I’m A Lover, Not A Fighter: 3 Hours With The Witcher 3

I was travelling into the forest with a hunter who had seen a griffin slay dozens of men and women. The ground was still puddled with blood from its most recent massacre, but it was another act of violence that drew my attention. In conversation, the hunter revealed that he was chased from his village because his neighbors discovered that he was gay. Now he lives by himself, away from the judging eyes of his peers. Despite being forced from society, he still helps bring an end to the griffin, to relieve those who shunned him of further suffering.

“Even though it’s a fantasy game, we want to make sure that it feels real,” said Jonas Mattsson, senior environmental artist at CD Projekt Red. Reaching that goal begins with how people are presented in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (official site), the first three hours of which I’ve now played.

For example, an army has conquered the villages and countryside, killing many of the locals who worked to build a life for themselves. When you meet the new ruler, he’s explaining the payment he expects from the people who now live under him. Such a scene could star a mustachioed villain taking pleasure in others misfortune, but that’s not the case here. He shows kindness toward his serfs, demands less in taxes than expected, and that small subversion creates a character who is multifaceted, an understanding imperialist.

“If everyone was pure good or evil, it wouldn’t be real. To me, it wouldn’t be interesting,” said Mattsson. That ambiguous approach is key also in how Geralt, the hero of this story, is presented. There isn’t a sliding morality scale to contend with in The Witcher 3, with goodie and baddie points to collect; rather, you make your choices, and deal with whatever repercussions may surface down the line. “We revel in this gray. We love to challenge the player,” Mattsson said. The effect in practice is that, without evil and pure choices, I hesitated before every decision. Does my Geralt accept payment from a man he doesn’t respect? Does he fight local drunks looking for action? Will I regret drawing my sword or should I give in to temptation?

Though I only played three hours, The Witcher 3 seems to be walking a fine line in its efforts to depict a more believable reality. The game opens with Geralt lying in a bath, legs splayed, enjoying not doing any of his morning chores. Beside him sits the sorceress Yennifer, naked in a chair, teasing him for being so lazy. It’s a scene that some people might see as pandering, particularly given the series previous form in this area, but it didn’t seem that way to me. Instead, I found it sweet and playful. There’s a happy back-and-forth between Geralt and Yennifer that made me smile, and so much of who these people are is communicated in that simple moment.

“Nudity is beautiful, it’s natural. And sex is natural. There’s nothing wrong with it, and that’s the approach we have,” Mattsson said. That sounds fine, but we’ve seen video games with that attitude go down troubling paths before. I hope The Witcher 3 continues to walk its fine line successfully. I’ve seen nothing but respect for the women I encountered. Yennifer is more than Geralt’s match, she’s his better in many ways, and she uses her own strength and intelligence to get what she believes is hers.

Mattsson goes further. “I find Yennifer amazing. If she existed in real life, well, thank god I’m married… but she’s an amazing woman. She’s so strong, so confident, and she does what she wants,” he said.

On the surface, The Witcher 3 is brazen and unafraid to offend, but during my playtime, it rose above tropes and created people who were more than caricatures. This is true even in the minor characters I met. The hunter who accompanied me on my search for the griffin is more than just a stand-in. He’s wise in the ways of wildlife, believes dogs are even more heinous that wolves, and is an open book to those who show interest. Soon after my encounter with the hunter, I met a herbalist whose story was just as rich. Geralt finds friends in The Witcher 3 just by listening to what’s on people’s minds, and everyone seems to have their own quirks, personalities, and motivations, making me want to talk to them all.

Of course, not everyone is meant to be your friend. “We’re confident in what we’re doing, in how we portray the everyday life that’s happening in The Witcher,” Mattsson said. And if you’re trying to be faithful to reality, there needs to be some spoiled eggs. “Is this world worth saving?” Mattsson asked. “These people you meet, they’re so corrupt sometimes, that I don’t know if I want to.” It’s a question you’ll have to answer as Geralt, too. Some times you play the hero, and sometimes you just continue on your way.

In my three hours with the game, I spoke to everyone that I met while I rode my horse through the idyllic world. It’s a beautiful game, and I felt enriched every time I entered into another discussion. But there’s more than just galloping around on a horseback while solving people’s problems. There’s combat, too, lots of it, and that’s where my interest waned.

The Witcher 3’s fights are mighty similar to those found in its predecessor. Use your sword up close, draw sigils to cast magic, and learn to parry or pay the price with your life. For those like me who found The Witcher 2 uncomfortably difficult in the early going (and I’ve finished Dark Souls without breaking a sweat or a controller), you’ll be relieved that the latest entry is toned down. Sure, there’s a challenge if you’re hankering for pain, but for those who want to enjoy the scenery and story, you can progress to the more thoughtful aspects without too much standing in your way.

