Experienced Points: How Witcher 3 Breaks all the Rules

By Shamus
on Dec 21, 2015
Filed under:
Column

My column this week is a gimmick-y little thing illustrating just how ridiculously lavish the storytelling is in Witcher 3. It was originally part of my 2015 end-of-year list, but the idea kind of grew into its own thing. And speaking of my 2015 list:

I left out Kerbal Space Program. Then again, it was actually part of my 2013 list. Honestly, these end-of-year lists are getting to be really confusing. Games come out before they’re released, we play them before they’re done, and we finish them before they’re finished. It’s a madcap, topsy-turvy world we live in now and nobody knows what the rules are.

Also, if I’d thought of it I might have put Hexcells: Infinite on my list. I played quite a bit of that this year. Er, all of it, actually. It’s like Minesweeper, but about ten times deeper, and played on a hex grid.

Witcher 3 was the game I wanted to come back to all year. It’s stuck with me, and I keep thinking about how I’d like to handle situation A or B differently. Spoiler: The biggest one is that: In my play-through I left the Radovid problem alone. This is not a good idea and the people of the city had a Bad Time.

Also, I sort of defaulted to pairing up with Yennifer, because it felt that that was the most “canonical” way to play it. I acted like I was playing KOTOR: the game makes the most sense on both a story and thematic level if you go light-side, but they allow you to play dark side anyway. But later it became clear there was no “canonical” route through Witcher 3. All roads were equally valid. If I do another play through, I might pair up with TrisI loved the hedge maze scene. It’s not remarkable by movie standards, but it’s amazing by the standards of videogame romance. It’s probably the first time romantic tension in a videogame didn’t feel like flirting with a Protectron. or I might go for the loner ending.

Now if I can just scrape together enough hours to manage another trip through the game.

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Footnotes:

[1] I loved the hedge maze scene. It’s not remarkable by movie standards, but it’s amazing by the standards of videogame romance. It’s probably the first time romantic tension in a videogame didn’t feel like flirting with a Protectron.



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  1. krellen says:

    The hedge scene really made me tempted to go for a Triss playthrough, but I had already committed to staying with Yennifer in my mind so I let her go. Then I got to the pun competition scene between Geralt and Yen during the werewolf hunt and my regrets crawled off to die peacefully.

    • Henson says:

      The great thing about the hedge maze scene is that it works regardless of whether you decide to go with Triss or not. I was trying to stay true to Yennefer at this point as well, so the scene turned out to be a bittersweet remembrance of what these two characters had and what could have been. It doesn’t feel like the game is forcing anything on you.

    • kdansky says:

      The really brilliant part is that if you read the books, then you know that Triss is a conniving bitch who only tries to (ab)use Geralt for her own needs after he suffers from Amnesia from the start of the first Witcher game, and you go with Yennefer. If you don’t (and therefore the amnesia does not only affect Geralt, but also the player, in a sense), then you go with Triss, and it’s fine and dandy.

      It’s a really neat detail.

      I doubt this was planned, but it came out really well. The first time since the JRPG days of yore where “Amnesia” wasn’t just a cheap trick.

      • 4th Dimension says:

        I went for Yenefer mostly out of canonical reasons, but I did sort of regret it during that scene and I never got that conniving manipulative vibe towards Geralt from Triss.

        • Humanoid says:

          I went for Yen because I couldn’t have Shani. Or Roche, for that matter…

          I really like (B)Roche. It’s particularly interesting because of how he was set up in the prologue of the previous game. In the beginning I was all “I am so going to get even with you”, or at least I was determined go my own way once given the chance, because why the hell would I do anything for him after all that. But somehow I actually organically chose to side with him throughout the rest of the game. Mumbles has Canderous and I have Roche.

          I had a similar initial sentiment towards Duncan in DA1, but on that occasion he died before the hate went away, so I was more like “good riddance you bastard, you deserve every bit of what happened”. It takes a lot for me to hate Master Splinter, but Bioware managed it. Maybe if Roche had died early on I’d have felt the same way, but it’s remarkable how quickly he turned me around.

          • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

            I liked Duncan but its amazing how different the character feels if you try to defy him at every turn. He’s gentle but firm, but he’s really willing to do what is necessary to get things done. He will recruit you against your will and he will kill you for backing out. Its a lot of fun to play as a Wild Elf or City Elf this way.

          • 4th Dimension says:

            Roche is a BRO total BRO. I did sort of betray him in W2 by siding with Yorveth because I wanted to hang out with the nice Dragon Lady, but even then Roche will come and rescue you from the Nilfgard camp, even after you basically ruined him. And from that point onwards Roche was my main Bro, anything he says will be done. One of the main reasons I helpt him and Temeria in the W3 against that Redanian was because otherwise Roche would have died.

            • Trix2000 says:

              Say whatever you want about Roche, but there is no questioning his loyalty. He will go to hell and back for the people (and country) he cares about. Sure, he’s a bit rough around the edges at times (mostly in Witcher 2), but nothing that quite crosses the line too far.

              I actually ended up going with Iorveth too, and actually ended up disappointed that I never say him again in W3 (is he in there? I never found out). He’s actually a pretty decent guy too when it comes down to it, or at least he’s at about the same level as most of the other ‘good guys’ in my opinion.

              • Artur CalDazar says:

                I felt like I missed out for having sided with Iorveth , but I have been told that it doesn’t actually change anything bar a line or two from Roche.

      • Fuzzyhead says:

        But according to the Books Yennefer is using Geralt the whole time treating him like dirt.
        All the sorceresses are manipulative bitches but me thinks triss is (especially in the games) the lesser evil. And I totally love Yen´s bitching after I lifted the curse that bound them together.

  2. Humanoid says:

    Waiting for the Blood and Wine expansion so I can wrap it up all at once. And also so I’ll have an excuse to award it GOTY of 2015 *and* 2016.

  3. Hector says:

    I have not played this game yet… but darn you, Shamus – you’ve just persuaded me!

    Yep, it’s next on my list now with Fallout 4.

    • Aldowyn says:

      Go with witcher 3 first.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Yup,definitely play witcher 3 first.Not just because its better,but because it has been out for longer,and thus plenty of stuff have been fixed,improved and added to it.

        • Humanoid says:

          And if you start playing it right now, you’ll probably end up reaching the appropriate level for the final DLC right as it’s released in a few months*. The game is _that_ long, as is the DLC: 10 hours was quoted for the first one, and double that for the upcoming second one.

          Also worth noting that Fallout 4’s modding tools won’t be out until next year, so you’ll need to wait until that time and then some for the modders to come and fix the game for Bethesda. I’ll give it another shot once that happens, but in its current state the game has been a complete flop for me.

          * Officially it’s just Q1 2016, but it won’t be January, realistically.

    • kdansky says:

      Those two games are not even in the same league. TW3 is literally the most impressive game ever made, Fallout 4 is just lowest-common-denominator “open-world” kitchen sink with guns and bugs.

      Even Metacritic agrees with me here, Fallout 4 gets mediocre user reviews across the board.

      • Trix2000 says:

        It’s still a fun game to play, to be fair. And for a Bethesda game, it’s actually pretty well designed all things considered.

        …But it’s a Bethesda game, and if you’ve played one of those it’s still going to feel similar, and NOTHING on the level that Witcher 3 managed to do.

        So play both, but I would definitely weigh heavily on Witcher 3 first and foremost. It’s a game without compare right now (though I hope that changes).

    • 4th Dimension says:

      You need to start the Witcher play through now because it’s loong. You can easily fit a Fallout 3 or couple other games in the cracks between sessions. I’m not joking about this. I have started playing Witcher 3 in JULY! and have only just now finished it. Sure there were quite a lot of breaks between plays, but still it’s a loong ass game where I think speed runs will be in the order of dozens of hours. Hell some of it’s areas and their sections of the main quest can be treated as separate games.

