I’ve been playing The Witcher 3 in parallel with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey for a little while and while they’re basically the same game – roam around the world, do missions, progress your character, some of the differences are striking, especially considering all the awards that The Witcher 3 has won. My feeling is that sometimes we have a tendency to award games based not necessarily on their level of quality but on popularity, but that’s a different discussion.
For those of you who think that this is “just me having an opinion based on not having played” I have now put in approximately 24 hours in The Witcher 3. I have somewhere around 200 hours in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, probably more.
The first thing that struck me, is that The Witcher has very little polish compared to AC:O. Playing on console with The Witcher is janky and choppy, compared to a soft and smooth experience in AC: Odyssey. I have to use minute movements with the stick in some cases to access loot on the ground and the loot is difficult to find by vision alone. I use the mini map to see where the loot drops in most of the cases. Compare this to AC: Odyssey and you’ll find easy to pick up loot, level design that is adapted to the slightly larger movements that a console user needs to control a character and a smooth camera movement and movement blends.
Both of the games should really appeal to me. They use the same habits to rope me in – narrative, complete all the question marks, use abilities, rune stones/ engravements and various tricks to make sure the fight always goes my way. I’m both a narrative driven player and a completionist, so the question marks on the Witcher map should be appealing. But there’s something missing from The Witcher, and it’s not just about a female player character and less sexism.
The Witcher 3 uses deep systems that feel superfluous and opaque and difficult to grasp. After having played a while, they’re simple enough to understand, but they feel bloated and unwieldy compared with the sleeker design of Assassin’s Creed.
AC also puts all their systems out there, front and center. There is depth to them as well with the engravings and different damage types, but they are optional, whereas The Witcher’s systems are almost a necessity in order to progress in the game.
The one thing I did find compelling in The Witcher so far is one mission, given at level 5, about 15 hours in on my part (I play 30 minutes a day in order to not turn it off in frustration), and it was something about mice in a tower on Fyke Island. The reason I felt that this was a compelling mission is how it ends, in a kind of tragedy but in success mission wise.
That took almost 20 hours to get to, though, whereas Odyssey hooks me at the outset. I have to fight to stay interested in The Witcher, while Odyssey is compelling enough to play several times. A lot of this is of course taste and inclination, but to me there is also an obvious difference in quality, both in polish and in terms of maturity of systems and UX.