Ok, let’s start with another confession: I’m possibly a bit addicted to Gwent. And when I say possibly, I mean definitely, and when I say a bit, I mean massively. If I’m being honest, I’ve spent waaaay too much of my recent The Witcher 3 experience playing a fucking card game. It’s not that I’ve got anything against card games per se, but a) I’ve got quite enough shit to be getting on with in the game, thankyouverymuch – and b) it’s really rather difficult to write about hours and hours of me playing cards and make it sound in any way interesting or exciting. That said though, the Gwent thing struck me as being a bit of a microcosm of my Witcher experience so far, so let’s approach it from that angle, eh!?
See, at first I had absolutely no idea what I was doing in Gwent. I mean, I got the basic “higher numbers better” thing, and I got that you needed to have a wee think about strategy and whatnot too, but at first, I was a) confused, and b) being comprehensively beaten by everybody and, as a result, getting quite frustrated with it all. I’d finally have the opportunity to play a decent round, for example, but just as I seemed like winning, my opponent would play some card that immediately wiped out my best cards, and I’d be all like “what the actual fucking fuck happened there you fucking fuck!?”. Moreover, because I had shit cards, I was routinely getting beaten, and because I was routinely getting beaten, I wasn’t getting any decent cards, so I was routinely getting beaten. Rinse, lather, repeat. And precisely because that was all a bit vicious circle-y, I was basically thinking that I was fucked, always would be fucked, and there was pretty much no way I could not be fucked. Indeed, the only options available to me were to give up Gwent, or abandon my search for Ciri in order to traipse backwards and forwards across the map to find or, as was often the case, buy cards so’s that I could traipse backwards and forwards across the map again to win cards.
I chose the latter. Sorry ’bout that, Ciri!
And so for hours and hours, I left Ciri to be chased down by the Wild Hunt while I scoured the known world for fucking playing cards. Sure, the life of my surrogate daughter was in immediate and definite danger, but then, on the other hand, I really wanted a couple of scorch cards to pad out my Gwent deck with, so, like, that’s a no-brainer, innit!? Even worse, my search for Gwent cards would often have me stumbling (often literally, given Geralt’s a clumsy fucknuts) into hilariously unrelated side-quests, so ensuring Ciri’s survival slid further and further down my To-do list as I dicked around trying to find somebody’s missing cutlery or some shit! Backwards and forwards, forwards and backwards. And, to make matters worse – and here’s where the microcosm bit comes into play – even the side-quests frequently devolved into a further set of sub-side-quests, or would lead to me stumbling into yet another side-quest, and there were times when I felt like a Puppy with ADHD bouncing around all over the fucking place. Essentially, I’d abandoned the main quest to focus on one aspect of the game, but I couldn’t even do that properly, and I’d frequently realise I’d been playing for three hours and not actually gotten a new Gwent card.
Now, I realise that makes it sound like I’m a bit pissed off about it, but here’s the really weird thing; I am and I’m not. See, while I’m bouncing around like a hyper active puppy, I’m rarely ever bothered about it – and, actually, I’m usually having plenty of fun – but when it comes to turning off the PlayStation, I’ll frequently have a “what the fuck have I actually achieved in the last four hours?” moment, and it can all be quite frustrating after the fact. This isn’t helped by the fact that some of the side quests are positively fucking miserly in the XP they grant you, it has to be said, and it’s not uncommon for me to have not levelled-up once after a four hour session of full-on side-questing.
Of course, I could focus on just the main quests in theory – but, actually, if I do, I’m way under-levelled for them. Given I’m shite at RPGs, I figured that merrily skipping off on a quest 4 or 5 levels higher than I currently am probably isn’t going to end spectacularly well. I mean, I should be at least at the recommended level (or therabouts) if I don’t want Geralt to become very fucking dead, very fucking quickly, right!? This is when it becomes apparent that CD Projekt Red have actually woven the whole “bouncing around all over the place” thing into the very fabric of the game, and depending on your point of view, it’s either pure genius, or a proper fucking ballache!
See, I arrived in Novigrad at around level 10/11ish (I think), and the ‘boat to Skellige’ mission was suggesting I be at level 16. Again, I could’ve just focused on the “main” missions in Novigrad, and headed straight to Skellige afterwards, but I’d have still been three or four levels too low, so I stuck around Novigrad trying to get XP/level up.
Like a fucking idiot.
I’m not sure what happened exactly, but nearly two weeks later I finally left Novigrad. Two fucking weeks. Even after reaching Level 16 I was still there for a further 4 or 5 days, and no matter how many times I said “OK, I’ma head off to Skellige right now…” it’d just never happen. There’d always be something; some guy who I’d bump into, or some shop/merchant/Inn that’d appear that had to be checked for Gwent cards. That guy would turn out to have the most convoluted mission in the world ever for me, and when I finally wrapped that up, it would literally lead right into another!! Even worse than that, some of these missions were resulting in me getting 1-7 XP. Yeah, you read that right: one to fucking seven! Turns out I was actually over-levelled for these particular quests, which was a) a mechanic I didn’t know about and, b) a bit fucking rich given I’d only not done them at the right level because I was being bounced about all over the shop by the game itself.