      I’m sorry that the playtime clock is apparently borked and is showing something like 23 days (it’s NOT THAT LONG), because I would have really wanted to know how much time I sank into W3

  4. Christopher says:

    I like that article, it’s a funny gimmick. Even funnier when someone in the escapist forums continued it.

    Are you thinking about writing something longer about the Witcher 3? Maybe I just forgot and you totally did a review-like thing, but all I remember was complaining about Dandelion. Until the GOTY articles I had no idea you enjoyed it this much, and it would be nice to hear about your favorite questlines. Gonna be a while until I get to play it.

  5. Kieran says:

    You’re constantly going on about how there aren’t any modern RPG’s without voice-acting; have you heard about the new Shadowrun games? Or are you restricting yourself to just AAA games?

    • AileTheAlien says:

      Is Shadowrun Hong Kong any good? ’cause the first one felt like a beta, and the reviews I’ve seen of the second one said it wasn’t much of an improvement on #1. I’d like to know if the 3rd one is good enough to buy. :)

      • Ninety-Three says:

        From what I’ve heard, Hong Kong is more of the same, which is usually expressed as a good thing because people liked the first ones, but I’m with you on not feeling them. Character customization was so limited (the optimal build is either “all my points in a particular gun” or “all my points in a particular gun, except a few points in spellcasting for Haste”), and it always felt more like a scifi hack ‘n’ slash dungeon crawl than something deserving of the name Shadowrun.

        • Jeff says:

          Hong Kong has entire missions that can have no combat, either sneaking or talking your way through the entire thing. I replayed Dragonfall (though the first time through Director’s Cut) less than a month before Hong Kong, and I think Hong Kong is better.

      • Humanoid says:

        Actually most feedback is that Dragonfall, the second campaign, is a major improvement in every aspect. Doubly so now that it has received a Director’s Cut, so the improvement is not only narrative-wise, but mechanical too. Perhaps the biggest thing is that your party members are now fully-fledged characters with their own stories rather than being literally hireable henchmen. Hong Kong carries forward the Director’s Cut enhancements and is about on par with Dragonfall.

        Dragonfall is $3 currently on the Humble Store. Get it. Get it now. Hong Kong is $10 on GMG, but that can wait until you play Dragonfall.

      • kdansky says:

        Dragonfall was really good. Better than D:OS. I have not bought Hong Kong yet, because I believe it is too big and suffers from filler.

      • Kieran says:

        Shadowrun Returns was meh. Shadowrun: Dragonfall Director’s Cut, was absolutely amazing in every way, just superbly written. I’ve only played the beginning of Hong Kong yet, but it seems just as good.

      • Decius says:

        Returns was a chore to play, but both Dragonfall and Hong Kong were awesome.

      • djw says:

        Dragonfall is much more polished than Returns, especially now that the directors edition is out. Hong Kong is also more polished, although (as usual) it was buggy at release.

        If you haven’t played Dragonfall yet then do yourself a favor and play that before you play Hong Kong. Dragonfall is well worth your time, and the longer you wait on Hong Kong the more bugs they will squash before you get to it.

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Ok,to be fair,witcher 3 does cut a bunch of corners when compared to planescape:torment.Almost 90% of witcher 3 dialogue boils down to geralt choosing either yes or no.Rarely do you get more options to pick from,and mostly just to gather info.There is bunch of choice,yes,but it usually boils down to you either doing a thing or not doing a thing,regardless of your reasons.Meanwhile,in planescape youd get to pick both to do/not do thing and WHY in the same dialogue.

    Also,witcher 3 does cut corners with its combat as well,seeing how you get advanced combat techniques only somewhere around half way through the game,and that only if you focus on one path instead of spreading your skills equally.And the advanced combat mostly boils down to just an alternate usage of X.Its still extensive,but not as much as something like the original fallout*drink* perk system.

    So yes,you can notice where theyve cut corners if you focus enough.The game Id most likely compare witcher 3 with is deus ex 1.Both amazing,deep rpgs,but both limited by their times and technology,even though they stretch those limit to their breaking points.

