Not The Witcher 3, The Witcher 3 is probably my favorite game of all time, if not it’s certainly in the top 3. I’m talking about The Witcher 1, that 2007 game that almost nobody took notice of other than to ridicule the sex cards. However, after playing The Witcher 3 to completion I immediately wanted the full adventure and bought The Witcher and The Witcher 2 the same day. I was excited, I had heard good things about The Witcher 2 when it came out and believed that the first entry in the series would also satisfy. Oh dear.
The first warning sign was the user interface. It is just so… clunky. The cursor is too big and doesn’t share the same aesthetic as the menus. The menu buttons make that horrible electronic clicking sound, like a late 90s RPG whispering from the past. I assume it’s there to help create the idea that the game is set in medieval-y times by using similar sound effects to medieval-y RPGs of the previous decade, but my goodness did that little detail grate on my patience from the word go. And why does my sword turn a really dull orange when I use strong attacks? I know the world is a bit depressing but must it be so abjectly miserable that even my sword can’t have nice colours? No. Little details.
The Witcher also wore away at me with its graphics. Like most games from the mid-2000s it is firmly set in the squelching swamps of the Uncanny Valley, a horrendous place where visual fidelity goes to die. Just look at Zoltan:
*shudders* Point made. The whole game looks like that.
But I think the biggest reason I dislike The Witcher is because I played The Witcher 3 first. Everything I love about The Witcher 3 is lacking in the first game. The colours of 3 are dazzling and beautiful. In 1 they are muted, as if light itself doesn’t want to be there. The cities of 1 reek of ‘we are trying to make this place look busy but it is 2006 so it all looks terrible’ whilst 3’s Novigrad is now the benchmark by which I judge the city building of other games. The combat of the original is woeful, like something out of the latest Steam Greenlight swill whilst 3’s combat is so smooth. It’s a bit formulaic at times, but a pleasant experience nonetheless. The Witcher’s combat was a chore at best. Click. Click. Click. Wait. Click. Click. Etc.
The bit that got me was Vizima. It is a valiant effort on the part of the developers but it’s so damn annoying. The number of missions in that dreary cesspit was just too much. I hate that it makes Fallout 3 look vibrant. I hate that the layout makes no sense whatsoever. I hate that everything requires me to walk from one end to the other, forcing me to take in every inch of every sewage-smeared building. Of course, that’s sort of the point, but it fails for two reasons. Firstly, it does this too well. I hate being there too much to keep playing. But more importantly, the unpleasantness is as much to do with technological limitation as it has to do with intention. The buildings all look the same, because a lot of them are. The textures look dreary, because they are in low resolution. It’s a horrible place to be. I will say that it has nice rain. I’ll give it that. It also has 'that' swamp, which is an excellent bit of world building.
But I want to finish The Witcher someday. I want the complete story of the great Geralt of Rivia. Initially the game captivated me in spite of its wonkiness, like Mass Effect it got me to look past is clunkiness to see the brilliance of the storytelling. But in the end there was just too much wrong with it. Where Mass Effect had wonderful planets and sexy Asari, The Witcher had Vizima – a shithole with the plague. I could no longer see past the aged veneer and as a result I will never experience Geralt’s story. At least The Professor’s spectacles still look cool.