It felt like a perfect storm of external forces all converged on me at once, pushing me into trying a game I had bounced off of several times before. After Skyrim and Fallout 4 failed to satiate my RPG cravings, it was the buzz coming out of E3 around Cyberpunk 2077 that served as the catalyst for me diving once more into The Witcher 3. Nearly thirty hours later, I think I can safely say that I am really enjoying my time with it... mostly.
My memory of The Witcher 3 wasn’t exactly positive up until this point. I distinctly recall being turned off in my previous attempts by the first few hours of the game. So instead of starting from the beginning, against my better judgement, I just picked up a year old save and ran with it. Most surprising is the fact that it worked. It’s probably worth noting that I guess I had cheated and boosted my level pretty significantly at some point in this save, which has made the combat incredibly easy.
But the combat was one of the reasons I bounced off of The Witcher 3 in the first place. Even when I was fulfilling the power fantasy of being a legendary witcher and just annihilating anything in my path, the combat still felt loose and unresponsive at times. But trivializing the combat was what I needed to do in order to better appreciate everything else that people loved about the game.
It was when I accidentally walked up to the door of a random building that everything clicked for me. The door swung open and revealed a beautiful and detailed home adorned with several shelves that were packed with books and various baubles. Paint cans and brushes strewn across a table with a blank canvas waiting to be propped up on an empty easel. Around the corner was a bed and a large empty basin with a water pump next to it. This didn’t feel like a place where an NPC just stood in, but more like an actual home with the amenities needed for a person to comfortably live in this space. Just to be sure that my admiration was justified, I walked into every house in this city block that I could and found they were all unique in their own ways.
As I continued deeper into the city towards my waypoint, I could hear the distant sales pitches of merchants, citizens complaining about the inequalities in their lives, a band playing a really awesome song, and a rather suspicious amount of cats hissing at me. This city felt alive in the way a city that was quietly being overrun with the meanest cats in the universe would be. Suddenly I came to a stop, yielding to a cut-scene of two people getting burned at the stake for practicing witchcraft. It was just as uncomfortable as you’d think it would be.
It’s here that I’d like to mention my first grievance with The Witcher 3. I really don’t like Geralt as a character. I don’t know the history and lore of Geralt outside of what I’ve seen in this game, but he just kind of sucks. I gathered that the witchers are supposed to be emotionless and only do what’s necessary for a paycheck, which seems to be contrary to a lot of what you see in the game itself. I find it odd that an emotionless mercenary like Geralt has any relationship options at all, as well as having dialogue choices that usually grant him options to be a more caring and understanding person. This wouldn’t bother me so much if maybe he just stopped bringing up the fact that witchers went through mutations to feel no emotions. Maybe the past games and books explain this stuff, but for someone like me who is experiencing The Witcher 3 in a vacuum, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense.
But none of that is enough to make me stop playing altogether. I’ve genuinely enjoyed some of the story beats of The Witcher 3, even if there are plenty of times I had no idea what was going on. There are a lot of names and places to keep track of and it can get very confusing very quickly. But I was always ready to just accept my fate and go talk to whoever had the waypoint over their head. More often than not, the people I’d talk to were good at clarifying why I was there, and why it was important. That or they just wanted to challenge me to a game of cards or to race horses. The latter being one of the worst parts about the entire game.
The Witcher 3 has the courtesy to let you opt out of most horse races, which is convenient because your horse, Roach, might be the worst video-game horse in history. This fucker is the absolute worst. The amount of times Roach has decided to not gallop when I hit the gallop button, or better yet, just stop in the middle of a pack of wolves, is unbelievable. Maybe when I spawned him in, he appeared behind a short, hoof-high rock wall or near a small bush. Well fuck me, because getting him out of that mess is going to be a challenge. But my favorite annoyance happens when I have the audacity to use the feature where Roach will auto-run and follow the road. This feature is a lie, and does not actually exist. Roach will ride on the road until he decides he wants to go on his own horsey adventures with or without you. Thank goodness for fast travel, or else I’d just end up walking everywhere.
I’m far from finished with The Witcher 3 but I know that if nothing else, I will see the credits for this game. I’m too invested at this point to just walk away from it like i had previously. In spite of my lack of enthusiasm for fantasy settings, CD Projekt Red has crafted a phenomenal game that I’m glad I can finally appreciate, albeit a few years late.