The Evolution of the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

The Evolution of the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Fun fact: I was hoping to do a review on the game soon, but considering I’ve been playing eighty hours and I’m still not done with the first act, that clearly isn’t happening any time soon. Bless the hearts of anyone who reviewed this at release because I can’t imagine rushing this game. So far the scaling makes it possible to mainline the story quests, but why would you want to? Most of the character interactions and quest variety is in the details.

Like Assassin of Kings, Wild Hunt made a lot of effort to revamp a lot of aspects of the series. Some revert back to the original title, some meld both its predecessors, and some are all its own. Let’s go ahead and break it down.

This title adds in some missing open world concepts and basic logic. Players get a comprehensive world map with no limitations on travel. No long do you fail quests just for not finishing them in an unspecified time limit. So far quests tied to characters remain active–even after they leave the current area. With the increase in content, that’s appreciated. I could barely make sense of the proper order to finish quests in the previous titles; there’s no way I could do it now.

With these new, sprawling maps, you can fast travel. With the confined spaces and joy of exploration in the first two, I didn’t mind. But here the maps are so big that more of your time playing would consist of backtracking than anything else. You have to walk or ride your horse until you unlock an area’s signpost.

Same goes for searching all the question marks on the map. It feels like the game was jumbo-sized to offset this new convenience. I love it. I’ll fast travel to a nearby village or mountainside and clear out all the monster nests, abandoned sites, and hidden treasure.

Now that I’m done acting like the first person to ever play an open world game, let’s get to the systems that are constants in the series: alchemy, inventory, and combat.

Alchemy

The alchemy system is an odd one. It harks back to needing a strong alcohol base to make everything, but you only need to make bombs, blade oils, and potions once. After using the materials the first time, you’re given three to five uses depending on the recipes–normal, enhanced, and superior, respectively–and once these run out, you must meditate. If you still have alcohol in your inventory, the system replenishes your used items. It’s odd because I feel like I have better access to alchemy materials now that I don’t need as many.

You do have recipes for exhaustible items, but they are mainly for magical alchemy ingredients and some alcohol bases. It’s a weird circle, but I enjoy it. I get a big thrill from finally tracking down everything necessary for a new kind of bomb or a manuscript page for an upgraded potion.

Inventory

Now the inventory system is the love child of the first two in the series. The beautiful grid system is back, letting you better visualize what’s in your pockets. But you have unlimited slots, your capacity limited by the weight of the items instead–just like the second. You can carry more by using upgraded saddlebags, a weird one logically but is still useful. Still, I like it even with the weight component.

Combat

Now the combat is WONDERFUL–even with the group style still not making a comeback. You have your normal signs, fast and strong attacks, and wheel of doom a.k.a where you keep all the bombs. You can finally drink potions with a button press again, and you can use a crossbow to auto-target flying enemies. Dodging only takes two key presses in the direction you want to go. Honestly it is not all that different from the second game’s combat, but the few tweaks make it smoother and simpler.

An important PSA: only attempt to steal while breaking and entering. The guys won’t stop you from entering strange houses, but don’t you d are rifle through barrels in plain daylight. Finally the Witcher has added some logic to its looting. If a guard sees you pilfer a bottle of dwarven spirit, he will rain down his axe, but guards and home and store owners don’t mind you clearing out their entire inventory of broken oars and silver platters.

Also I hate water levels, just so you know.

Stay tuned.

Steam Complete: Mistakes I’ve Made Along the Way

Steam Complete: Mistakes I’ve Made Along the Way

So one hundred posts and over a year later, I’m still here, playing and writing with some regularity. I’ve enjoyed having an outlet for consistent content and something to force me to keep writing even on the worst of days. With that said, I’ve made a few bad choices since starting this blog, ones that might have set myself on a different trajectory if I’d had some foresight and avoided them. So don’t learn from your mistakes, learn from mine, and listen up:

