Witcher 3: Get Dandelion

By Shamus
on Jun 7, 2015
Filed under:
Game Reviews

Witcher 3 is really good. At this point, it’s my Game of the Year. Actually, it’s my “Game of the Last Several Years”. I’ve spent the last week having these little moments where I put the controller down and say, “Wow. This game is really amazing.” The reasons why I like it so much can wait for another post. What I want to talk about is the bit last week when I rage-quit, then came back a few days later, rage-quit again, and then loudly and publicly quit the game via Twitter.

The full tale looks like this:

The next one linked to this image:

More like, find a guy to find a guy times ten, but who’s counting?

So let’s talk about why this was a complete disaster:

1. Dandelion sucks.

Dude, I agree that purple is an awesome color, but you seriously need to dial it back a bit. Trust me.

He’s a bard, a liar, a scamp, a womanizer, and a goof. These are not his downfall. In fact, he’s actually a breath of fresh air next to all the filthy sourpuss grimdark characters that inhabit this world. Dandelion is there to show us that at least someone in this world knows how to have a good time. Comic relief characters can really help us build a connection with the world and get us to invest in it. Played right, this kind of character can be the Leo Getz of the world. Play it wrong, and you get Jar-Jar Binks.

The problem with Dandelion is that he’s a one-note joke, and the author is enamored of him. The first time I ran into someone saying, “That Dandelion! He’s such a scamp, amirite?” I was okay with it. The tenth time, my patience was completely out and I could tell the writer was just congratulating themselves for having an out-of-place character in their world.

So I spent seven or eight hours questing to find a guy I didn’t want to find, because the plot told me I needed to. A little of this would have been fine, but after so many hours it was intolerable.

2. Chasing a Mirage

I appreciate the self-awareness, videogame, but can we get this over with and get back to Witcher-ing?

Nested problems. It’s a staple of the genre that you need to do C so you can accomplish B so you can reach A. That’s fine. It wouldn’t make for much of a game if you could fly off and kill Darth Malak as soon as the tutorial level was over. It’s the backbone of the classic hero’s journey: The protagonist must overcome a series of obstacles that ramp up in challenge and scale, until they’re ready to confront their adversary when everything is on the line.

The problem in the Dandelion questline is that there’s no sense of progression. Someone tells you to look for Dandelion at the brothel, so you go to the brothel and he’s not there, but somebody tells you Bob might know where he is, so you find Bob and he tells you to check Applebee’s. You go to Applebee’s, but he’s not there. But someone tells you that Dandelion left with Frank. So you track down Frank and he says Dandelion was on his way to the port. And so on.

Imagine that endless treadmill, for hours. It doesn’t feel like it’s building up to something, and whenever you’re on your way to somewhere you have no reason to believe this isn’t the last leg of your journey. So when it turns out this is another dead-end, you don’t feel like you’ve gained anything. You’ve just wasted your time.

In Skyrim, as you quest you learn new things. Your knowledge of the dragon threat grows and you acquire secrets that will lead to your victory. Six hours into the Dandelion quest, you’re no closer to finding him than when you started. Yes, the main quest of Skyrim was generic fill-in-the-blanks RPG adventure garbage with nothing going for it but a couple of good voice actors. But imagine how much worse it would be if every single quest promised it was the one where you would ultimately beat the dragons, but at the end all you got was another idiot telling you (and not showing you) that “Dragons are a serious problem”, before sending you to another map marker to meet the next idiot.

Actually I guess a lot of the story was exactly that. And it sucked.

3. The City Sucks

Good: Busy crowds to make a city look lived-in. Bad: A protagonist who bounces around in crowds like a pinball.

Geralt handles like a bowling ball. He’s got tons of inertia, and getting him through doorways is actually really annoying. I’ll gently nudge the stick to move him close to the door, but I get impatient, nudge too much, and he launches into full-on sprint mode where he blows past the door and slams face first into the wall. I nudge back the other way and he overshoots again. I correct for that, but now the camera has swung around and I’m looking at the wall.

Worse, the streets are littered with guards, and if you slam into them it’s a crime, and they’ll attack. So you have to carefully pilot this bowling ball around these narrow, crowded, serpentine streets.

EDIT: Several people have said in the comments that you can run into the guards without repercussions. Early in the game I slammed into some NilfguardiansOne of the factions. It’s complicated. and they attacked me, so I just assumed this would be the case everywhere. But apparently town guards are a lot more lax? So if you’ve been tiptoeing around them like I have, then maybe you’ve been wasting your time. I don’t know. Good luck!

These controls aren’t bad in the wilderness, but in the city they’re completely infuriating.

Part of the cause here might be framerate. I get just under 30fps in the wilderness, but that drops down to 15 or so in the city, and Geralt seems to be disproportionately more sluggish at low frameratesYes, I’m due for a graphics card update. But there’s a new model coming out soon, or one just came out, and it’s never a good time to buy because prices will be so much lower NEXT month. Plus, buying a graphics card is a shitty task and I hate it. But soon, I think..

4. It’s never that easy.

Having a simple task become convoluted is a staple of the genre, but it’s something to be done in moderation. Usually the quest goal is something like, “Talk to Bob”, but the actual quest is, “Fight a gang, then haggle with the doorkeeper, then go across town and learn the password, then come back and haggle with the doorkeeper again, then negotiate with Bruno to have him leave Bob alone, then find out Bob has been beaten into a coma, then get some herbs to bring him around, then escort Bob to safety, then fight another gang, then endure yet another five-minute conversation about what an incorrigible scoundrel Dandelion is, THEN learn that he has no idea where Dandelion is.” And the next goal is “talk to Carl”, and you realize it’s going to be another 20 minutes of screwing around to wind up right back where you are now.

That’s not just tiresome, that’s demoralizing.

5. No, the City REALLY Sucks

In the upper right is the map, which is one of the “rotate so forward is up” not “North is up”. I HATE rotating maps. Doesn’t help that the “N” for north is actually kind of hard to see.

