Guess what I got for Christmas? The blog post’s title gives it away I’m afraid. The Witcher 3, yes oh yes. I have still only teased the surface of this gem of a game, but I can’t wait any longer. So here, have my first impressions of The Witcher 3 – The Wild Hunt!
I honestly didn’t know quite what to expect of this game. Unlike so many I had no expectations after the first or second Witcher game – for I had never played them. Of course I knew this game was supposed to be good, a number of good friends have told me so after all, but you never really know until you try it yourself. No customized main character? Too used to MMOs where I can play whatever type of character I fancy, the idea of only playing the role of this man, this Geralt, was not actually very tempting. But… all my friends couldn’t be wrong, I just had to try it.
After the first minutes of gameplay I was squeeking and jumping up and down in my chair. Not even exaggerating, I really did. “LOOK!” I called out to my husband, giddy as an excited child. “Look at how pretty it is! Ooooh look at the clothes! Oh my GOD look at how he handles the sword!”
Yes, I was in love.
What do I like about this game? I’ve hinted at it already but let me go over it with more clarity and structure. First, and this I doubt anyone can argue against, it is absolutely beautiful. I am not only talking the technical aspects here, the graphics (though they are great!), but of the entire visual design. The landscape manages to be beautiful even when it’s ugly, with swamps and discoloured patches of grass. The sunsets and sunrises bring colour and light that has me stopping just to look and admire the view. The villages and cities… oh don’t get me started on those.
And the swordsmanship? I’m an old HEMA enthusiast, I’ve practiced many long hours with the longsword myself and drooled over the old manuscripts (not really, wouldn’t drool on the actual manuscripts, that would be… bad). Most of the time, seeing swordfighting scenes in movies or video games leaves me disappointed and frustrated. (Have you ever noticed that in Guild Wars 2 for example, the sound a longsword makes when hitting any target is spot on the sound that comes from beating a metal trashcan with a baseball bat? It makes my skin crawl.) But here? Come the first fight scene and I was happily calling out the stances taken, the techniques used. I haven’t read up the facts here but I would bet my mead collection on them having had actual HEMA-practicioners do the swordfighting. Even the soldiers doing lazy sword drills in the background are doing it right! You might not know how rare that is to see, but trust me, it’s impressive.
What more? Oh yes, the clothes. Aaaah now this not just makes me drool, it makes my fingers itch. Never before have a game given me this much inspiration to be crafty, it’s quite amazing. The attention to detail they’ve put into the garments worn by even the most unimportant NPC is just brilliant. At one point during a cutscene I even yelped and pointed out the screen, exclaiming “LOOK! They’ve not just made any old ribbon but CARD-WOVEN RIBBONS that look just like the one I’ve made!” This game makes me want to sew, and weave, and dye, and work with leather, and and and… Yes. The medieval enthusiast in me that has laid rather dormant for a few years is somersaulting.
Let’s not talk about how this game also makes me want to learn more about what herbs may grow here locally, and what they traditionally might have been used for. Did I say that? No no, I am not crazy, I can’t have said that. What video game makes you want to pick herbs?
And the story? Haven’t even mentioned the story yet. You know how in many games you basically just skip the dialogue because it’s completely uninteresting, and the story feels like a meaningless last-minute addition? Not here. Now I have still not played through it all and there is much to the story I don’t yet know, but so far I am thoroughly impressed. It’s intriguing and grips me much like how a good book or movie will do. Even the side quests are well written and well played – oh yes I say played, for the voice acting here is far above the terrible standard in most games. Some scenes have had me hanging on to every word they say, I’ve cringed and even gasped. Again, I’m not even exaggerating here.
This I will say though. It is not a game for you who want a bright and happy fantasy world. This is not, I repeat not a game you want to buy to your children. Please, please don’t put this in the hands of a kid, it’s far too dark for that. For all its beauty this is a game with so much darkness that it’s at times almost overwhelming. The world portrayed in this game is not a pleasant one. The stories told don’t always have happy endings and you don’t even always get to be the good guy. But if you enjoy playing through a more gritty and dark world, where violence isn’t actually glorious and fantastic (but rather gruesome and unpleasant) then yes, go for it, play this game.
There is more I could say, but I think that will be it for now. I will be back with another blog post once I’ve played through the entire game (the entire main story at least!), and see if my final impressions will have changed from these, initial ones. There I will also delve into what weaknesses I think the game has, for of course there is always things that could be done better. But that’s for later, for now I am all about the positives so deal with it.
Until next time!