The RPS Advent Calendar, Dec 22nd: The Witcher 3

What is the best open world game of 2015? The RPS Advent Calendar highlights our favourite games from throughout the year, and behind today’s door is…

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt!

Adam: I try to go into every game with an open mind but the previous Witcher games made that awfully difficult when it came to The Wild Hunt. To give them their due, both were games that I came to late, with a clutter of opinions already piled up in my head. I didn’t persevere with them and perhaps my attitude toward them isn’t entirely dissimilar to Graham’s regarding The Witcher 3 (which you can read below). They both had qualities that I admired but those qualities were drowning in a whole mire of RPG systems, characters and sex-cards that I couldn’t bring myself to care about.

Without realising, I filed the Witcher games on the same shelf as all of those big fantasy novel series that I’m always surprised that people can find the time to enjoy. Even if I can understand the appeal, I’d rather spread my leisure time around rather than pouring so much of it into a single fictional universe. The Witcher games might not have asked for a lifetime’s devotion but in the time that I could have watched a couple of films, they didn’t manage to convince me the next thirty or forty hours of their company would be worthwhile.

And so, as I’ve written about already, I took some convincing when people told me that this was the one. Now, here I am telling you that this really is the one. We gave Pillars of Eternity pride of place in our Best RPG window this year and that’s because so much that is good about The Witcher 3 isn’t directly related to its genre. Its combat and leveling systems don’t thrill me, and inventory management and looting feel a little too much like working in a sorting office. There’s no character creation, Geralt being the star of the show again, and while you can make him *your* Geralt to an extent, he’s a pre-defined role to play rather than one of your own choosing.

The Witcher 3 is the most revolutionary game of the year in some respects though, for one simple reason. It fixed fetch quests. Hell, it might have fixed the idea of questing entirely.

In writing this, I was reminded of something another developer said earlier this year. Swen Vincke, CEO of Larian, was explaining the competitive cooperative play in the studio’s upcoming Divinity: Original Sin 2. He used the word ‘quest’ to describe something that was happening on-screen and then corrected himself: “It’s a situation, not a quest. A quest implies a definite objective, a situation tells you to be reactive and to improvise.” I liked that. I still do. Divinity is a game driven by systems, a game that invites players on stage and asks them to form an improv group.

CD Projekt RED take the notion of quests, as traditionally understood, and make it new. There are definite objectives, often related to the monster-hunting and -killing that is Geralt’s profession, but almost every objective marker in the game reveals aspects of the world previously unseen. Structurally, many of the quests still follow recognisable patterns: go to point A, speak to quest-giver, follow instruction B, kill enemy C at point D. Sometimes you’re collecting objects instead of killing monsters and sometimes you’re making decisions along the way, but the brilliance of The Witcher 3 isn’t found in complicated flowcharts, it’s found in the level of creativity and craft that you find at each point of the flowchart.

Where most games might have you find a monster and kill it, The Witcher 3 has you learn about the creature first. It’s a primer in fascinating folklore rather than a constant stream of tedious fantasy lore. Almost everything that you do, whether brewing a potion or helping with a seemingly insignificant comical sidequest, teaches you something about Geralt and the world he lives in. This is a game that has taken a lot of my time and I don’t feel that any of that time has been wasted.

What’s wonderful about The Witcher 3’s approach is that, given the right group of people, it can be repeated. There’s no reason to believe that CD Projekt Red won’t top The Wild Hunt with Cyberpunk 2077 because as spectacular as this game is, its successes are built on known commodities rather than lightning in a bottle. Strong characters and writing, beautiful locations, and varied quests.

It’s not an experimental game or a radical trick that will only work once – it’s a gargantuan and complex machine made up of recognisable parts, and all of those parts have been treated with as much care as if they were the most important moment in the game. I’m consistently entertained when I play The Wild Hunt (I’m still working through the first expansion) and it’s one of the few open world game that doesn’t seem to be littered with corners that have been cut. It’s not a repetitive patchwork of ideas that have been stitched together – it’s a tapestry.

