13 December 2015 | smoothrunner
real work of art in which a gamer can be a co-creator
First of all I must say that I'm not a fan of the two previous Witcher games, nor a fan of Sapkowski's books either. Therefore I've expected nothing from The Witcher 3 and for months have launched it occasionally, never submerging into the story. But about two months ago I've got some free time and The Witcher 3 suddenly consumed me so deeply that it tore me out of the real world, plunging into the fantastic universe of witchers, sorceresses and palace intrigues.
The first alarm sounded for my inner sceptic during the side quests (not your usual "fetch it" quests) - I have almost always been able to do what I thought was right, rather than to choose between childish caricatures on "good" and "evil" which are plaguing not only modern games, but also cinema and literature. And my actions in the game resulted in logical consequences (the ending of the game turned out to be about exactly as what I expected and wanted). So my choices was true to me and mattered. The second "bell" rang during the ending of the Bloody Baron quest, when all appeared not as unambiguously as sceptic in me suspected. It was already an alarming symptom for my inner sceptic. But the real crushing blow was expertly prepared and delivered by the developers in Novigrad in the story quests and dialogues with the charismatic Dijkstra and beautiful Triss. Drunk scene in Kaer Morhene was just a control shot in the lifeless body of my inner sceptic, which was already dead before the trip on Skellige islands.
The characters in the game are deep and well-developed. Not as simple as might seem at first. You can suspect that you might finally get to the "vulnerable soul" of the power-loving and selfish ***** Yen, but this knowledge still will not make it much easier for you to reject Yen out there on the ship abandoned on the top of the mountain when she reveals her feelings to Geralt, appearing to be lonely, frightened and vulnerable child. On the other hand, good-natured and wise Triss sometimes seems imposturous, with temper tantrums, and even rage and cruelty. Not to mention that she used Garalt's amnesia to seduce him even though he was love of her "friend" Yen. Relationships in this love triangle are described so thoroughly that I was tempted to (and deed) apply to them classification of love by CS Lewis, like they were real. Even minor characters are sometimes gorgeous. Above-mentioned Dijkstra, calculating cynic is in fact an idealist who dreams to build a modern state, and, having gone through his own romantic heartbreak with sorceress seems genuinely committed to improve relations between Geralt and Triss. Conversations with him deliver real pleasure. Bloody Baron, Lambert, Cossack's ataman Olgierd...
Good and evil in The Witcher 3 are not so grotesque as usual in games, movies and books. As it is in the real life, there are no wholly bad or good persons (after all, nobody commits evil deeds for evil's sake, the motive of committing evil always serves some good - love, security, power, money, etc), but there are bad and good deeds (clemency or crimes, honesty or trespasses, moral or amoral behavior) which have their consequences. In fact, all people - from Christian saints to the worst maniacs - are mixtures of those good and bad deeds and affections. Anyone can love or betray, so it is our choices that define who we are and it is our beliefs that define who we will become. And this is perfectly portrayed in The Witcher 3. The game is not filled with the offensive politically correct rubbish in the Orwell's "1984" style in order to "educate" gamers. Age rating implies that the game is for mature gamers, and it is unnecessary to insult their intelligence by trying to indoctrinate them with modern propaganda.
But that's not all of the advantages of the game. The story is also beautiful, it is not simply immerses you into an artificial one- dimensional world of eternal darkness or empty irony, but alternates tragic moments with comedy (yes, drunk scene in Kaer Morhene is a stroke of genius!), melancholy with fast action, the ugliness of monsters with stunningly beautiful vistas.
And the dialogues - they are something. They're just brilliant. Vivid, clever, often ironic, sometimes touching or sad but not trivial. The game will not insult your intelligence. In fact sometimes I felt that characters of the game are much smarter and wiser than me - I love it!
CD Project Red has used advantages of the modern graphics properly - they have created a world so beautiful that some views deserve to be painted. On Skellige game design appears in all of its glory - the beauty of sunrises and sunsets, snow-capped mountains, the sea and the picturesque meadows, and a completely marvellous music. Clothing on characters looks as if they really wear it, not as adherent to their skin. Facial animation is used as it should - sometimes in dialogues gestures and facial expressions of the characters are much louder than words. Exciting mini-game "Gwent", logical consequences of your choices without any false moralizing on the one hand, and savouring the gruesome on another. This is over and above the fact that the level of the story, character depth, dialogues, dynamics and aesthetics of the game is higher than most Hollywood movies.
The combat system has its flaws, but overall game-play is interesting. However I do agree - the game needs more Triss :) But all these are secondary. Because for the first time I see a game which is actually rivals if not surpasses cinema and literature. It is a real work of art in which a gamer can be a co-creator. Marvellous! 10/10