Try-It Tuesday: WITCHER 3

SPOILER ALERT: I mention a few plot points but 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 is often recommended to me.

Since the game came out in 2015, I’ve watched a few live streams and let’s play videos, but WITCHER 3 just didn’t grab me. It should have, since I love fantasy and open worlds. I prefer first-person games and creating my own characters, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying 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.

So, after watching The Witcher on Netflix, I bought the game on sale and 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.

See my WITCHER 3 playlist here

WITCHER 3 is a very rich game and I can understand why people love it. There’s a massive amount of stuff to do and I enjoyed the exploration. Much of the game 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. Geralt is just one of several exterminators who specialize in supernatural pests, like a medieval Ghostbuster.

Geralt is disliked and distrusted by many, and the more time I spent with him, 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 the 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.

For awhile.

After all the hype I’d heard about WITCHER 3 being “perfect,” I was surprised to encounter so many glitches, such as 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 they were designed for PC and later mapped to a console controller, but 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 fought with the game controls not just the enemies, and no amount of gitting gud would overcome that.

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 and became a florist or an herbalist. I could gather flowers and herbs, and sell them, without wrecking Geralt’s weapons and armor. After all, as a witcher, I wasn’t earning goodwill. I wasn’t getting richer. 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. You are always damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

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 was a woman with a sad story.

The suicide of a major character was the last straw for me, making it too emotionally overwhelming to enjoy. Fuck anyone who wants to use the word “triggered” lightly. I’m almost 50 years old and I’ve seen some shit. I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD and yes, being triggered is a thing. It’s not a goddamn joke. I play video games to forget about that bullshit for a little while or to enjoy the fantasy of kicking its ass.

WITCHER 3 seemed to wallow in misery and I couldn’t take it any more. Maybe there will come a day when I’ve had just too many rainbows and I need to do something tedious, miserable and depressing, but it’s not this day. 

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

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