This is a first of a many-part series on The Witcher 3, which I’m writing out of fear.
My fear – and I think this fear is well-justified – is that CD Projekt will eventually disappoint us. So far, they’ve been on a startling upward trajectory: the first Witcher was rough but promising, the second was excellent, and the third is one of the most critically acclaimed games ever made. Now they’re working on Cyberpunk 2077, which is in a genre that’s a personal favorite of mine, and all indications are that it’s CDP’s most ambitious game yet.
The last time a developer had this much credibility with me personally was probably Valve right after the release of the Orange Box. Oof, there’s a kick right in the ol’ anxiety. Now, more than ten years later, Half-Life is dead, I would not at all be surprised if we never saw another Portal again, and Team Fortress 2 is more hat than game at this point. Of course, there’s no reason to think that will happen to CD Projekt. Valve created a digital distribution service that made so much money they kind of don’t even need to make games anymore… oh no.
So, like I said, I’m writing this out of fear. Really, it’s a precautionary measure: let some of the air out of my own personal hype balloon as a hedge against future disappointment. It won’t be easy – The Witcher 3 was, in fact, a very good game. But that’s not particularly reassuring. Mass Effect 2 was (in my opinion) a very good game too, but you could still see the seeds of Bioware’s decline in it if you knew how to look. I’m going to flatter myself that I know how to spot the worrying parts of The Witcher 3. And, for the sake of not appearing to be a crank, I’ll also point out the good parts.
At this point I’ll catch you up on the particulars: I have played and beaten the game (twice), but I haven’t played either expansion yet. So those parts will be new to me. There will obviously be spoilers. I’m on Team Triss. I like signs builds but think the Griffin armor makes Geralt look fat. I’ll be playing on Death March difficulty, which, if you haven’t played it, is not as hard as it sounds.
I’m also not aiming for a completionist playthrough. The thought of clearing every Nekker nest in Velen makes the White Frost seem pleasant by comparison, so I’ll mostly try to focus on the cool parts and skip the rest.
This will probably be my last playthrough of the Witcher 3 for a long time, and as such, I’m gonna make it weird. I’m experimenting in White Orchard now, trying to figure out exactly what kind of weird. My current thinking is that I’m going to try a no-equipment run, where Geralt is not allowed to keep anything on his person except booze. He’s essentially a hobo who kills monsters for gin money anyway, so why not roleplay that?
(No-equipment playthroughs are also one of my favorite kinds. I’ve taken a crusty old bearded Breton named “Nigel Nudewizard” – who doesn’t submit to society’s arbitrary norms concerning clothing – through both Morrowind and Skyrim, and had a blast doing it.)
This will also be kind of a Let’s Play in text form, with bonus snooty commentary. That has the disadvantage of being boring but the advantage of being a post you can read in a few minutes instead having to watch an hour or more of video. As such, I plan to solicit your opinions as to what exactly I should do and in what order, using what builds, making what choices, using what mods, and so forth.
So buckle up (or don’t, that makes it sound dangerous). We start next week.
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