This is a first impressions post about The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt. You should know that I’m not playing The Witcher for pleasure. I play because I want to expand my game knowledge.
The issue with The Witcher, for me, is that the game contains one of those stubbly, grupp McGrumpypants men that I can’t bear to play. I’m not impressed by Geralt, and thus I have no interest whatsoever to take on his grumpy exterior.
I do however want to understand the game. Just as I am reading ten pages of a book a day that kind of bore me, I have decided to give a game that I don’t want to play but that is part of the generic vocabulary of game designers1 30 minutes every day in order to expand my internal library and to be able to be a better designer and critic.
I would also like to understand why this game in particular is considered “so good” and critically acclaimed. So far – around two hours in – I still don’t know why. So far the few hours I’ve played has only reinforced that the game has a janky camera and movement that feels anything but smooth.
Geralt turns very quickly and hus movements feel twitchy and off. It’s not a fluid experience at all. Trigger areas for pickups such as loot and herbs appear to be look at triggers, which means that if I walk too far into a plant (which I do often thanks to the twitchy movements of Geralt) I fail to pick it up. Over and over.
I also play the game with tutorials on, in part because I don’t have the energy to explore, but also because I am a UX designer. It is my job to understand how games are onboarded to players.
The Witcher 3 suffers from the “full stop in the middle of the action” syndrome, meaning that it will interrupt me while I’m in the middle of something and ask me to press a button.
What happens when a game does this is that I lose my pacing and the timing I’ve started to build in my muscle memory, and the result is a twitch that won’t teach me timing or have me read the tutorial text. I just get annoyed and want to get rid of it.
There are games that do this better, like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, but it is still not a good way to introduce an action to the player.
What would i have done, you may ask? I would have introduced the buttons and made an objective of it. Then I would have left the player alone to explore.
If possible, I would have baked it into fluid movement rather than as a static hint.
In addition to the tutorials that threw me off my pacing, I’m also having a hard time finding things in the UI. Some items are stored in several places and I don’t know which place I need to access in order to get the information i need. All of them? Just one of them? And if all of them have a “new” marker that remains in the UI until I have visited all locations the item is placed in, the confusion becomes even greater. Combined with a really cramped grid, the information overload is a fact.
What about gameplay? Well, considering I’ve only actually played for maybe 30 minutes in total, I’ll have to get back to you on that. My first impression is however that there are way too many systems available to the player from the outset. I think they would have been a lot easier to use if they had been onboarded gradually.
Also, don’t ask me what I think of seeing a naked lady butt the first thing in the game. It only establishes what I already knew of the Witcher from the first game and the books.