Why does the combat of Witcher 3 get a lot of flak?

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redcream

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#1  Edited By redcream

Inspired by the recent Bombcast, I wanted to ask this question: Why does The Witcher 3’s combat get a lot of flak especially when compared to its contemporaries?

The Witcher 3 has been universally praised for everything except its combat and I always wondered why because just four years before, Skyrim came out and blew everyone’s mind although its combat is nothing to write home about either. I could understand that standards have changed since those four years but everyone in the staff (except Vinny) fell off it because of its combat even though every thing else is on par or even in some respect, surpasses Skyrim. Now, don’t get me wrong, The Witcher 3’s combat devolves most of the time in rolling/dodging until there’s an opening to strike, rinse and repeat, but it sure as hell’s a lot more involved than Skyrim’s left-click, left hand, right-click, right hand combat. It’s incongruous to me that there are people who lost interest in the Witcher 3 because of the combat but praises Skyrim to high heavens despite its combat.

I don’t want to make this a Skyrim vs Witcher 3 thing as I both love those games but I can’t think of any contemporaries which would bolster my argument. So what do you folks think?

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nutter

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#2  Edited By nutter

I don’t know. I found combat in Witcher 3 to be superlative at launch. It’s strategic, but not too slow. I love the way swordplay, crossbows, bombs, and signs feel in that game.

I never understood the blowback it got from Giant Bomb (shoutout to Vinny!).

As far as rolling, I’ll do some rolling, but you also have dodging, parries and Quen to avoid some of that. Different forms of defense are better in different situations.

Rolls are, from what I remember, easier to create distance, but harder to mount a quick counter attack from. I think I only used rolling substantially when I was in a bad situation against singular powerful enemies and I needed to play it very slow and very safe.

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AlvaroFAraujo

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#3  Edited By AlvaroFAraujo

Well Im a big fan of both Franchises. I played Oblivion until Exhaustion and once a year i check back into skyrim for a few modded runs and played the Witcher series since the 1st game came out.

With the Elder Scrolls game you don't expect much in terms of "evolution" of combat, its stiff linear and iirc the only thing they added to Skyrim was being able to control secondary spells on the non-primary hand. Now we (ES fans) all know the tricks to win fights against NPCS, you either fill them with arrow while on stealth and then finish them off, or pick a high place where they cant reach easily and spam strong attacks until those highly inflated enemies (scaling in Skyrim is ridiculous) are dead.

As for the witcher series they are the opposite of ES games. From Witcher 1 to 2, the evolution is enormous, going from a click based combat to fully dodge and roll with a small combo system. Its fair to say I was blown away when trailers came out. The changes between 2 and 3 are also evident but some of these changes were not welcomed, for fans of the franchise, like being able to pop potions or mutagens during fights, and not requiring meditation to consume them.

In my opinion as it stands W3 has better combat than Skyrim (even fully modded up), yes it can be clumsy sometimes with the dodge and roll out of the way, and since there's no stamina you can abuse it all day. I'm guessing people who are picky about these are Dark Soul fans and are trying to make direct comparisons to its combat. And when asked about Skyrim they think of it as a FPS that has melee

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imhungry

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I think both have pretty bad combat, but I will say that I can see the argument that at least in Skyrim, you can choose how to engage in combat, whether it be melee, ranged, stealth or magic, while in Witcher 3 you're pretty much stuck doing the one style of combat which, if you aren't a fan of it, can feel incredibly draining.

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Rahf

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#5  Edited By Rahf

It's one thing for me, and I've seen another one lumped in here:

1. Deliberate animations and animation priority. Like Monster Hunter and the Soulsborne Series, Geralt has some weight, meaning he doesn't respond 1:1 on every single input. Instead, your subsequent movement is buffered a bit, leading some players to feel frustrated that Geralt feels a bit slow, cumbersome, clumsy, etc. I know this is a true sticking point for Jeff when he plays any game.

2. As to the combat it was slightly challenging in the beginning on harder difficulties. But overall Witcher 3's combat is fairly easy. Even though animations and stuff look great, it really does become a complete cakewalk at some stage, especially if you're partaking in the plethora of sidequests and areas. I can recall having trouble with a handfull of fights, and only really getting stuck on one very important fight in the Blood and Wine DLC. Otherwise I got to a point where human enemies were marionettes, and the only challenge really came from flashy encounters.