However…..setting the whole “getting nowhere with the main story” thing to one side, I’m still really enjoying The Witcher experience. Some of the more asinine missions have been boring, for sure, but I’m starting to see what everyone’s on about when they talk about the depth and brilliance of The Witcher 3’s world. It manages to walk a rather difficult line whereby it’s simultaneously heavy and dramatic, but yet also humorous and quirky. I complained last time about the reading, but recently upon looting a book – and just as I was rolling my eyes at yet another big block of text – I realised said book was a piss-take of the Twilight novels, and it was genuinely quite amusing. Likewise, I’ve spotted humorous references to Moby Dick and – rather impressively, given the setting – a knowing nod to Pulp Fiction. Even Geralt, the quintessentially gruff “straight man” is providing plenty of comedy moments – and at one point, having stumbled into yet another side-quest, I noticed Geralt’s sighing and “for fuck’s sake” expression mirrored my own exactly. It’s in these little moments of discovery that The Witcher 3 really shines, I think, and going back to what I was moaning about before, it rewards the exploration, and mostly offsets most of the feelings of achieving fuck-all on any given day.
Surprisingly, I’m not getting my ass handed to me that much either, which has certainly helped with frustration levels in general. Indeed, even more surprisingly the Rage Quit Total still stands at zero, which is something of an achievement in itself. In the interests of full disclosure though, I have frustration quit a few times mid-mission, but only in a “Jesus, I was supposed to have finished playing an hour ago” kind of way. That’s akin to putting down a book mid-chapter – and goes against everything I stand for as a person – but there’s only so much I can push back dinner time before my girlfriend starts to get a bit murder-ey, so what can you do!?
In terms of me being a n00b, I’ve not made too many huge mistakes (that I’m aware of) apart from a bit of a boo-boo when I upgraded my “mind-influencing” whatsit, but didn’t understand that I also had to proactively “equip” it – which meant I had to fight a particularly rough set of dudes with only my fists (on account of also forgetting to unequip a fake sword), which was fun. However, my fear of making a mistake has meant that I’ve got a shit-ton of unused upgrade points that I’m keeping in reserve for when it’s obvious I need x, y, or z. It’s not a huge problem, but I do kind of feel like I’m holding Geralt back from being a bit more kick-ass than he could be.
All-in-all though, my last eleventy-twelve hours of The Witcher 3 have been reasonably successful – if of course, you dismiss the fact that I’ve, like, not achieved anything of note.
I’m usually fairly forgiving of glitches in “big” games, and The Witcher 3 is a big fucking game. That said, however, I’ve come across some real howlers. At one point, I returned to an NPC to find her combing her hair and washing her face. With a book. When we began conversifying, said book planted itself vertically into the middle of her head for the duration, and it proved to be more than a little distracting. A couple of times I’ve initiated a conversation, only to have the guy I’m talking to have another guy walk into him (as in, literally inside him) and what should’ve been a fairly sombre chat about a missing son turned into a grotesque freak show as another guy’s arms kept shooting out of his chest.
So, there you are, yeah; trying to be all fluid and skillful like with your sword-ey/combat moves, hoping to elevate yourself above merely mashing your attack button. You’ve been surrounded by a group of heavily armed thugs, and you figure you’ll kick their ass and give ’em a display of swordsmanship at the same time, because that’s how a Witcher rolls, right!? Wrong. Because often, for reasons unknown to me at this point, the camera will zoom into Geralt’s shoulder, allowing me to get a spectacularly detailed view of Geralt’s earlobe, but not much else. This leads to me getting buffeted in all directions by the four or five enemies I can’t see, until the camera gets its shit together, at which point it zooms out……. Right into the middle of a fucking wall. I mean, honestly, throw me a bone guys!
Even though I recently wrote about how realistic and graphically advanced Games are becoming, I don’t think they’re quite there with the sex just yet. I mean, I’m not a prude or anything, so I’ve got no moral issues with its inclusion in Games, but I’m just not sure whether it works really – unless it’s just there for comedy value, in which case it works really, really well. I suspect it’s often included in Games in a bid to emulate the realism/narrative maturity of films, but, if I’m being honest, it’s probably achieving the opposite effect, because it’s just so laughably bad!
Poor Man’s Sean Bean
Back when I played ZombiU, there was a character who I was convinced was voiced by Sean Bean, and as a result, I was quite surprised when he didn’t die early doors. Turns out it wasn’t Sean Bean, but the same guy plays Dijkstra in The Witcher 3, and I immediately recognised him. Anyways, that made me think that Video Games might be missing a trick here – and with an army of impressionists/soundalikes Games could be filled with A-list casts on a shoestring budget. So, if you’re reading Game-y people a) you can have that idea for free and, b) I do a passable Sean Connery!!