Alice: Grunts and silence are common forms of expression in video games, but Geralt’s actually mean something. He’s one of the most subtle and expressive characters I’ve seen in game, saying more with a lonely glance than thirty words of fantasy RPG bollocks dialogue ever could. I really like him, I’m saying, and The Witcher 3.

There’s a terrible sadness to all of it. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s the end of the old ways and the old empires. Humans and monsters alike are pushed. Good melancholy, this. I like a bit of gentle melancholy. Sometimes I worry the monsters I’m slaying may be the last of their kind. It’s a game good at making me care about its people and world far more than I usually do. I don’t give a toss about elves and magical swords, but give me a world-weary old man sighing after killing an elf with a magical sword and ooh I’m right there.

I was waiting to see what Adam said and yes, all that. Also, it’s gorgeous. What a beautiful colourful world! Those skies, those trees, those cornfields! Why, it’s almost even as colourful as this here world around us! I often stop simply to watch sunsets (and in the game). Like Geralt’s emotional reserve, the bounty of colour is a wonderful display of confidence from the devs. Too many games worry about people not understanding characters or looking cartoonish.

I still haven’t finished The Witcher 3, mind. At 74 hours, I reached the point I’ll find in most open-world RPGs: the side quests, while initially delightful, became repetitive (lawd, I’d scream if I had to use my Witcher senses to follow footprints and bloodtrails again) but skipping everything made me feel like I was rushing, and I didn’t know how to resolve this so I stopped playing. I’m definitely absolutely for real going to ‘finish’ it over the hols, though. Just like Metal Gear Solid V.

Graham: I played The Witcher 3 for something like six hours. I liked its writing, I liked its characters, I liked Gwent, but I hated the combat, and that last part was enough to put me off persevering with the game. The only part of it I could say that I loved is its open world. I know there were people upset about a visual downgrade, but I hadn’t paid a great deal of attention to pre-release trailers or screenshots. As a result, I didn’t see disappointing comparisons when I looked at The Witcher; I saw detailed and diverse trees; dramatic and blustery storms; glowing skies reflected in selkie-filled waters. People tell me that the game is worth playing, but to me it’s something to endure so I can spend more time in its cities and forests.

Go here for more of our picks for the best PC games of 2015.

86 Comments

  1. Fomorian1988 says:

    Ha! So unless there’s an actually different game as Game of the Year, it’s a safe bet that any of the preceding games is still in the running for this title. Well, maybe except that card game.

    • Tacroy says:

      There’s been a naysayer for every potential GOTY so far, so maybe the bestest best game is going to be a hung jury?

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      Well, best game of the year should be a pick from any of these categories, no?

      I mean, if the best game of the year isn’t the best in any of its categories, why is it GOTY then?

      On the other hand, we may argue it is best in some or all of its categories. But if that is the case then some of the games shown so far aren’t in fact best in their category, but just runner ups.

      Probably I didn’t make any sense.

      • Darth Gangrel says:

        The best game could be a mix of different previous categories and while it may not be the best in any category (but very good), the mix and variety contained in that single game could make it GotY.

        The Witcher 3 has now been mentioned and not in any stupid, small or derogatory category, so I can rest easy. If some other game gets chosen as GotY, I’ll simply decide that RPS is wrong and then go on with my life.

    • santouryuu says:

      not really.fallout 4 and rocket league both haven’t been covered yet,and i really don’t see these two not getting picked. GOTY will probably go to rocket league.

      • Mrice says:

        But fallout 4 is so….. eh. I mean its good. But its largely just “Another Bethesda Game -TM”

      • welverin says:

        Looks like you’re right, unless they left Rocket League off for some reason.

