I rang in the New Year by finally finishing The Witcher 3

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#1 Edited by Nodima (2635 posts) -

I'm a Playstation gamer who came to Giant Bomb for E3 2012, so I missed whatever the Game of the Year discussion over this game was and, despite my love for deep Giant Bomb lore, I never went back to listen to them debate Skyrim vs. Saints Row III since neither game interested me and so I also missed most of whatever Vinny or Ryan would have had to say about this The Witcher series. My first exposure to it was, I think, Vinny at some point playing Witcher 2 on a UPF or something leading up to the release of Witcher 3. Then Danny O'Dwyer did an episode of The Point on WIld Hunt prior to its release and, maybe for the first time since Ocarina of Time, there I was plunking down cash on a pre-order for a game I had no real expectation of liking based on the hype of gaming publications I followed. The full, season pass, $100 edition.

I liked The Wild Hunt on release and played many hours of it - by the time game of the year came around, it'd turn out I'd seen just about all the truly memorable stuff - but I never made it to Skellige in 2015 because Batman: Arkham Knight had released, I'd only played Arkham City and Shadow of War prior so I wasn't burnt out on Batman fighting yet, turned out I kinda dug slamming around town in that garish Batmobile and, well, The Wild Hunt had already gone from something like version 1.00 to version 1.16. Movement changes were coming, glitched quests were constantly being mentioned in patch notes, and there was DLC on the way in October. But that was NBA 2K season, and the patches were still coming furious, and Destiny was happening, and then Metal Gear Solid V, and then Uncharted 4. Suddenly, a year after I bought The Witcher 3 100 new hours of content had been released for the game, it'd been patched up to 1.50 and I had no idea where I was in the story or the decisions I'd made.

So I started over. And over the next year and a half, I chipped away at Witcher 3 in fits and starts, lavishing myself in its world and its characters as I pursued every white font dialogue option, tracked down every question mark on the map, debated save scumming (I usually don't do this, for some reason; I'm a one save kind of guy despite all its potential for losing everything) when I accidentally failed something as mundane as racing the Baron of Crow's Perch on a horse. I saw the formulas for side quests, casual conversations and major plot beats unravel to the point that I was in awe at CD Projekt's ability to extract originality from not only common tropes across entertainment, but tropes I was encountering again and again in the same world. Lover makes promise/mistake and sets out to achieve/acquire some great accomplishment/bauble. Lover meets dark end at the hands/pointy end/breath of a Nekker/Bandit/Dragon. Witcher passes Go, Witcher collects 200 coins.

2016 was all about The Witcher proper; I found Yennefer of Vengerberg on May 19, 2015, and passed the trial on December 5, 2016. For a better example of how much time I really spent with the main game, I finished the Baron's quest line on May 25th, 2015 and met our friend with the elder blood on October 2, 2016. I've changed work twice while playing The Witcher 3, entered and exited an amazing romantic relationship that burned too hot to not extinguish, celebrated three birthdays. Because of all this time spent across the game, from launch day on May 19th to today on January 1, 2018, I had no real plan, my Witcher was a ramshackle of an ability sheet, my coin was always low and I never completed any sets or upgraded any gear beyond how it came to me to begin with. I could've used an ability clearing potion, but I kind of enjoyed how everyman my Geralt was; he was a politician who engaged with the world mostly on terms he felt the world wished him to engage with it, though he was bound by honor to tell the truth to people he admired and willing to reveal traces of his humanity to those he loved and respected. He was an idiot on the battlefield who always forgot to use his oils and never had the right bombs equipped, but he could swing a sword and drink a few potions (or eat a dozen loafs of bread) until the job was done.

I loved my time with this game, and how it carried me through a lot of change in my life, so much that it had me going back to watch the quick look for The Witcher 2 where I got to stumble across this late, final three minutes gem from Vinny Caravella and Ryan Davis:

RD - "We didn't craft anything, we didn't play any dice games, which you can do, we didn't do any whoring, which you can do."

VC - "Wait, what?"

RD - "Yeah, you can go whoring if you want to."

VC - "Like, whore yourself out?"

RD - "No, like go find a lady who's amenable professionally and get yours."