But if the nicest thing I can say about the combat is that it’s more accessible, well, that isn’t so hot. The fights felt more like distractions from what I wanted to do rather than exciting forays in their own right. It lacks the thrill of the unknown that dominates Dragon’s Dogma or the steely determination demanded by Dark Souls. It’s much closer to the feel of a game like Skyrim, giving you something to do in this incredible world other than talk to people and look at the scenery.

Mature storytelling, yesterday.

That’s not to say the combat is bad, just bland. When I entered into the climatic fight with the griffin, a battle that had been looming for a solid hour, I was saddened that my heart didn’t race once during this deadly showdown. The beast would fly into the air while I shot my crossbow at its backside and then crash down to earth with violence on its mind. I experimented a little, using one sigil to stun it, another to set a trap around it, and I died plenty as I figured out the best way to success, but the fight never grabbed my attention. When I finally triumphed, it was with relief rather than joy, as I happily set out to listen to people’s reactions to my conquest.

Talking to Mattsson after I played the demonstration made me wonder if I had missed something. “Our monsters don’t scale. You wander in the wrong neighborhood, you get ripped apart by a cyclops.” That certainly sounds great – who doesn’t want to be ripped apart by a cyclops? But the combat didn’t click for me.

The Witcher 3 is a setting that I want to explore, and it begins with characters who are more than soulless puppets. Maybe when I play the finished game come May, I’ll turn my Geralt into a pacifist who does nothing but chatter with the locals and dive for treasure.

82 Comments

  1. SMGreer says:

    Well, as someone who actually (gasp!) enjoyed The Witcher 2’s combat, I think the third game will suit me just fine. Glad to hear that they have kept their sense of detail intact and the nuance to each major and minor character puts to bed some of the fears I might have had about the series going open world. Hopefully that’s consistent across the whole game.

    Plus, it just looks lovely. Now all I need is an upgrade to do the thing justice…

    • tormeh says:

      Yeah, I actually liked the combat as well. Only problems were the steep learning curve at the start and the first boss battle (not in tune with difficulty level). I guess W2’s combat is unfamiliar to many people, as it is neither twitch nor tactical, but something in between. It’s position, magic, crowd-control and outlasting the enemy rather than a hectic sword-fest. Many complain that the combat is slow, but that’s just a realistic style choice; bodies and weapons are usually heavy and therefore have a lot of inertia.

    • HothMonster says:

      I too had a great deal of fun in the arena.

    • Juan Carlo says:

      I liked it, but then I played Dark Souls, which completely spoiled me to Witcher’s combat. I tried to replay Witcher 2 after and the combat didn’t hold my interest.

      • SMGreer says:

        Oh absolutely, Dark Souls’ combat is much better but in fairness its much better than just about every games combat. Still, the unique flavour of mixing signs and potions with swordplay keeps Witcher’s combat engaging upon revisits for me. I imagine a greater variety of foes in 3, coupled with mounts and underwater stuff, will bolster the solid foundation established in the second game.

      • ssh83 says:

        Same thing for me, but Vindictus spoiled me for every other action RPG. Forced myself to sleepwalk through the combat in Witcher 2 for story hoping for big payoff like Witcher 1 (it didn’t deliver sadly).

    • Czrly says:

      The Witcher II had fantastic combat! It was tricky but consistent and, unlike Dark Souls, the camera didn’t jump 180-degrees the instant before you pressed the roll-button. I never rolled off a single cliff in the Witcher II.

      Also, II wasn’t like 1 which had weird, clunky and extremely esoteric combat that I loathed, at first, but grew to enjoy far too much. It was simply cathartic. Perhaps a bit too easy.

      My only gripe about II was the awfully short story with an awfully unsatisfying ending… and the fact that my choices from 1 were ignored. What happened to Shani? Why was I suddenly on the opposite side to the Squirrels? Where did that odd child go? (EDIT: and why can’t I, a Witcher, who, by definition, relies on potions, tipples and comestibles, drink the damn things during combat? Seriously – I used to have that fancy bandolier just so that they were close at hand. Where did that go?)

  2. ukpanik says:

    “The fights felt more like distractions”.
    Dumbed down, as I feared. Pre-order cancelled.

    • gschmidl says:

      I, too, cancelled my pre-order, because if there’s one thing the Witcher games are about, it’s combat, not story.

      • LTK says:

        Indeed, and if there’s one thing I immediately base my decision on, it’s a preview from a single source covering a game that’s four months away from release.

        • aeromorte says:

          Its like buying an early access and whining that the game isnt completed.

        • Chalky says:

          What sort of world would we be in if we didn’t base our entire opinion on a game off a single line of someone else’s opinion? You can’t have people doing things like forming opinions based on finished products that they’ve actually played, it’d be madness.