Skyrim lacks the former, for better or worse.

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liquiddragon

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#6  Edited By liquiddragon

First of all, TES combat has never been alright with me. It's straight dogshit.

As for Witcher 3, it's passable cuz it's functional. The problem is, there is no real depth. You can literally spam the sidestep maneuver and never get hit. And if you really wanna have extra insurance, spam the magic that always absorbs the 1st hit. Combining the DLCs, W3 is a 150 hour game and how much of that do you spend in combat? Conservatively, 50-60 hours? It's the kind of combat that would be ok for a 20 hour game but in a massive game like W3, you have to drudge through it for tens of hours. There is literally only 2 good fights in W3, both of them in the DLCs. The 1st is the 1st guy in Hearts of Stone and the 2nd is the armadillo-like boss you fight in a coliseum in Blood & Wine. Those took some strategy but the combat as a whole for 99.9% of the game is boring because you don't have to put any thought into it. I played on Blood and Broken Bones difficulty btw and if it's only good on Death March, that's a whole another problem.

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redcream

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@nutter: oh yeah, I meant dodging. Sorry about that. I agree that bombs and upgrading the oils and using them appropriately adds depth to the combat and progression.

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deactivated-6321b685abb02

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I've never understood the flak W3 combat gets, feels great to me and there's plenty of depth there if you want it. Fair enough it doesn't often force the player to use any of it but why wouldn't you? Keeps the combat varied to play around with the mutations, potions, signs etc.

If folk are playing through it just dodging and attacking, I'm not surprised they get bored but that's not all the combat is. Elder Scrolls combat is much, much worse imo but that's the last thing I go to those games for.

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ThePanzini

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Geralt navigates like an old man just looking around a house can be an exorcise in frustration, the amount of times I've tried to open a door/chest only to light a candle is beyond me.

Skyrim is one of the most open ended RPG's you can ever play, you can go anywhere and play anyway you like. The combat is basic almost to a fault but it never gets in the way.

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OMGFather

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Because some people wanted it to be like Soulsborne.

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nutter

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@thepanzini: I’ll certainly give you that navigating small spaces can be aggravating.

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Brackstone

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It's a problem Witcher 2 had as well with animation priority. Basically you get locked into very deliberate animations, making it feel weighty rather than snappy.

Okay, but Dark Souls has the same thing you might say. The difference is that Dark Souls gives you full control over your animations. Once you do an animation, you're locked in, but you always choose the animation because you have full control over what your character does. You know exactly what your character will do when they press a button. In the Witcher 2 and 3, your combat animations are somewhat randomized and affected by distance, enemy position, all sorts of things, so pressing the same button in the same circumstances can result in two different animations. Sometimes you get a quick stab that interrupts an enemy attack, other times Geralt will go into a ballet routine and spin a few times before hitting them. It does the same damage, but that second spin attack means you probably don't interrupt the enemy, you get hit, and maybe die. And you never had control over it. That feels so, so bad.

In addition, the enemies aren't that compelling and the combat is largely quite easy once you get past the early game except for when your random animations get you killed. And usually the hard encounters aren't because of difficult enemy types or specific enemy mechanics, it's cause the game just throws too many enemies at you. Late game enemies don't get any more complex, but you get so many different ways to just cheese every single encounter than it flips around and becomes too easy, regardless of the difficulty level.

I'm no fan of Skyrim combat, it's way too simple and bare bones, but I prefer it because you're still always in control, no random laborious animations getting you killed, and the more sandboxy nature of the gameplay means the melee doesn't have to be super amazing because there are a lot more gameplay systems at work, it's a smaller part of the game overall than in the Witcher. So much of the Witcher is the exact same kind of combat scenarios that the poor combat mechanics aren't just aren't up to having such a huge focus on them.

And for the record, I actually preferred the combat in the Witcher 2. It had some of the same issues with animation priority, but for some reason it just felt better to me. The animations were somewhat simpler and they were animated in a more impactful way, that made it feel like I had more control, and I feel like the combat scenarios were better designed, and the number of enemies you fought at a single time was a bit lower. It wasn't great, but I didn't get sick of it like I did with 3.

