Witcher 3 – First Impressions

It is VERY RARE that I buy a game “at launch” nowadays. Most times I wait for sale – Winter Sale, Summer Sale etc, where I get anywhere from 30% to 80% off some titles. Yes I have been spoilt by Steam as well as several other online shops.

As an example, even for Grand Theft Auto V, I didn’t buy it “at launch”. I still haven’t bought it, and it’s one of those that I am definitely going to get “sometime soon”, but “not at this price”.

However, for Witcher 3, I had very tempting offers. GreenManGaming had an offer that was so good, that I was able to get 30% (3% more than the 27% off offered by GMG) off the launch price. That was kind of the push I needed to get it on “Launch-Day”. So, applying all the coupons and discount codes, I pre-purchased the game.

May 19 came. Because I am on the “other side of the world”, May 19 for me is May 18th for you. So I was thinking I won’t be able to play anything until May 20th, when it is May 19 for you guys. How wrong I was! On May 18th my time, I received an email from GMG with my activation key. So I went to GOG.com (yeah the guys that do not do DRM on their games!) to activate it. Yes I can play it without Steam. I can just click on “witcher3.exe” and the game runs without any DRM checks :)

What can I say when I clicked the PLAY button?

In a word – WOW!

I must admit, the world is indeed BEAUTIFUL. And my graphic options weren’t even at max. When at max, even my GPU struggles. At my current comfortable settings, I get 25 to 45 FPS. Also, the driver version of the GPU plays a part. If I installed the latest nvidia driver (352.86) which is optimized for Witcher 3, I get better fps but I lose the ability to record video using the built-in NVENC hardware encoder. I have to fallback to using software encoders which may cause lag. However if I rolled back to the version optimised for GTA 5 (350.12), all my recording problems went away. So yeah I’m now this version so my fps suffers slightly, but I can record!

The world is HUGE. A little like Dragon Age Inquisition, the game only has loading screens between “zones”. Each zone is large, very very large. What Witcher 3 does better than Dragon Age Inquisition, is the horseback combat. I can fight on horseback if I want to. My horse has abilities and stats. It can get frightened.

In Dragon Age Inquisition I would always have to dismount to fight. Not in Witcher 3 – I can lob heads off from horseback! But it still sucks that I need to dismount to loot bodies and gather ingredients. Maybe a patch may come soon to address this?

NPC simulation of life is a little lacking though. It suffers the same problem as Dragon Age Inquisition – the NPCs have no life outside of what is needed to give the quest to the player. Skyrim (and other TES games) are still kings in this area – their NPCs have a life! The world seemed ALIVE there.

The towns and villages that dot the maps usually have various NPCs that mostly do nothing but walk around and say the same exact line over and over again when you run past, but they also sometimes have an NPC that pops a quest up when conditions are right. Also, they have “Notice Boards” that give you sidequests to let you level up your Geralt before you continue the main quest.

The new-and-improved portion of the game is that now the game has a “recommended level” beside the quest. That is just a guide. If it says LEVEL 16 and you’re level 9, feel free to go ahead and try the quest. Who knows, you may actually complete it even despite the advice that you should be level 16 to attempt it.

The one confusing aspect of Witcher 3, though, is the way potions are used. In the past, you create some potions, then you drink them. As you drink them, they get used up. When you have no more potions left, you need to brew more.

In Witcher 3, you get an initial recipe to create a potion. Once created, you have “3/3” or “5/5” of these potions which you can equip to drink them during combat. Once these are used up, you don’t need to brew more – all you need to do is just sleep, even for ONE hour, and all your potions will magically refill. This is the most immersion-breaking thing I have found to date. I would much rather it remained the same like in Witcher 1 and 2 where we need to brew more potions if we wanted them. Worse still is that we’re limited to only 3 or only 5 of them. I can’t make a batch of 20 health potions, for example, and use them as-and-when needed like in previous Witcher games.

Thus far, I am still pretty much engrossed by the game. I’d rate it 4 out of 5 stars.

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