    • Lycan says:

      I call Darkest Dungeon as a sleeper hit :)

      Unless it’s been on this list already, and I missed it…

  2. FCA says:

    My GOTY (actually, the best game I’ve played in the past few years). It was just so amazing to see all this talent, polishing general quality and quantity in one game. The combat I found only slightly above average, but the rest was just so good and there was so much of it. Also, some of the storylines made me tear up, and both the romance with Triss and Yennefer are incredibly well done (the “threesome” scene was a nice little joke as well).

  3. Lakshmi says:

    My GOTY for the Bloody Baron quest alone, never mind the million other brilliant bits of story and exploration. I’m intrigued as to where RPS are going this year.

  4. jerf says:

    I believe that many people who don’t like Witcher 3’s combat just don’t understand it.

    First of all, Witcher 3 is meant to be played on the hardest or second hardest difficulty (second hardest works only until mid-game; upon reaching that point only the hardest difficulty is a reasonable choice). Playing Witcher 3 on any other difficulty means that you can get away with button mashing, which is indeed not really entertaining.

    Second, you need to carefully time your strikes and dodges. Also there two ways of dodging: rolling and pirouetting. Rolling is ment to be used only in rare occasions like when you need to quickly evade an AOE attack. I believe that it’s a very widespread mistake to always use rolling, which indeed makes the combat clunky. If you use pirouetting instead, after getting a bit of experience you’ll see that you can gracefully evade attacks and strike back in a very satisfying way.

    Third, all signs are actually useful, and they have to be used in right circumstances. It’s always good to keep Quen up. Igni is excellent against groups of enemies. Yrden is essential agains fast enemies and specters. Axii is extremely useful agains lone opponents. Aard is good agains flying enemies and humans.
    Also some of the monsters are particularly susceptible to certain signs and oils, and it’s essential to study the Beastiry for this kind of information; learning something from the Beastiary and then managing to apply it correctly agains certain opponents is very satisfying.

    Fourth, I actually like the levelling system a lot. Using slots for active skills and gating skills by requiring to have certain number of points in a tree is a very effective way to enforce specialization. Note that most of the skills have multiple levels to them, and higher levels are *much* stronger than base versions. This is another common misunderstanding: some people complain that they don’t see an incentive to invest many points in a particular tree in order to access higher skills, because they are not that good. What they miss here is that higher levels of those skills are actually very strong and worth spending all those points on unused skills. On a side note, many merchants sell the respec potion for just 1000 crowns, so don’t worry too much about making wrong choices while levelling, you can get it right after getting more experience with the levelling system and drinking the respec potion.

    • TheAngriestHobo says:

      I’ve been replaying the game on the hardest difficulty without using Quen, and it’s wonderful. Combat becomes entirely a matter of observation and timing.

      • A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

        Fair play to you. I think that’s my one key gripe with the combat: Quen is your most essential spell, yet also your most defensive and boring. I get that it’s complex and satisfying when you do well but I found the combat too fiddly (forever bringing up radial dials) and too punishing when you made one mistake and a crowd of enemies were on you. I dialled it down to easy and spammed the fire spell instead, sorry!

    • Kestrel says:

      Yeah I actually really enjoy the combat system. I love chugging potions, applying the right oils, and tossing bombs at my foes. Geralt is basically Batman, armed with countless tricks for every situation.

      • DanMan says:

        I kind of like it, too, but what I don’t like about it is that all the stuff you mentioned is hidden away in menus. I miss the immediacy. Having to open a menu to change which sign I’m using is destroying any flow I’ve had up to that point, for example.

    • Mrice says:

      I always felt like you could neatly categorise the evasion and attacks with the scale of the enemies.

      Small Enemies: Dodges and Light Attacks
      Big Enemies: Rolls and Heavy Attacks.

      • derbefrier says:

        pretty much all there is to combat for the most part. a reason i dont get why its system gets so much praise. its not hard to get when its a pretty standard arpg setup. its just kinda boring IMO.

        • Mrice says:

          I think it gets a lot of praise because when you throw in signs potions oils and special moves it can actually develop a lot of depth.