  1. Consistency. It’s the number one rule for any kind of web content. If your readers or viewers can’t depend on your content, you’ll lose your audience. Knowing this, I started off strong, keeping to my Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule. I made plans and scheduled my play time around my need to post these three days. Even working overtime at my full-time job, I managed. But my chronic conditions and transfer to a position with more hours left me with my first lapse in content. With that, my view dropped off. After a while I got my groove back only to get so sick I left work, taking another break. THEN after another good period, I took a month off for family reasons with the passing of my nana. After this period, I’ve been going strong doing regular content despite no set schedule. My point in going through my life story over the last year? I have two, and they’re incredibly contradictory. First take care of yourself, and put your health–physical and mental–first. Also write no matter what because consistency breeds a following. I don’t know how to do both, and it has been a detriment. But hey, I’m still here! I picked a rough year of my life to start this blog, but I’m still writing, reviewing, and loving it.
  2. Quantity over quality. This is the way I started off. This started as a way to make me play through the hundred PC games I had. Instead of doing a Let’s Play channel, I was writing them. I talked about weird instances, funny moments, and any glitches I ran into. Regardless of substance, I was pumping them out–also like a Let’s Play channel, har har har. Looking back, I’m a lot more fond of the content I produce now. I might have fewer posts, but I love the reviews. I even did a review stream last month and got a kick out of it.
  3. Self-hosting too soon. About six months into having my blog, I decided to take a step forward, purchase a domain, and convert from wordpress.com to wordpress.org. That basically means you have your own website, but you still have access to the WordPress format for free. I enjoyed the freedom and the professional feel of having my own site. I signed up for Google Adsense, found a layout, and transferred all the previous content. Unfortunately I didn’t do enough research to know what I was going to lose–community. I thought since I was still technically using WordPress, I would still have access to the WP Reader, the place where your posts show up for all of WordPress and your tags actually mean something. I kept my followers but stopped gaining new ones, stopped getting comments from people who just happened upon me through the Reader. My attempts to grow too big too soon cost me, my lack of patience shooting myself in the thigh. I think when my domain runs out in March, I going to acquire it through WordPress so that I can get back to the community it fosters.

Well, there you have it. I celebrate my one hundredth (and one) post by putting everything I did wrong out there. My words of wisdom? Don’t be the me who thought these were good ideas.

Stay tuned.

Witcher 2 Review a.k.a. 100 Post Extravaganza!

Witcher 2 Review a.k.a. 100 Post Extravaganza!

The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings Enhanced Edition is the second in the Witcher game series from CDProjektRed. While it feels like an evolution in many places, a few parts feel like they took a few steps back.

Story

In the sequel, Gerald of Rivia is an adviser to King Foltest when a man with golden eyes–a trademark of a witcher–kills the king and frames our protagonist. You spend the rest of the game looking for answers and trying to clear you name.

Also Geralt has still not recovered all of his memories from the AMNESIAAAAAAA from the first game, but with Triss’ help, he starts having more flashbacks. They still lack some detail and go by so quick that is makes some of his conversations about politics and the surrounding regions hard to follow. It’s not so bad that reading the novels is necessary, but it wouldn’t hurt either. You can still follow the basics of the story without understanding the details though, and if you’re like me, you’ll love the graphic novel style of the depictions of his past. Gerald is one of my favorite game heroes but still remained a mystery until now. It was good seeing his past, and the art style made it great.

The number of decisions you make in the Witcher 2‘s story are fewer but have more impact on the direction of the game. For example who with which you choose to side at the end of the first act gives you two different quest lines for the rest of the game. this adds replay value that many games with similar choice mechanics tend to lack. The Witcher 2 is essentially two separate games with only the beginning and a few boss battles in common.

Other times you make subtle choices. There were a few ultimatums I was unaware I was being presented with. While this is a huge improvement for RPG choice mechanics, my guilty conscience left me replaying one or two later sections to rectify my actions.

Gameplay

I think I’m in the minority here, but despite its low-level of difficulty, I prefer the combat from the first Witcher game. Three words: group style combat. The fast and strong attacks made it to the sequel, but the style geared towards attacking hordes of enemies were cut. In this swordsmanship branch of the character tree are group finishers, but they require you to fill up an adrenaline meter; they act like limit breaks from JRPGs.

Outside of that, it’s not so bad. Parrying and counterattacking–called riposte here–are simpler to do, and blocking in all directions is an ability you can get rough leveling up. Instead of having to select attack styles manually, fast and strong are assigned to the left and right mouse buttons. It’s easier to use items like daggers, traps, and bombs as well as your signs. You select whatever you want from a wheel mid-combat, and you’re good to go.

The difficulty spikes are rough and impossible to predict until late in the game. At the end of each act is a boss battle so hard it feels like you are meant to lose. Once you’re in the midst of the battle, you know what you need to do, but you can’t do it without reloading a previous save. Why? You can’t drink potions and craft the necessary attack items without meditating. No constantly knocking back swallows for vitality regeneration, no using white afford’s decoction when you’re close to death. This one small tweak added all the complexity the first game lacked.

