|It's a pretty big game.|
My usual code of conduct as a critic is that I don't review a game until I've finished it. It perhaps comes with being a bachelor in his mid-20s who has the kind of free time that allows him to finish games in the first place, but here we are.
This policy, however, brings me to an obstacle. It's been nearly a month since the release of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and in that time, I have played no other games. Just this weekend, I hit the 100-hour mark, making it my second-most-played Steam game of all time (after Team Fortress 2, which still maintains a comfortable lead at 257 hours).
So why don't I have a review to show for it? After a hundred hours, could it be that I still don't have a solid grasp on whether or not I'd recommend the game? Certainly not. Most of my time with The Witcher 3 has been spent exploring the world and engaging in side quests, and even after about four straight weeks of this, I'm still actively looking for reasons to prolong the experience. After a hundred hours of game time, I still don't want it to end. That's remarkable. That's unheard of, especially given my lukewarm reaction to the first two games. Obviously, The Witcher 3 is amazing. Obviously, it gets my highest possible recommendation, and I don't need to see it through to the end to say that with confidence.
But what's particularly noteworthy about all of this is that even after a hundred hours, I've still got an awful lot of game to see. The Witcher 3's world is split primarily into two regions, Velen and Skellige. You go to Velen first. It's your typical fantasy woodland area, except that I can't recall ever such a traditional setting rendered in a video game on such a staggering scale and with such a breathtaking eye for organic details. I spent about 80 hours there before moving on to Skellige, a set of islands with harsher weather and more mountainous terrain. Most of my time there has been spent Wind Waker-ing between land masses, and I haven't even touched the story quests yet. Assuming that The Witcher 3's story is evenly split between its two major areas, this means that even after all of this time, I'm only halfway through the campaign.
I will, of course, be saving my most in-depth critique of this game for my eventual review (assuming I finish this before I die, which feels like a tall order at this moment), but let's just say that for all of The Witcher 3's issues, and it has many, it is now the new benchmark for open-world RPGs. And not just because it's big, but because everything that inhabits this world is genuinely interesting. Minor roles are well-written. Exploration yields rewards beyond flat experience points. Everything here has purpose, history, and context within the Witcher universe, a place that I've never felt truly absorbed in until now.
Mechanically, there's still a lot that CD Projekt RED needs to iron out, but there's a reason we're always more forgiving of that in rich, ambitious titles like this and Skyrim: because there really is a bigger picture. And where the first two Witcher games felt walled-in, the third entry is CD Projekt RED bringing their vision to life. I can't wait to tell you why.
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|zippdementia - June 15, 2015 (07:42 PM)
You are only in your mid twenties? Man, I thought you were closer to my age (young thirties).
How much of a requirement is having played Witcher 1 and 2 to play number 3?
|honestgamer - June 15, 2015 (08:58 PM)
I'd say there's not much of a requirement at all, Zipp, and I suspect Mike will concur. There's stuff you wouldn't mind knowing, I'm sure, but you don't have to play the previous games to jump in and have fun.
|zippdementia - June 16, 2015 (07:02 AM)
Good to hear. Because those were pretty long games already, and the first two had some pretty aggregious reviews.
|Genj - June 16, 2015 (04:51 PM)
I finished it last night with maybe 70 hours of progress. Absolutely phenomenal game. I could easily see this being my GOTY because frankly there's no way Bethaesda's writing for Fallout 4 will come anywhere close to Witcher 3's.
|Suskie - June 17, 2015 (02:23 AM)
Zipp: Nah, I wouldn't say it's required at all; the plot is basically an entirely new thread. The game does have a lot of bizarre terminology and characters from Geralt's past are constantly popping up, but that was true of the first two games as well and I actually think Witcher 3 does a far better job of contextualizing everything.
By the way, it's worth noting that the first two were actually very well received in general. I'm a bit of an outcast for not liking them.
|overdrive - June 17, 2015 (11:58 AM)
Some year, I'll get around to Witcher 2 in my backlog. And some year, I'll get around to buying a current-gen system to play Witcher 3.