The Dandelion quest has you bouncing from one end of the city to the other, constantly. You can’t ride your horse in the cityActually, you CAN, but you’ll just end up slamming into walls and guards and getting caught on bits everywhere., and riding your horse is one of the fun parts of the game. While it’s simple enough to follow map markers out in the wilderness, the map gets kind of confused about which doors you can go through, where passages are, and what the best path is from A to B. I’d often find myself circling a map point several times, trying to figure out which house I’m supposed to enter and which door will give me accessAlso, as a matter of taste I HATE rotating maps. NORTH IS UP, DAMN IT. I’m completely unable to get a sense of place and distance with that stupid spinning map..

Also the wilderness has more variety. Over the course of a couple of hours in the wilderness you’ll visit forests, swamps, fields, towns, and caves. You’ll run into a variety of monsters and stumble onto ruins and treasures. In the city you’re basically just going to fight the same thugs in the same cobblestone alleys.

“Shamus, if you were so sick of the city, why didn’t you go do something else?”

Since I really, really don’t care about Dandelion, I’d done basically all of the other quest lines first. There was nothing left to do in the main quest except look for Dandelion. Sure, I could go out to the wilderness and fight monsters, but I knew this stupid chore would still be waiting for me when I got back.

And actually, I did go do something else. I stopped playing the game. Trying to mix good parts of a game in with the shitty parts doesn’t change the fact that there are shitty parts.

6. Hey look! It’s that guy from that thing!

Zoltan might be everyone’s favorite character, but to me he’s just another random asshole who didn’t know how to find Dandelion.

The city is basically one giant shout-out to people who played the previous games, or read the books, or whatever. It’s really tedious watching a couple of characters reminisce about events I don’t care about or understand, and it happened constantly while looking for Dandelion.

Sure, put some fan service and shout-outs in your game. But make them optional sidequests. And not SEVEN HOURS long.

The happy ending is that I did eventually get through it. I was actually really close when I raged out in that final tweet. The problem was that I had no reason to believe I was close, and so it felt like it was going on forever.

The moment I solved the Dandelion problem it was like a switch was flipped and Witcher 3 went back to being the awesome game I’d been enjoying before.

So that’s the story behind those Tweets.

Enjoyed this post? Please share!

Footnotes:

[1] One of the factions. It’s complicated.

[2] Yes, I’m due for a graphics card update. But there’s a new model coming out soon, or one just came out, and it’s never a good time to buy because prices will be so much lower NEXT month. Plus, buying a graphics card is a shitty task and I hate it. But soon, I think.

[3] Actually, you CAN, but you’ll just end up slamming into walls and guards and getting caught on bits everywhere.

[4] Also, as a matter of taste I HATE rotating maps. NORTH IS UP, DAMN IT. I’m completely unable to get a sense of place and distance with that stupid spinning map.


A Hundred!18118 comments. Quick! Add another to see if this message changes!

From the Archives:

  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

    So where was he in the end?Was he at wendys?Eating a nourishing spicy meal,perhaps?

    • rofltehcat says:

      Probably tried getting into the wrong pair of pants.

      In the Witcher adventure/board game when you play Dandelion many of the cards that represent lady npcs have special effects for Dandelion. Usually he gets cockblocked, or loses a half turn to sex or jail or maybe loses some money.

  2. Random Thoughts says:

    you can ride your horse in the city. thought it can easily descend into peasant bowling. (or is that just me?)

  3. djw says:

    Are you sure that its a crime to walk into a guard? I have been unable to replicate. They have yet to go beyond verbally accusing me of loitering after repeated body slams.

    I agree on the doorways though. I find those annoying even though I have a system that maintains a high framerate all the time.

  4. Humanoid says:

    Stuff like this makes me wonder if CDPR would do in terms of creating primary characters once they’re divorced from the world created by Sapkowski.

    I’ve never read any of the original material, but I do tend to get the impression that CDPR are doing excellent work with an unexceptional setting. I guess we’ll find out their real chops when they do the Cyberpunk game, because though it’s also a licenced setting, there’s a lot more freedom for them to do their own thing (and consequently more rope to hang themselves with if they fail).

    • I think Dandelion is a larger character in the books? (didn’t Josh mention reading the books? He might be able to answer).
      It’s possible that the author identifies with both Dandelion and Geralt hence why Dandelion is a key point.

      The Cyberpunk game takes place after the book(s) it’s based on I think, and so far there is no word on whether they’ll follow existing characters.

      If I where to guess they’ll let you create any character/class/gender that setting allows.

      • 4th Dimension says:

        In the games the narator IS the Dandelion. The game is essentially Dandelion retelling one of his witcher fiend’s adventures. And if we take this road it might be Dandelion overblowing his importance to the plot. “And remember all those things that you hear the Geralt of Rivia did in Novigrad? He did all that because he was trying to find one man that could help him find Ciri, that is my humble (bollocs) self”

      • Josh says:

        Dandelion is a fairly major character in the books (though I’ve not read all of the novels so I’m not sure if that holds true in the mid-to-later parts of the story). He’s sort of the foil to Geralt’s straight-man when the two are together. Also Geralt has to bail him out of trouble a lot, so this quest is not exactly new territory for the character.

        • James says:

          I suspect Josh has read as much as i have, the novels in English.

          So yes Dandelion is Geralts foil, and hes also a colossal liar, a boast, and a dandy (hehe get it cus his name) but he is also Geralt’s closest friend, that said he also sticks his neck out for his friends, he goes tracking with Geralt into very dangerous places into situations that could very well get him killed, why? because he wants to help his friend.

          Dandelion is not strong, fast, he has neither magic nor any innate talent with adventuring, hes a bard after all.

          EDIT: Also i forgot, Dandelion is Geralt’s conscience, kind of, he’s the one who will point out if Geralt is being overly pragmatic or distant, at least in the books and the other games. This is of course to say that Geralt is a harsh uncaring person, but sometimes he needs nudging and reminding.

    • Something says:

      If you read the Witcher books or do any substantial reading on the background of the games it becomes obvious that the Witcher series is pretty unexceptional pulp fantasy. While that’s not an indictment in itself of anything, since pulp can be good fun too, the stuff that appeals to me about the games (the moral complexity of the world) seems to be largely the invention of the CDProjectRed guys.

