I originally had no plans to play The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt because I found the second one very frustrating. But upon hearing yet another person raving about how great the third one was, I thought I’d see if I could pick up where I left off in the second one. I had thought I was about 1/5 through, but it turned out to be a really short game and I was about 2/3 of the way through. And then the third one was on sale for… not as cheap as I would have preferred, but Day of the Tentacle‘s voice acting was too outdated for me to handle, so it came along at just the right time between Civ and Mass Effect: Andromeda. And it’s actually pretty great.
It’s an amazing step forward in basically every respect. The tasteless jokes are less frequent, the sex scenes are less awkward, the voice acting is less clunky, the map is actually useful.. Where the second one was short, this one is long. Really long if you’re a completionist. I’m at 150 hours after finishing the main story, and only just started the DLC. The attention paid to the side quests is immense. You get a decent story and a cut scene from most of the little shit side quests, and none (that I can remember) are simple fetch quests.
It’s so much better that I think one would be best off finding a quick game 1&2 recap on youtube and going straight to #3. The first two games are garbage in comparison.
In this one, Geralt has recovered all his memories, and he’s in search of Ciri, a girl he helped raise who’s gone missing. Zoltan, Dandelion, Triss, the other sorceresses of note, and the surviving kings return, plus some new faces, including Yennifer, the love interest you’d forgotten about in the previous games. The main story is a magic/prophecies/end of the world thing, but there are big side stories about war and politics and organized crime and all sorts of fun stuff, plus the regular witcher contracts to hunt monsters.
It has this narrative problem I have with RPGs of late where you play flashbacks. And not just flashbacks, but flashbacks being told by someone else about yet another person. I play as Ciri in flashbacks told to you by not-Ciri and not-Geralt. So what, I’m deciding what story some Baron tells Geralt? That doesn’t make any sense! I get that it works from a gameplay point of view. They need to tell you a chunk of story that Geralt wasn’t around for, and they think a 20 minute cutscene where you don’t do anything would get boring. The user needs to make regular input so they don’t get bored. But it totally sucks from a narrative perspective. Unless there’s time travel at play, the events I control should be in linear order, and in the “present” of the story, because in order to play the role of the protagonist, I shouldn’t know things that haven’t happened yet, and in order for my actions to have weight in the story, they have to be actions in the real world of the story, not actions in a story-within-a-story.
- Dice poker is ditched as the mini-game in favor of Gwent, an in-game CCG. It’s not high strategy, but I still felt determined to collect cards and beat every opponent I could find. Annoyingly, there is one guy who I encountered way before I had the cards to compete with him. But otherwise, my opponents were pretty appropriate, difficulty-wise. It’s kind of hilarious though that I’m this tough warrior guy and I’m essentially asking other tough warrior guys if they want to play Magic: the Gathering.
- I’m not sure if I remember this happening in the first two games, though it might have, but literally everyone is white in the main game. The DLC does add some people of color, but it seems weird, even for something based on European fantasy/folklore, to keep it so white. Like… you can add magic and monsters, but not pigment?
- On sort of similar grounds, every female character of significance is smoking hot (well there are three sister minor villains who are only sometimes smoking hot, and other times gross rotting things, but my point still stands). I kinda get the sense BioWare is going in the opposite direction, Dragon Age: Inquisition‘s most physically attractive character I remember was a dwarf (no beard, but otherwise… dwarf-like), and ME:Andromeda isn’t looking too promising on that front either. Is it too hard to have a happy medium? Like… not every woman should be supermodel hot, but it’s still escapist entertainment, so we can have some traditionally attractive women around?
- I’m actually baffled as to whether this takes place on some kind of alternate Earth with the “real world” part of its multiverse, because for a fantasy story with made up place names for everything, they retain an unusual amount of real world culture. Cinderella is referenced by name, there’s a direct quote from MacBeth (“if it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well it were done quickly”) though they attribute it to the play Vakmeth, and the people in Skellige who are very Viking-y worship Freya and the end of the world is called Ragh Nor Roog). At first it came off to me as lazy writing, unable to come up with a unique culture for this fantasy world, but then the plot of this one includes a sort of magical interdimensional travel, so it’s possible I guess.
- If you do all the side quests first and then progress the story in big chunks, one story/questing aspect can get monotonous. “Sure, I’ll do that think to let you progress the story, but first you have to do this for me.” Happens over and over and over again. Sure, it’s an RPG staple, but its also better storytelling when the tasks come about more organically. Instead of talking to the lady who says I’ll give you the key if you can pick this coin up off the bottom of the monster-infested pond, why not just have the key be at the bottom of the monster-infested pond?
0. The voice of old Dandelion during the loading screens is laughably bad. American accent, but with the cadence of a non-native speaker. Or possibly just a really stiff actor. Triss, whose voice I never thought was quite right for her, is nonetheless voiced by someone who I was certain was American until a phantom “R” showed up in one line of dialogue (the phrase “Phillipa and” contains no R’s, but if you have a certain kind of English accent, you pronounce “Rs” at the ends of words only when the next word starts with a vowel, but sometimes people with those accents will mistakenly add an R between a word that ends with a vowel and a word that begins with one, so it becomes “philliper and.”). Geralt’s fine. I think they like Game of Thrones because they got Charles Dance to voice the Emperor of Nilfgaard, and several of the character models look surprisingly similar to GoT characters.
1. Including an easter egg, I think, for CD Projekt Red’s next game, Cyberpunk 2077, when Ciri describes a world where people fight wars from a distance, have metal in their heads, and ride around in flying carriages, or something. After playing this, I’m genuinely excited from Cyberpunk 2077. Hopefully it’ll include some non-white people and one or two ordinary looking women… this has the built-in excuse of being fantasy based on European stuff for the white people, but cyberpunk owes more to Asia than anywhere else. Though I guess a lot of the hot women are sorceresses, so they could just enhotten themselves magically, while the cyberpunk people could enhotten themselves technologically. Meh.