“The swamps and slums again, great”
That super-meta line, along with Firewatch, was probably the thing that got me to finally finish a play through of The Witcher.
Yep, finished. Despite my near fdisk fury, I managed to see the game all the way through, and it feels good to be done. There were definitely too many swamps and slums, but it’s an intriguing and well told tale.
Firewatch seemed to clear my head of the fug the Witcher had cast, and I was totally surprised to find myself looking forward to joining Geralt again and unravelling his story to it’s conclusion.
Diving back into a rich fantasy land was fun, helped enormously by the fact that Geralt is a pretty entertaining guy to play. His sharp humour and low tolerance for fools leads to some smart dialogue exchanges, as does his swordplay when words fail. I barely used magic, focussing on swift slaying and reckless attack – and playing easy mode. The story is the thing, not the fighting.
The game is solid if creaking with quest mechanics that remind me of old school Warcraft – back and forth and back and forth between quest giver and destination. One saving grace was unlocking fast travel, the developers finally showing some mercy on we poor suffering players (and their playtesters no doubt) with the sudden appearance of teleport portals.
One criticism is quests that can never be completed because you accidentally trigger the next story phase. A quest to create an epic armour set was only introduced in the penultimate chapter, not completable until the final chapter, and then having collected all the pieces I advanced plot before realising that meant no longer being able to create the fabled suit. Would have been nice to earn that much earlier in the game.
There was also some poor story pacing – introducing what turns out to be a very important character very late, an overlong epilogue, and a strange diversionary chapter where the main story goes on hold while you unravel a love triangle. There were moments where I realised I was really just wanting to follow the story and that the ‘game’ was getting in the way (and hence maybe I should just be reading the books). But each time it pulled back from that precipice with some clever plot twist or promise of more intrigue. And it was a very unusual love triangle!
Overall though I’m pleased to have played it. The rich story, depth of character, and slow journey to all powerful Witcher were satisfyingly delivered despite the engine showing the ravages of time. W2 and W3 are apparently leagues better, with some granting W3 All-Time-Great status, so that’s something to look forward to.
Given it took almost 10 years to play W1, I should be ready for them by…2030?