My Top 12 Games of 2015: #01 Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt
I’m sure this surprises nobody. Loving this game is almost a cliche, but much like most well loved things there is a good reason behind it. Over the years there have been few gaming certainties for me. Nintendo generally will provide me with good games, Blizzard will entertain me with fun stories, and CD Projekt Red will release a game that is better than I expected a game could be. I’m not a cynical man, I actually enter into most things with what I call Optimistic Realism. Basically I expect nothing but not less than nothing. This means that generally speaking I walk into experiences happy.
This game started out strong for me. I’ve always appreciated the non-American aesthetic of these games. A lot of American companies, or companies marketing in America, are strongly hindered by what is acceptable here. What is left with usually feels forced if it is anything but a feel good romp. As if the authors were tip toeing around an army of glass humans. The Witcher series doesn’t do this which is something that I appreciate deeply. The joys and ills of humanity are on full display in their games. Sometimes awful things happen to people who don’t deserve it. Sometimes wonderful things happen to awful people. You’d be hard pressed to find too many games, serious or no, that actually reference the horrors of war. Rape, pillaging, torture. I’m told that Spec Ops: The Line is up there, a game that just kinda tears away at your hope. I’ve not yet played it sadly.
When I play a Witcher game I genuinely don’t know what will happen to anyone. There is no limit to the tragedy and because of it I find myself genuinely worried about them. Apparently this is what makes Game of Thrones so popular (I’m just getting into GOT, so again, guesswork). It also helps that CDPR have some astoundingly good writers. Witcher 1 was fun for me, Witcher 2 was amazing, and Witcher 3 just destroyed me. Every single character I meet, every single quest I take, it all feels alive and genuine. These characters are deep. They have problems, joys, sorrows, problems and victories. Every journey I take with them feels thoughtful and powerful. The content here is rich and varied.
Visually the Witcher 3 is stunning. One of the best looking games I’ve ever played. At max settings it does hit the upper limit of what my PC can handle but turning them down just a tiny bit and it runs at a silky smooth 60 FPS. This is actually kinda important to me because the combat is pretty fluid. If the framerate chops the next thing that’ll be chopping is your head when a monster bowls over you. I tend to choose the hardest difficulty mode in games when I play them, this was no exception. But it means that you really really need to be paying attention. Parrying is vital, dodging is vital, and understanding when to do which is genuinely the difference between life and death.
You can fight things many many times your own level in this game and survive if you have the patience and the skill. That’s a great feeling. But it also means that sometimes I try really hard to do things far far too early. That’s alright though, Witcher 3 gives me the ability to destroy myself and I appreciate that. I’ve already mentioned that I love the story, and now we’ve talked about how the combat is slick. What next?
Well the crafting and side options of course?! The crafting in this game is great. It’s not very complicated but it is more like a “character upgrade” system than a crafting system. You make potions once and then have them for the rest of your playtime. You have a limited number of uses per “rest” period but still. Because of this I look at crafting a bit like completing a checklist and that’s always cool to me.
Crafting equipment is pretty simple (made simpler with the new checklist system where), you can favorite an item and in shops it’ll highlight the stuff you need. Similarly it gives you a good readout of what the items do so that you can compare them with what you’ve got. Also, personally, I’ve yet to find an outfit that didn’t look awesome. The weapons are also a breath of fresh air. Witcher 3 has a fair number of weapons to collect or create.
Once you’ve set aside the awesome quests, the great visuals, and the neat equipment what are you left with? Damn good music and sound design. Everything in this game is crisp and sexy. They put a lot of effort into making the game engrossing and, at times, literally entrancing. I find myself inside of my monitor while I play. My mind taken away to some magic foreign land. Albeit this is a land I’d never, ever, ever, want to visit, but I’m there regardless.
Even outside of the game the company never ceases to amaze me. They had a bunch of free DLC, only to be followed with one of the best DLC offerings I’ve seen in years (which’ll likely get shown up by the one following it). I even bought their Gwent Physical Cards and those are top quality! It’s like this company is incapable of abusing my trust or releasing shit. I’m not complaining, obviously. I do hope that CD Projekt red continues on into the future and I’ll be there to snap up anything they make. They’ve made my year and shown me that it isn’t unreasonable to expect greatness for a reasonable price.
This is an RPG on the scale of anything I’ve ever played before, perhaps larger than anything I’ve played prior (in the genre of RPG) and it never stops being astounding to me. The inventory management system was, at last glance, not the greatest but it has gotten better. Other than that trifling complaint I can genuinely come to you with nothing but praise for the Witcher 3. It made me a happy fella and I’m likely to be playing it again when you are reading this.
The visuals are stunning. The story is excellent. The gameplay handles like a dream. I find myself happy from the second I load this game up to the bittersweet moment when I save for the night.