But it wasn't without its faults. The combat "takes some getting used to" as they say, but it's also just a drag sometimes. Once you've fought many of the enemy types, certain ones, particularly the flowers from the Blood and Wine expansion, or golems, or bruxa, or a large group of foglets or wraiths, it's never exciting. Sure, there's something to be said about how that immerses you into Geralt's life experience, but there's also something to be said for audibly groaning when certain encounters pop off. I wish there more of a combo system with the fast/strong strikes, since as it stands I really saw no impactful difference between the two other than one taking more time and causing me to get hit before I could hit the thing hitting me more often (I also played on normal, because I'm a normal guy).

The game's also, frankly, bloated, and it doesn't really have any interest in helping you figure out what's worth your time or your money. When you include both DLCs into a single playthrough with no preparation or studying, it's hard to be prepared for the steep prices of the glyph maker or the grandmaster armor sets, or even know where to begin with any of that. You're already so strong in the world that they feel like systems designed for min/max masters, not someone like me who wants little pieces of all it and plays it by ear. I'm sad I never got to wear a full set of grandmaster gear at any point during the game, but I suppose I'm satisfied as I saved the world, danced with the devil and restored peace to wine country without it.

I suppose all this is to say that I didn't want to bump an old thread from over a year ago and risk it getting locked, nor did I want to purely praise the game, but I just had to talk about it. It felt weird to hover over the uninstall option for it. That said, the horse is bad, bad, bad, there are so many items, the weight limit is still not OK, the armor doesn't have much variance to it (and, compared to what I just saw in the quick looks for Witcher 2 on XBox and PC, it has significantly less style), I played for 160 hours and still had so many decoctions and bombs and potions and runes and weapons and armor I'd never come across this or that item to craft them. I killed Kiera Metz on accident because of a dialogue choice I made, and didn't realize the dialogue choice I made at the end of Blood and Wine was going to lead immediately to Anna Henrietta's death.

My list of complaints over this game is about as long as my list of loves, but at the end of the day, I've just said all this, and I'm really sad to see it go. It was a constant I could turn to whenever I couldn't think of something else to play, a fantasy island I could turn to whenever I wanted for some new stories, just like the Duchesses of Toussaint and their Book of 1000 Fables.

Maybe I'll start a new game plus on a harder difficulty tomorrow and give the combat an honest chance?

I posted this on the Witcher 3 forum but I'd love to hear if anyone else has had a game they took far, far longer than they usually do to finish and whether it was because you just couldn't always find time for it or announcements of patches led you to hold off like me, or something darker like a game you didn't particularly enjoy but felt some odd need to see it through no matter how long it took you.

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#2 Edited by Ron171 (5 posts) -

First, grats on finishing it. Excellent game, i love it. Specially the dlcs (yes, hearts of stone is amazing too).

As for your question...i had to start ff4 3 times before finally finishing it. I started on ds and never finished. Then bought on android to have something not ftp on my way to university and then deleted to make room for other stuff. Only last month i have reinstalled it and finally finished it xD.

So yeah dont think you are alone in this one lol. Speially with witcher due to its length. I bet that also happens with skyrim and all of its releases

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#3 Posted by BladeOfCreation (1405 posts) -

Congratulations! I'm planning to finish it this year. Last year I spent a lot of time finishing Dragon Age Inquisition. I tried the first Witcher game three times (and the first two times were on computers that ended up dying) before I finished it, actually finishing the second game before going back and putting in a dedicated effort to finish the first game.

Have you read any of the books? I listened to the first one in audiobook form last year and plan to finish them this year.

This was a great post, thanks for sharing with us, duder!

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#4 Posted by liquiddragon (3526 posts) -

Congrats! What difficulty did you play it on? Beat it myself last year on Blood and Broken Bones and I just don't get people that defend the combat. It's trivial, it's easy, and it's boring. It might be okay for a 20 hour game but not one that's 150 hours. I can only remember three combat sequences that were mechanically engaging, all of them in the expansions. Haven't tried Death March but I highly doubt it'd suddenly make the battles more fun. Otherwise an awesome game.

I remember it took me three tries to get into Persona 3. Played 10 hours the 1st time and dropped it. Couple years later, started over and put 20 hours into it and dropped it again. Another year or two goes by and something possessed me to try it again from the beginning and click, I'm mesmerized, one of my favorites of all time.

