Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Why I will play The Witcher 3 to the end and be sad when it is done

I will never, never tell someone that their opinion is wrong. This is not an altruistic act but one of self defense as I often hold the dissenting view and very much enjoy hiding behind the banner of 'well, that's just your opinion, man.' Perhaps while holding a white russian.

That guy, you know that guy, got out of his box last week and vented about E3. He wasn't as happy about the big announcements as everyone else and needed to let anyone within ear shot know how he felt. I thought I put him back but it looks like he slunk over to The Games of Chance and talked about The Witcher 3 for a while. I need to talk to that guy about his effort level, though, as his rant here was full of typos and questionable grammar and over there, hmph, pristine.

The statement is simple: for all The Witcher 3 has to offer it is not fun to play, therefore why should he play it at all. It is beautiful to look at and listen to but as soon as any interaction takes place, from walking around in it to killing things, it falls apart. 

I think this is insane but it is not wrong, the difference being the ability to cordon off the good from the bad. Is the combat bad? Not as bad as Chance says, but it does boil down to dodge - dodge - stab for monsters and parry - parry - stab for humans. This is a man who would marry Bloodborne if it were allowed so being turned off by simple, disconnected combat is not a surprise. For me, it's not why I'm there, it's not why I came to this party, so I will get through it as efficiently as possible and move on the good stuff, the morally grey decisions in which no one wins and Garelt scowls.

On higher difficulty levels combat becomes more desperate and reliant on preparation, the right oils and potions making all the difference. I played the game on normal because I am bad at games and I suspect Chance did as well so the meat the of the system was never revealed, much less required. What he experienced was not a good time, full stop.

Some games are for looking at and some games are for playing. It is the rare gem that manages to do both. If this sounds cynical, good, and shame on you for hoping otherwise. The Witcher 3, just like the second game (and what little I played of the first) is definitely for looking at and listening to. The world building is tremendously detailed; I can almost smell the slums of Novigrad and feel the chill in air of Skellige. Walking through the environment is a pleasure it itself when Garelt is not getting hung up on level geometry or Roche is clipping though the hillside after being called or any of the other collection of problems/bugs, some of which I have cataloged in this very space.

The game does break down, often, but my mind skips right over the problems in anticipation of the next bit of story or dialogue or chance to be mentally abused by Yennifer. This was a conscious choice: I overlooked the bad because it wasn't that bad and because what was good was so good. The game is for looking at and I was going to look at everything it would show me.

...and it was, shall we say, eager to show it all as long I could get past its blemishes.

Time to retreat from that line of thought as it is getting creepy. My Garelt was almost celibate. Almost.

So why the 91 on Metacritic? I was going to say that most reviewers came to it the same why I did and could accept that the good far outweighs the bad, but then again Bloodborne, a game that I hated for the whole hour and a half I managed to play it, clocks in at a 92. They are not as dissimilar as it would appear: both games are dark, inscrutable fantasies, the difference being that The Witcher 3 wants the player to see the game and Bloodborne wants to beat the player's ass for peaking at its inadvertently exposed ankle.

Different targets, same result. Some people love them and others hate them with very few people landing in the middle. It just so happens that I fall in with the rank and file regarding The Witcher 3, having played it to almost the very end and dreading its eventual completion. So is Chance wrong? No, but he isn't right, either. It's just his opinion, man. I believe The Witcher 3 to be a flawed masterpiece, one that requires some sacrifice on the player's part to get the full experience. In other words, deal with the clunky combat, it is less than 10% of the game and the rest is more than worth it.

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