Ok, so first off: a confession. See, once I’d sat through the intro of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (which was pretty cool, btw), I came to my first big decision and – in a way that didn’t bode particularly well for the rest of my experience in general – I agonised over it for fucking ages. Like, a full half an hour. That decision was, of course, difficulty and…..well, it was difficult. I’ll freely admit I’m not the best Gamer in the world, but normally when I’m choosing a difficulty, there are several factors I’ll take into consideration; my experience with the genre (or franchise), whether I want to write a review quickly, how “big” the game is, how tired I am (a tired James often equates to an overly rubbish and/or rage-quitting James), and indeed, what the objectively perceived difficulty of the game in question is.
As I’ve already explained, my “experience” with this particular genre is essentially nil, but then I wasn’t really worrying about getting a review out quickly, I wasn’t overly tired (not more than usual, anyways), so I decided to do a bit of research into the whole “objectively perceived difficulty” stuff – hoping that’d help me make a choice.
And to be honest, it just made things worse. I’d be reading some comments on a discussion board, for example, and it’d seem like the general consensus was that the The Witcher 3 was a piece of piss, but just as I’d be about to go back to the game and choose one of the higher difficulties, I’d read on and there’d be a qualifier like “Yeah, it only took me a few hours to beat each boss”!!!!! A few fucking hours for each boss!! Each boss! To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, fuck that for a laugh!
Indeed, as I read more closely, there seemed to be an implied sense that this game was relatively easy: and that it was relatively easy compared to notoriously difficult games like Bloodborne and Dark Souls. As an RPG n00b, saying The Witcher 3 is easy because it’s not as hard as Demon/Dark Souls is akin to saying the Sahara desert is pleasantly balmy because it’s not the surface of the fucking Sun: and in absolutely no way, shape or form is that the same thing as saying it’s objectively easy. Again – bollocks to that. So, I read on. And on. Eventually I came to this article, which makes a great argument for playing The Witcher 3 on an easy setting (at least initially), and providing exactly the kind of confirmation bias I was looking for, I leapt on that shit like a Griffin leaps on a carcass.
Which is a fairly long-winded way of explaining how and why I’m now playing The Witcher 3 on the second easiest setting. I appreciate that might make me something of a laughing stock, that it’ll certainly lose me some respect, but hey, I’m a n00b and I’m rubbish, so if I lose some respect but it means I don’t end up having a rage aneurysm every five minutes that, folks, is a price I’m willing to pay.
Anyhoo – after about 10ish hours of playing, that seems like it might’ve been a good decision because – to be frank – I had quite enough shit to get to grips with, thankyouverymuch. Indeed, after 10 hours I was still getting tutorials on a fairly regular basis and at one point, I found myself wondering if I should perhaps go and get some kind of RPG qualification before I went any further. Turns out they don’t exist, so I had no option but to plough on, but Holy Shitsticks there’s a lot of different balls to juggle in The Witcher – and honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me if at some point there was an actual “juggling” tutorial in there too. I mean, I’m basically ok with most of the stuff individually – having come across them separately in other games – but having so many different mechanics in one place felt quite daunting at times. I know mastering all the various tricks at your disposal is part of the game – but all the oils/potions/weapons/amor/runes/signs/upgrades/bombs/what colour underwear you’re wearing balancing stuff is quite complicated – especially if you’re a n00b.
And the reading. Oh God, the reading! I actually enjoy reading and I’m pretty fast at it, but wowsers….. I’m pretty sure I’ve read actual fantasy series that contained fewer words than the bits and pieces I’ve read through in The Witcher in just the beginning section. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of it was interesting, and a lot more of it was definitely useful, but I found myself rapidly slipping into “yada, yada, yada…..something, something, something….blah, blah, blah” mode as I skimmed through yet another mahoosive document. Even worse, I sort of knew some of the stuff was – or possibly would be – important, and I started to panic because I knew I wouldn’t stand a chance of remembering it all. Sure, I can return to it to re-read, but such was the sheer volume of stuff thrown at me that even remembering which pieces contained which pieces of pertinent information seemed like an impossible task. I mean, rationally I get that RPG games are often about “World Building” in the same way Fantasy Fiction is – and that you can’t really do backstory etc without text – but still…them’s a lot of words, guys.
That said, however, I found the non-reading bits of my first few hours reasonably good fun. Hacking and slashing my way across the first map was quite satisfying, and quite therapeutic too. I quite like the mechanics, and I’ve had a good time dicking around with my various skills – seeing what works well against which enemies. I’m still a long, long way off mastering them and comboing the shit out of stuff, but I’m hoping that’ll all come with practice (and a few more upgrades). Outside of combat, however, I’m finding Geralt somewhat…. clumsy, I guess? I mean, this is a dude that’s spent years training in speed and agility, yet when he’s not fighting, he’s got the turning circle of the Titanic. This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, but when you’re trying to loot a pile of barrels or whatnot, it can take fucking ages to get him in the right position to do so, and I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time literally going round in circles.
In terms of the Narrative, I’m not totally invested in the story or characters just yet, but I’m starting to get there. Some of the bigger story elements are just beginning to intrigue me, and I’m quite liking the “Dark, Menacing force…” type mystery so far. I also think the country ravaged by war device is working quite well too, and it certainly helps make everything a bit more tense and dangerous – particularly when it comes to encounters, and conversations, and whatnot. If I say the wrong thing am I going to inadvertently set off a horrific chain of events? Will that little sarcastic comment come back to bite me in the ass? Or – conversely – is it going to get Geralt laid, given he seems to be quite the hit with the ladies? I’m currently trying to maintain an ambitiously heroic/altruistic persona (not accepting payment from people who don’t have much, doing good deeds, not taking advantage of Geralt’s sex appeal, etc) but I’m wondering how long I’ll be able to keep that up, or indeed if I want to keep it up. We’ll see soon enough, I suppose!?
And that, ladies and Gentlemen, just about sums up my first 10(ish) hours of RPGing in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The Rage Quit Total currently stands at zero, though I’d just come across my first real bad-ass as I was running out of time yesterday, so that number might well go up within an hour or so of my next session. Still, I’ma call it a win for now anyways! Yay me!
As a Brit, I’ve heard my fair share of accents, and considering the UK’s so small geographically, it really is quite impressive how there remains so many regional variations in speech patterns and accents. That’s nothing compared to the Witcher though. In just one small scattering of hamlets, I’ve heard just about every quintessentially olde-y world-ey “peasant” accent known to man, which is really quite something. I’m actually quite good at doing (hilariously OTT versions of) most UK accents – so I wonder if I’m genuinely missing out on a golden career opportunity here……
Also, why are dwarves always Scottish?
The Sworded Crusader?
Impossibly gruff voice. Stilted speech. Saying blindingly obvious things to himself OUTLOUD as he examines some clues and whatnot. Stoic countenance and unyielding sense of moral superiority. Hanging around to wisecrack when he’d be better running the fuck away. GERALT IS A FANTASY/SWORD-EY BATMAN!
Old-ey World-ey GPS is fucking rubbish
Honestly, I must’ve lost ages because of this. Given “roads” (and I use that word in the loosest possible sense) would need to go on an intensive road-ey boot camp/scared straight programme before they could be even considered meandering, and given the GPS will happily send you over a cliff for shits and giggles, I spent much of my time in The Witcher 3 either going in the wrong direction, or backtracking because I had been going in the wrong direction. There were times when I found myself really hoping that (whatever this universe’s version of) the Romans would invade, just so somebody would build a straight fucking road that went from A to B. I’ve not been helped by my horse either, who seems to positively delight in walking head first into trees and/or other impassable barriers.