          Also even without that it would still be a mile better than just about every other RPG on the earth.

    • SHwoKing says:

      Still lacking for me especially comparing to a game like Dark souls. Ennemies behavior is really really limited to one or two ways to attack. Gerald tends to miss attacks just because the attack range is automatic, you have no control over it.

      So for me combat is a bit better than a game like Assassin’s Creed but not as good as Batman or Dark Souls. Still needs some improvement even if it’s far better than the second Witcher.

      • Somerled says:

        I do wish it had more of the flow in combat that the Arkham games have. From the opening cinematic in The Witcher you get the idea that Geralt’s style would be like that: smooth, deliberate, and focused. What you get is the manic flailing of the first game, the amateur break dancing of the second, and now this. It’s getting close to that original idea, but still stutters and flops too often.

        A comparison to Dark Souls combat is unfair for most games, The Witcher 3 included.

    • Phinor says:

      I just have to say that it is NOT meant to played on hardest difficulty. If it was, that would be the default difficulty level.

      But besides that, I don’t dislike the combat mechanics as such, for me what dropped it out of the #1 spot was the controls (and probably how they are attached to animations). Not responsive enough for my taste and because combat is also tightly linked to controls, I simply don’t enjoy the combat (because of the controls).

      • Zenicetus says:

        That might be related to how they modeled Geralt having some weight and inertia/momentum in how he moves during combat. I got used to allowing for that when timing attacks and dodges, but it took a while.

        I think they added an option in one of the later patches to disable that effect on movement, which might make the controls feel tighter. I dunno… I had finished the game by the time that patch arrived.

    • ariston says:

      Amen to all of that. Well said. I had to point out to a friend that he could sidestep instead of rolling – RTFM and all that. A few more pointers about signs and general tactics, and his opinion changed from “the combat is awful and looks silly” to “combat is awesome”.

      Witcher 3 is one of those games that I’ll still remember fondly twenty years hence.

    • aircool says:

      My experience with Shadow of Mordor says otherwise. I can certainly see that there’s more depth to the combat in Witcher 3 than just button mashing, but the controls are shite and the movement system is shite.

      When the character can spend ten or twenty seconds trying to position themselves just to light a candle, you know that the controls are screwed up.

    • carewolf says:

      The problem with evading instead of rolling, is that unless you invest in several levels of quirks specifically on evade, you still take damage when evading an attack, but right from the start you take no damage when rolling from an attack. So the game punishes you for doing the elegant evading instead rolling until you have already invested tens of hours in the game.

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        Ninja Dodo says:

        You only lose health when dodging if you dodge late. If you dodge in time you don’t get hit. I really enjoyed the combat but it took re-configuring the mouse & KB controls to get a handle on it (I put dodge and Witcher sense on extra mouse buttons, parry on F and heavy attack on Right Mouse button) as the defaults really didn’t work for me and gamepad felt too limited without all the hotkeys… but yes, effective use of dodge, signs and alchemy make the combat really interesting (I started on normal but played the rest of the game on the second highest “Blood and broken bones” difficulty).

  5. TheAngriestHobo says:

    I’ve been replaying it recently, and one thing that has struck me with regards to the quests is how reminiscent they are of procedural cop shows. That’s not a criticism, mind – that I’ve never drawn that comparison with any other game suggests that CDPR have discovered an untapped (at least in CRPGs) vein of fantasy storytelling potential. But there’s often a certain familiarity to the pacing of a quest: interview witnesses, investigate the crime scene/smoldering village, chase down the most likely suspect, interrogate them, chase down the real suspect, bag ’em, report back to base for debriefing and cocktails. Geralt’s essentially the Sam Spade of Novigrad.

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      Aerothorn says:

      Absolutely. I’ve always been amazed that there aren’t more (non-point-and-click) detective games as it seems like such a natural fit for the medium.

      • onodera says:

        CSI: Miami in the world of Hotline: Miami?