      • Sleeping Dragon says:

        This is not entirely true, though mind you it’s been a while since I read the books (when they originally first came out in Poland) meaning my memories are slightly murky and I probably remember it as better than it actually is because nostalgia. Yes, it is in large parts very pulpy “tales of a guy slaying monsters and boning damsels” but it sort of departs from there (especially later on) and hits themes like the world paradigm shifting (the last days of the witchers) or “evil that can’t simply be hacked with a sword”. It’s part of why, I think, CDPR included the neutral option in the first game, in the books Geralt has this theme going where he was created to fight monsters and get paid, that’s what he’s good at and that’s all that he wants to do, but, as the story goes on, he is increasingly tangled up in this whole politics+prophecy+destiny thing. Sapkowski even sort of pulls Tolkien’s “end of the age of magic” though in a rather different tone*.

        *What Sapkowski was trying to do was take the Western fantasy classics/cliches, like the elves, the dwarves and “the chosen one”, and put a Slavic spin on it. The tone is actually closer to how Russians write their fantasy (not all of them of course, especially nowadays when it’s easier to take inspiration from Western authors) where the protagonist is often a victim of the plot and suffers/survives through the events, if they end up being the “big hero” it is often not of their own will and frequently as a pawn of some bigger power. For a good example check the “Watch” series and compare the first two books (“Night Watch” and “Day Watch”), that have a very Russian feel to them, to the later two (“Twilight Watch” and “Final Watch”) where the tone shifts more towards the “big hero” Western style fantasy. This is also why the world appears so dark, ugly and dreary by the way.

        • Borislav says:

          I’ve read the books more recently (they came out around the time of the first game in my country) and this is true – there are larger and more uncommon themes in them. The moral ambiguity is not a CDPR invention, it was present in the books also. A number of stories seemed typical – slay the monster, save the town, but in the end you found out that the monster was the lesser evil.

          Also, nice of you to bring up the Watch series, I love those books :) And now that I think about it, it does remind me of the Witcher in terms of themes and feel.

          • Something says:

            The things you guys are talking about are things that I immediately associate with stories like Conan, which is pretty much the prototype for pulp fantasy. Rather than being indicative of non-pulp, these are (IMO) actually tropes of the pulp fantasy genre.

            This was one reason why I have worries about the Witcher 3’s overall story arc, actually. I haven’t played the game yet, but obviously the promotional material promises some kind of resolution to the big questions concerning Ciri, The Wild Hunt, etc. In other words, bringing more focus onto the cliched larger scope stories which are much weaker than the generally good writing for individual characters.

            • Sleeping Dragon says:

              I think we may be using different definition of pulp. Again, I can definitely agree that the books started there (especially the short stories) but I don’t associate pulp with covering things like societal change or exploring “man’s inhumanity to man” (at least not thoughtfully). The “last days of the witchers” theme is also more than “he’s (one of) the last of his kind and he’s awesome”, like I said earlier it has a bit of Tolkien’s “the end of the age of wonder” to it.

              I have no idea how much of that translates to the games since I’ve only played the first one, 2 is sitting in my backlog and it’ll probably be some two or three years before I even think of getting the new instalment.

          • Sleeping Dragon says:

            I really liked the first two Watch books, the third and fourth not so much.

  5. Joseph P. Tallylicker says:

    Yeesh, 15 fps? I applaud your tenacity, I cannot play games with <20 fps, it makes my head hurt and infuriates me when I inevitably overshoot something. I'd just give up on the game at that framerate… (disclaimer: I don't have the witcher)

    • Once a PC game goes below 30 FPS is starts to suck. I manage to run GTA V at 30 FPS average.

      It also depends on how the input it handled.

      I think Witcher 3 let you choose between 30 FPS, 60 FPS, unlimited, no vsync and with vsync.
      My advise is to choose to enable vsync and set unlimited (no frame rate limiting), that should give a more responsive game but avoid tearing.
      Most monitors are 60Hz so the vsync will automatically ensure 60FPS anyway but “naturally”.
      And if the engine can’t push frames fast enough it’ll drop to 30FPS anyway.
      That 30/60 FPS is maybe a holdover setting from the consoles?

      • SKD says:

        The funny thing I like to note in most framerate debates is that anything over 30 should be perfectly adequate, at least for the 25+ crowd as the classic CRT TV framerate was locked in at something like 29 or 29.5 fps (CRT monitors may have been capable of more, I don’t recall). So up until the widespread adoption of LCD screens and TVs everyone was used to what is now considered a borderline unplayable framerate. Maybe that is why I have trouble distinguishing the difference between 60 and 120 or higher framerates. If something is exceptionally detailed, or being shown on a supersized screen, it might make a difference but for most games at 1080p or equivalent resolutions they should be more than adequately playable anywhere between 30 and 60 fps. Unless of course the developers were to make a stupid design decision like locking the game performance to the FPS (looking at you Need For Speed Rivals).

        It may be a matter of personal opinion but so far I have yet to fond a game which I couldn’t play at 30 FPS although some do benefit from 60fps. YMMV

        • Humanoid says:

          Typical CRT monitor refresh rates were 60Hz (which hurt my eyes with the flickering), 75Hz, and 85Hz. CRT TVs were interlaced, so alternate lines were refreshed at 50Hz (PAL) or 59.94Hz (NTSC), resulting in the whole image being refreshed at half that rate (25/29.97Hz).

        • Trix2000 says:

          My benchmark as always had ~26fps for the minimum. Above that will grant better-looking visuals, but it’s much harder for me to tie that to the frame rate and is much less obvious. Below that point is when I start noticing the frames or that things aren’t moving smoothly anymore, which is where I wouldn’t want to play it at.

          For the most part, I aim to keep it at 60 since I don’t tend to notice much of a difference above that (even though there probably still is improvement). If I can’t do that, even just hanging in the 30-50 range is plenty fine for my tastes.

      • sofawall says:

        Dropping from 60FPS straight to 30 is actually a vsync thing.

        • Um. are you refering to: “and if the engine can’t push frames fast enough it’ll drop to 30FPS anyway.”

          That is actually not a vsync thing. It is the engine that drops to half the vsync rate, the vsync does not actually change. Now with the DisplayPorts Adaptive Sync the vsync can actually change.

          The 30/60 FPS choice is as I said maybe a holdover from consoles where games are usually 30 FPS or 60 FPS, consoles do not sync to the display rate at all (AFAIK).
          And only the PS4 can push 60 FPS without sacrificing too much quality.