    • 4th Dimension says:

      They also cut the corners a bit in the graphics department by limiting the lines of sight with forests, and in the rare cases when you can get up on a tall mountain, or out into the ocean they do a tremendous amount of LOD lowering and applying mists to further reduce the needed details. This allowed them to make maps this big without having to load half the map whenever you climbed a mountain.

    • Wide And Nerdy says:

      A theory I like thanks to personal experience is the idea that these guys were able to get more done because they were able to commit to a design and didn’t suffer feature creep or having features forced on them by a higher level of management. No multiplayer for example and thus no need to think about how to make their singleplayer game work in a multiplayer context.

      They do something pretty clever with the faces too. At first I thought the faces all looked unique but there is a fair bit of recycling going on there with hairstyles, hoods, glasses, and so forth. They manage variety while making all the faces look designed. It was a while before I was able to tell when I was speaking to a generic NPC. Dragon Age uses similar tricks but their faces have less character to them and they do less variety. Thus it ends up being easy to tell when you’re dealing with yet another npc created in five minutes in the character creator.

      • MrGuy says:

        A theory I like thanks to personal experience is the idea that these guys were able to get more done because they were able to commit to a design and didn’t suffer feature creep or having features forced on them by a higher level of management. No multiplayer for example and thus no need to think about how to make their singleplayer game work in a multiplayer context.

        Which raises an important and interesting question that I’m almost afraid to know the answer to. Will Witcher 3 be considered a SUCCESSFUL game?

        We throw a lot of shade on AAA studios for forcing a lot of “samey” on games, for pushing things out the door half finished, for shoehorning in multiplayer, etc. But (in general) AAA games make money.

        I’m not saying AAA game studios are well run – they’re often tone deaf, make short sighted decisions, etc.

        What the question will be is whether Witcher 3, with it’s lavish spending, attention to details that not every player will even notice, “it will be ready when it’s done” schedule, will justify that investment. If Witcher 3 cost twice as much to make, will it earn twice as much?

        If it does, then it’s a beacon of an amazing future – AAA execs may be dumb, but if you can prove to them you can make more money by investing more in games, they’ll do it. Stock options!

        But if it doesn’t, it will be THE cautionary tale in the industry of why lavish spending is dumb. If they spent twice as much to earn 25% more, every single AAA exec will point to it and say “See? This is why we can’t let those darn arty types run us into the ground with all their design ideas!”

        I’m really curious to see where this comes down.

        • krellen says:

          That’s the thing, though: it didn’t cost twice as much. The Witcher 3 cost about $81 million to make, which is less than Skyrim and 1/3rd the cost of GTA5. And with 6 million units sold, it’s performance is on par with a lot of other AAA titles. Not chart-topping, but it’s on the chart and was definitely profitable.

        • 4th Dimension says:

          I don’t think CD Projekt counts on Witcher 3 being too successful. I think they are happy when they broke even. This is because they are not primarily funded by publishers or game sales but by their GoG business. Sure GoG is no Steam, but it does posses a nice fat chunk of Digital Game sales. Also Witcher 3 will inevitably draw some new users to GOG with is the plus in their books too.

          • MrGuy says:

            To me, it’s not so much what CD Project cares about (though I’m not in agreement with your theory that a company wouldn’t care about making money on A because they also make money on B).

            What matters is what OTHER publishers (most of whom are very MUCH focused on their games’ profitability) see when they look at CD Projekt.

            What we know they are seeing a company that’s lavished time and attention on the small details that most of them don’t care about. They’re seeing different spending and scheduling priorities in action.

            And if they see profit, they will (hopefully) see inspiration – hey, maybe we SHOULD spend more time on the details! Maybe we SHOULDN’T rush games out! Look at the numbers – hugely profitable, great reviews, amazing goodwill. How do WE get in on that action? It would be truly awesome if an EA or an Ubisoft or even a Bethesda would see that these aren’t just things gamers like, but are things they will PAY FOR.