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nutter

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@rahf: Yeah, I get that if you’re way more into snappiness than momentum and weight, that the Witcher series is probably not for you.

I enjoy snappy controls, but I prefer weight. I thought Killzone 2 (you know, the good Killzone game) felt GREAT due to that weight. I find the illusion of real physics in your character immersive and satisfying. Alternately, jamming in every direction at random and having near flawless control is cool, but it feels very gamey to me. There’s a level of immersion and satisfying heft that goes away, for me.

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Aristotled

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I think a great deal of it comes from essentially being demanding of the player, like a dark souls game, but not as easy to understand what is going to happen. A Souls move set is very linear for any given weapon. In W3 what attack would come out in light or heavy was dependent on a number of factors that are initially hard to get a feel for. Distance to an enemy and direction of the camera all fall into changing what animation plays.

Also, the game doesn't do a good job at letting the player know that in most fights you wanna sidestep/dodge and that the roll is exclusively for certain monsters. In an era where dodge rolling is how you played certain action games, having significantly fewer iframes on the roll and the animation being longer results in people getting frustrated that they can't evade attacks because they don't know they are using the wrong move

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Redhotchilimist

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#15  Edited By Redhotchilimist

Western RPGs generally don't have great combat, and when there's a lot of it, that can be a problem. Even in awesome action games with fantastic combat of terrifying depth and variety, like DMC5 or whatever, you're only given a 20 hour campaign to use those abilities on if you're not replaying on higher difficulties and doing extra challenges. For the witcher you're stuck with it for a long, long time.

The combat in Skyrim is basically functional at best, but the reason it's not a huge issue is that no games beat Bethesda's for freeform sandboxes. I don't enjoy combat in Skyrim at all, besides the fus-ro-dah. But while most of the content is combat, most of the draw is just walking wherever and doing whatever as whoever. And Skyrim has diverse enough playstyles that I could fight largely with summons, stealth, companions and ranged attacks.

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csl316

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I thought it was fun. Smoother than Witcher 2 and probably the best third person RPG combat outside of Amalur. Higher difficulties force you to use all the tools, which made it fairly strategic, as well.

The movement was an acquired taste, and while patches gave it options I feel like the running around didn't give a good first impression. Probably gave people a negative perception on how it plays right off the bat.

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captain_max707

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I've always enjoyed the combat in The Witcher 3, I've never had any issues people seem to have with regards to the movement or combat. It's pretty deliberate but rolling/parrying can get you out of most sticky situations.

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BoOzak

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First of all, TES combat has never been alright with me. It's straight dogshit.

As for Witcher 3, it's passable cuz it's functional. The problem is, there is no real depth. You can literally spam the sidestep maneuver and never get hit. And if you really wanna have extra insurance, spam the magic that always absorbs the 1st hit. Combining the DLCs, W3 is a 150 hour game and how much of that do you spend in combat? Conservatively, 50-60 hours? It's the kind of combat that would be ok for a 20 hour game but in a massive game like W3, you have to drudge through it for tens of hours. There is literally only 2 good fights in W3, both of them in the DLCs. The 1st is the 1st guy in Hearts of Stone and the 2nd is the armadillo-like boss you fight in a coliseum in Blood & Wine. Those took some strategy but the combat as a whole for 99.9% of the game is boring because you don't have to put any thought into it. I played on Blood and Broken Bones difficulty btw and if it's only good on Death March, that's a whole another problem.

I beat the game on Death March, it still aint great. The signs in TW3 while fun to use kind of break the game and the swordplay is so sloppy that I didnt want to do that either. So I just used the flamethrower and put up the magic healing bubble and everything was just fine. It was sort of fun in a broken way but as you say it's such a long game and theres so much combat that it gets tedious after awhile.

I feel like comparing the game to Skyrim is a bit weird and yes the combat isnt good in any of the Elder Scrolls games but the worlds are much more fun to explore and I would argue that Bethesda's games are more about hoarding than anything else and in that aspect they're still unmatched.

Both games are great in spite of their combat though, it's okay to disagree with most of the staff.

