This was written in response to a lot of pre-accusations about Witcher before launch, for around launch. This isn't a review, our review is here, and this article is pro-Witcher, not against.
There are lies in the world of Witcher III that are so huge that I can't stand it. After playing to completion and finishing most sub-quests, getting a few hours of sleep, and trying to massage save files to different endings, it's gotten to a point that I can't stand some of the rhetoric that's been out about the game, both in an official capacity and other rumors.
I love the game and it's one of my favorite games of all time. So much so that I'm at like, I don't know, 35 hours played since launch according to GOG (this was on the original post, I've had over 70 now and have been making updates where needed)? I've barely slept, I've barely ate, I've just sat here stuck to the screen playing and playing and playing. So by all means, this isn't a negative article saying the game sucks, it's just that the perception people are giving is all wrong.
I had to quit playing like... 8 times just to finish this article. I kept alt-tabbing in, so again, by no means am I saying it's a bad game, just that what people are saying or were saying before launch is crazy. Again, I love Witcher 3, this is to clarify a lot of the things that people are saying about the game.
Here are the top five whoopers I've been hearing:
Lie #1: The Game World is Notably Huge as in The Biggest Game World in Existance
The developers touted this loud from the rooftops since E3 last year and while, let's get this right, the game is bigger, it's not notably big. There is only "one" large open world map, Velen, a smaller one that the main story briefly takes you through, Skellige, and the rest are sort of smaller mini-maps. It's "open world" in the sense that you're no longer constricted to a few large maps to play in - oh wait, yeah, there are a few large maps to play in. These maps are just much, much larger.
Before launch, we were shown some really huge maps, but after actually playing them, they're very very small. You can move across Velen in about... a few minutes? It's not like Skyrim's world where going somewhere is this epic mountain climbing adventure. You follow a road and you're there. The world is very, very flat. There isn't much vertical, it's all horizontal.
So it might be more kilometers than GTA 5, but GTA 5 is much bigger to me when I play it and perception matters more than statistics. I don't care what anyone else believes on this, in my opinion as someone who has played from Daggerfall to WoW, the world size isn't notable.
Now, to add, it's the right size. Things are close to each other. A Skyrim quest may involve a half hour of traveling, here I can sprint easily to any location. I'm very happy with the size, but this isn't some gameworld that made me go WOW ITS SO BIG. An Assassin's Creed city may take me 5 or 10 minutes to move through, but I felt like I was 20 seconds away.
NOW THAT IS GOOD GAME DESIGN THOUGH! There is so many steps to so many of these quests, being crunched in like it is, it's a good thing. Most of the "open world" in Witcher is just flat marshes with lots of trees, but to make it bigger they'd need... more marshes and more trees, unless they went more complex like Skyrim style mountains to climb.
Update: After playing a lot more, I still don't see the game world's size as being notable. It's big, much bigger than previous Witcher games, but I still don't feel that epicness of Skyrim where I spent 30 minutes climbing a single mountain. It feels small still, but the right amount of size. The game doesn't force travel as a method of making your time elapse. This is a good thing, again, that the world isn't as huge as they say it's supposed to be.
Additional Update: I am not in any way disappointed with the size of the game world and I think it is fitting for the game, but it's just not as big as I thought. It might be bigger than Skyrim in some capacity, maybe in metrics, but Skyrim took forever to transverse and the land felt more used. In Witcher 3 the land is condensed, which is great because you don't have to spend your entire game traveling around, but at the same time, I do not feel the hugeness "bigger than other games" exists as other media outlets put it.
Final Update: To clarify one last time, before launch people were saying "O-M-G, the world is sooooooooo big" and when I played it and have played it to completion, and have had time to think about it, the world no matter how physically big, isn't something that made me go oh my god this is insanely huge. It could be physically much bigger than other worlds, but it's not World of Warcraft big, it's not Morrowind big, it's not something that I sat down and said to myself, this is insanely huge. It's actually the perfect size for the game, which is much better than it being big for bigs sake like a game like Morrowind. However, the rumors before launch were that the game world was going to be so huge it was going to blow you away and compared to previous Witcher games it was a night / day difference in size. However, considering you can move through the world so quickly and Geralt walks much faster than heroes in other games (Fallout's world is quite small, but it feels huge since you move at a snails pace).
Lie #2: The Game is Depressing - It's Full of Miserable Sad Content
Please game journalists everywhere play like... past the prologue? Maybe play past 5 hours in the game? Most of the game is hilarious comedy and happiness with dancing and bar fights and jokes and pals. Large swaths of the game take place in happy metropolitan areas and half the time no matter what you're making people's lives better.
The only sad and depressing parts are in the bog really, and that's a short duration of time in the game to be doing much of anything. Let's be honest with ourselves here and let's be honest with everyone else here - the game isn't that gosh darn depressing, get over yourselves.