    • Humanoid says:

      It’s painful to be sure, but I find the FPS drops occur maybe a quarter of the time as most, usually for me when water is involved. Personally getting 30-35fps most of the time, dropping to a smidge under 20fps during the bad times, so I put up with it. I imagine this corresponds to Shamus’ just-under-30 and 15fps moments.

      I do want to build a new PC, but with Skylake desktop CPUs due around September, it’s not a great time to do so.

      • SKD says:

        I know your pain. I have been considering a new build with the imminent release of Win 10. As well, the imminent need to update my GPU will require a mobo/CPU upgrade also in order to take full advantage of the increased graphics horsepower. might as well wait until the new CPUs and GPUs are out to make the upgrade last as long as possible.

  6. Galad says:

    “The problem with Dandelion is that he’s a one-note joke, and the author is enamored of him. ”

    To me, Dandelion is a fun character that has the best kind of stories, and is fun to get out of trouble. He’s also noticeably different in this game than before, he’s a more serious and reliable character, and even Priscilla comments to that effect. I did find his quest line overly long, and it was going to be easier not to notice that without Priscilla’s line in the picture in your post, but eh..didn’t bother me anywhere near as much.

    The rest of your post, I’ll agree with. Except I doubt you’ve done much in Skellige at, I assume, character level <= 15. Oh, and

    "Worse, the streets are littered with guards, and if you slam into them it’s a crime, and they’ll attack"

    Nope, just tested it, by repeatedly sprinting into a group of patrolling guards. All they'll do is spout out one of "Oof!", "Argh", "Watch your step!", look at you and continue on their path. Now, threatening them (attack button), or unsheathing your sword on the other hand, that will aggro them, not immediately, but if you repeat threatening, or if you don’t sheathe your sword up to a second or two afterwards. If it's any different for you, it should be a bug

  7. Henson says:

    Shamus, you can change the minimap so that it doesn’t rotate. Check the options menu. I know, that damn rotating map gets me lost a lot, though relying on landmarks and learning the layout of the city has actually been nice.

    • djw says:

      I wish I had known that earlier. Rotating minimaps is a pet peeve of mine. I always turn that feature off on my gps too.

      • AileTheAlien says:

        I actually like both settings, but it depends on the game. For a game with a fixed (or player-controlled) camera, I like to have my map an camera both pointing with up as north. On the other hand, 1st and 3rd-person games usually have the camera follow me, so I like my map to also follow my camera. That means “spinning map”, but at least it’s spinning with me. The worst I think, is when the camera and map don’t lock to each other. There’s been several games I’ve played back in the day, where there was a fixed camera and a rotating map, or vise versa, and it drove me absolutely nuts!

        • guy says:

          I’m fine with rotating camera fixed map as long as the map has an indicator for facing. Having a fixed map is good for area navigation; I tend to get lost whenever the map orientation changes on me. Though I prefer rotating if it’s just a “radar” that shows red dots and quest markers without terrain.

    • Shamus says:

      Yes!

      That’s SO much better.

    • Shame there isn’t a hotkey to toggle the minimap on and off. (so one can quickly check the minimap/weather/day/time stuff and then hide it again).

    • Wide And Nerdy says:

      THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU.

      I’d gotten used to it somewhat but the rotating was so annoying in the beginning because the minimap rotates but the main map doesn’t. I can do the conversion somewhat but I’d prefer to focus on the pretty scenery.

      CD Projekt Red really does do pretty much everything right.

      EDIT: Wait, I take that back. THEY SHAVED MY BEARD!! I had to meditate for a good two months to get it back to a decent length (yes you can get a haircut but I want the beard to grow as long as it can.) I had Geralt cheat on Yenefer for this very reason.

    • Trix2000 says:

      I’m honestly surprised when a game with a rotating minimap DOESN’T have this option, since in theory it’d be easy to have – just turn off whatever code you’re running to dynamically turn the minimap as you do.

      Maybe it’s not always so simple in implementation, but I always considered it to be a necessary option. Honestly, I’ve never liked nor saw the point to rotating minimaps.

    • Wide And Nerdy says:

      On the subject of useful functions, if you’re playing the PC version with keyboard and mouse, the CTRL button toggles walking. I just discovered this.

  8. Gunther says:

    Dangit, I’ve just started this questline and you’ve got me dreading it. The game has been SO GOOD up until now that I figure I can suffer through a little badness.

    I actually played the Witcher 2 and the callbacks are still lost on me. The game keeps going “hey, remember this guy?” and I’m like “…Maybe? Scottish dwarves that love alcohol, fighting and bickering with elves aren’t exactly the most memorable of characters.”.

  9. Abnaxis says:

    He’s probably in the other games as well (just started the first Witcher, because I CAN’T start playing a series on the third installment), but Dandelion is DEFINITELY a character from the books.

    It’s been too long since I read it, but I remember liking him in the first book. Maybe they are counting on that goodwill?

    Also, I guess they’re counting on you making progress on this quest while you were doing the others, instead of doing it all in one sitting? I bet they would look at you weird if you insisted on keeping your beans and mashed potatoes separate and ate them in order (people look at me weird when I do that)

    • Humanoid says:

      Yeah, you meet Dandelion fairly early on in both of the previous games. In the second you also rescue him, but it takes about one minute, not eight hours to do so.

    • Bryan says:

      Wait, why do people look at you weird when you do that? That’s the *only* way to eat beans and mashed potatoes! (And whatever meat is in the meal.) Need to keep them all separate, obviously. Duh.

      Strange people and their mixing of foods. :-/

      • AileTheAlien says:

        LoL! The only mixed foods I eat are like, soups and stews. I think it’s partly because I have had a chronic nasal infection my whole life? So, like, I have to eat things separately in order to taste them all; Otherwise it just tastes like generic bachelor chow. ^^;

        • Abnaxis says:

          I didn’t mean “mixed” so much as “touching.” I hate having not-completely-solid foodstuffs come into contact with one another.

          Also, I tend to finish each food entirely before moving on to the next, either going from “stuff I like least” to “stuff I like most,” or from “tasty stuff” to “filler” depending on whether I’m hungry enough to clean the entire plate or not.

          People who have noticed this say I am weird.

          • Deoxy says:

            My wife does does both of those, especially the first one.

            Off-topic: I was away for a bit, but I did respond to you in the Batman/Gray post. Hope it’s useful to you, even if we continue to disagree.

