Lauren and I finally wrapped up our biggest game of the social distancing era, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: Complete Edition. I do not really understand why it’s considered the greatest game of all time. It’s like a mix between a Zelda game and an Elder Scrolls game, and it doesn’t get either quite right. Movement and combat always feels just slightly delayed, the choices that are allowed don’t offer for much role-playing or especially emergent storytelling, and considering how much time is spent managing inventory, there is a lot of lag simply navigating the many menus. Although it’s fun to arrange abilities and buffs in such a way to maximize your potential, It never FEELS especially good to play, at least compared to other Games of the Year.
I get why anyone would like it though – it’s freaking huge. It’s full of stuff. The sheer amount of writing and recorded audio even for the most insignificant situations is unbelievable. And the accessibility to all the quests is like nothing I’ve seen. You can find out about a quest by overhearing a conversation, pulling a notice off of a bulletin board, meeting the quest-giver in town, or just by running into the abandoned house they were going to ask you to look at anyway. It doesn’t always feel like a well-crafted game, but it is clearly the result of a lot of work. Sometimes it pays off, but honestly, it’s just too much.
We were told we could jump into this one without playing the previous entries, which now feels like a lie. Most of the main storyline lacks urgency because we never felt a deep connection to the major players, and the big threats are… pretty lame, predictable villains. Frankly, most of the major events felt BYOC (bring your own charm) because the characters left theirs in the previous games.
Thankfully, we stuck with it to get to the DLC expansions, Hearts of Stone and Blood & Wine, which were, frankly, what I was hoping the rest of the game would be like. It felt a lot like we were playing through the early kitschy seasons of a TV show (say, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) to get to the later, wilder, genre-pushing seasons. A lot more fun, a lot more imagination, a lot more unique boss fights (though, again, it’s rough fighting a Zelda-style boss fight without Zelda-style responsive control). Also, the Witcher acts more like a professional rolling into town and resolving magically-complicated Shakespearean family power struggles and not some dumbass on a wild (goose) hunt.
The disparate feelings between the main game and the expanded content felt like a natural result of the production. This game is huge and, like most games this size, required a huge crunch to be finished. The result is a game that usually feels spread thin. The reason the DLC feels so much more lively is likely just a result of more people focusing on a smaller set of stories. Seems like a much better use of resources! As is, this game is overwhelming to the point I really can’t imagine returning to it.
Still, it’s hard not to spend so much time with something and not feel an attachment. With our last quest finished, we had Geralt strip down to his underwear, hang up his best suit of armor to display, down 20 bottles of wine (and a few onions by accident), read a goodbye note from an old vampire friend, and hit the hay in his retirement vineyard. Goodnight, Geralt.