Update: After playing more of the game, I can say for sure that most of the game is happy and at most stays in that Witcher-esq grey area that the series is known for. This isn't a happy or sad game, it's a game involving Humans, and that's a great thing for it.
Final Update: In the few days before launch, game's journalists only were playing the first part (White Orchard) and in their pre-release comments they would say the game was insanely depressing, because they had only played some of the earlier depressing parts before they understood the grey neutral world of Witcher (everything is both good and bad and inbetween, there isn't a right and a wrong that is clearly defined). Additionally, up until this point, at E3 2014 CDPR had only shown the part with the three ladies, which is one of the more depressing / creepy parts of the game. The game isn't that depressing, which everyone well knows now.
I'm sorry, I guess Skyrim is the happiest game in the world. You know, the game where dragons stop in more than Kramer does on Seinfeld.
Lie #3: The Combat is Something Notable - It's Brand New and Redefines the Industry
Sorry it's not and never has been. It's good, but let's just take a moment to examine the fact that Witcher III is basically Assassin's Creed style combat, except you pull a physical crossbow out instead of ya know, a wrist mounted pistol or a flintlock pistol or throwing knives.
Oh and Geralt drives like a f'n tank, like you're in World War II with a grumpy old man whose is wonked out on Prozac trying to turn around to see what this youngin behind him is doing. That makes combat so much fun, you know, because if you're going too fast he's got to stop and roleplay like walking around proper like, can't just break the laws of physics like his infinite bolt crossbow.
I'm sorry, Witcher III combat is good, but it's not industry defining. There isn't something amazing about it. It has problems and Geralt moves like every console designed character does - like a tank.
If you love the combat, please do me a favor, play a little bit more or on a higher difficulty. You'll find it's clunky and tough to use. It's good, it's serviceable, but it's not industry defining.
Dying Light's combat, for instance, to me is superior, along with the movement are superior to me. However, the game is more story than combat. Fights are short and few and far between, so whatever, the game is still amazing in my eyes.
Do note: The game's combat is good, just not notable. That's important, a lot of games have good combat, but don't bring anything new to the table.
Final Update: Before launch, people were saying that the combat was a variety of different things it wasn't. When I got my hands on the game, the combat was very good but it wasn't anything new. It was iteration, not invention. This means that the combat isn't out of this world.
Lie #4: This Game Is Not Similar to Assassin's Creed / Skyrim - It's a Brand New Genre Defining Game None Like It
It literally f'in is and if you want to disagree with me you can. I love AC games and this is a pretty good AC game. Geralt just can't parkour, but whatever he's got the horse, he's got the weapons, and he's got the same mission structure. Three cities, got to each and do their long story quests. Return when finished to go through some new areas.
So yeah sorry it's pretty much way more AC than Skyrim. Give it a few days folks and some time, you'll see the similarities a lot more. This isn't a bad thing.
To clarify a bit more, by saying it's Assassin's Creed, I'm simply saying the combat is generic console type combat where someone attacks and you counter (either by dodging then attacking or counterattacking). This is common in games and only in one boss battle did I feel that the combat was very fluid (when me and a boss kept dodging each other and it was very beautiful). This is really kind of a good thing, because you take a lot of risk reinventing the wheel, but Witcher 3 didn't reinvent the wheel.
Update: Before launch, people were saying this game redefined the genre and didn't have all of these things from other RPGs. It's very similar to other RPGs, it pulls and iterates on a lot of forms. In a game like the original Assassin's Creed you had three cities you had to go to it, in Witcher III you have three areas you have to go to. Once you complete tasks in each of the cities, which vary but are similar, you then go on a journey throughout all three areas until your final destination, where the truth is revealed to you. It's hard to line it all up without spoiling. This is fine, this is completely fine, it's normal, and it's good for a game - it's just not specifically what people were saying about the game before launch.
Lie #5: The Game Isn't Buggy at Launch - It Launched Bug Free w/o Issue
The game is so buggy at launch, I've got a few corrupt savefiles where the main quest won't move forward. I've had about 20+ crashes. NPCs constantly spawn in weird places. Some AC:Unity style weapons will fly around. The game is buggy. It's not perfect, it's not as bad as AC:Unity, but it's not 100% fully polished there are no bugs and it doesn't need more updates to come. Thankfully CDPR are really good about keeping things updated and are a very respected team.
Update: The game is obviously way less buggy than launch, but at launch it was very buggy, but CDPR worked their butts off to fix it.
Since that's short...
One more thing, about the Baron real quick (spoilers spoilers), you don't sympathize with him and condone his actions. He redeems himself and Geralt will only go as far as to say they both deserve each other. I could be wrong, but I did try to "understand him" the most, and all I got was "you deserve each other" from a superhuman mutant with his emotions ripped out. (This is a good thing.) I have much more issues with the ability to let one person go later in the game, who is far more deserving, but thankfully the game corrects your mistakes giving him a far more miserable life than if you were to have just... let him die.
Anyway that's the things that bother me.
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