    • Mephane says:

      Also, I guess they’re counting on you making progress on this quest while you were doing the others, instead of doing it all in one sitting?

      What do you mean, mixing side-quests with the main storyline? What preposterous nonsense is this? No really. I never do such a thing. All the side-quests. All the optional dungeons. All the collectibles in the area. All the things.

      When everything is has been exhausted, then the main quest will get my attention again. Because I prefer to do main story stuff without any distraction from all the other things. Because main story stuff has this tendency to alter the world, and open new parts with even new side quests and dungeons and collectibles etc., while I am not even done with the ones I have laid out before me. Because main story stuff sometimes locks me out of areas I wished to visit, things I wished to do, without even telling me whether I will be able to do them afterwards.

      P.S.: I hate automatic, proximity-triggered story events for this very reason. I like to manually choose when to advance the main quest, not when I happen to stumble within some invisible bubble that immediately causes things to happen, automatically. It’s probably my #1 reason for using quickload, and why I quicksave like a madman even before doing the most mundane and benign things, lest there lurks a main story trigger.

      (Disclaimer: I haven’t played The Witcher 3 yet, and only a short bit of 2. I am waiting for a discounted GotY edition that will be on Steam eventually, as I am busy enough with the games I am already playing.)

      • Abnaxis says:

        My usual order, from Skyrim and other games like it:

        1) Finish main quest stopping when I either unlock all the areas/abilities that will give me the most convenience (so Dragonrend, in Skyrim), or when advancing the main story will lock out side-quests

        2) Work on ALL THE QUESTS in “what do I feel like doing today/what’s closest to me” order. I only have enough attention span to keep up with one nested problem for so long.

        3) There is no three, because I’m bored with the game before I ever get back to the main quest. I’ve seriously only finished like 2 games because of this. I’ve played 300 hours of Skyrim, even worked on mods for it, and still haven’t seen the main quest past where you learn Dragonrend.

        • Sleeping Dragon says:

          It’s very much my experience with Oblivion. Every now and then I decide I should try to play it through to the end, so I instal it, then I start looking for either new mods that seem interesting or old mods that I really liked. Then I get caught in doing Shivering Isles, DB questline, the mods… I have not actually finished the game to this very day.

  10. Dreadjaws says:

    So, it’s basically a gritty retelling of Super Mario Bros, with Dandelion instead of the Princess.

    “Sorry, Geralt, but Dandelion is in another castle”

  11. HiEv says:

    Heh… You called it “Wither 3”. :-P

    Also, that guy on the right in the last pic just looks like Zangief in medieval garb to me.

    Completely off topic, but any thoughts on how Desura’s parent company has filed for bankruptcy, apparently without letting anyone in the company know? Feel free to turn this into a mailbag question or whatever.

    • Humanoid says:

      A tiny little Zangief, adorable. And yeah, really tiny, dwarves in The Witcher seem a bit smaller than in most fantasy settings. Where a D&D dwarf may be two-thirds of a human, Witcher ones are probably one-half.

  12. Simplex says:

    As far as getting a video card, maybe this will help:
    http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/digitalfoundry-2015-graphics-card-upgrade-guide-update-2

    Buying a video card is not as horrible as you think, there are only two companies and they don’t have that many models for a given price range. And there are tons of buying guides on the internet on respectable tech sites, where they tell you that
    “the best card for 200$ is…” – like the one I linked to at the beginning.

    Good luck on upgrading your video card, Witcher 3 is a really demanding game, so you will see huge improvement, should you decide to upgrade. Try going for a sweet spot, which is somwehere between 200$ and 300$ – the cards below the sweet spot are overpriced for their power (i.e. a $150 video card will have half the power (or less) of 200$ video card) while the cards above the sweet spot are overpriced for their power (i.e. a 500$ video card is 20% faster that 350$ video card). Always go for the best bang for the buck.
    I’d personally go for GeForce 970 (best bang for buck currently), if you can afford it. It should be quite future proof. As a bonus you get free Arkhan Knight video game (up until a few days ago they were bundling both witcher 3 and arkham knight with this card.

    • Rack says:

      I’ve just gone for a 970 myself, pretty exciting. But you still have to be careful with guides like that. For example they endorse the 750ti at the bottom end but that should be heavily caveated as a recommendation, as it’s not really capable of running the Witcher 3 any better than Shamus’ current card. Even if you only care about running games at the lowest setting I wouldn’t go any lower than the R9 280. But then you have to consider power requirements, if you have a less than great power supply you’d go for the 960. But maybe you’ve got £300 to spare and can go for the 970. Unless of course your CPU isn’t up to snuff and that’s serious overkill.

      Useful advice is going to come down to “What’s your CPU, what’s your current graphics card, what’s your PSU, how much RAM have you got? Okay pick one of these according to your budget/ spend x of it on getting more RAM.” Those guides do at least let you know what’s good though which can help you if you’re considering “upgrading” a Radeon 295 to a Geforce 550.

    • Moridin says:

      The 970 is absolutely NOT future proof thanks to it’s crippled VRAM. Also, right now it actually IS quite bad time to buy a new card, because AMD is launching new series next week.

  13. Bropocalypse says:

    The Kingdom Hearts 2 tutorial stage was a lot like this.

    • Ruethus says:

      Not to mention nigh impossible on Proud Mode. I literally had to restart the game because my normal choices (drop damage, take magic) basically made the fight impossible, since you get no chance to buy Potions before the boss, and only have two to last through at least three instances of his “fill the arena with stuff you have to dodge with Reversal that sometimes hits you anyway roflpwnt LOL” move which is unique to that difficulty setting. Once I finally beat him, the bosses after that were much more reasonable, thankfully.

  14. Christopher says:

    All of your twitter complaining(Maybe that should just be “twittering”, “all of Twitter”) about Dandelion’s quest, combined with getting Yennefer confused with Ciri, made me look up the Witcher books on Wikipedia. Ended up reading the summary for The Last Wish, which sounded like an exciting and surprisingly high fantasy story involving a genie. I’m disappointed that this quest is nothing like that.

    • Galad says:

      Well, actually, one of the side quests in the game later on is directly related to precisely this high fantasy story involving a genie. ;)

      • Christopher says:

        Man, I really want to see that! Maybe I’ll just watch it on youtube, I’m not in a position to just buy a better PC or a new console at this point.