        • ssh83 says:

          The act of Pre-Ordering is also jumping to conclusion about a game being worth buying before it’s finished. lol.

      • Danarchist says:

        I can’t believe people STILL pre-order games, did 2014 teach us nothing?

    • Underwhelmed says:

      “Dumbed Down” seems to mean “I don’t like it, therefore it must be dumb”

    • Emeraude says:

      Talk about reading what one wants to read.

      Not to mention, it’s not as if any Witcher game had presented us with outstanding shining examples of combat systems to begin with.

      Anyway, not really enthused myself about that one… we’ll see. Hopefully a good surprise.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        Both Witcher games were lauded despite the combat which was almost unanimously the weak point.

        I think we’re still in the clear.

    • noodlecake says:

      Dumbed down? The Witcher has never had good combat. Dumbed down compared to what? The bland, boring combat of The Witcher and The Witcher 2?

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      Agree – combat was always wonky. Redeeming factor was the need for preparation else it’s just hack’n slay.
      For combat play Dark Souls.

      BTW folks prepurchase because it’s cheaper with a lot of bonusses and because they like the dev and the franchise. Wouldn’t prep. Ubisoft though or steam’s early access or kickstarter moneygrabs.

  3. Bugg says:

    Combat was my least favorite part of Witcher 2 as well. You had a lot of options but none were particularly satisfying to execute, and Geralt’s movement was neither grounded and weighty or precise and responsive. It always felt like he was sort of sliding around slowly, with damage feeling disconnected from my input.

    • DanMan says:

      That’s what I didn’t like about it either. It felt kind of bland, especially the magic was laughable. The combat with the 2 different swords for different types of enemies I liked. But if you compare it overall to something like Shadow of Mordor, you don’t feel nearly as awesome.

      • Krazen says:

        I thought the combat in W1 was much better than it’s sequel. Everything else in the game I though they improved in W2 but not the combat.

  4. Bishop149 says:

    I’d be far more excited about this if I was confident my computer could handle it . . . . whilst my current rig hasn’t really broken much of a sweat with anything to date those specs they released were terrifying, substantially above what I have in GFX card dept.

    I really hope they’re an over estimate. . . . and if they are, what have the gained by releasing them?
    Crushed my excitement / temptation to pre-order for one. . . :(

    • SputnikSweetheart says:

      Yeah, I’m on the fence about pre-ordering too. I’m wondering if the specs are a little exaggerated, it doesn’t look like a huge leap forward visually from Witcher 2 and I could run that easily.

  5. LTK says:

    Geralt’s rocking that skirt good. The guardsmen are intimidated by his sheer fashion sense.

  6. RaoulDuke says:

    TL;DR – The combat still sucks but they made it trivially easy anyway & the female characters are “strong” and not just “background decoration”, sounds legit after the last two games…

    I really don’t care whether all the women in the game are prostitutes and have no agency and only men are “strong”, “realistic” characters, just like I wouldn’t care if all the men in the game were prostitutes and had no agency and only the women were “strong”, “realistic” characters. I’m just pointing out they are always in agreement with whatever political bullshit is popular in the gaming press.

    I’m don’t mean to hate on these devs, but it seems they just spew out whatever bullshit they expect the gaming press want to hear.

    This google search shows their flip-floppery – link to google.co.uk. One month they are sending out €1000 fines, the next they are declaring they love pirates.

    n.b. – The screenshots with the griffin in them are terrible bullshots… wtf is happening with perspective in them.

    • pepperfez says:

      I’m just pointing out they are always in agreement with whatever political bullshit is popular in the gaming press.
      I don’t think the people behind the sex card collection are really who you want to call PC opportunists.

      • RaoulDuke says:

        That’s what I’m getting at!

        It seems everything they do nowadays is to try and get away from that image of them being”sex-card sexists”, but like you I don’t just Can’t believe the whole dev team could have Such a change of heart in just a few years.

        Unless they are composed of completely different staff since TW1/2? I guess there isn’t a way to confirm that.

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          Hammer says:

          The Witcher came out 8 years ago. No doubt the devs have a variety of personal circumstances, but it’s long enough for them to have had their own kids, gotten married, bought a house etc. Major life events tend to help shape the way you view things.

          Changing videogame player demographics and marketing a game to a global audience through a staggeringly successful in-house sales company won’t have hindered the dev’s changing viewpoints either.

          • Fomorian1988 says:

            Indeed. People change. Comic book writer Matt Fraction used to write rather crappy female characters. And then, after his daughter was born, the quality of his female characters increased, like Kate Bishop from his Hawkeye run and Suzie from Sex Criminals.

