Thursday, June 11, 2015

First Impressions: The Witcher 3

There are no major spoilers in this review.

My previous experience with the Witcher series was inauspicious -- I bought Witcher 2 for cheap in a Steam Sale and got stuck about 20 minutes in on a bugged tutorial mission. I'm currently 11 hours into The Witcher 3, which is evidently the most impressive thing to ever come out of Poland (with 4 million copies sold in 2 weeks).

This is a heavily story-based role-playing game with real-time combat, skill trees, inventory, and the whole nine yards. The game is graphically impressive, even on my five year old computer and Gefore GTX 660 which can only go up to Medium detail without stuttering. Comparisons to Skyrim aren't very appropriate -- where Skyrim features a relatively shallow framework where you can do anything and invent your own fun, this game focuses heavily on story and the choices you make, with even the most throwaway sidequest having depth and a few plot twists here and there.

There's a fair bit of control complexity that requires some upfront online study (why don't people make game manuals anymore?) but combat is still possible if you opt to button-mash -- when in doubt, parry. The controls betray the game's cross-console roots (especially the stupid radial menus that every game has these days), but the PC key bindings are sufficiently responsive besides the usual problems with precise positioning of your character when you want to turn slightly but end up drunkenly moving two feet to the left.

So far, I'm having a lot of fun. The initial area is the right size for learning how to play without being too on-rails, and opens up dramatically a couple hours in. The game is incredibly polished with unmatched attention to detail, and has already had 4 patches full of bug fixes, addressed player concerns, and free DLC -- the development team has a reputation for really taking care of its players, and it shows.

Initial Grade: A

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