SPOILER ALERT: A few plot points are mentioned, but I otherwise try to be vague and speak in generalizations.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is one of my favorite games of all time, so THE WITCHER 3: WILD HUNT has been recommended to me many times since the game came out in 2015.
I watched a few gameplay streams and let’s play videos, read a bit about it, but WITCHER 3 just didn’t grab me. It should have, since I like fantasy and open worlds. I prefer first-person games and creating my own characters, but that didn’t stop me from absolutely loving God of War. I didn’t want to devote hundreds of hours of my life to another game… but ended up doing that with Fallout 4, anyway.
I don’t know exactly why I avoided WITCHER 3 for so long. I guess I just had a gut feeling about it. But after watching The Witcher on Netflix, the game went on sale for $15, and I finally gave it a try.
The above video is from my first Try-It Tuesday livestream of WITCHER 3 on Twitch. After that, I streamed about a hundred hours, which I edited into highlight videos on my YouTube channel.
WITCHER 3 is a very rich game and I can understand why people like it. There’s a shit-ton of stuff to do and I enjoyed exploring the maps. Much of it is very well-written, with depth, detail and emotion.
I appreciate that the protagonist isn’t a savior. He’s not The One. He’s not the only Dragonborn or the sole survivor. He’s disliked and distrusted by many. Geralt is just one of several exterminators who specialize in supernatural pests, like a Ghostbuster.
“Who ya gonna call? The Witchers!”
But the more time I spent with Geralt, the more I disliked him, too. Henry Cavill was great in the Netflix show, but when I don’t like a video game protagonist, it’s hard for me to enjoy a game. (Same problem I had with BioShock: Infinite and to a lesser extent, Horizon Zero Dawn.)
As I played WITCHER 3, I sometimes enjoyed it, sometimes hated it, but I kept going.
After all the hype I’d heard about WITCHER 3 being “perfect,” I was surprised to encounter so many glitches, quests that wouldn’t progress or didn’t make sense, confusing dialog, characters sinking into the ground, messed up merchants, and rewards not received.
Many “choices” seemed to provide only the illusion of choice. For example, I detested one of the “sexy” characters in the game and tried to avoid her, but the game seemed designed to make Geralt fall for her charms, regardless. Ick.
Clunky controls felt like a game designed for PC then later mapped to a console controller, and not very well. God of War was not an easy game, but I never felt like the game itself got in my way. In WITCHER 3, I felt like I was constantly fighting the game controls, not just fighting enemies, and no amount of getting gud would overcome that.
After awhile, the gameplay loop of fight, loot, repair, repeat, got me thinking I would make a lot more money, with a lot less effort, if Geralt gave up witchering to became a florist or an herbalist. I just didn’t see the point in continuing to wreck Geralt’s weapons and armor for… what? I wasn’t getting rich. I wasn’t earning goodwill. Everyone I tried to help seemed to be doomed, anyway.
Skyrim has its dark corners and twisted tales, too, but it also had opportunities to make meaningful choices and to do good in the world. Try to do the right thing in WITCHER 3, and it’s always fucked up. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
The satisfaction of saving a village from a werewolf is overshadowed by the fact that the werewolf is a town resident tricked into mauling his own wife by her jealous sister. Saving a group of orphans from being eaten by witches entails releasing a malevolent spirit who saves the children, yes, but destroys everyone in their home village.
Plague, war, rape, misogyny, suicide, domestic violence, miscarriage, injustice, oppression, kidnapping, slavery, cannibalism and torture aren’t my ideas of fun. The excessive violence against women in WITCHER 3 made me uncomfortable. Women killed by lovers, husbands, angry mobs. Every dead wraith had a sad story.
I’ve dealt with enough darkness in real life. I play video games to forget about that for a little while or to enjoy the fantasy of defeating and dealing with it.
WITCHER 3 seemed to wallow in its misery and I couldn’t take it any more. The suicide of a major character was the last straw for me, making it too emotionally overwhelming to enjoy.
May 10, 2020, was my last livestream of this game, and I won’t be going back. “Tragic End” (below) is the final highlight video from that stream.
THE WITCHER 3: WILD HUNT is rated “M” for mature audiences, ages 17+, due to blood and gore, intense violence, nudity, strong language, strong sexual content and use of alcohol. It’s available for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
~ J.L. Hilton