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        gritz says:

        I really thought the Arkham games would be the series to nail open world mystery solving. What a shame.

    • Jac says:

      I got some LA Noire vibes at certain points playing this as well. Really enjoyed the witcher contracts to the point I’d gladly play a whole game of them, even though they essentially boiled down to use witcher senses, it still somehow felt engaging and really gave a true sense of actually being a witcher.

      Going from this to Fallout 4’s dialogue has been pretty jarring. Not sure if we’ve been spoilt with this one or if it’s fair to say the bar has now been set.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      At one time I was actually thinking of writing a fantasy version of the hardboiled PI, in the Raymond Chandler mode with all the sex and corruption and drinking etc. Then I read the first Witcher stories and realised it’d been done. Oh well.

      • Scripten says:

        Glen Cook did that. Don’t remember the names, since, for some reason, they didn’t really resonate with me, but they were good books.

        • Roguemonkey says:

          This comment prompted me to finally make an account after reading RPS for years because more people need to read Glen Cook. The series is Garrett, PI, and I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in either fantasy or noir.

        • LennyLeonardo says:

          Argh, thanks! Must read now.

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    Aerothorn says:

    As noted in the Guessing Game thread, Witcher 3 is my GOTY even if I’m not sure it’s my favorite. I certainly have more emotional attachment and ebulience towards Pillars of Eternity, or Sunless Sea, or a variety of weird little games, but Witcher 3 is the most flat-out accomplished by a mile. It beats AAA game development at its own game, and in one fell swoop does a lot of things that people said were impossible (like not making junk quests). Other resourced developers (Bethesda) no longer have an excuse; it has been done.

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      Aerothorn says:

      Also, to channel Richard Cobbett here: this is the rare developer that listened the outcries about sexism in Witcher 1 and worked to correct them, while still being true to the series and its world. Witcher 2 was a massive improvement (if still a bit questionable at places) and Witcher 3 has some of the best female characters of any AAA game ever, as well as probably the only romance subplot I’ve ever really liked.

    • alms says:

      Oh c’mon, The Witcher 3 had a larger team size than Skyrim’s for fun’s sake. If you think Bethesda is AAA, then CD Projekt is AAA too.

      The fact that they operate in a former Soviet block state means they have far lower costs than one that’s entirely based in the States, but is pretty much the same as Chinese manufacturers having lower costs than factories in US.

  7. Laurentius says:

    W3 is a great game that I truly enjoyed. It took me 3 and half months to complete and it was great fun. Still it has some problems, CDPR promised to marry open world with story driven cRPG but it didn’t work. Leveling and loot systens are just boring and pretty much pointless. These are minor complaints though because it easy to sink into W3 world. Bigger problem is main story, it does not sit well with Gerlat, it’s bland ‘save the world” and many side quests are actually better and more interesting. On that note DLC Heart of Stone in masterpiece in my opinion. It’s perfectly encapsulates spirit of Sapkowski’s best work. This small scale story of “taking road less traveled” that is sad, dark and grim, scary but also witty and lighthearted. It’s absolutely perfect. W3 is not my goty but Heart of Stone DLC is.

    • kud13 says:

      I’m not sure I agree with the “save the world” comment. Geralt’s not out to save the world: he’s doing all he’s doing to save CIRI–the fact that HER job is to “save the world” is entirely secondary to this. For Geralt, it’s a personal story, which is encapsulated neatly in the Kaer Morhen sequence- where he calls up every favour he has to make his stand. Everything after that actually felt slightly drawn out, including the final showdown (Aard FTW)

      That being said, I agree that the “urgency” of the main quest clashed with the open-world design: it’s hard to reconcile the urgency of leaving Novigrad and following Ciri’s trail to Skellige with all the various Novigrad side quests involving characters who are personally relevant to Geralt. (personaly, “Mortal Sins” is my Quest Chain of the Year).