        • Galad says:

          Knock yourself out. Personally, I found the fight in this quest to be the most difficult fight of all the game. The (positive) payout is also great, with Geralt hugging Yenefer, sitting on the ledge, and a gorgeous snowy landscape view in the background

  15. 4. It’s never that easy.

    That was about 3/4 of Borderlands 2’s quests. Granted, all quests in B2 are just excuses to have combat, but still… At least they lampshaded it most of the time, even having an NPC shout “PLOT TWIST!” at you.

    • Jokerman says:

      I liked it in Borderlands, i would keep doing the bullshit quests like that just to see where the lampshading was going. Humor does a good job at letting you get away with otherwise really boring quests.

  16. The Inquisitive Loon says:

    As an accompanying piece, I would love to read your thoughts on the Skellige quest line when you get to it. :) I’d also totally get into your reaction to The Bloody Baron questline, but because so many people have talked about it elsewhere on the interwebs, I feel like Skellige would be a fresher topic.

  17. thebob288 says:

    I can’t say I disagree with your assessment of dandelion being a terrible character but for me I just kind of saw the quest as less about dandelion and more about the individual quests along the way. I wasn’t helping put on a play to get dudu the changling as part of the chain to get to dandelion I was doing it cause it seemed fun and I wanted to meet the changeling character. Personally the part about dandelion that bugs me is that hes the narrator in all the little cutscenes. (the narrator does just say that hes dandelion multiple times) It flat out just states that yes the character survives this and is fine and it defeats any narrative purpose for him whatsoever why do we care that hes on screen when it turns out no matter what he’ll be fine.

    • Jokerman says:

      Pretty bad that he has to keep reiterating that he is, in fact, Dandelion. If he did not do that i would of swore it was Vesamir.

      Not sure why they decided to change is voice like that, they didn’t do it in the older games, it sounds so strange and different for this guy to be calling him self Dandelion just before you enter a cutscene with Dandelion voice by a young American.

  18. Syal says:

    It wouldn’t make for much of a game if you could fly off and kill Darth Malak as soon as the tutorial level was over.

    Aw, no love for Chrono Trigger?

  19. Jokerman says:

    With that framerate, it might of been worth selling a part of your soul and buying it on Ps4, since you are using a controller anyway. Yeah, ok, im not that helpful.

  20. Phantos says:

    I remember dropping Witcher 2 early on. I just hated the way Geralt moves. I couldn’t put my finger on what was bad about it, or why.

    The bowling-ball analogy is perfect. It’s too bad that hasn’t been fixed after all this time.

  21. RCN says:

    You kiss your daughters with that mouth? Err… fingers? Err… I mean… oh… ok, there’s no combination of words to go from here that’ll even remotely work or fail to not make this very awkward very fast, so I’ll stick to kiss and mouth. Yeah, that works.

    Anyway, it is weird to see you use the expression “eat a dick”. Were you impersonating dudebros or something? I mean, you do use the world “asshole” or “dick” a lot, but always in the context of “someone who’s an asshole” and in all the time here in your blog or following your twitter or watching Spoiler Warning I rarely see you actually use swear words like that. Even in Stolen Pixels you’d use random wingdings in the place of swears.

    • Shamus says:

      It’s true. I keep it pretty clean most of the time.

      The thing is, I try to keep it clean because PROFANITY AS EXAGGERATED OUTRAGE is such an easy road to go down. I already nitpick quite a bit, and if I used lots of salty language then I’d just be “that one guy who’s always angry and hates everything”.

      But I do use language like that when I get genuinely mad. So the “eat a dick” thing was a moment where I dropped the manners and expressed real frustration.

      Having a public persona is strange.

      • RCN says:

        Right, then. That’s my problem with twitter. When it requires so few words to post in it, it is easy to forget some much-necessary filters in a spur-of-the-moment emotion.

        It has been the springboard from niche to internet-fame for a lot of people, and broadened the audience of many a celebrity… but it has also been the downfall of way too many thanks to a couple of ill-conceived tweets that spiraled out of control as their attempts at damage control only stoked the cinders into a raging inferno. (Noah Antwiler and Bob Chipman can attest to that).

        I’d be very wary of that thing. Well, if anything good to know the game mellowed out from that for you.

      • psivamp says:

        It was interesting to see that language from you because it seems so far from your norm. It’s totally something I would exclaim at my monitor while playing that segment.

        I’m not far from saying things like that when reading some of the code at work… although, I do manage to keep it to “Really? Are you serious?” ( We have some very odd stuff in our codebase that I’m not sure who wrote it. return statements at the normal end of void methods. )

  22. WWWebb says:

    Sigh. I was kind of looking forward to the Witcher 3, but I think I’m going to have to put it with Wasteland 2 on the pile of “games I would probably like, but I will never have enough time to play”.

    It reminds me of a good, Shamus-y editorial on Rock, Paper, Shotgun about “how long is too long” in RPGs.

  23. Hector says:

    This sounds like the perfect quest for lampshade hanging. If they just had Geralt being increasingly, ludicrously pissed at each new, absurd roadblock, it sounds like it would be perfect instead of irritating.

    • Veylon says:

      Having a character to sympathize with is vital for a narrative. There’s no reason for us to continue bothering if nobody we care about is involved. If not the main character, somebody. Having Geralt be ready to flip a table at each new inconvenience not only makes us more willing to go on, but to like him more because of the shared experience of frustration.

      I wonder why they didn’t do it that way?

  24. Darren says:

    For me, what really hurt Dandelion is the voice actor. Why does he have an American accent? A charming rogue in a faux medieval setting should almost always be British, and his VA was never able to pull off the tortured syntax of his lines.

    In fact, the inconsistency of the voice acting is one of my pet gripes with these games. Geralt’s voice is OK, but the American accents in the series past him are both arbitrary (they seemingly aren’t tied to any particular region of the setting) and woefully outclassed by the uniformly excellent voicework from actors of other ethnicity.

    • AR+ says:

      Modern American accent is not any further from that of medieval England than modern English accent.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      If you are playing it with english voice acting,you are playing it wrong,because its medieval POLISH setting.