    • Jimbo says:

      “Nudity is beautiful, it’s natural. And sex is natural. There’s nothing wrong with it, and that’s the approach we have…”

      Hardly the words of someone who is desperate to pander to the current pro-puritanical-censorship zeitgeist.

    • El_Emmental says:

      “One month they are sending out €1000 fines, the next they are declaring they love pirates.”

      Oh the bad faith. A spectacular one.

      If you would have read the interviews and articles, you would have noticed they only went for that method because:
      1) An external company (that works with many publishers) guaranteed they would get 100% accuracy.
      2) They wanted to send a message to people who could perfectly afford the game but refused to pay for it. THEY WARNED everyone, before the game’s release, that they hired a company to check torrents (read: public torrents) and would take legal actions. It wasn’t a surprise for anyone at all.
      3) It didn’t change their stance on DRM, choosing to not put any DRM whatsoever (and negotiating with retail distributors/publishers if they ever try to put one on the retail version).

      They made an enormous effort with the DRM (= suffering from day 1 piracy, rather than week 2 piracy) and thousands of people exploited that. They warned people to not torrent their games (everyone knew private torrents and direct downloads were not affected – anyone who was short on cash made the effort of finding a secured source).

      Also, it’s pretty normal to think that one has to do something to simply getting paid for their job. A 911.80 euros (not “€1000”) fine for pirating despite all the previous warning, rather than having to pay thousands in court, is an effort too.

      But after carefully reading all the emails and forum posts regarding that operation – that’s thousands of different messages, by both pirates and legit players – they realized that even that approach was fruitless in the grand scheme of things, and decided to stop it immediately. How dare they learn from their mistakes!

      I guess it’s much easier to pretend they’re not humans and go the full cynical route, “they only do it for PR!”, “they’re only doing it for the money!”, “kindness is a lie, it’s a deceit!”. That’s just hard to comprehend that maybe people aren’t stereotypes, that maybe they’re changing over time, that maybe their initial intentions were misunderstood and/or misexpressed.

      Reminds me of the GoG (owned/run by CDR) regional pricing drama, and how GoG tried to find a way to please both their customers and the few publishers asking for regional pricing (either themselves or their retail distributors refusing to distribute their games if the price wasn’t regional on online distributors too).

      The cynical peeps cried and whined over and over, even when GoG offered to pay for the price difference themselves (in GoG credits, because of publishers/distributors’ pressure) – it was The Man keeping us poor consumers down, The Man must be evil, it can’t be the result of circumstances and business models colliding into each others, no, it must be evil and greed fueling their hearts, all of them.

      Regarding the female characters, I don’t see how it’s “spewing out whatever bullshit they expect the gaming press want to hear” – like if the project they spend several years working on, the final chapter of the series, meant nothing, literally nothing to them.

      Maybe they don’t want people – the people who sent them emails, the people who wrote all the comments on their forums (and in the comments of articles) – to experience the game in a way that they never intended, to perceive as sexist and degrading what they thought would be a sexualized setting/tacky eroticism.

      Maybe their understanding and approach to sexuality, nudity and eroticism changed between 2009-2010 (TW2 development) and 2013-2014 (TW3 development). Maybe they care enough about the Witcher’s series, the thing they started 13 years ago, when they founded CD Projekt RED in Warsaw. You know, maybe.

  7. Janissaire says:

    Lol,i hope that eat less power than dragon age inquisition,because,honestly,the ground graphic of TW3 suck,hell,in DAI,it’s not even a flat texture,but,ground mesh.

    And,that look like that game lack of parallax.

    • Molay says:

      You think TW3 doesn’t use meshes? I’m really confused by your post. I’m pretty sure they don’t just draw 2D images at a certain location for the ground. That would be a pain to do, considering all the little elevations in the terrain. How to not use meshes in this context?
      Then again, I’m not sure I really understand what you tried to say anyways. Care to clarify?

      • FriendlyFire says:

        That entire post made no sense whatsoever, I don’t think the poster knows what they’re talking about or the point they’re trying to make aside from “lol DAI is prettier”, to which I’d reply “no”.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        Reading too much into it, me thinks.

        DA:I made good ( great ) use of tesselation on most parts, this instead looks decent but without such extra mile ( although maybe better on different fronts ). I don’t think he meant anything more than this.

        Let’s be real for a second, while this might be one of my most obvious preorders of this year, it’s undeniable that we’re looking at a severe graphical downgrade compared to earlier screenshots. Not that this should be a surprise eitherway, the level of detail that was shown before was simply too much for an open world game with our current hardware, and all that density an extreme burden to develop for the same reason.

