The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is not a good game.
I know many people loved it. I know many publications honored it. I can’t for the life of me figure out why.
I know the story and writing is allegedly superb. But when the actual gameplay, the act of moving and fighting with Geralt, is a joyless slog (some would say “digital gulag”), that content feels like a tantalizing treasure surrounded by a moat of shit with nary a boat or bridge in sight.
Now, my language is harsh, but that’s for two reasons; the first, is that I am being purposefully hyperbolic for the sake of comedy. I want you to read this and laugh, enjoying the act of my taking a popular darling out back and giving it the Old Yeller treatment. The second reason is that The Witcher 3 really, really, really, really, really, really sucks.
For starters, the combat is atrocious. And by atrocious, I don’t mean “Transformers atrocious” or something benign like that. I am talking about “Transformers: Age of Extinction atrocious” here. Something dark and malevolent, that could only have been placed in front of you by a sinister entity that gives not one fuck about your enjoyment. Geralt swings his sword with the skill of a drunken toddler trying to break open a piñata at his 4th birthday party, but with none of the passion. He moves like that same toddler, but only after being spun around a few dozen times by his father in order to “make it interesting”. I’ve never played Superman 64, but I imagine it plays similarly.
And don’t say I have to get good at it to enjoy it. I was plenty good at it. I could take out an entire group of bandits without a scratch and even the act of ownage gave me no joy. It just made me not want to engage in battle anymore. If it were possible for Geralt to be a big coward, I would have gladly role-played that.
In all honesty, in a day and age when Batman: Arkham Knight is able to produce possibly the best hand-to-hand combat the video game world has ever seen and when we see dozens of games happily ripping it off, The Witcher 3 is content to roll out fights whose quality is equal to the schoolyard fights you watch on Youtube when your boss isn’t looking. Let me put it this way: the tank combat in Arkham Knight was better than The Witcher 3’s swordplay. By a parsec.
That’s not to mention the horrid weapon durability system, which even the brains at Bethesda finally did away with in Fallout 4, praise be to Atom. There is nothing like getting caught in drowner ambush only to find that your silver sword is starting to crack like the Liberty Bell. It’s an archaic system that needs to be sent straight to hell. Along with the overburden mechanic, for that matter, something Bethesda unwisely kept in. It’s bad enough the game isn’t fun to play, but now the very act of picking up loot, the one oasis of enjoyment in a desert of mediocrity, is now filled with tension as you wonder if this will be the sword that will break Geralt’s back and have him hobbling to a signpost to fast travel his way back to the nearest merchant to sell his wares for an insanely low sum. It adds nothing to the game except padding.
Speaking of padding, the main storyline is like one of those TV shows or novels that promises answers, but either kicks the can down the road a bit or obscures the answers in so many new questions that you forgot what the hell you were even doing in this place and why it led to you finding this possible pervert’s goat. Each morsel about Ciri’s whereabouts is only doled out after you find someone’s parakeet and wipe their sister’s ass. One quest involved finding a frying pan. The lady who wanted it literally stood outside the window while you went in to get it. I wanted to bash her over the head with it and leave her for the drowners, but sadly, that option was not presented to me.
Look, many games string you along to pad out the story; some do it well, others poorly, but none have done it in such frustrating fashion as The Witcher 3. It’s a real simple story: find Ciri. There is no reason to make the player jump through that many hoops except you want them to see all this wonderful content you hid behind a hellish combat system.
And don’t even get me started on that asinine ability system. Look, when you level up, it should be an accomplishment. It should feel like a reward. Hell, even Call of Duty has that down by now and it’s not exactly looked upon as an RPG fan’s dream like The Witcher 3 is. But having the abilities rendered useless until you unlock a new ability slot (which takes a while) is just dumb. I would gain a level and then have nothing to put my points in because I needed an empty slot to put the ability in. Which makes leveling worthless. And since gaining experience requires completing entire quests, it’s a bit of a commitment to grind those out. It makes for a poor RPG experience.
Behind all this anger is a plea for understanding: I want to know why you liked this game and if so I want to know how you became a masochist and what’s your safe word? Seriously, I am asking: this game is not fun to PLAY and for me, that is the most important part of a video game. I can forgive some things, obviously; after all, Bioshock Infinite is my favorite game ever and it’s not like the shooting set me ablaze, but it was never unpleasant in the way The Witcher 3’s combat can be.
So answer best you can, I am sincerely wanting to know: what did you like about The Witcher 3 and why?