      Joking aside,I never get complaints about the accent for a fictional setting.As long as everyone is on the same page and all the people of one area speak with the same accent,its fine.

      • Darren says:

        That’s part of what I’m complaining about, though: there’s no consistency to accents. If Geralt, as a Rivian, spoke with an American accent, that’s fine. The other wolf-school Witchers do as well, if I recall. But Triss and Dandelion speak with the same American accent, despite being from completely different areas, and it runs counter to the otherwise very well-thought-out setting.

        Also, the quality of the American voice acting isn’t great.

  25. Rodyle says:

    Is “reoccurring series character appears in series” really a fair complaint? It’s not CDProjeckt’s fault you jumped in at 3 Shamus.

    Well anyway once you’ve gained some distance you should really go back and do the sidequests with Dandelion, Zoltan, and Priscilla, because they’re good.

    E: also the new patch adjusts the movement physics, it’s easier to maneuver indoors and underwater now

    • Bloodsquirrel says:

      If that character has little point in being there other than “Hey! It’s that guy!” and no substantial role in the story? Yes, it is a valid complaint. Especially if you’re pulling from obscure source material and don’t try that hard to properly introduce the character.

  26. MadTinkerer says:

    “It doesn’t feel like it’s building up to something, and whenever you’re on your way to somewhere you have no reason to believe this isn’t the last leg of your journey.”

    This reminds me of the first two thirds of Final Fantasy XIII. I don’t know what the last third is like because I accidentally spoiled the fact that the only subplot I cared about (what happened to Vanille and [minor spoiler censored]’s home town) does not matter. Then, because I realized there was nothing left in the story I cared about, I deliberately spoiled the ending (a first for me) which turned out to be so nonsensical that I realized I would actually hate the game even more if I finished it.

    I played FF13 for several hours after the point where it was supposed to suddenly turn good. Clearly everyone who gave it a good score was suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, because it becomes less intolerable, but not anywhere near “good”. Do not play FF13 for Spoiler Warning. No, really, don’t. You have been warned.

    (If you’re really, really curious about the “good” part of FF13, play any Monster Hunter and any Smash Brothers instead. The “good” part of FF13 plays like an inferior Monster hunter clone crossed with the combat mechanics of a semi-adequate 2D beat-em-up. At no point does FF13 feel like any of the good Final Fantasies.)

    The silver lining to all this Squeenix-inflicted misery is that I’m fairly confident that despite Shamus’ objections, I could totally do the Dandelion quest. It can’t possibly be as bad as FF13.

    • If any of the Final Fantasy games makes it into Spoiler Warning, that will mark the end of the series. Not because there aren’t good games, but because the cast would die of old age before completing it.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Cant you speedrun through at least some of them?

        Though with the liberal use of the edit button,the only one who would have to go through them for more than an hour every week would be Josh.And Im sure everyone is ok with that.

  27. Piflik says:

    I personally never liked Dandelion. I didn’t like him in The Witcher 2 and I don’t remember if I met him in the first game, but I didn’t finish that one (played until Act 3 twice and lost motivation). That being said, I didn’t have a real problem with the long questline to rescue him. I never was a goal oriented guy when it comes to games, and the sub-goals were interesting enough on themselves. Most of the time I didn’t even realize I’m doing what I was doing for Dandelion (maybe it helped that I did these quests in tandem with other parts of the main quest and sidequests). While doing these quests I usually either thought about Ciri or about helping the people directly involved, like Triss (or all non-humans and magic-users in the city).

    In any case I am glad you pulled through. The rest of the game is less tiresome, and when you finally find her, you can witness about 2 seconds of the best-camera-shot-in-the-history-of-games (TM). (I know this is a game and not a movie, but I really liked that shot when he pens that door)

  28. krenich says:

    Sooooooooooooo… the Witcher 3 is an ideal game for a future Spoiler Warning?

  29. bad_cluster says:

    I don’t like Dandelion much myself, even though I did play Witcher one and two, and read most of the books (I think) and I do understand his importance as a character. But, for some reason, finding Dandelion quest didn’t bother me at all.
    I did loose track of the quest a few times and got sidetracked into doing other things, but eventually I was back on the track. Reading about your experiences and agreeing with most of your reasons, I’m actually surprised that I wasn’t bothered by any of that while I was doing that quest.

    I also don’t get why so many people make such a big deal out of the game controls, yes, they are clunky, yes they could be an annoyance, but once you get used to them you barely notice it anymore, at least that’s how it was for me.

    Could this be because of the “candle conspiracy”? The way object targeting works mixed with “strategic” candle placement in this game is just insidious and can lead to lots of frustration. Frustration, that might add up and spill over onto other issues. It took me some effort to stop getting annoyed every time I would ignite or extinguish instead of use or open. Maybe the key here is to learn to stop worrying and love the candle?

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      I also don’t get why so many people make such a big deal out of the game controls, yes, they are clunky, yes they could be an annoyance, but once you get used to them you barely notice it anymore, at least that’s how it was for me.

      Just because you can get used to something does not mean its still not a bad thing.

      • bad_cluster says:

        Absolutely!

      • Abnaxis says:

        Erm, I would say that, as far as controls are concerned, you being able to get used to them is the definition of “not a bad thing.”

        At least in my case, there are a ton of games out there that I didn’t control fluidly out of the box. If they had good controls, I eventually learned them until control became second nature. If they were bad controls (deliberately or not, looking at you Surgeon Simulator) then I didn’t get used to them because they were crappy controls.

        The problem Shamus has with Witcher controls is that there’s no getting used to them that will stop him from barreling into door frames.

  30. The Other Matt K says:

    I’m (probably) about halfway through the Dandelion quest. It should probably be bothering me as it did Shamus, simply because I’ve never liked the Dandelion character in the series. But I actually have been enjoying it, since the quest also involves getting caught up in a gang war, and I’ve found that plot element interesting even if I don’t care about the (actual) goal of finding Dandelion.

    And while I did a lot of side-questing before starting in on the Novigrad plot, I didn’t do all of it, so I’m constantly getting side-tracked by other quests and exploration and crafting, which has broken up the repetitive nature of the quest.

    Also, it helps that I like the city. I agree that it is easier to navigate in the wild (and is often more scenic), but I really really like a city that feels sizable. I’m so used to games where being in a big city means you have a few blocks to navigate. Like the rest of the Witcher, Novigrad feels genuinely expansive, and that’s been a selling point for me.

