Further impressions from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - Gaming Thoughts

To allay some of the confusion surrounding and to elaborate upon my initial review of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt for the PlayStation 4 I felt it prudent to create this here follow-up post. It will hopefully address some of the concerns that our readers have expressed with the previous review. However, prior to getting into it I will start off by saying this: my review still stands. In its shipped state, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is an experience best skipped. We review titles as they come, based on our experiences and the 6.25 Wild Hunt review, while painful for even me to admit (I desperately wanted to score it better) is in our opinion, deserved. We may in the future, revisit the review after CD Projekt Red is able to provide updates that bring the PlayStation 4 version into a more stable state; until then we have no intention of reviewing a game based on what it could be, instead we will review it based on what it currently is.

In my previous review I spent a significant amount of time hashing over the fact that two characters across multiple saves were functionally lost. Between those two save games I had invested just over 64 hours of time (which is no small amount of gameplay) and while I was assaulted with technical issues, I was still slogging through the game as the story is just that good. However, no amount of writing can save a game that forces you into repeated loadings, lost data, nor the never-ending frustration of having your game crash on a regular and near-constant basis. That is a hard pill to swallow, especially for someone that has been playing roleplaying games since the original Final Fantasy came out.

Some folks seem hung up on the concept of "the reviewer should have known better and kept multiple saves" and to a point I agree, but when is enough actually enough? Should I, as a gamer, have to make backups of backups of backups because development studios release buggy applications? Is it now my fault that a product was shipped in a state that could cause this type of behavior? My personal rotation in this world of auto-saving is to use the auto-save function plus rotate between two manual save slots; now I know I need to have a half-dozen saves standing by at any time just so I can play through a game. Honestly, I should not have to accommodate more than just a few saves just because I should be an apologetic gamer and "just know that open world games will be buggy." The fact is bugs are a part of gaming, they will happen but they should NOT be buggy to the point where forward progression halts and gameplay is lost.

Others were under the impression that I did not complete the game and after reviewing the article , I can see why that is; I fully admit that I spent time on the technical flaws that I ran into that ultimately resulted in Wild Hunt receiving such a low score. I as a reviewer, could have spent a bit more time talking about the utterly fantastic vistas that you will see (sans texture pop-in and falling through the world) if you meditate until 4:00 AM so you can see the sun rise over the horizon. Those points are certainly impressive and even after spending 100+ hours with the game (via an additional character that I created), every single sunrise is just as gorgeous as the next. I have said it before and I will say it again, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is by far the best looking game on current generation consoles.

Even with the 'dumbing down' of the graphics that everyone is up in arms about, it is STILL better looking than any of the competition. The fact that it is a pretty game with really weird textures for people that are wet in cutscenes, does not excuse the fact that it is a buggy game. Attempting to communicate with merchants, blacksmiths, armorers, alchemists or herbalists that are standing behind a counter is near impossible as Geralt will undoubtedly ignite/extinguish a candle or inadvertently loot something (which ends with you being attacked by heavily armed guards, often resulting in your death). This particular issues is extremely troublesome since you will spend a ton of time speaking to vendors to sell your loot; when you cannot actually click on them it becomes a tedious and recurring problem. While CD Projekt Red has announced that they will address this in a future patch I reviewed a game in its current state, not the state that it may be at some point in the future.

A point that has been brought up and one I wholly agree with, is that I could have touched on the progression of the Witcher series, mentioning any particular improvements that have been made over the previous titles. I admit, I should have said that Witcher 3 feels better as a whole. It is more fluid, more realistic, and far grittier than previous titles. However, at the time the previous titles were released, they too felt "more fluid, more realistic, and far grittier" than others released at the time, so to me, it is all relative. With the evolution of technology, an industry-wide expectation has arisen that so too should games feel adequately "next-gen." Wild Hunt certainly fits the bill unless you are talking about its absolutely horrendous swimming mechanics (that caused me to skip where I could all of the swimming-related quests on my third playthrough), the abhorrent horse pathfinding capabilities (racing was an absolute chore at times as Roach would willy-nilly run off the track when you would come up to a split/crossroad, thus disqualifying you), or the fact that for all of Geralt saying that "This is a fight… not ballet" you will undoubtedly watch as Geralt twirls and ripostes with the grace of a, you guessed it, dancer as he flips and twirls and pokes about with his swords. While the combat is no bone-crunching dance in the same fashion that Sleeping Dogs or the Batman games are, the game still contradicts itself by providing you with fluid and artful moves as you move in on your prey.

In both Witcher and Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings combat felt far more rooted, dirtier, and each hit felt far harder, whether you were receiving that hit or giving it. Not so with Witcher 3 but that does not mean that it is not excellent, it absolutely is. I have rarely felt so empowered, or excited to see a large group of bandits that I can wade into and with well-timed dodges, parries, and strikes, simply decimate (or be brutally pounded by) the enemy. Feeling empowered and excited about combat can only go so far though when you are battling not only a challenging enemy but piss-poor camera control and that you have to step carefully due to the fact that every step comes with the fear of falling through the world because whole sections of the area have not loaded yet. The one thing that I think I missed the most in the progression from Assassin of Kings to Wild Hunt is that Assassin of Kings had traps that you could lay (essentially bombs that sat on the ground until the bad guys walked over them). In Witcher 3 you get a handful of grenades, which are great, but there were dozens of instances where I was like "man, I would love to lay a trap right now…" It is not terrible without those items, but could certainly benefit from allowing you to choose a grenade OR a trap (it would also open up a whole new way to play the game and that is good, right?).

For those that are not yet aware (which I can imagine there is only a few), Witcher 3 is huge. One could easily spend upwards of 200+ hours on the hardest difficult (aptly named "Death March") trying to complete it to 100%. The core game can take anywhere from 35-45 hours depending on your playstyle and after the first two save games went by the wayside (though I still hope that a fix is made for my glitched game on "The Oxenfurt Drunk"), I was able to beat the game in 40 1/2 hours.

That is by no means a short game, even by RPG standards, and it is full of quests that actually give you an emotional response, whether that is a kick in the feels regarding certain red-heads or as you struggle to help a brother or sister or even a father avenge his son or a kick in the man-bits regarding certain glitches in the game, you WILL feel something in Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and that is what video games are all about. Side quests are numerous and while they all tend to follow the same formula of finding the contract giver, searching an area, killing a monster, and returning to contract giver to collect rewards, each quest tells a slightly different story and even after putting so many hours into the game, I do not get tired of it. What I get tired of is being unable to turn in quests because characters are simply floating heads that you cannot click on or that you go to click on said NPC and end up stealing a candlestick and thus are beaten to a bloody pulp by the local guardsman. The concept of taking a trophy off of a Witcher hunt is great! Riding Roach at a gallop to have him take a sudden turn into the woods which then causes him to fall through the world is not so great.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has plenty shining examples of how to do things right. From a rich and vibrant world full of quests and characters that actually mean something to some of the best views in video games, Wild Hunt could have it all. On the flip side though, my experiences with Wild Hunt have been deeply blackened and leave the sour bite of bile on the back of my tongue due to dozens of hours lost because the game was simply not ready to be published yet. I for one was reverently awaiting The Witcher 3's release and took CD Projekt Red's initial delay as a good thing, that they were taking the time to iron out the kinks. As of right now, I do not see that being the case. As I mentioned in my previous review, we review based on our experiences and between three characters, two lost to technical deficiencies that are showing up in forums and reviews the world over and the last save, the one that I beat the game with being riddled with struggles and bugs. While there is plenty in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt to do and it can be an excellent ride, it is in its current state, an absolute chore to get through it.

Article by Robert
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