Reviews: The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt

Quite the Turn Around

I`ve had nothing but bad luck with The Witcher franchise. I played the first game and utterly hated it. My computer exploded before I had chance to get more than a couple of hours in to the sequel, and I consider the first book in the fantasy Witcher series to be nothing short of terrible. So Iím annoyed to have discovered that by deliberately avoiding The Witcher III: The Wild Hunt for so long, Iíve cheated myself out a fine experience. And a long experience it is too. I`ve been playing this game-of-the-year edition for weeks now and I`m still not finished. Part of that because I've finally realised the main story isn`t very good, and I have been avoiding it.

To clarify, The Witcher series is an unapologetic male power fantasy which constantly undermines its own attempts to talk about bigger issues. In The Witcher III, you get situations like one half way through, where you are trying to track down your missing foster daughter. You find a witness who spends the next ten minutes recounting in lurid detail (involving flashbacks) your daughterís naked lesbian sauna trip. Bizarrely, this does not irritate Geralt in the slightest. It does annoy my real life wife though, who has a habit of walking into the room whenever the game introduces another female character, who is inevitably either naked or a decent way there. The Witcher tries to satire its patriarchal, sexist medieval setting, but confuses the message by having even the most emancipated female characters dressed like the Renaissance section of some Ann Summers catalogue.

Once you ignore the main quest, which consists of 30 or so hours fruitlessly searching for your absent daughter, you can enjoy a much richer set of scenarios and stories. I`ve just finished helping a woman whoís been turned into a tree. Before that I was dining with a spoon hoarding monster. And before that, I was possessed by a pervert ghost. Best of all is an outstandingly deep, branching side quest where you have to help some despicable yet sympathetic baron track his own lost family. It is infinitely more engrossing and mature than anything that happens in the main plot.

Gameplay wise, The Witcher has chunky, gory, functional combat. The game has my least favourite RPG mechanic, wherein everything is a slave to numbers. You might find a particular sword you like, only to swap or sell it for a marginally better one after twenty minutes, because you need a better levelled sword to subtract incrementally bigger numbers from increasingly higher levelled enemies. I`m the biggest badass in the land, but it is somehow impossible for me to use a Sword that is one level too high.

For all its faults, I am nowhere near giving up on The Witcher III. I only need one glimpse some gorgeous, rolling medieval landscape to realise that I havenít wasted my money.

A picturesque tumor

Beautiful visuals. Excellent company work ethic and mod support. Bountiful tits to sucker in the straight male demographic, and certainly more effective than having the dev sleep with reporters one at a time to boost reviews. Awkward, clunky combat with victory excessively contingent on preparation. Struggled to give a fuck about the story. Fanbase cancerous beyond belief. This game brings nothing new to the table but it's a much better con than anything most other studios have churned out lately. I'll just stick with Bayonetta.

An Awkward Juggling Act

The "Witcher" games are unusual among game series because they delivered a mediocre initial title before winning international acclaim with a sleeper hit sequel. However, what won much of their popularity was their dark themes mixed with choice and consequences with lives and rights all depending on the player's views of justice and judgement. The first two games leave open-ended conclusions that branch out into a variety of different world states. With such a vast amount of choices, there posed the question, could Witcher 3 execute a satisfying conclusion to all of these plot threads? Short answer, they didn't.

Long answer, the duality nature of their previous games worked against them. The first Witcher game was a fantasy with light political themes, while the second game had a heavy focus on political goals with fantastical means acting as a tool to achieve them. Witcher 3 struggles to meet both sides halfway, before figuring its easier to go in a completely different direction, and that direction's name is Ciri.

Never mind that Ciri was scarcely mentioned in either of the previous titles but her very existence railroads Witcher 3 to being about her and as a result, other elements of the story suffer. The Wild Hunt goes from a mythical, unstoppable wraith army to space elf pirates on steroids. The war against Nilfgaard is downgraded to a political backdrop and can be completely ignored as early as after the first act. The deciding factor of the war is a skippable sidequest that requires very little effort on the part of the player. I was "legally" allowed to kill only 3 Nilfgaard soldiers in the entire game and they were part of, you guessed it, a sidequest. Even the dreaded White Frost is clumsily addressed at the last minute when a certain character does some kind of magical nonsense and suddenly the plot is resolved.

Witcher 3 also has useless subplots that go nowhere like the witch hunters which explore a concept that their rivals, the Dragon Age series have done ten times better with more perspective.

I admit I'm accentuating negative. Plots like the Ladies of the Wood and Defense of Kaer Morhen, as well as many of the sidequests are entertaining and so is Ciri. But where Witcher 3 succeeds as a game in its own right, it fails as a sequel and that left many players, including me, disappointed.