      Overall, this is certainly my GOTY. And it’ll probably be so next year again, once I replay it with the 2nd expansion, and a higher difficulty.

  8. Shazbut says:

    What the heck is GOTY?

    Wait, I’ve got it. Afro Samurai 2, right?

  9. X_kot says:

    So, Witcher 3 next month?

  10. Zenicetus says:

    Well, it’s my game of the year anyway. And I’m not even that big a fan of fantasy-based games.

    I could nitpick a bunch of things, but if a game is rated on how well the developers nailed what they set out to do, then CDPR nailed it with this one. It was extremely ambitious and they pulled it off. Now let’s hope other devs are paying attention.

  11. Paul says:

    Surprising, I really expected it to be GOTY, for me it is probably the greatest game I have ever played, unseating Fallout 2/Torment (could never decide) after 17 years.
    Shame about no Mr. Cobbet in the article, I always enjoy his words so much.

  12. Awesomeclaw says:

    The writing and storytelling is certainly top-notch, but I have so many issues with the actual game part of Witcher 3 that I actively dislike playing it. Lots of them are fairly small – some autosaves occuring immediately before combat sections (to the point where you have to be mashing dodge as the game is loading to avoid being hit), the movement of both Geralt and Roach is still kind of clumsy even after the patch, the inventory UI is kind of bad (although I believe they’ve patched it since I last played), and so on.

    Then there are the bigger issues – I feel like their open world is a step backwards from the chapter based approach they took in previous games. The way enemies and quests scale makes me think that there’s a designed order to play most of the content – so why pad it out with an open world? Resetting Geralt (again) makes no sense, and having super high level enemies and quests around is kind of frustrating. This ties back in to the open world issue – presenting the linear content in a more linear format would mean enemy types could appear at more sensible points in the player’s progression.

    Maybe some of this is me just wishing they had made a somewhat different game, but I can’t help but feel that there is a serious disconnect between Geralt and his place in the world, and the things you have him do (and the things he is/should be capable of) as a player.

    • alms says:

      Paraphrasing a certain cthulhoid forum dweller, all of the Witchers would be better as adventure games.

  13. zapatapon says:

    So I still have to play The Witcher 2 (in my library for ages) first before I get to this one. Maybe in 3 years?

    • alms says:

      No need to, unless you simply can’t keep breathing with more of the Witcher in your life, you’re probably better off skipping it.

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      Ninja Dodo says:

      Witcher 3 can be played without the first two but it definitely adds some context for Geralt’s relationship with characters like Triss and Roche. If you’re short on time, probably skip Witcher 1 though.

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        Ninja Dodo says:

        [edit: although I guess maybe you’ve already played that one?]

        • zapatapon says:

          Yes, I did play the Witcher 1 a few years ago, and enjoyed it tremendously. It’s one of those games whose shortcomings, flaws and problems can fill a very long list, and despite all that felt extremely fresh, full of personality, and left me with a long lasting impression. The only reason I haven’t been playing the sequels yet, despite looking forward to it, is that entering into a new 100+ hours time investment seems daunting.

  14. aircool says:

    Just picked up a GTX970 on sunday (hurrah for christmas delivery slots) and re-installed the Witcher 3 straight away (and Shadow of Mordor in the background).

    It is a great game and a great world, but the movement and combat keep pulling me by the hair out of the immersion. Even something so simple as trying to get the hot spot to climb a ladder suddenly sucks out all the atmosphere of those caves and monsters. Spinning on the spot like Sonic The Hedgehog in combat because you can’t jump over a fallen log; two attacks, one of which I don’t even use due to wearing light armour. And I agree about the crafting and inventory. I’m just glad everything refills after meditating.

    Everything else it gets right in the best manner possible, it’s just a crying shame it uses the crappiest control system ever created for a third person game.

    • Paul says:

      I genuinely don’t get comments like this. It’s like you are trying to play the game on Logitech G25 or something.