(For example I feel like Hollow Knight is a vastly superior game to Bloodstained but I understand why someone would prefer one over the other)

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Zomgfruitbunnies

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I feel like expectations played a part in why some people felt the combat was bad. The Witcher 3's combat plays out fairly similar to how Dark Souls handles some of its encounters. You watch an enemy's attack patterns and animations, then adapt accordingly while being mindful of your own animations. For example, ghouls have a pattern where if they're hit twice they will back up then quickly lunge at you. The optimal course of action is to do two light attacks and side step the lunge, then follow up with damaging attacks from the back because attacks from behind stacks crit multipliers against monsters. and instant-kill multipliers for human enemies. You can do a similar thing to drowners, as well, since they have a similar attack pattern. Roll and quick dodge are used for different situations since one has invincibility frames whereas the other does not. Add in the crossbow, potions, and bombs, the combat becomes very flexible and satisfying to experiment with.

Some players probably came into the Witcher 3 expecting an adventure game where they can hack-and-slash their way through most enemies with relative easy. Then they run into a pack of wolves that mauls their faces off, so they proceed to mistakenly put blame on the game for have sluggish controls when in reality they should have taken their time to study the enemies first before jumping into the fray. I will, however, concede that the game doesn't do a very good job of dropping some necessary hints regarding isolating enemies from groups and positioning so one does not get swarmed by enemies like wolves and nekkers.

The complaint about animation priority is an interesting one, considering that one can actually animation cancel out of quite a few of the attack moves. Many attacks can be animation canceled with a dodge toward the end of the animation. Some attacks, like Rend, can actually be canceled by themselves if timed correctly, allowing for some pretty overpowered swordplay mechanics. Even without doing this however, there are only two attacks, the heavy overhead finisher and heavy spinning finisher, that adds significant animation time during the attack itself and its backswing. It's fairly easy to figure out the pattern, given the player experiments with different swing orders. There is a minor degree of randomness to the animations (mostly the heavy attacks), but the difference in animation time is negligible in most situations. Besides, enemy attacks are so telegraphed it's extremely easy to play around that issue. Plus counterattacking is OP as fuck, and its actually usable on some monsters even if the benefits aren't that great.

So, y'know, I think the Witcher 3's combat is pretty good. People just need to spend some time with it to figure out the nuances. Granted, I don't think there's really much depth in the combat, because it's always most efficient to take the path of least resistance with fighting monsters once you have their patterns down. Still, it's nowhere near as bad as some people claim it is.

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deactivated-61665c8292280

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Was never super crazy about the combat in The Witcher, but I did always really like the ways in which preparation and research could result in some fascinating ways for a battle to unfold. I really enjoyed specializing in bombs and poisons when the swordplay ground me down a bit.

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A bit late to the party, but I've recently begun a new playthrough of TW3 after setting it aside once I beat the main quest 4 years ago. In those 4 years I discovered the SoulsBorne games and platinumed all of them except Demon's Souls and spent literally thousands of hours in PVP. SoulsBorne is my idea of rewarding skill-based combat. It can be punishing, but it's always fair. When you die, you know you deserved it. TW3 has similar mechanics to a SoulsBorne title, but in each of those instances it fails to live up. Now I'm enjoying my new playthrough and find the combat to be better than I remember, but I've also identified some areas where TW3 needs improvement. DISCLAIMER: I play on PC with a controller.

OK. Deep breath...

1. Quick item selection. SoulsBorne has no pause. You access all your stuff in real-time. Your quick item slots let you rapidly cycle through numerous equipped weapons, spells, potions, and tools. You're never forced to interrupt the flow of action with clumsy menu navigation. In TW3, I often find myself rummaging through my inventory or radial wheel to find the right oil/decoction for the threat at hand. Even worse, you have to pause the game to switch between bomb/crossbow/sign usage. On top of that, even if you have the right potion equipped, if it isn't already selected in your quick slot, you have to press and hold to cycle to it, then you have to press again to use it. Try doing that at low health while dodging a pack of drowners on Death March. It's incredibly disruptive to the flow of combat. Unless you have all the right things equipped/applied beforehand, you'll be forced to dive into the menus multiple times while in combat, or just make due with the basic dodge/counter pattern and whatever you have assigned to your special attack which can get old. Clumsyfeelsbadman.