        Anyway my bet is up: either the new Titan or AMD card ( or both ) will release just in time for this game and GTA5, and that will be the only way to experience a stable 60fps @1440 on ultra, regardless of time spent on bugfixing and “optimization”. This only works if GTA5 doesn’t end up a mess like the previous one, off course, otherwise we need to wait for a still unannounced new generation of GPUs, maybe in 2019-20. It might not even be made of silicon anymore by that time!

  8. Fenix says:

    Well, I loved the first Witcher and even enjoyed its combat a reasonable amount, haven’t still played 2 but I can only suppose the combat in it (and 3 by extension) is improved.

    Also judging by what the writer of this piece found in only 3 hours it sounds like something incredible and a world I want to get lost in, and no amount of bad combat (?) can stop me from enjoying it.

  9. Laurentius says:

    I liked combat in both Witcher games, seeing that they dumbed it down it’s not a good sign. I’m not suprised by this as CDPR really looks like a team that prefer to throw away their own ideas if thay didn’t come that great instead ironing them out and quickly pick up what is big on the market, so half-baked Skyrim combat is rather logical step for them.

    • suibhne says:

      I’m not putting much stock in this early impression of combat. The range of combat options and the encounter design were both much more constrained in the first three hours of TW2 than later in the game, so I’m not ready to assume that this first impression will hold for the entire playtime of dozens of hours (even if I end up agreeing with this assessment of the first few hours).

      All that said, Skyrim’s combat is awful (but mercifully quick in most cases, at least), so I hope that association doesn’t hold up for TW3.

    • Asurmen says:

      Pretty hard to dumb down what was already crap. Witcher 1 combat sucked ass. Quite easily the worst point about the game. Dumbing it down to get it out of the way can only be good.

  10. deadly.by.design says:

    Geralt looks like a werewolf now.

    Anyway, I finally played TW2 the other month and was pumped to play, maybe even pre-order, TW3. The delay (from Feb. to May) and the system requirements have me thinking I’ll wait a year, though.

  11. djim says:

    It looks awesome. To be honest the battles were secondary for me too in both previous games. It was enjoyable though. The game’s success depends much more in the world they build, the characters and the story, these are what made Witcher 1 and 2 great.

  12. Fomorian1988 says:

    Luckily, combat is for me the least important feature in RPGs, so I’m glad it’s more accessible.

  13. hemmer says:

    As someone who is currently reading the books (the German translation is wonderful, if anyone was wondering), this sounds just about perfect to me.

    I also don’t get people saying “Witcher is about combat”, yes there was a lot of it in previous games, but I never thought of it as the main draw. It just wasn’t all that exciting in any of the games, though I vastly prefered the one in TW2. As long as it’s rather solid, ‘s all good with me. :)

    Also I’d rather not fight as much, original book Geralt certainly isn’t keen on putting his life on the line if it can be avoided….so far anyway, I’m only 4 books in at this time.

  14. Chaoslord AJ says:

    “Does my Geralt accept payment from a man he doesn’t respect? Does he fight local drunks looking for action? Will I regret drawing my sword or should I give in to temptation?” (quote)

    Sadly I’ll probably go the beneficial route: payment, exp points for beating guys up. As you remember “beating up” were quests in the last two games. I end up overpowered anyway but harvest everything possible.
    The game design shouldn’t punish me decision-wise for playing thoroughly by having me choose between roleplay or game stats.
    Remember Deus Ex HR? More XP for stealth takedowns.
    Dragon Age Inquisition? Pardon everyone, gain agents.
    It’s just bad design.

    • SMGreer says:

      I don’t think it’s bad design at all. Having the “morale” choice deprive you of obvious benefits creates another layer to the conflict of choice. I would argue that if there were equal rewards for every choice then every choice would become equally meaningless.

      Furthermore, since Witcher thrives on grey choices, I am sure there will be a variety of rewards and consequences to be had with every choice as there was in 2.

      • MrUnimport says:

        In my opinion, if there’s an obvious “moral” choice, something’s gone terribly wrong with the writing. Being shown an endless series of “right thing vs. enriching thing” choices is terribly dull, especially if you eventually get rewarded just as much for doing the right thing (thanks, Bioshock) or if you really don’t need the reward in the first place.

    • n0gan says:

      It’s not bad design, you’re just stuck in a “video gamey” mindset. Your reasoning is based on XP and loot instead of moral choices. I guess you’re also the kind of player who quickloads when you make a mistake.

      Just stop being so META and try playing the game as Geralt, stop worrying that you might miss a few quests or rewards. You’ll enjoy the whole thing a lot more.

  15. alms says:

    Interwoving the writer’s impressions with the PR bullshit smells a little iffy indeed. Is this still RPS I am reading?

  16. amateurviking says:

    I detested the combat in the first game. Not sure whether this news means it’ll be better or even worse in 3. How did 2 compare to 1?