      • derbefrier says:

        you seriously dont get it? have you played any withcer game before? the controls have always been wonky.

      • aircool says:

        Nope, 360 gamepad, the way it’s meant to be played.

        I was born in an age when men still walked on the moon, and I’ve been playing video games of all kinds since they crawled out of the sea and into our lives.

        The Witcher 3 controls are a sack of shit. It’s a testament to the quality of the rest of the game that I still enjoy playing it so much, but Geralt has all the manoeuvrability and momentum of an oil tanker.

        If anyone out there has said that the controls are ‘fine’ and therefore never had any problems, they are talking out of their hoop.

    • carewolf says:

      You have to take ladders the witcher way: Falling down the ladder head first and taking the damage like a man.

      • aircool says:

        Even when the drop is less than ten feet? Oh yes, plummeting to your doom is a real danger in even the most humble of homes.

        I think my favourite annoyance is when you’re trying to get Geralt to climb into a boat and take control. At some point, the control system interprets this as you wanting to climb on the boat, and then majestically dive over the other side into four feet of water.

    • Betamax says:

      I spent most of the year with this game and other than the typical first few hours of figuring stuff out I never had these problems, certainly no more than any other adventure game.

      I did play with mouse and keyboard, have always found it fits this series much better than the gamepad (and I play plenty of games with a gamepad).

  15. csbear says:

    All the best games ever made had their faults, and some of them serious ones. Forget GOTY, Witcher 3 did so many things right I feel it’s in that list of best PC/console games ever… and this is from someone who loves his ole’ school isometric RPGs.

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    gritz says:

    I know Cobbett isn’t part of the main staff, but surely if you’re going to do a write up of the game for your “Best of the Year” series, you can do better than Graham saying he barely played it, or Adam expressing open contempt for the rest of the series.

    Literally none of the three people writing here about one of the most important PC games in the history of the medium have played it to completion.

    • derbefrier says:

      “one of the most important PC games in the history ”

      lol no. its a well put together highly polishedgame but its not even a little groundbreaking. I am sure it will go down as a classic but I think you are overselling it just a little bit there.

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        gritz says:

        I didn’t say groundbreaking.

      • shocked says:

        In my opinion it is groundbreaking in the way that the game cares about its world and its inhabitants. It is the first time that I found characters in a game believably presented. There are technical reasons for this like eye movements and micro expressions, but more importantly CDPR tried to give every NPC something personal, something human, an identity. And that radiates through the game. I’ve never seen that before and it changed the way I feel about games.

    • Person of Interest says:

      Richard Cobbett wrote his GOTY summary of Witcher 3 last week. I think it’s fine to print some more tempered perspectives here.

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        gritz says:

        I’m all for “tempered perspectives”, but Graham’s contribution is the equivalent of that guy in every game thread who shows up just to say he didn’t really get into the game that everyone else is talking about. Every game on this end of the year list deserves better than that.

        • alms says:

          Graham’s contribution echoes Adam’s opening about the first two games, if you haven’t noticed, playing through “a few films worth” and not finding much to motivate them to invest more time.

          In what is an essentially traditional third-person open-world RPG game, combat, like it or not, is a pretty crucial element of the gameplay experience and loop.

          I keep hearing from Witcher’s evangelists how Skyrim’s leveling, balancing and progression (also UI and QA) are “shit”, while playing The Witcher 2 revealed the designers at CDPr really had lots to learn (Richard too acknowledged that it’s far from perfect). Maybe a coincidence, The Witcher 2 ended up in 2011’s calendar, but Skyrim took GOTY.

          So, believe it or not, some of us do think none of The Witcher games ever get anywhere close to the state of perfection a part of the Internet like to endlessly inform everyone else of.

          Also, you can expect someone with Graham’s experience to be able to size up a game fairly quickly. I certainly can’t match it and dragged myself for 60h of grind through the first Witcher and then endured 20 more of its sequel (in a way I found 1 was less proactively unpleasant than 2, specifically combat and UI), surely they must get better, right? what with all the hype? they never did.