    Now, bouncing around the streets like a drunken bowling ball… yeah, I could use some slightly better movement controls. Even if there aren’t any serious consequences for it, it is definitely immersion breaking.

    Though one time, while racing around a corner to visit a drunken barber, I bumped into a woman and she dropped the basket she was carrying, and started crying (or I heard another woman crying at that exact moment), and it actually made me feel really bad. And then I did the same thing again on my way out of the shop (after he gave me the wrong haircut).

    So I have to commend the game, if even the poorly implemented movement mechanics are able to trigger a surge of empathy for the nameless inhabitants of the world. Not many other games can make that claim, I suspect.

  31. Cinebeast says:

    I’m glad to hear that, in spite of some wonky controls and funky side quests, the Witcher 3 is impressing you, Shamus. I guess I’m waiting for it to drop in price a bit before picking it up for myself.

    Dandelion has never struck me as a very good character in the first two games, but he was my favorite in the television show, so I have some goodwill left over for him. Does he really still speak in that awkward American accent, though?

    I’ll probably play the game in Polish.

  32. General Karthos says:

    This sounds like a game I’ll have to get with my next paycheck (or two, depending on how much money I have left over from the next one in the final analysis).

    I tend to be much more forgiving than Shamus, enjoying games he didn’t particularly like. But his review on Master of Orion II tells me there are games that he actually does like, and I have loved Master of Orion II since the first time I played it many years ago, in spite of its faults.

    Plus, I’ve been looking for a decent RPG, and everyone tells me this is it. And if people buy it, perhaps its a good sign for the genre.

    So long as Game Developers don’t pick the parts that are worst and emulate them the way they usually do.

  33. smudboy says:

    I actually just finished playing this whole subplot (and the various subplots that came form it) yesterday. Everything about it was beautiful. I saw nothing wrong with the quest-fetchiness of it, and having to go throughout the city seemed fine (there are quick travel points, you know, Shamus?) Yes, Geralt is a bit tricky to control at times, but by now you should be used to it.

    It goes from trying to find Dandelion, discovering he’s found a woman he’s smitten over, putting on a play with, which involves taking a part in a rhyming/Shakespearean comedy/tragedy play to catch a shapeshifter, to opening up a cabaret, to following and catching a serial murder in a murder mystery (yes, Witcher sense is Batman’s detective mode, complete with several coroner’s investigations.)

    Even the whole “Why don’t I just give you the money to open a cabaret” was nicely lampshaded.

    The only part I didn’t like was one of the coroner’s having extended life powers, because, he’s been around formaldehyde for decades (eh, magical land, I can let that pass.) But it all made sense, it was all supported by the characters in their scenes, and even gave some backstory on some of them.

    • MichaelGC says:

      I’m part-way through it at the moment, and I think one factor which may have helped to harm Shamus’ enjoyment of it was doing the questline last, or rather as late as possible. (Which is NOT to say Shamus was ‘doin it rong’ or any such piffle of that ilk!)

      If you do it as soon as you can, overall it does a good job of introducing you to the Novigrad area: you get sent to various interesting* locations, and there are various bits & bobs of world-building and setting-, er, settling? To a new player, this is quite useful and feels very natural. However, if one has already been pinballing around Novigrad for days, then the ‘new’ places obviously won’t be new, and the light elements of world-building may not even be noticeable! – it’s all stuff a more-experienced player would know already.

      Again, this is not to say Shamus is wrong: none of the above factors are going to make Dandelion less irritating, for example! But they are potentially-offsetting positives overall, and I think they’re more likely to make their positive presence felt if one happens to do the quests earlier rather than later.

      ——–
      * By ‘interesting’ in this context I mean “anywhere whence I might be able to win a new Gwent card.” ;D

      • MichaelGC says:

        Also, the way the quest stages play out slightly differently depending on how you’ve gone about addressing previous stages is really kinda cool – and obviously not obvious on a single playthrough.*

        It’s nothing major – just stuff like ‘if you slaughtered your way through Place x, the guards at Place y are not just going to let yourself Axii your way in’, but it’s nice to see things like that in a game.

        Oh, and for the benefit of any archive-delvers who’ve been waiting for a sale: for me the easiest method of controlling Geralt outside of combat is to use a controller, and only ever push the movement stick forward, using the camera stick to change direction. It sounds weird, and it feels weird at first, but if you try and take Geralt through 180° degrees just using the left stick, you’ll be at it a while. However, if you stop, spin the camera around so that Geralt is facing you, and then push forward, he’ll do a surprisingly nimble heel-turn, and you’ll be off & running. It’s not perfect, but it is a lot better.

        ——
        * I have a bit of a mania for restarting complex games – generally as I sequentially work out what I’ve been doing wrong! :D – so I’ve played through the initial stages of the Dandelion questline a couple of times. (I’ve done White Orchard about six times, I think! Aiming to complete the game by late-2018…)

        • MichaelGC says:

          Mania update: seven times. Steam says I’ve played for 177 hours*, and I’m just about to meet the Bloody Baron…

          *Admittedly around 20 of those were just me faffing around trying to get the right graphics settings. Eventually I gave up and bought a new GPU. :D

    • Gaius Maximus says:

      I realize I’m chiming in really late here, but if you finished the murder mystery quest with the coroner and you still think he’s long-lived by being around formaldehyde, you got played.

      Spoiler for that quest: The coroner is a higher vampire and the murderer, he set you up to assume it was the guard. If you talk to the guard in the brothel rather than killing him right away, Geralt works it out. (You can still kill the guard afterwards.)

  34. Niriel says:

    I just rescued Dandelion and am extremely confused. He was in a fortress, supposedly impossible to break in, which sounded like an interesting challenge. A doppelganger friend was supposed to help me get in. A fight happens, which we orchestrated in order to reinforce the cover of said doppelganger (something about a scar on the face). And suddenly, Dandelion is on a horse in that fight? What the hell happened? Why isn’t he in his prison anymore? I thought he was a decoy, maybe a doppel himself, but he seems to be the real thing. What did I miss?

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      You get your doppleganger friend in the fortress so that he could arrange a prison transfer,and then you assault the caravan when it leaves the town.

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