It’s the kind of game you dream about
veered from aneurysm-inducing in the beginning to the equivalent of a walk up a hillock by its second half. Then there was the broken map that would display varying location points depending on where you were standing, and a numberof invisible walls not hinted at by the level design. Yet, in spite these nuisances, I was floored by the game’s story line. “The Witcher 2” allotted a degree of player choice, but the culmination ofmy chosen adventures and conversational responses yielded one of the best endings I’ve ever seen in a video game.
With apologies to my fellow spoiler-phobes, at the end of “The Witcher 2,” it is possible to avoid exchanging blows with your would-be nemesis — another Witcher who is also a regicide — and part ways after a lengthy chat during which it becomes clear that the man who seemed to be your enemy actually bears you no mortal grudge. This ability to abstain from violence and work through a misunderstanding is a nod to the adults in the audience, as is the game’s systemic moral ambiguity, which should click with “Game of Thrones” fanatics. (Charles Dance, who played Tywin Lannis- ter in HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” is one of the many talented voice actors in the game.)
Thankfully, “The Witcher 3” remedies the issues that I had with the previous title. The initial difficulty curve is nowhere near the controller-smashing level of before. And though you can still find yourself wandering an openended plain only to be alerted by an on-screen warning that you are approaching the end of the world, at least Geralt is given to making some apposite remark like “Hmm, I wonder if there is a shortcut.” Thoughless ideal than designing a game around naturalistic borders, it’s better than butting your head against an ungainly seam.
Visually, “The Witcher 3” is one of the most detailed games to date; it shines on PCs capable of running the game on its high or ultra graphics settings. In terms of game design, however, it feels like something that could have been realized during the previous generational cycle. You’ll still hear the background chatter loop at tiny intervals. And the character animations don’t appear more expansive than what you might find in an “Assassin’s Creed” game.
Structurally, there is little to differentiate the multiple-choice conversational system in “Witcher 3” from Bio-Ware’s “Mass Effect” and “Dragon Age” games. And console players have had the opportunity to contend with overwhelming 3-D, open-world RPGs at least since Bethesda Softworks released “The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind” back in 2002. (For the record, that is the first game that I can recall regularly dreaming about.)
But, with all due respect to “Dragon Age: Inquisition,” which eschewed the black-and-white morality of the “Mass Effect” games, “The Witcher 3” doesn’t merely present a morally ambiguous universe, it hews to the law of unintended consequences. This is a game where I killed my lover because I thought she might give an ignoble ruling power the key to building a devastating weapon of war. It is also a game where I helped a war lord who beat his wife mature. The result? He leaves his seat of power to tend to his (none-too-saintly) wife at her greatest hour of need, thus plunging the region into opportunistic chaos.
What sets “The Witcher 3” apart from most of the competition is its keen sense of humanity, which is calculated to be every bit as gripping as an HBO drama. At their best, the characters with whom you chat don’t seem like they live in a vacuum only to impart useful information. Often, they’re manipulative beings who appear compromised by their own experiences. I think of them as harbingers of insomnia.
Inspired by a series of fantasy stories, “The Witcher” video games retell the life of Geralt of Rivia, a monster slayer with a talent for getting entangled in political intrigue. The third in the RPG series fixes many problems from the previous game.
In the past week, my last thoughts before going to sleep and my first thoughts upon waking have been about fractious politics, second guesses and wisps of recollected repartee. No, sadly, I haven’t been idling awaymy time on Embassy Row. Instead, I’ve been walled up in my office, in front ofmy PC, exploring the vast continent of “The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt,” the sensational new role-playing game from the Polish developer CD Projekt Red.
I’ve buttonpunched my way through a good many video game genres over the years and found that none have the potential for dream invasion like a robust RPG that takes scores, if not hundreds, of hours to complete. That said, never have I felt so walloped by a game I’ve had to review. Please forgive me. Although I sank more than 50 hours into “The Witcher 3,” I’mstill nowhere near the credits. A quick tally of my in-game quest log shows that, as I type this sentence, I’ve completed 63 missions on thegame’s hard difficulty, cheekily called “Blood and Broken Bones!”
Inspired by the fantasy stories of Andrzej Sapkowski, “The Witcher” series retells the life ofGeralt of Rivia, a monster slayer with a talent for getting entangled in political intrigue. I never got around to playing the first game, but I finished “The Witcher 2: Assassins ofKings” last yearonthe Xbox 360. I can’t think of another game of a similar length that I completed but about which I felt so conflicted.
The developers themselves admitted that the game’s difficulty level was less than perfect. It CD Projekt Red PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One THE WITCHER 3: THE WILD HUNT