          That I keep hearing all of the obvious shortcomings these games have conveniently swept under the carpet or sometimes even redressed like the whimsicalities of a peerless work of art is just the cherry on top.

          • Laurentius says:

            “So, believe it or not, some of us do think none of The Witcher games ever get anywhere close to the state of perfection a part of the Internet like to endlessly inform everyone else of.”

            Wow, and you are from this other part of Internet that get the huff because people praise and value game that you don’t and you endlessly have to inform them that they are wrong.

    • Sin Vega says:

      If six hours of playing a game qualifies as “barely played it”, games are stupid and terrible and we should just shut them down and have done with it.

      Six hours, for christ’s sake. I’ve had shorter relationships.

    • caff says:

      Getting turned off by a game is a critical factor – and remember that RPS has always prided itself of having opinions rather than desperately trying to like or continue with a game. And I hope that tradition continues. Because I feel exactly the same about the Witcher 3 – it’s huge, and special, but I just don’t want to see it through to the end.

  17. Premium User Badge

    DelrueOfDetroit says:

    Alright, one thing about this game that really confused me is how you in the hell people are getting 200 playthroughs of this game. I finished it at around 60 hours I believe. Now, I didn’t do everything. I left a lot of the chests unopened in Skellige and I never played Gwent. Even with that though there is still 140 hours missing. What are people doing to pad this game out so much?

    • Premium User Badge

      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      There is an errant ‘you’ in that last post.

    • Premium User Badge

      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      Another possibility is that GOG Galaxy doesn’t properly track your play time.

    • aircool says:

      I’ve got 87 hours and I haven’t even left for Skellige yet.

    • alms says:

      200h IIRC was CDPr’s pre-release claim, so unless you’re dealing with people who have multiple playthroughs under their belt, I wouldn’t put much stock into that number.

      FWIW, I did a survey of my Steam friends list some time ago, and was surprised to find, from the hour count, a significant portion never actually finished the main quest.

      That people can be so delighted with a game and yet, somehow, they’re always too busy playing something else, so that in 7 months they couldn’t get to finish the game, it’s, well, puzzling?

      • Thurgret says:

        The game loses momentum after you finish the first bit of the main plot in Velen – at least, I certainly thought so. It picks up again, and things are okay until the fight at Kaer Morhen concludes, after which point I felt that the rest of the game was much too drawn out.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      I ended up at a 150 or so hours with little to no fast travel, A LOT of side-questing and plenty of Gwent (and that’s without the expansion)…

    • Betamax says:

      I ended up with 240-250 hours playtime, played from release until last week (found it was a great game for bitesize chunks whilst busy with work).

      That’s completing every quest I could locate in the game, beating every single person at Gwent, finishing the expansion, upgrading all the armor etc.

      I think what added a lot to my total was my almost complete lack of fast travelling. I used fast travel less than 5 times in my whole playthrough. The gameworld a joy to just wander about in and it’s rich in the little details people love to highlight in other games (e.g. Fallout) such as skeletons that tell a story or amusing item placement.

      I’m not even a completionist usually, but for this game I made an exception. Va fail.

  18. Gus the Crocodile says:

    Good to see Snakebird is still on track for Bestest Best Game.

  19. simontifik says:

    I tried and tried to get into the Witcher but constant technical issues kept getting in the way. The game would regularly crash for me during conversations. Changing drivers, down clocking, over clocking, this setting, that setting, the game just didn’t like my 780. I hope to have crack in a couple of years when I change GPU.

  20. popej says:

    I’m PC through and through and have been since my first 486dx2 66 with 8mb of RAM so many years ago.

    For me though Bloodborne takes it this year. The Witcher 3 doesn’t even come close (then again it wouldn’t be in my top 5 in a year with Soma, Sunless Sea and Fallout 4 either.

    Different strokes and all that.