The inventory system was also overhauled. Instead of being accessible from the main game screen, you exit out to a separate one to handle everything. From there, you have unlimited inventory slots but a limited weight. So replacing the rationale that Geralt only has so many pockets but is strong enough to carry whatever he picks up is the Elder Scrolls way of thinking where a single plate leaves you moving like molasses. The first was clunkier but was a nice change from the weight-based system that writes its own jokes. Also the new system has everything broken down into categories, some overlapping. It works decently, but sometimes bugs out if an item fits into multiple categories, especially if it is a quest item. I’d pick something up, and when I went to use it, it was nowhere to be found. I had to go to forums just to navigate the menu. For example you have to use warrior nekker’s blood to break a spell for a quest. I had some but couldn’t find it anywhere in my alchemy screen. Turns out that even though the other ingredients for the quest were found there, this one was only under quest items. These silly issues were headaches that the last system never were.

Quests

If there was an aspect of the Witcher 2 that left me more conflicted, it was the quests. Like the Witcher, the quests are divided into chapters and must be completed before continuing to the next. Unlike the first, the chapters are then divided into smaller parts without ever telling the player. Multiple times I failed quests halfway through a chapter for some arbitrary reason that I couldn’t have figured.

Outside of this poor choice, the quests themselves are outstanding the main ones are strong and multi-layered. You never know if what you’re doing and for whom you’re doing it are good in the right, but you know it needs to get done regardless.

The side quests have variety–witcher contracts, investigations, debates in philosophy, and riddle-solving. The intermittent battles and conversations tie these radically disparate adventures together.

Verdict

Despite much of this sounding like complaining, I loved this game in its entirety. I can’t get enough of the characters, the story, the quests. Even with the changes to the sequel of which I’m not a fan, I can’t recommend this series enough. It’s definitely my favorite Western RPG in a fantasy setting.

Also a favorite game series period.

Stay tuned.

[Note: This being my one hundredth post sort of snuck up on me. I have a list prepared for a certain special and self-deprecating post.]

Why So Braggy?

Why So Braggy?

I’m in the middle of playing through The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings, so my reviews have come to a halt while I fight through the third act. But in my effort to reach this last chunk of the game, one giant draug was in my way. No, that’s not a vague game-related metaphor. The final boss for Act 2 was a draug pumped up on all the steroids in thirteenth-century Poland. He was knocking me down in three blows with an unbelievable variety of melee and ranged attacks. I thought maybe I was missing something obvious. Nothing had been this hard since the beginning of the game, and I couldn’t understand the spike in difficulty. So I went googling and happened upon the most, ahem, modest of people. Here’s what I found (with IDs and usernames redacted to save the embarrassment for the braggarts of long ago, i.e. 2011):

BraggyOne
I’m pretty sure potions were a given, kind sir.
BraggyThree
Punctuation is even less of a big deal.
BraggyTwo
“Hit him” doesn’t do much to explain what made it easy for you.

Now before I get raked over the Internet fire about free speech, I know my feelings are completely subjective. Think of this as my wish on a star for people to show a consideration for time and place.

Also for some perspective, I played this boss battle on stream and got so frustrated between the repeated dying and pompous nature of the forums, I quit for the day.

Now that I’ve done some examples, the requisite First Amendment disclaimer, and provided some context, let me now follow all that up with a hypothetical situation.

Say you are in a mixed group of people, some friends, some strangers, and you’re discussing training for an upcoming marathon. You’re having trouble hitting your stride while running long-distance and are looking for advice to help you bridge the gap between you and your fellow runners. After putting your situation out there, three people immediately jump in to tell you that they’ve run like that for years without an issue. No advice, no empathy for when they were struggling, just statements of their own absurd accomplishments like running to the moon.

To even continue the conversation, you’re stuck with an awful choice. You either continue to reiterate how much you suck until you get answer, or you sit there feeling bad for even asking.

Now how does this translate to the Internet? This hypothetical situation sets people up with a clear opportunity to brag a little (or a lot) on themselves. Whether you agree with it or not, you’d expect to get at least one person who can’t stop him or herself from screaming, “AREN’T I GREAT?!”

On the forums pictures above, you have to seek out these opportunities specifically. Not frequent post on even Reddit, forever a lurker, I don’t know often people search on threads on publisher forums, GameFAQs, Steam, and other corners of the web. If you do, comment below because I’m genuinely curious.

But the small sample I pulled for you above lit my blood on fire. I had lost my patience to the point I was googling live on Twitch for something that should be straightforward. Instead of vast amounts of help or suggestions of strategy, I was met with snobbery over Why So Braggy?quick player deaths and difficulty modes.

Maybe it’s my Southern sensibilities, maybe it’s my inability to properly talk about myself.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been met with people’s pomp and circumstance over their own prowess. It’s just the first time I became this incensed over it. I wrote this over the course of a few days, so I could at least write it with a clear head.

TL;DR The time to (humble)brag is not when someone is asking for help. Just answer the question and move on.

Does this get to anyone else? Feel differently? Let me know below!

Next up: The Witcher 2 review!

Stay tuned.