can move. So, you break into a sprint and they will too. Beautiful. Unfortunately, there are a couple times where the person is really slow or you are following on horseback and it's really easy to get turned the wrong direction.
Horse Bugs - Also known as: #$% you I was winning that race. Riding around on horseback is usually brilliant. You automatically follow the paths as you gallop along just by holding down the sprint button. However, these horses have the annoying tendency to run along the side of a path instead of the center so you routinely get caught on fences, posts, rocks, etc. They also can't handle sharp turns sometimes (the most enjoyable of which meant I ran off a bridge, got stuck on a cliff, then plummeted to the ground). Finally, when riding off of a path your horse will come screeching to a halt because there is a tree 5 feet to the side. This is particularly annoying in races as your horse will come screeching to a halt whenever you cross a bridge, or get too close to one of the marker posts, or you hit a puddle. So you can be winning the race, only to have your horse stop for no apparent reason (though races are really easy to win for those I saw, I think they flub them because of the bugs). So, moral of the story is to stay in the middle of the path when racing to minimize the problem.Seems to be fixed with 1.07...I rode over a bridge without Roach screeching to a halt!
- Crappy UI - the UI was certainly designed for a console. Text and icons are big, it makes poor use of space on the screen, and you collect a lot of crap so you will have to scroll a lot sometimes. Not a huge problem but it's a bit annoying.
- Camera is a bit limiting - sometimes, it would be really helpful to be able to tip the camera so you are staring at something at your feet.
- Clouds are bad - Really minor gripe, but the sun is still easy to see when it is raining. In fact, it frequently rains with almost no clouds at all.
- Personal gripe - Why the hell do all the women wear heels? Also, do yourself a favor and don't install the alternate outfits for characters. They are hilariously stupid looking (like Ciri getting some chainmail armor and simultaneously showing more skin or another goofy as hell dress with the most ridiculous cleavage for Triss). I wasn't going to mention this but seriously CDPR, stop claiming you treat sex/nudity maturely and only use it when it makes sense in the story. It's BS and nobody sits like Yennefer does in the first scene...you just wanted to point her ass directly at the camera.
In the end though, all the problems are minor issues.
Patch 1.07 is out! And with it, so many issues are fixed!