            Whereas the opposite would be a cautionary tale that would have the opposite effect. If Witcher 3 lost money (or at least struggled), those same companies would point at it as a cautionary tale. “Sure, we COULD voice act everyone, but we don’t want to make Witcher 3!”

            I’m less interested in what lessons CD Projekt takes than what lessons the industry learns from them.

      • Artur CalDazar says:

        I don’t think Witcher 3’s system for making the most of the character assets held up to the games length. It worked fine about until being done with the bloody baron, but that’s what a quarter into the game? From then on out its all the same handful of now noticeable faces in every side quest, but sometimes with a hat or beard.

    • Galad says:

      Since I’m playing Planescape right now, I think the main difference is that there, the dialogue often feels more elaborate, seemingly using more SAT-level words. The sentences are often longer. This is not necessarily needed or better, but does add to the level of enjoyment. Ah well, you can’t have a perfect game every time.

  7. Aldowyn says:

    There was a definite feeling of ‘how is this game so good’ throughout my playthrough of Witcher 3. It’s definitely not perfect, but CDPR’s progress with the series is just astonishing.

    My personal favorite part is probably how a lot of the sidequests fit into the world, and how so few of them feel like a waste of time. (excepting the generic brawling/horse racing/gwent ones, which barely count)

  8. Ashen says:

    To get more from a Triss ‘playthrough’ you’d really want to finish Witcher 2 first though. Most of the context for their relationship happens there.

    Have you played Hearts of Stone yet? Other than its length, I felt it’s pretty much an improvement in every single way, even in terms of production values. Wish they would churn out shorter self-contained stories like this forever.

  9. Ninety-Three says:

    “But later it became clear there was no “canonical” route through Witcher 3.”

    I had a very different experience. Not only did it feel like there was a “canonical” route, but it felt like the game was going to railroad into doing what it wanted regardless of my choices. Early in I got the chance to either demand a reward for saving someone from a griffin, or tell him no reward necessary. I told him no reward, then Geralt walked into the inn in a cutscene and automatically said “I’d kill the griffin for you, but not without a reward”. I didn’t want to say that, and it went against my characterization of him. Similarly, I got the opportunity to talk down some peasants or start a bar brawl, so I talked them down, then a few scenes later that asshole cutscene-Geralt decided to escalate a confrontation with some peasants into a bar brawl.

    Those felt like the few times in the game I actually got a chance to choose something, and the game did its best to undermine my choices. Most of the rest of the time it didn’t feel like I was really interacting with the world, instead I was just pushing Geralt along the rails of the plot, selecting from Fallout 4 style options of “Yes”, “Yes”, “Sarcastic (Yes)” and “I’ll do it later”.

    I feel like I’m the only person in the universe who doesn’t like The Witcher 3, and I just don’t get what everyone else sees in it. The combat felt really bland and button mashy (on the highest difficult no less). The game was unreasonably fond of Fedex quests, “walk around in detective mode for a while” quests, and huge unsatisfying chains of dependecies. Finally the writing just didn’t do anything. By the seven hour mark, I could summarize the plot in four sentences without missing anything, the only worldbuilding established was “There was a war that the Nilfgaardians won” and “Ciri is pursued by the Wild Hunt who are ghost pirates”, and the only inklings of character personality I’d gotten were “The Nilfgaardian captain is friendly until pushed” and “The pellar is insane”.

    • Humanoid says:

      To be fair, a Witcher is literally someone who kills monsters in exchange for money, in the same way a tailor is someone who sews clothes for money. It’s therefore not a conflict to have you fight it off and not demand compensation for a chance encounter with it, but then require payment to actually actively hunt it down. Otherwise the Witchers’ Union would probably ensure you never get work again. :P

      • Ninety-Three says:

        Except for all the monsters I killed for free during my open-world exploration. A couple wraiths, a couple bears (which are apparently monsters because it made me use the silver sword?), a bunch of bandits, half a million drowners and a full million ghouls. I even went out of my way to destroy ghoul nests, after I had killed the local ghouls (because hey, it’s worth XP right?) instead of asking the locals to pay me for it.

