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.