The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt was my favorite game of 2015. The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine was my favorite game of 2016, even though it was just an expansion. The Witcher 3 is definitely in my top 10 games of all time. The Witcher 3 New Game + was the most disappointing game I played in 2017.
That paragraph doesn’t make much sense, so let me explain.
The Problem with the New Game Plus
I played and loved the Witcher 3 right when it came out. I loved the DLC; I even reviewed one for tay. I spent probably 100 hours in the world over the course of 2015 and 2016. I was not planning on replaying the game for a long time until one of my favorite podcasts, Watch out for Fireballs, announced they were playing it as their winter RPG. I decided to revisit the game, so it was fresh in my mind. At first, I wasn’t sure how I wanted to replay the game, so I did some research.
I looked at wikis and forums mainly. One of the things I kept seeing was playing new game + is like “starting the game as an experienced Witcher.” This sounded amazing. The Witcher 3 is part of a multimedia franchise. There was always a ludonarrative dissonance between Geralt being this legendary Witcher, with six+ books and 2+ games before this one of experience, which kings sought after and starting the game at level 1 and having trouble with drowners ( a low-level monster). I imagined I would start the game with my high-level equipment from my previous playthrough. It would make sense that Geralt would be equipped well and high level as he is coming off of two games. I imagined my experienced witcher would slash through the early monsters with ease and the developers would include some different formations or monsters to make things interesting.
But, that isn’t what happened. Instead, when my Witcher, who had completed the game and the expansions, entered the tutorial area he faced level 60+ Nekkers and drowners, and the peasants were level 70. Instead of using my late game equipment and skills to breeze through the early game I was facing what should have been low-level nuisances that could deal more damage than many of the endgame bosses. The game had not allowed me to feel powerful by using the skills I acquired during the 100-hour base game to destroy these tutorial beasts. Nor did the game make old challenges more interesting by changing which monsters were where or by giving them new abilities. Instead, the game just boosted the numbers. You see it wasn’t just me who came into this new world leveled up; it was the entire world that was high level. In the Witcher new game+ the lowliest peasant could have destroyed many of the base game’s fiercest enemies.
This just made the encounters feel like deja-vu. Because I was dealing more damage, but the monsters had more health and also dealt more damage, the battles felt almost identical to how they played out in the base game. Despite wielding the legendary sword, I acquired from the Lady of the fucking Lake it still took the same amount of hits to defeat the monsters as it did the first time I faced them in the base game.
All Your Items are Trash Now
Speaking of my legendary items from the base game, they are worthless in new game+. It isn’t only all of the enemies that had their numbers go up, it is also the items. This means that the low-quality sword I loot off a bandit in the tutorial area does more damage than the legendary sword I quested for in the expansion. That is ridiculous. It is almost insulting. It makes me feel like all the time I spent customizing and adjusting my character’s gear in the base game was worthless. Sure, I could keep wearing my “grandmaster” feline armor because I worked hard for it and it looked cool, but it has much lower defense than the bandit leather armor I just looted. Because of this I quickly switched out my awesome armor for better versions of armor from the early stages of the game. I went from wearing endgame armor to doing the same shitty looking breastplate I wore at the same area last time I played the game. This caused new game + to just feel the same as the base game, and that did not feel special.
It would be fine if the developers added new items or more powerful versions of old items in the game world. But all the items I can loot shouldn’t be more powerful than everything in the base game.
How could the developer fix this? There are two ways:
First, they could just keep the enemy levels the same as the base game. This would be similar to Final Fantasy XV. While the gameplay would be less challenging and satisfying, it would allow a player to revisit the dreary, yet fascinating world of the Witcher and relive the story quickly. Not the most innovative approach, but at least it is different than just replaying the game.
Second, they could rearrange enemy placements and add unexpected new encounters. This would be similar to the Dark Souls II approach. Admittedly, this would take a lot more work but would create a very satisfying experience. Imagine slashing and one shotting low-level monsters when all of a sudden a dragon flies overhead that wasn’t present in the base game? It would change how you approach individual encounters. Additionally, instead of just boosting all the items’ numbers, the developers could place a few new weapons and armors throughout the game that would be pleasant surprises for veteran players.
Alternatively, you could just not have a new game plus. If your game’s new game+ does not alter the gameplay in any significant way then what is the point? Either allow me to be the all-powerful god destroying anything in my path or alter the base game with exciting new encounters to entice me to come back to the game. Otherwise, there really isn’t a point to having a new game+. That is how I ultimately feel about the Witcher 3’s new game+, it’s pointless. Playing through it, and I still am, is fun, but it feels the EXACT SAME as the base game because everybody’s level has scaled with mine. There are no new encounters, no new items, and the fights take the same amount of time as before.
If you were to ask me whether to start a new game or a new game+ in the Witcher 3, I would shrug. It just doesn’t matter.