        • Humanoid says:

          Yeah the monster density in the open world is a bit silly, but I guess it’s the price paid for having the open world trappings. I have no strong feelings one way or the other about the game being open world, for the most part I stuck to the main story so all the other stuff was extraneous, but I didn’t mind it being there either. But hey, if Geralt for whatever reason decides to go into the wilderness on his own accord and start killing stuff with no contract attached, that’s just poor business acumen.

          For what it’s worth, canonically Geralt is always borderline destitute, a trait he has in common with all his colleagues, and barely scrapes together a living from monster contracts. It’s even said that Yen anonymously sets up some gimme contracts for him to do, so he can make enough for be self-sufficient without wounding his pride. Doing stuff for free would really piss off his fellow Witchers and probably result in them all starving.

          In true CRPG tradition though, you end up looting your way to become the richest man in all the world. Call it a case of Ludonarrative Dissonance I guess.

          • Ninety-Three says:

            It’s not even poor business acumen, the ghoul nests I destroyed for free were full of gold jewelry and other phat lewt. Because this is a videogame and everything has to reward the player. I can’t remember ever killing something more significant than a random wandering pack of wolves without getting to loot a chest at the end of it. It makes Geralt’s insistence on a reward all the stranger, because if he’d been paying attention he’d’ve noticed that there’s always some loot as a payoff. Hell, I’d’ve killed the griffin just for the trophy and the mutagen.

            Speaking of the ridiculous monster density, I had a very hard time believing in the world because of it. I saw more towns destroyed by monsters than I saw inhabited towns. At one point I saw a few houses (I’m not sure if it qualified as a hamlet, even by condensed videogame standards) where the locals had been driven off by four ghouls. Every drowner I met was once a living human, and I found a ton of corpses that had been killed by monsters.

            How has this world not been completely overrun by monsters yet, and how on Earth does their birth rate keep up with the casualties? I sure didn’t see many children in the villages.

            It’s kind of the Fallout 4 problem: the world exists to be a sandbox for the player, it’s not a cohesive world that cares about questions like “This loot and these monsters have been here for ages, why didn’t anyone else deal with them before I came along?” or “Wait, there are how many monsters?”

            • Humanoid says:

              It’s partly justified because the whole region is a warzone, and all the death and sickness and abandoned settlements become magnets for monsters, both for food and to make more monsters. It’s definitely not a sustainable situation, but it’s not depicted as if it’s meant to be.

              That said, I do prefer my gameworlds to be a bit more civilised in general – it’s a prime reason why I like New Vegas at least an order of magnitude more than Bethesda’s ruins simulators, and I was happier when I reached Novigrad. I’d love to just wander around a peaceful post-game state while the nation rebuilds, whereas for most games I’d call it quits at the end credits.

    • Jeff says:

      “I told him no reward, then Geralt walked into the inn in a cutscene and automatically said “I’d kill the griffin for you, but not without a reward”. I didn’t want to say that, and it went against my characterization of him.”

      I believe your memory is faulty. I’m pretty sure that what actually happens is Geralt asks if there’s a contract on the griffin, and the innkeeper says that the people who usually put up contracts are dead. It’s your mentor that then says that it’s a shame, they wouldn’t kill it without a reward. Geralt doesn’t comment. (I literally started playing Witcher 3 less than two weeks ago, and the prologue three times before I got on with it – thus I’ve seen this scene thrice in the last two weeks.)

      There are a few incidents where Geralt makes moral judgments without your explicit control, but this is not once of them. You’re not given the option to voluntarily hunt down the griffin, of course.

  10. somebodys_kid says:

    My biggest gripe with this game so far is when I’m a lowly level 9 Witcher, I grab a contract from a bulletin board to kill a monster suggesting I be level 24 before attempting. Like I’m gonna remember to wander back to south Velen from Skellige when I hit that level. I’d actually prefer those contracts not even spawn on the boards until I’m within 5 or 6 levels. But that’s only a minor nitpick.

