[ First Impressions Review ] The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

This game was played using a prepatched digital copy of the game for the PlayStation 4.

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The First Three Hours

It’s interesting, being on the other side of the hype train for once: normally, I’m the franchise fan that knows exactly what to expect and what to get excited about when it comes to a new entry in the franchise. Here I am, the fair weather fan who’s only heard and seen things from the franchise – mostly because I haven’t even owned most Microsoft consoles and I haven’t had a decent gaming computer in almost a decade – and I’m getting hyped about this new release strictly from an outsider’s point of view. That being said, the expectations weren’t entirely high but I was pretty excited to try it on.

After getting to finally sit down and play the game, I can see why there are so many fans of the franchise: this game is right up there with the Mass Effects and the Dragon Ages and the Elder Scrolls games out there in terms of scope, quality, and attention to detail. Everything looks beautiful and sounds beautiful. I can’t get over how everything looks and feels this early on in release. You can tell, much like these other franchises, that the series has come a long way since its inception. However, unfortunately, it feels like it has a long way to go before it feels right.

Wild Hunt impressed me with its storytelling, voice acting, music, and general presentation from the moment I started the game up; things were simple, easily laid out, straightforward. Tutorials weren’t exactly long in the tooth and they worked it into the narrative, which is always a good thing for me. However, once they handed the reigns over to me, I felt like someone who was told how to work a crane that’s half-broken for five minutes and then let me go at it. You see, the game’s downright beautiful, the story and characters compelling, and everything about it is wonderful but running around and attacking and micromanaging just separated me from the rest of everything that was going on. The moment I jumped somewhere, tried to dodge or roll, the moment I tried to use a ladder or dive into one of the menu systems mid-combat, it felt as though I was being taken away from the experience to perform a chore. The division of speed and control between walking and running is terrible and disorienting. Most games like this have three movement cycles: walk, jog, run. Sometimes characters can sprint. Our main character goes from a slow walk to sprinting with a tilt of the analog stick and it’s pretty sensitive about it at times, meaning you have to be on a hair trigger if you don’t want to be barreling everywhere with no sense of control. Jumping is completely and utterly ridiculous and reminds me of Super Mario Bros. 2. I shit you not, guys, the jump animation and cycle for this guy is just stupid. He floats on a perfect axis as if he was lifted and dropped by a wire. There’s no way in any world that any person jumps like that. That’s just lazy animation and it feels stupid to watch and it feels stupid to perform. Attacking feels like pretty much any action-based role-playing game, such as Dragon Age II and Dragon Age: Inquisition, but the dodging and rolling serve little to no purpose: due to the fact that collision detection is incredibly spotty, whether you’re dodging or rolling has no impact on whether you get hit, meaning you can exploit it endlessly if you get good at it or it just doesn’t work at all.

Another thing is that the difficulty, unlike other games like this, ramps up incredibly: I figured, since I had a lot of experience with games like this and that I’ve plodded through many of them rather well, I could take on the Blood and Broken Bones difficulty of this game and it would be a brutal challenge. I could not. I got into the game about an hour or so before I locked myself into a position where I couldn’t backtrack and grind out for more gear or levels. It wasn’t really difficult, in my mind, as it was ridiculous. I took it down a notch in the menus to the regular difficulty but by that time I should have been much better geared and I ended up having to start again. That was… disheartening. That doesn’t happen often in my life and I do not like when I have to do this. I suppose it’s my fault for making assumptions but on harder difficulties this game just does not give you a curve, it plops you in a situation where every battle is grueling, every situation dire, and every choice needs to be wise.

I don’t know if this is how the Witcher franchise has always been and if I’m just nitpicking but a lot of these things just irritate the piss out of me. It takes away from the immersion and I want to love this game through and through because everything else is so well done and polished.

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Where to Go From Here

There’s a lot of potential, here, and, thankfully, a lot of the things I have issues with can either be patched or eventually overlooked. There is a seriously high quality production here and I see a lot to enjoy and I don’t want to miss out on that based on the fact that the game’s made me a little pissy. Besides, this looks like it could be a serious Game of the Year contender and I want to know for sure if this game’s got the chops to stand up to take the title.

Will I continue to play this game? For sure, if only to fully develop the story and its characters, at the very least. Everything is so intriguing and wonderful that I want to learn as much as I can about it. This game, in its current form, is already amazing and I can only see it getting better. I want to stick around for that.

Will I do everything there is to do in this game? I’m not sure about that. I mean, there’s a lot of intrigue there but if these technical issues don’t get resolved soon my intention to do everything there is to do kind of dwindles. I might come back for the DLC content that’s to come but that’s a completely different story. At this point, I’m hoping they just polish this game up and hope it was something that kind of came with the territory when you take a game that was primarily an XBOX/PC franchise to the multiplatform market, especially since the original XBOX and XBOX 360 were, essentially, glorified gaming computers. Porting can always be troublesome.

I hope things only get better from here. I’ll be sticking it out until, at the very least, one completion; hopefully, many more to come, because I’m getting a serious Mass Effect / Dragon Age vibe from this game and I like that.

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