    • deadly.by.design says:

      The combat in TW2 was more lively and fluid than the first game. (i.e., didn’t feel like a rhythm game) You do have a bit of “timed attack” going on with the riposte skill, but it isn’t a ridiculous insta-kill like in Assassin’s Creed games.

      Some complain that it involved too much rolling around, but I say it depends on how you choose to play the game. Sure, you could roll all over the place, but you could also parry, use signs, set traps, etc. Outside of some of the difficult parts in the Prologue (where Geralt is weaker [unleveled] and you simply don’t know what you’re doing yet), you can choose to fight without rolling about like an idiot.

      You’re essentially a glass cannon. The game felt like it rewarded skillful play. Then again, I purposely avoided a lot of the +vitality traits to keep the game from being too easy mid way through.

    • Premium User Badge

      Damien Stark says:

      The combat in 2 is significantly, objectively better than in 1. In Witcher 1 they were using the Neverwinter Nights engine (Aurora?) which was never designed for action based fighting. So the sword battles were like weirdo rhythm games.

      Witcher 2 is a better suited engine, and the combat CAN be very enjoyable. It just requires some mental adjustment first. Sort of like Dark Souls for the first time. Trying to play it like other RPGs or ARPGs you know will result in not just death but frustration. (not saying it’s as good or deep as Dark Souls, just that you need a similar mental adjustment first)

      1. Potions matter. They’re not the detritus that clogs your inventory as you “save them for something important” like every other RPG. They’re a core part to the Witcher as a character and the key to survival. Without taking a Vitality regen potion, you have no way to recover health in battle, at all. There’s no insta-heal consumables like in Diablo or Dragon Age. You can pick a very limited trade-off via potions, and have to prepare in advance of the battle.

      2. Positioning matters. If you’re coming from Dragon Age or D&D, you may think “oh yeah some rogues can backstab” but in Witcher 2, getting hit from behind is almost fatal right off the bat. Not only does it do double damage, but you won’t block and you’ll get stunned, often stun-locked. Queue frustration. But if you fight like a real person would – trying to keep your enemy in front of you where you can see him, parrying so you don’t get stabbed, things improve.

      3. Vigor matters! It’s consumed by spells and parrying, and slowly regenerates, so your instinct is to treat it like a mana/stamina bar – run that sucker down then cast more as it refills. Your total sword damage suffers drastically as your Vigor gets lower. So fighting with it constantly almost full you’ll do – seriously – like triple the damage of fighting with it almost empty. So don’t just spam powerful spells and ripostes, use them where it counts.

      4. Skills matter. AKA, the power curve really does make you more powerful. There are alchemy skills that boost item 1 from my list above, swordsman skills that overcome the limits from item 2, and magic skills that boost your Vigor to fix item 3 plus they’re very powerful albeit situational.

      By the start of Act 2 I found I could pretty much Aard-stab-stab-roll-Aard-kill-roll-Aard-kill my way to victory nearly unopposed. Although every now and then I would get reckless and a small mob of otherwise trash enemies would surround me and stun-lock me into taking them seriously again.

      TL;DR – Witcher 2 combat is different than most other systems. If you learn to play on its terms, it can be quite fun.

      Edit: I clearly meant “cue frustration”, but having caught the mistake I’m now leaving it. “queue frustration” actually seems rather apt for the stun-locking experience.

      • Premium User Badge

        teije says:

        I’m planning to play Witcher 2 for the first time shortly, so thank you for the pointers!

    • Perkelnik says:

      Everything seems fine to me. Combat might not be perfect, but they still have to couple of months to polish it. Also, dont forget this is CD Projekt we re talking about, so after release treatment of the game is a sure thing. And somewhere down the line we can probably expect Full Combat Rebalance…

      The only thing that worries me are the system specs, I will have to buy new graphics card, but will wait for release and benchmarks to see whats really needed.

  17. SubparFiddle says:

    Thank you, Tom McShea, for this passionate write up and plethora of well-timed, well-composed screenshots! Those must have been hard to come by, but you seem like a natural at it! Welcome to RPS! This has been such a lovely introduction!

    Why the fuck am I still here? Does anyone know where RPS went, like seriously? Where can I go on the internet to find that old passion and fun that this place used to be a bastion for?

    • Sandepande says:

      Things change. Maybe you’ve grown out of it.

    • Jimbo says:

      RPS 2 will be better.

    • Premium User Badge

      Phasma Felis says:

      Did you observe that there’s a lot of screenshots and just assume that there wasn’t much text? ‘Cause, seriously, there’s a lot of interesting text in there. Maybe paste it into Notepad so it doesn’t look so thin.