2. Weapon variety. In TW3 you play as Geralt. A specific character who fights with essentially 2 identical swords. That alone dramatically limits your playstyle. After vesting thousands of hours into SoulsBorne, you'd be spoiled by that series' knack for offering a wide variety of playstyles based upon weapon choice. In SoulsBorne you can equip up to 4-6 different weapons depending on the game, each of which might prove more effective than the others under certain circumstances. Admittedly there are a few options other than swords in TW3, but none of them are ever optimal. I can give this one a pass though since in TW3 you're playing as a specific character.

3. Parry and riposte. In SoulsBorne, parrying is a risky move that requires precise timing but rewards you with a deadly riposte. Parry windows in TW3 are much more forgiving and come with a commensurate drop in riposte lethality. Hewing closer to SoulsBorne's implementation can bring much needed satisfaction to TW3's combat.

4. Stamina management. This is a mechanic SoulsBorne players are intimately familiar with. Efficient management of this resource is something that comes with practice and can mean the difference between glorious victory and utter destruction. TW3 has stamina, but it replenishes so quickly you have to wonder why it's even in there. The system is so forgiving that the player can spam attack and dodge without worry. It lacks the feeling of tactical mastery that SoulsBorne achieves.

5. Enemy attack tells and animation priority. SoulsBorne does this so well. Like many games, an enemy can attack in numerous ways each with variable range and windup. This requires careful observation from the player to read and respond to. However, unlike many games, SoulsBorne loves to punish mistakes with massive damage. The player can react, but should that be a parry, a quick light attack then dodge to safety, or a slow heavy attack that might rely on hyperarmor frames(weapon dependent)? Whatever they choose, they commit to it and are locked into that action and outcome. Skilled play is the result of good judgement carried out many times per encounter. TW3 is very forgiving in this area as well, allowing Geralt to cancel many of his mistimed attacks allowing him to escape punishment for poor decisions. This lowers the skill ceiling and corresponding level of satisfaction upon mastery.


Having said all that, I still enjoy TW3's combat. For an open-world RPG, it does combat very well even with its many shortcomings. IMO, combat in The Witcher series has steadily improved with each installment. If the next Witcher game's combat mechanics show the same level of refinement over the previous entry, I think we'll be very happy with the result.

WHEW. All that typing, and I'm sure only my Nana will read this. Hi, Nana!

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deactivated-5ed7db3f7c897

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1. It's not weighty enough

2. It's 'batman-esqu' without being as good. if you're going to mimic a gameplay style, it will always be criticised if it is inferior.

It is still an incredible game and one of the best of the generation.

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Justin258

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I won't argue that Skyrim's combat is good, but it has a whole hell of a lot more variety to it. Don't like swords? Cool, you never have to touch one. Would rather keep your distance? Great, invest in bows, stealth, and defensive magics. It's hardly perfect and some play styles are more varied than others, but at least there's variety and a pretty damn good upgrade path for you to move along.

Meanwhile, The Witcher 3 is mostly swords, sometimes grenades, sometimes magic. Ok, fine, you can equip axes, but you aren't going to be using them the entire game. If you don't like rolling and swords, you're not going to like TW3's combat.

On another note, both games benefit greatly from thinking about and then executing on a character build over the course of a hundred hours, NOT from the moment to moment combat. It's way more satisfying to shoot a bow in Skyrim when you've been working toward your stealthy orc illusion mage archer who dabbles in potions.

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nutter

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@thegame983: Weird. I thought most people thought it was too weighty.

I’m a weighty controls guy, so I’m very happy with the gameplay.

While Skyrim is great, and I’ve been playing Bethesda games since Daggerfall, it always felt too much like a sword attached to a camera, for my liking.

I like my shooters to feel like Chronicles of Riddick, Killzone 2, or Wolfenstein The New Order.

At the end of the day, it’s a preference. There are scores of things that go into making a game great, and I’m cool playing very twitchy or weighty games, as long as the total package is a good time.

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Casepb

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It always felt slow and weak to me. Usually when you're that slow you feel stronger. The goofy ragdoll animations never did it any favors either.

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emprpngn

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I like both, though I probably prefer TES at the end of the day. To me they're trying to accomplish two very different things and aren't neatly comparable.

