I’ve begun playing Witcher 3 and, despite knowing quite a bit about the series and the general premise of the games, I was not prepared for just how horrific most of the monsters would look. I don’t think they’re unduly horrible, since most of them seem to be made of the ordinary curses of a dark fantasy world or the rampant death that seems to infest the world of the game, but I really wasn’t expecting the horrible gaping maw of a noonwraith to appear before me so early in the game. A game I play primarily at night, I might add.
So far, I’ve done pretty much only the prologue. I haven’t gotten very far into the game since I am a 100% explorer type and there’s so much to see and gather. I alternated between collecting every plant I see and ignoring everything that isn’t actively attacking me as I travel from one point of interest to another. I’m still adjusting to this particular flavor of RPG, with progress based mainly on mission completion rather than enemy killing and a price to be paid for spending too much time fighting enemies (your gear breaks down over time and protects you less or deals less damage the lower its durability gets, which is a much more annoying system than the weapons breaking in Breath of the Wild, if you ask me). My desire to save items for special occasions means I almost never use potions and oils despite having most of the stuff I need to make them given my penchant for collecting everything that isn’t directly being watched by a guard.
So far, the morality/decision system has left me feeling a little underwhelmed. While the dialogue options aren’t as divorced from the actual dialogue as they frequently are in Bethesda games, I still find myself frustrated that I’m not always certain what the tone of my options is. The protagonist is sarcastic and non-serious so often that I’m not always sure if something is going to be sarcasm, a lie, or earnest before I heart Geralt’s voice actor delivering the line (which just speaks volumes about the quality of the voice work behind the scenes, btw).
I also find myself frustrated that a lot of the smaller conversation choices about how to comport myself seem to always elicit some kind of comment and then not matter at all (though maybe I’m too early in the game still to see how they matter). I’ve chosen to avoid conflict where I can, to be polite even to people I dislike where doing so doesn’t require concessions on my part, and everyone gives me shit for it. I mean, did they WANT me to kill them? Everyone seems to know the legend of the white wolf or whatever, the Butcher of Blaviken (really not happy they basically forced me to kill a bunch of villagers when I left the intro area) and all that, and they STILL walk up to me like they’re going to be different from any of the two dozen people before them who thought the same.
I read an article the other day about removing violence from video games and I’ve been thinking about it a lot since then. It has made me realize just how inherent violence is to most of the games I play. I’ve only played a few games that aren’t about capitalism/environmental dominance or violence, and most of them were small things focused on humor or that were making a point about video games or storytelling in general. Personally, I have no problem with a game where the protagaonist engages in violence to protect people and I was hoping the “monster hunter” part of the Witcher series would be the main emphasis, but I’ve killed far more Humans than anything else so far. Most of it with no recourse to avoid since if I get close enough to enemies to realize they’re Human, I’m close enough that they aggro on me and I have to fight back to defend myself.
I know the theme of the game is that people are the real monsters and shades of grey are the reality of the world (the game has gone out of its way to show non commonfolk as being nice and horrible in turn while common folk mostly seem neutral, which feels kind of arbitrary so far) , but I do feel pretty disappointed that so far my only solution to problems has been mind control or violence. There was one exception where I could buy a few drinks, ignore some guy’s insults, and just walk away from the problem, but so far that’s been the only one. I’m not particularly hopeful that there will be more in the future.
I expected violence to be a big part of the game. I was not so naive as to expect anything else. I just hoped I would be given the choice to avoid violence more frequently than I am.