      • SubparFiddle says:

        The writing’s functional, but what I find strange is how just out of the blue Tom McShea (of Gamespot fame, unless there’s some other Tom McShea in games journalism that I’m not aware of) is writing for RPS, with no introduction or anything. No acknowledgement that he’s entering into a new community, no “Hey guys! I’m new here and hope that I can contribute to this awesome group!” Tom’s “Hello!” to us as a community is just an article of basic talking points, quoted PR wordplay, and pretty screenshots. RPS used to be better than that.

        • horsemedic says:

          He’s probably a freelancer. He doesn’t get paid to be your friend.

          (I’m with you on the decline of RPS in the last couple years, but if the old fan base is generally as pompous as your comments, maybe they’re smart to try something different.)

    • SuicideKing says:

      I found the write up fine, and I think RPS is as enjoyable as before. While I miss Nathan and Jim, Graham, Alice and Phillipa are fine replacements, and freelance contributors always add more flavour to the content.

  18. shaydeeadi says:

    This is supposed to be a reply to subparfiddle. But too much rum and replying on a phone means mistakes.

    The actual fuck are you talking about. This is probably one of the better write-ups I’ve read on rps as a preview in a while. Why the fuck are you here in the first place?

    In context of the books / lore in general this sounds like it’s striking to tone pretty nicely. I’m dead looking forward to ciri and yennefer being involved. Hopefully they give dandelion a bigger role within the game too.

    I’m sure you were being a fecetious asshole but the screenshots are obviously from a press kit as he was at a press event. But feel free to carry on being a worthless retard.

    • Premium User Badge

      teije says:

      I think you meant to write “facetious asshole”, but definitely “fecetious” works beautifully with “asshole”, so I applaud your spelling choice.

  19. Zenicetus says:

    What’s up with Geralt’s face modeling in that first screenshot? From the earlier previews he was looking different from the first two games, but not this different. Looks like a regression to a more cartoon style, but maybe it’s just that particular angle.

    I’m not going to worry too much about the combat until I read more reviews. If Geralt isn’t spending half his time rolling around on the ground it will be an improvement. Also, it would have been nice if the author of the post had mentioned whether there are Quicktime events this time around. Does anyone know about that? if the big bad Griffon fight doesn’t involve a QTE we’re probably safe.

    • n0gan says:

      I think it’s just this screenshot that looks cartoony. He looks pretty realistic in game. However I blame CDPR a bit for making him prettier in each episodes. I miss his ugly face in The Witcher 1.

      As for the combat, I just want it to be responsive and balanced. I’ll play on the Hardest difficulty if I want a challenge.

      Regarding QTE, Damien Monnier said yesterday in the Twitch GoG Stream that he hated QTEs, so it’s safe to assume there won’t be much or any at all except in mini-games.

  20. Bweahns says:

    The scenes set inside houses were a definite step up in graphical quality but outside everything went to shit, I suspect they have done this to allow acceptable fps whilst running around outside.

    The one thing that is lacking in almost all games is accurate lip syncing. Someone needs to right some code that can just be inserted to any game that gives really accurate lip syncing.

  21. racccoon says:

    lucky bastards

  22. Mr_Blastman says:

    I wish game developers would keep politics out of videogames. They have no place. Games are a place to escape to. Not to be a platform of agenda and a reminder of current society.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      I disagree!

    • trout says:

      everything is political! attempting to be ‘non-political’ is in itself a political statement! better to just acknowledge/identify your own political stance and create a product which is faithful to that ideal

    • El_Emmental says:

      A role-playing game without politics and criticism of our societies? Hm, hm?

    • Ejia says:

      But what if it’s a videogame about politics?

    • n0gan says:

      I disagree, it makes the world more rich and interesting. We don’t hear about this issues in History books but that doesn’t mean they didn’t exist in medieval times.

      Gays always existed, and women always existed. Of course The Witcher world is a fictional world but it is heavily inspired by real history.

      I don’t know much about the place of gays and women in a medieval society and I find it very interesting to see a developers take on the matter. There’s no judgement or agenda here, just an objective and realistic depiction of how women and gays would be treated in a society like this one.

      I think people really need to stop with the anti-PC paranoia. Just because a story dares to talk about something else than white males doesn’t mean there’s a god damn agenda.

      • Rizlar says:

        Yeah, it speaks volumes when having a gay character is seen as a political statement. : /

        • suibhne says:

          Indeed, it seems a rather political point to suggest that a “non-political” game wouldn’t have any gay people in it.

          And a rather unevolved point, as well, but who’s counting?