  11. Darren says:

    Not to be contrary, but there are some limits to the Witcher 3’s choices that I think you’re ignoring in how they “broke all the rules.” Perhaps the best example is the Bloody Baron. Not to get too spoiler-y, but the Baron disappears from the game no matter how you resolve that questline. There are a ton of permutations within that side story, but when you get to the end you see that the significance of the choice is as illusory as in the average game. And this is true throughout the game: the characters from Skellige who will help you at the Witcher’s keep, the outcome of the Mage resistance, and more. There are only a handful of decisions that actually affect the ending.

    Meanwhile, the number of choices from previous games that matter is actually very small, and there is no real consequence to choosing Iorveth over Roache in the second game, despite that being a huge decision in that title.

    That’s not to say that there are no real choices to be made in The Witcher 3, just that it’s not so different from other games, it’s mostly just that the illusion of significance is better constructed.

  12. R. N. Dominick says:

    I feel compelled to point out — since it’s the second time in the last week that you’ve used it — that this method of spoiler protection, when used in an actual article, is very unfriendly to those of us who read via RSS feed, where it just shows as plain old strike-through.

  13. Sunshine says:

    I was hoping the link in “flirting with a Protectron” would lead to FISTO.

  14. Decus says:

    My main gripes with Witcher 3 remain gameplay related rather than plot, chief among them its decision to lock loot by level and moreover to do so in a kind of nonsensical way. For instance, you can clear out an area with level, say, level 10 enemies and get a schematic for level 30+ gear. You can have a really fun fight with a wyvern 10 levels above you, manage to kill it without getting hit (certain death), and then have it both not drop any loot and woops the chest it was guarding contains schematics for greater than 10 levels above you. If the loot is level-locked–rather than requiring rare crafting materials that would in turn require defeating multiple powerful things–you essentially do have a somewhat level-scaled game in that a level x Geralt can only be so powerful due to the scaling on gear.

    Only it does not actually have level-scaling, so if you had tons of fun clearing out the starting areas before moving on to Novigrad/Skellige–and the quests at-level for that were certainly abundant enough to rocket you up–then suddenly from a combat perspective you destroy all of the main quests because you vastly out-level and out-gear them. I did most of them in dress clothes and with lesser weapons to keep some semblance of challenge. I did some with fists. So, yeah, there was a solution but ideally I’d have been able to keep using my stuff and still have fun.

    To me it’s as “worst of both worlds” as you can get, little of the fun of non-scaled worlds mixed with the worst parts of level-scaled ones without any of their merits. The world itself is also kind of odd with its levels overall in that deep in the center of level 30 land you’ll find level 10 band it camps which is bad, bad, bad in my opinion. A level 30 in level 10 land? Now that’s fun! But the opposite is very much boring, even if potentially “real”. Similarly, the quest to get to skellige recommends something like level 16 or so but on skellige itself there is content designed for level 8-12 in considerable amounts. On future playthroughs I’ll sort of have an idea of a ‘rout’ that would allow me optimal fun in terms of doing the most content at-level as possible, but at the same time I also think it’d be nearly impossible to hit every quest at-level–you’ll most certainly end up out-leveling a fair amount. I’ve heard people actually complain that quests you out-level give you limited exp when to me that’s a godsend since otherwise the “you out-level this quest” issue I have would grow even worse.

    On further thought, I could probably sum up all of my problems with the game as design conflicts between “realism” and “fun”. I like both, but much prefer fun where possible. Like I mentioned having the materials be the limiting factor on crafting the good stuff rather than literally level locking the good stuff–that’s both real and fun. My plot issues are kind of similar, in that as a player I’d like to see more resolutions to a lot of the quests, which would be fun, rather than the “real” of the peasants going back to peasanting and mostly not opening up to a random stranger with exposition about how that quest changed the village.

    • Brandon says:

      Did they add level scaling after launch? Because I didn’t start playing until three months ago, and level scaling is definitely in there. Once I found it my experience was greatly improved. Could die to every enemy/enemy group, but it wasn’t crazy hard, either.

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