The strength of TES is in the wide variety of approaches you can take with any situation. You could use illusion and conjuration and never have to touch an actual weapon. If you really wanted to, you could just be a traveling alchemical merchant and avoid quests involving combat altogether. That level of openness appeals to me despite the relative lack of depth in melee combat.

The Witcher series is very narrow in that it's telling the story of Geralt and all of the RPG elements are in service to that character. While you can spec towards melee or alchemy or signs, at the end of the day you're a monster hunter with a highly defined set of tools. I'm not sure that being able to spam dodge/roll is that different from the myriad ways to cheese fights in Souls games, though I only ever played the first Dark Souls, so take that as you will.

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Sahalarious

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I think there are some very uninteresting builds in Witcher 3 that can leave you with the simplest combat available for starters. Secondly, and the reason I think many GB crew found it dull, is normal difficulty is preposterously easy. While Death March is tough early on, I can't imagine not playing on it. I always use a bombs and oils based build on death March, and the amount of though and prep that goes into each fight is supremely interesting. I think games like dark souls have it right with one single difficulty that feels tuned to make you utilize your entire arsenal, and I think Death March is the optimal way to play Witcher 3.

I played way more Skyrim, but almost always end up as a sneak/archery build cause it kills so fast and I hate the actual combat. Having played close to a thousannd hours of elder scrolls games, and about 300 of Witcher 3, I can say I prefer Witcher combat and story by a mile. To each their own though and anyone playing on easier settings for accessibility reasons I'm happy for, just think you'd miss out on a lot of that game if you ignore the alchemy and crafting like I tend to ignore in ES games.

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OurSin_360

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No clue, it's pretty damn good IMO. I remember the Witcher 2 got the same criticism after awhile, but at first it was being compared to Dark Souls at the time. *shrugs*

I like skyrim's combat even though it gets mashy and random, but it does a good job of first person melee IMO.

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Ungodly

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I feel like the problem comes from how long the game is, and how good the writing is. For me, I really liked getting in to the prepping, but as I got more invested in the story I was ready to just bang it out to get back to the tale. So for me it was fine in small doses, but got tedious on hour thirty and on.

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Humanity

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I thought the combat was fairly stiff and uninvolved. I used the same few moves from beginning to finish if we're not counting the signs. It also felt a lot more stiff than I would have preferred. I mean I enjoyed the game quite a bit, but combat was never my favorite part of it.

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Tom_omb

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Involved isn't necessarily better, depending on your tastes. I liked how satisfying stealth kills were with the bow in Skyrim, it felt good to get insane damage. It may have been super trivialized at a point, but it freed me up to do the exploring and questing I wanted to do. Witcher 3 just felt tedious and annoying. I probably could have used more potions, or whatever, but I didn't have to because I just cheesed every fight by rolling around a bunch. Including the final boss. It got to the point where I wasn't having fun at all and I just rushed through the main story till the end.

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Casepb

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So I just finished Blood and Wine and quite a few times while in combat I yelled profanities. The majority of the time it was due to the input response delay. I would hit block or dodge and it just wouldn't happen the first time and I would get hit causing some mild frustration. I noticed this happens a lot outside of combat as well. The game has some odd input delay going on. Moving Geralt and Roach always felt janky as well. I always felt like my input actions and the game were never in sync. I'm very much hoping Cyberpunk 2077 does not have this input delay. I can already see the PC gamer uproar due to mouse input lag lol.

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Rebel_Scum

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Skyrim at least has variety in its combat. You can play in different styles, it has more options.

And using a staff to conjure a Storm Atronach, then conjuring two demora lords whilst firing arrows from my bow using the slow motion shout never gets old.

I'm playing TW3 right now and am only a few hours in but the combat is not that bad. I do get annoyed by R3 locking on characters because I keep clicking it accidentally and keep losing focus on the enemies. Apart from that nothing else bothers me too much.

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doctordonkey

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For me it was because it was coming directly off of Bloodborne, which had released less than 2 months prior. Going from that to Witcher 3 was really jarring. I understand that Witcher 3 has a hell of a lot more going on than just combat, so it isn't fair to chastise it too hard in comparison to Bloodborne, but it was really hard to warm up to it after playing nothing but BB for a month straight.