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#5 Edited by Nodima (2635 posts) -

Like I said in the post, I played on Normal, whatever that is. I think Sword and Story? I initially was sort of tantalized by the idea of a game that was like a blend of a Rockstar open world, Dark Souls and a CRPG, in part because I'd tried to give Demon's Souls a shot when it was free on PS+ and was totally put off by it and have never owned a PC and so many of the games I'd been playing weren't necessarily mechanically challenging. But it turns out, The Witcher 3 is both not mechanically challenging and beyond complex in a way that made me not want to engage with it at all. Like I said, I was always forgetting oils (and I only found the right ingredients for about half of them; am I the only one that felt like they only ever picked up twenty or so items yet never had the thing they needed and was constantly dumping inventory? I hated the item management in this game) for fights and I never really found a cost/benefit balance between the decoctions and looking like an idiot during cutscenes until the real late game.

I didn't find the combat to be easy, but I also didn't want to be patient. I was often frustrated with how often I'd get parried, and try to time out my button presses to imagine combo sequences that point of fact just aren't in the game. I also never wanted to use my repair kits - or, maybe more importantly, open the menu to navigate to the repair kit (this is likely less cumbersome on PC) - so I never wanted to parry attacks and was almost constantly dodging. All that said, there were random pairings of glyphs with individual weapon perks throughout all three portions of the game, or one of the Blood & Wine outfits that rewarded me with health for every kill, that I found opened the combat up for me a lot, but before I knew it something with far less noticeable perks but far bigger numbers on the strength and defense section would appear and those kits were gone.

Unlike several people in the Blood & Wine comment thread I happened to really enjoy the fort assault side quests, which was weird since I often felt frustrated during extended moments of combat but in those brief moments felt like a true, witching badass. That, those random kits, constant references to attacks I never unlocked and specific builds that boggle my "spend 1 point on whatever character upgrade I can spend 1 point on every time I have 1 point to spend)" mentality throughout the game left me wondering if there is a combat system in there that I can learn to love, especially if I'm ignoring a lot of the flavor conversations and just getting the meat and potatoes on a second playthrough, but I also think you're probably right. Either your mind clicks with the combat immediately, or your personality demands you break through its rough opening feel and studies the ability tree hard to spec in a very specific direction, otherwise The Witcher 3 is objectively mediocre when it comes to the thing you arguably actually do the most of in that game.

@liquiddragon said:

Congrats! What difficulty did you play it on? Beat it myself last year on Blood and Broken Bones and I just don't get people that defend the combat. It's trivial, it's easy, and it's boring. It might be okay for a 20 hour game but not one that's 150 hours. I can only remember three combat sequences that were mechanically engaging, all of them in the expansions. Haven't tried Death March but I highly doubt it'd suddenly make the battles more fun. Otherwise an awesome game.

I remember it took me three tries to get into Persona 3. Played 10 hours the 1st time and dropped it. Couple years later, started over and put 20 hours into it and dropped it again. Another year or two goes by and something possessed me to try it again from the beginning and click, I'm mesmerized, one of my favorites of all time.

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#6 Edited by Neurogia (148 posts) -

Witcher 3 was a legendary game. It's pretty much the basis that all medieval/fantasy based open world games will now be judged.

Oftentimes in Touissant it wasn't a big stretch for the player to imagine they were in a mature themed Hyrule. Also, there's a small cameo of Princess Peach's castle. Did you find it?

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#7 Posted by Colonel_Pockets (1315 posts) -

I basically agree with everything you wrote about. The Witcher III is an amazing game with so many little things that hamper the experience. I did not like the combat, so I just turned the difficulty down, so I can enjoy the best parts of the game (the world and the stories they are telling).

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#8 Posted by CheapPoison (1127 posts) -

Witcher is great and kinda of broke me on games I think.

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#9 Edited by Tankess (6 posts) -

I played Witcher 1. It is awesome. But I don't like Witcher 2. I don't like changes. Should I buy Witcher 3?

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#10 Posted by FrodoBaggins (2101 posts) -

@cheappoison: lol I've felt the same. Every open world game I've played since has been like... eh it's not Witcher 3.

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#11 Posted by rethla (3725 posts) -

@tankess: Well witcher 3 is as different from 2 as 2 is from 1 so its impossible to say. Its no Witcher 1 thats for sure so if you dont like changes its a no go.

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#12 Edited by Efesell (4565 posts) -

It is hard for me to imagine liking Witcher 1 and none of the others.