  23. Premium User Badge

    Mungrul says:

    I suspected the combat wouldn’t be great after watching the E3 stuff last year.
    I must admit, I’ve been massively spoiled by the boss fights in Dragon’s Dogma. I found them even more engaging than those in Souls games, and to see a griffin in Witcher 3 that you can’t climb all over disappointed me.
    Those big fights with grandiose music booming away while you hold on for dear life as a dragon takes to the air, all the while your companions doing their best to avoid getting munched (and admittedly, uttering unbelievable inanities)?
    Yeah, it takes a lot to follow that.

    While it’s a relatively simple monster to dispatch of later on in the game, one of my favourites in Dragon’s Dogma is the Chimera; do I kill the lion’s head first to weaken its physical attacks? Or do I concentrate on the goat’s head, taking out its strong magical abilities? Or do I hack off the snake that makes the tail, thereby getting rid of the poison attack?

    I wish they’d port Dragon’s Dogma to PC :(

    • Zetetick says:

      Could not Agree more! :D
      DRAGONS DOGMA seems to remain Tragically unknown to this day and is easily one of the Finest RPGs of recent years (with its flaws of course- but small flaws) coming out in 2012 (Reduxed+Rereleased along with the Expansion “Dark Arisen” in 2013)

      Now There’s a Great foundation for a stellar Combat system !
      Would LOVE to see this Released onto PC

  24. TemplarGR says:

    Looks like this is going to brake quite a few “most overrated of all time” records…

    I have been playing RPGs for 25 years, name one i have played it, and i find both Witcher games mediocre at best. They focus too much on graphics, gore, sex, and unrealistic grittiness. They claim to be realistic, but they are only realistic if you are a 12yr old… The real world doesn’t work like the Witcher’s world, and i am not talking about the fantasy elements…

    Boring/crappy combat, pointless gameplay mechanics, fan-fiction level juvenile story. Those games’ only saving grace is the graphics and voice acting (on the second game mostly).

    We don’t have reason to believe the 3rd will be any different. It seems the only thing they focus on is the graphics. It is a console port and will be action-focused too much. A really bad omen…

    Plus, this won’t be anything more than an Alpha version at release, the beta will be released as an “Enhaced edition” and the final 1.0 version will come a few years down the line, when the pc computing beasts required to run it will be budget pcs…

    PC gamers are so starved for AAA RPGs they overrate and overhype mediocre bland games…

  25. Zetetick says:

    Was Dragons Dogma never released for PC?
    Really a Damn shame!
    Dragons Dogma was a profoundly unfairly overlooked RPG Action Adventure Title that I personally enjoyed Waay more than Skyrim – Beautiful Deep customization and incredible fighting (as Rogue/Archer/Mage, anyway that’s how I played it) and Graphically Wonderful, but most of all, it HAS to be the way in which you battle the larger foes in the Game, Jumping onto them and scaling their HUGE bodies to land the killing blow in Epic unscripted Fights is SOO more exciting than swiping at a dragons heels over n over.
    (Think Devil may Cry + Dark Souls + Shadow of the Colossus + Monster Hunter for Combat and you’re on the right starting track.)
    (I Reeally Hope it sold enough to be continued : it was originally envisioned as PT1 of a Trilogy)

  26. waltC says:

    “I’ve seen nothing but respect for the women I encountered. Yennifer is more than Geralt’s match, she’s his better in many ways, and she uses her own strength and intelligence to get what she believes is hers.”

    Talk about “pandering”…;) You know, the truth is that if Yennifer was a weak slut who couldn’t add 2 & 2 and was no more capable of tying her shoe laces than she was of using a can opener, that would be OK. Why? Because in real life all women are not “strong,” idealized, romanticized females–just like all men aren’t, either. Geralt is far from “perfect” himself. Relax, the female thought police aren’t watching, and even if they are, what of it? Idealism is the first thing to go when realism is achieved.

    For those like me who found The Witcher 2 uncomfortably difficult in the early going (and I’ve finished Dark Souls without breaking a sweat or a controller), you’ll be relieved that the latest entry is toned down.

    W2 combat, especially early on, is easy as pie…;) All the way up to the Kracken (or whatever it was called)–that was the only combat that gave me some trouble and the only one I didn’t find comfortably easy. And I like easy combat!

    Sure, there’s a challenge if you’re hankering for pain, but for those who want to enjoy the scenery and story, you can progress to the more thoughtful aspects without too much standing in your way.

    I should hope so…;) Mindless combat is, well, mindless and gets very boring after awhile.

    When I finally triumphed, it was with relief rather than joy, as I happily set out to listen to people’s reactions to my conquest.

    And…? What did they say?

    Talking to Mattsson after I played the demonstration made me wonder if I had missed something. “Our monsters don’t scale. You wander in the wrong neighborhood, you get ripped apart by a cyclops.” That certainly sounds great – who doesn’t want to be ripped apart by a cyclops? But the combat didn’t click for me.

    What could have been done differently that might’ve made it “click”?