The First Few Hours: The Witcher 3

I want to write but I’m in a bit of a medication-induced brain-fog, and in any event I feel like it’s too soon for me to talk about The Witcher 3.  Even though I have a specific blog category that’s literally called “the first few hours“, and even though I’ve played maybe 1-2 hours of it so far – very deliberately and slowly – I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface’s surface of what Witcher 3 is all about.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of the entire Witcher franchise.  I own the first two Witcher games on PC:  I played through the three different openings of Witcher 1 and thought it was interesting, maybe a little cumbersome, and figured I’d get back to it at some point (but never did); I tried playing Witcher 2, both before and after the big patch that added a tutorial section, and while I was certainly impressed with the world-building (and the world itself), I couldn’t actually get past how obtuse its mechanics were.  Most of what I know about the Witcher franchise was from listening to old Giant Bombcasts.

So I’m really only able to judge this game – or at least form my own first impressions – on its own merits.  And even then, I feel like I should wait until the first few patches come out.  The first mega-patch is supposedly on its way towards the PS4 next week, and another patch that would fix the incredibly small text is in the works.  I’ve not yet run into any terrible bugs, though in some of the “detective” quests I tend to get stuck because I can’t find the last highlighted item, which sometimes requires a restart from the last save.

Here’s what I can say in the very limited time that I’ve spent with it:

  • really like how the conversation system isn’t so obviously skewed towards “good” and “evil” responses.  It’s much easier for me to simply respond as I’d like and see what happens – in other words, I can actually “role-play”, because I’m not constrained by any sort of artificial morality slider that I’m trying to skew.  Whenever I’ve played other games like Mass Effect or KOTOR or Fable or the like, I deliberately lean heavily to one side and then, if the game’s worthy enough of a 2nd run, I’ll play that 2nd run all the way to the other side.  Here, though, I’m happy to simply answer questions in the way I’d like – mostly positive and supportive, in the dozen or so conversations I’ve had thus far – and I’ve not felt like I missed something important as a result.  Maybe I have – maybe I’ve already cut myself off of half a dozen side-quests – but there’s already so much to do and see and explore that I’m not going to worry about it.
  • Even though I’m still in the very first tutorial town, the people I’ve met and helped out have been far more diverse and interesting than possibly all the people I met in Dragon Age: Inquisition.   I’d rather not spoil this, so I’ll just say that talking to everyone is ultimately a rewarding experience, and seeing the world react to conversations I’ve had with random people is incredibly gratifying.  And if the writing is this deep, this quickly, then BOY OH BOY.
  • The melee combat system seems mostly intuitive and familiar, though it’s going to take me some time to get used to the magic signs – I just wish they’d use “Fire” instead of whatever made-up word they’re using.  One might argue that using English words would ruin the immersion, but I counter that argument by saying that me fumbling through a menu and squinting to read the description of each spell is absolutely more disruptive than if they just said “Fire” or “Defense” or “Push” or whatever.  In any event, in my 1-2 hours or so, I’ve only ever used magic by accident.  (Though, in fairness, it did help kill the griffin.)

I’ve only had two play sessions with it thus far; the first night was kind of just a warm-up, getting a feel for the controls and the world, and I turned it off because I was tired and I wasn’t 100% sure I knew where I wanted to go next.  The second night – last night – I turned it off because I knew that if I didn’t, I’d be marathoning it and calling in sick to work and I’d probably still be playing it right now.  Now I understand that I have to be careful going forward, because tomorrow is my 11th wedding anniversary and we’re going house-hunting and buying some toys for the 2-year-old, and if I get sucked into The Witcher right now I’m going to be sleeping on the couch.

(Well, the couch is where the PS4 is, so….)


Author: Jeremy Voss

Musician, wanna-be writer, suburban husband and father. I'll occasionally tweet from @couchshouts. You can find me on XBL, PSN and Steam as JervoNYC.

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