Like I'm grateful for that first game succeeding beyond all odds and bringing us here but boy it is rough.

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#13 Posted by TheRealTurk (576 posts) -

I love the Witcher 3. To the extent that I haven't actually finished it. I've got a save file that's been sitting on the last quest for, like, a year and half because once I complete that, that's it - no more Witcher 3. And it's such a gigantic game that I don't really see myself playing through it again all the way.

I guess I didn't mind the combat as much as a lot of people. Having dabbled in fencing and HEMA a little bit I actually like the fact that there's a little more deliberation to what you're doing and that swings at least appear to have a little weight behind them.

Having said that, the swordplay is definitely objectively worse that speccing into Signs from a difficulty perspective. I just pumped my Sign Intensity and Stamina Regen and then blasted things with Igni for about 90% of the encounters. That made the game a cakewalk even on Blood and Broken Bones.

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#14 Posted by HeelBill (159 posts) -

Congrats. I have started the game twice; once on console and once on PC; loved it both times but dropped it shortly after completing the first chapter where you find Yennefer and talk to the Emperor at the end to open up the game. I have decided after I clear off a couple of 2017 backlog games, I'm going to start again and spend the early part of 2018 just playing it since not much is interesting to me coming out early on this year. Really looking forward to it honestly as I enjoyed what I played before; just bounced off it for no good reason.

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#15 Posted by Baal_Sagoth (1602 posts) -

@tankess: I was in the same boat. Never finished Witcher 2, though that's in part due to a bug. Witcher 3 mostly has Witcher 2's combat but done better. The character development is still sub par. The entire item and inventory system is simply boring - not that Witcher 1 was perfect in that sense.

But the game is very much back on track when it comes to quests and stories. There are so many fantstic subplots, characters and scenes - it's a joy to get to experience them all. The "Bloody Baron" questline as well as the "Hearts of Stone" expansion are personal favorites. While there's still some focus on political intrigue, we are getting a more than fair amount of dark fantasy and personal dilemmas.

The major difference to prior Witcher games is the open-world-nature of the third installment. CDPR mostly handle it well. Main and secondary objectives are pretty much all worth experiencing. Points of interest on the map and treasure hunts are filler content and not neccessarily worth your time.

I'm about to finish the last DLC "Blood and Wine" and I mostly loved my time with the game, just be careful to not get caught up in the preposterous hype some of the rabid fans are spreading. Witcher 3 is an excellent RPG, all in all.

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#16 Posted by Zevvion (5965 posts) -

Witcher 3 is practically the inverse of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. That game had great combat, build variety and items/weapons. But everything else about it was either mediocre or bad. The aesthetic of the world was nice, but the actual world was uninteresting and empty, quests were uninspired, dialogue was tedious to listen to, characters were plain and so on.

Witcher 3 nails all that, but its combat is poor, there is practically no real build variety and all the gear looks pretty hideous, monotonous and doesn't encourage you to change things up. I like the parts that are good about W3 enough to have booted it up several times to try and push through it to experience that. In the end though, I found the actual gameplay to just be too awful to do that.

It's too bad too, because W1 didn't have amazing gameplay but was actually an interesting game with interesting RPG mechanics such as having to drink potions before combat. They had drinking animations too. W3 ditches all those cool mechanics and made it a bland experience.

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#17 Posted by dafdiego777 (300 posts) -

I just finished the Witcher 3 + DLC yesterday for the first time. I think it's truly tremendous in certain aspects. The writing is solid and I like the characterization of everyone. But the combat is boring (and straight up broken in B+W), it moves really weirdly, and the overarching plot falls apart once you find Ciri. I put 80 hours into it, and felt like I could have put 20 more. I wish there were more incentives to do the side-quests though.

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#19 Posted by aktivity (463 posts) -

@zevvion: Witcher 3 actually has decent build variety, there are some crazy alchemy or hybrid builds. While I agree with you on the W1 mechanics in theory, when actually playing that game those mechanics felt cumbersome. I stopped using potions not too far into those games. I agree with you though on a large portion of the gear looking meh, but I still liked most of the witcher gear sets.

I'm probably in the minority, but I really liked the combat in W3. Loved that they encouraged you to sidestep attacks instead of dodge rolling. It gave me a rush when facing multiple opponents
and really thought they nailed the feeling of finesse in swordplay.