UPDATE MAY 23, 8:07 PM—Thank you to everyone who has read this article and contributed to the discussion.
I genuinely DO NOT want WitcherGate to be a term we actually use. I was mocking what I feel is an overblown issue. Please don’t refer to the graphical downgrade as WitcherGate. Please.
Finally, I have seen reports of bugs and glitches since the time of this writing, but didn’t think to go back and edit this article. The bugs I’ve seen reported are pretty serious—corrupted game saves on the Xbox One especially—and I myself have had the game completely lock up twice before the 1.03 patch. While I’m not sure if the bugs affect as many users as the problematic games from last year, bugs are bugs.
Yeah, this game looks like complete and total garbage.
Watching the initial 2013 trailers for The Witcher 3 was akin to a religious experience for me. As a huge fan of the first two games and an even bigger fan of their developer, CD Projekt Red, I knew that not only did I have to own the game on release day but that I was going to need to set a credit card on fire to upgrade my PC. Yeah, I could have gotten a console cheaper—my GTX 970 alone cost $400, and I did a full overhaul—but let me be perfectly clear: I am a smug and elitist PC gamer. Console gaming is just a cheap and easy alternative for those who lack the finances, discipline, and technological know-how to build a sweet gaming rig. My wife and I own a Wii U because we love Nintendo, but my Playstation 3 has become a streaming device and Blu-ray player and I have no intention of purchasing a current gen console. Yeah, I’d love to play Bloodborne or relive some good memories with the Master Chief Collection, but I’ll manage until I can justify buying a console for one or two games.
I pre-ordered both the digital PC copy of The Witcher 3 from GOG, and the physcial PS4 collector’s edition from GameStop. I wanted the collector’s edition goodies, and by ordering for PS4 I could trade-in the disc and get some cash back. In fact, I’d probably effectively pay for the digital copy, because GOG offered a loyalty discount for those who owned the previous two games, because they’re awesome. I could have just ordered the phsyical PC edition, but I wanted to support CD Projekt Red directly.
As the release date came close, I noticed that the Internet was very upset over a graphical downgrade in The Witcher 3. Don’t get me wrong: I noticed a difference between current trailers and game play demos and the original promotional materials, but I’ve been playing video games long enough to know that developers always start with their ultimate vision, then downscale graphical assets as they test it on different hardware configurations. Also, I realized that CDPR was releasing this game for consoles, and a game’s graphics are only as good as the processing power of its least capable platform.
Do I wish that CD Projekt Red has released this as at least a timed PC exclusive? Absolutely! I want all developers to only develop for the PC, all the time, for every game, and throw the console players the subpar ports. This is the way it used to be, and you’ve ever played the PS1 port of Rainbow Six you know exactly what I’m talking about (still, a painful memory to this day). But to survive, developers have to market to both PC and console gamers. That’s not their fault. It’s the way gaming economy is. And besides, it’s not like CD Projekt Red was actively screwing over PC gamers (I’m still waiting for the Ultimate Evil Edition of Diablo III on PC, Blizzard).
Now the game is out, and it looks and plays like a dream. Trees sway in the wind at pulsating tempos. It gets noticeably darker when a storm comes and Geralt’s armor still shines with rainfall long after it’s over. The controls are crisp and responsive, even if you do need a game pad or to aggressively remap your controls. It’s a game that is not perfect—no game is—but it’s an incredible game play experience.
Has my enjoyment of the game been hindered by downgraded graphics? Not really. I would like to have noticeably superior graphics, but I’m still at least getting a faster framerate. Field-of-vision adjustment would be nice. It’s obvious, even without them admitting it, that console development has held back the graphical potential of CD Projekt Red’s magnum opus.
Would we have still gotten those amazing, fluid, rich 2013 visuals if this game had not been developed for consoles? We’ll, honestly, never know. Those were mere glimpses into an early draft of the product and were likely running on some industrial-strength hardware akin to the Large Pixel Collider anyway. But it is a valid complaint for PC gamers to not have the full run of graphical options we’re accustomed to. We still have several in The Witcher 3, but nowhere near as much as most other PC-first titles. But do we really need the hate that’s been piled on CDPR?
It’s like, only slightly better than a late PS2/early PS3 release.
Steam is ablaze with negative reviews. There are YouTube videos that compare both iterations of the game’s visuals with forensic detail. People are calling the developers filthy liars and saying that the game is nothing but a crappy console port, and they are pointing to consoles and saying, “See! This is what happens when we let your kind be served!”
Gamers are passionate and have strong opinions, and people who take your money in exchange for goods and services should be held accountable when they bail on their end of the bargain. But at what point are we just being babies about the whole thing? At what point are us Master Race Gamers just falling down on the floor, kicking our feet, and screaming that it’s not fair?
This is what all this reeks of: whiny, entitled brats poking their lip out because they had to get the red bicycle instead of the blue one. Yes, CD Projekt Red released a game with a noticeably downgraded graphical experience. But you know what they didn’t release? A buggy, glitchy game that is all but incomplete without $90 worth of DLC with a non-existent single-player campaign. I feel like we’re forgetting that: we’re equating the game’s full worth with its graphics technology and pointing to CD Projekt Red and The Witcher 3 as an example of all that is wrong with the gaming industry, specifically how PC gamers are treated. That’s just a *slight* overreaction.
CD Projekt Red, of course, is still one of the good guys. They recently addressed the issue and promised post-release support to help improve the graphics (this is after already apologizing for and explaining the Korena localization debacle and offering the previous Witcher games for free to those affected by it). Would it have been better if they had made like Rockstar and delayed the PC version of the game to give it additional spit and polish? Yes, it would have been. I had waited over two years, I could wait a few more months. But is the fact that they didn’t and released the game as-is—beautiful and fun and bug-free—worthy of such venomous bile?
No, it’s not. Now, I’m going to go play The Witcher 3.