A word of warning before you start reading this one, I am only abut 5~6 hours into the game at this point. So opinions may change later down the line, but I certainly didn't want to rush out a review of what could potentially be a thousand hour game just for the sake of getting it out there. What this first look will provide is my unfiltered thoughts and feelings about the game so far, and my experience with it. I hope you enjoy my story, and with that out of the way feel free to read on:
I finally walked through my front door after spending ten hours of my day at work under fluorescent lighting and the smell of dust settling on my desk. I walked through the door carrying the latest mail package that arrived on time for once, thank god, that day was the launch of a game I’d been eager to play. I opened the package and inspected my new video card, I knew this would be enough to crush the software known as The Witcher 3 into submission. I took the dog out one last time, fed her and the cat, and made sure I would have no distractions. I swapped my old GTX 570 out of my rig for my new piece of hardware and installed the latest drivers. After rebooting I loaded up GOG Galaxy and saw my previously installed game finally ready to be played, pre-loaded, with a very inviting play button. I turn on my PS4 controller and wait for it to connect to my bluetooth, after reading about the poor mouse acceleration issues in the game I wanted no part in messing around with it, even if there was a fix I could care less. I entered the settings menu once the game loaded up to do one thing and one thing only. To turn everything up to 11. Grass quality, Ultra. Water quality, Ultra. Textures, and everything else, all to Ultra. All the fancy post processing bells and whistles including Nvidia Hairworks, all turned on and maxed out. Just when I’m ready to hit new game and see if the graphics downgrade was real or not, I hear a strange sound through my headphones. It’s the damn cat, crying about her dirty litter box and takes a dump right on the recently cleaned carpet. I unequipped my controller and California Silverados to deal with real life one last time.
After finally returning to my seat, I take up arms, select my desired difficulty, and I’m gone. Not right away, but the opening cinematic, coupled with the music, reminded me what was happening since I last adventured as Geralt, hunting down Letho. After playing the game some way through, up to the first tavern, and was free to explore the opening region, which didn’t seem huge at first, I realized just how invested I was in everything around me. I was stopping to listen to every NPC talk, I mourned as they mourned, I saw the effects of war in these people’s hearts and souls and wanted to help (even if that’s not a Witchers priority, I made it so) I had no idea why these things pulled me in as much as they did, but I was there. The edges of my monitor no longer existed, the concerns of poor visuals, performance issues, the dog chewing on something she’s not supposed to, and stresses in the workplace had all vanished. There was simply Geralt, and whatever damned beast he was dodging attacks from at the moment. I was reading through every document, studying the bestiary for each new foe, and found myself taking on a player role I hardly ever fall into, the completionist. A completionist player archetype is someone who achieves every little thing within a game, no matter how long it takes, something I have rarely done in video games.
It escaped me for a long time as to why this particular adventure had me hooked by its teeth, then I realized something. This game itself doesn't just have a heart and soul, everything within it does. A soul resides not just in the games mechanics and visual effects, but it’s character, and the characters within it. Even the main protagonist who by all means could easily be another cookie cutter, bland, no personality, grizzled white dude. And while Geralt may be grizzled, he has more personality than any main character I've seen in a game in a long time, and I needed that. The world I move him through animates with the weather, creatures, and stillness of abandoned buildings. Which all seem to breathe life and, again, character into the world around me. Let alone the countless other non player characters that for once feel like actual characters who all live their own lives, have their own dreams, and their own issues. Most of whom do not want your help. The old trope of only one or two npcs in an area having a quest for you seems to make its own great deal of sense in this way, as witchers are looked upon as abominations by most, and many would not stoop to such levels to ask for your help. It’s this level of at least fabricated confidence that the Witcher 3 stands tall. Everything feels connected, and you're able to simply fall into its capable hands while it lets you explore what it has to offer.
I guess the Witcher re-taught me the difference between my wants and my needs. I wanted a game that offered a lot of playing time, I wanted a game that looked better than any game out there, I wanted a game that lived up to the hype, and I really wanted a game that actually worked for once **Cough**Ubisoft
**Cough** And yet, I needed a game that felt cared for, I needed a game I could get lost in, I needed a game that had a soul, I needed a game that I felt a deep connection too, I needed a game that could take me away from the real world for a bit, and I desperately needed a game to call home. While I may not quite know why I needed these things yet, I don’t feel like I need to know everything.
All I know after the short time I have spent playing is that, I got sucked in by a world, it captivated me enough to stay in said world, and I did not want to leave. Thankfully though, a part of me will never leave. It’s the same part of me that is still standing at the top of the Throat of the World, the same part of me that still remembers making John Marston walk out of that barn, the same part of me that still guards the forests of Darkroot Garden, and it’s the same part of me that will always be watching over Megaton at night, fending off those who dare approach my city. And if I stopped playing Witcher 3 right now, I’d be proud of the short stories that I get to tell. Stories that I was only able to make thanks to the tools Witcher 3 provided me with. And I know that I’ll be damned if I let another Wraith get the best of me.
So needless to say, it's alright.
Would play again.