Before Witcher 3 came out, Skyrim was considered to be the absolute best medieval RPG, and no one even knew about a certain Polish studio, named CD PROJEKT RED. A lot has changed in the RPG landscape in the past couple of years. Mass Effect Andromeda failed to impress and EA has sunk ever further below in the eyes of gamers. CD Projekt Red is now considered as a foremost RPG developer and their upcoming game Cyberpunk 2077 is one of the most anticipated upcoming games.
On the game’s 3rd anniversary, I’d like to pay some tribute to The Witcher 3 and it’s developer, CD Projekt Red and discuss why it’s still one of the best open world games (not just an RPG), and why you need to play it ASAP, if you still haven’t.
What’s Wrong With RPGs And Most AAA Titles These Days?
Before we move onto The Witcher 3, let’s discuss the core problem with RPGs and big open world games these days. Some massive titles that failed in a rather spectacular fashion in recent years include Star Wars Battlefront II, Mass Effect Andromeda and Shadow of War. What do all of them have in common. They were published by major publishers and had an online multiplayer component that sucked bigtime and relied heavily on micro-transactions.
Another fact you just can’t overlook is that all their prequels (in case of SWBF II, the older BF II), did incredibly well and were considered to be the benchmark in their respective genres. Mass Effect 3 was awarded the game of the year award by a number of outlets, and although there were complaints it was largely very well received.
The original Star Wars Battlefront II is still considered to be a classic among Star Wars fans, while this one was an absolute blunder. Redditors already know what went down, and for those who don’t EA was roasted like a chicken on the platform. The reason? What required multiple dozens of hours of grinding to unlock could be purchased in seconds using your credit card. Yeah I know totally unfair and if it’s any consolation, EA did pay dearly for it. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen again, at least not on this scale.
Shadow of Mordor was one of the best games of 2014, and it got GotY awards as well. It’s nemesis system was unique, something gamers had never seen before. The sequel turned out to be the spoiled kid who wastes all their parents’ fortune and destroys the family name. Okay, maybe I’m making it sound a bit too severe, but Shadow of War was just not upto the mark. Granted it’s not that bad, and the first half of the game is actually quite fun but the third act is a repetitive mess than requires an insane amount of grinding to finish. On top of that, the BoG DLC’s ending kind of contradicts the main game’s ending. As if breaking the lore wasn’t bad enough, this was like spitting in the faces of those who worked their asses off to complete the final part of the game.
So one thing you can conclude from this is that developers are putting more and more effort into online co-op and multi-player component of games, putting it where it’s not even needed. In turn the single player campaign suffers, and instead of solid writing and innovative side quests, all you get are boring linear fetch quests with generic characters and a cliched plot.
Furthermore, all these games seem to have been rushed through development to meet publisher demands, and in the process a lot of decent content gets butchered. Although you can’t blame them as profits are important to avoid, you know, bankruptcy, but you can’t help but find faults in their planning. All said and done, you may ask if an established publisher (EA) can’t do it, then how did an indie studio (CD Projekt Red) create a masterpiece like The Witcher 3 all on it’s own. All I can say is that they were dedicated and not that worried about profits. It’s also important to note that it’s easier to manage when you’re a smaller studio with relatively less people than if you’re a publisher controlling more than a dozen studios over the world.
What Made The Witcher 3 So Good
One thing I absolutely loved about The Witcher 3 was the developer support and the free DLCs CD Projekt would release from time to time. Publishers like EA and Ubisoft charge a good 5-10$ for the same kind of DLCs. Making an AAA game is hard and expensive, but charging players for weapons and armor is just plain unethical. Furthermore, support in the form of patches, updates and even DLCs to some extend is an important responsibility of every developer, something many studios ignore these days. Geralt’s creators proved it’s possible to support an AAA game with continued updates for more than a year, with lots of free stuff to boot.
Expansion packs are an important part of any game in today’s day and age. However, many of them cost as much as the base game, the most glaring example being EA’s games. Not only are the DLCs overpriced, they don’t add that much content. The second expansion pack for The Witcher 3 in the form of Blood and Wine added more content than most games offer as a whole. That itself speaks volumes. Additionally, CDPR employed an enhanced technique to render the textures, and as a result Blood and Wine looked prettier and performed better too. There aren’t any other devs that I know of, who have gone to these lengths to keep fans happy.
The other aspect of The Witcher 3 that made it so popular were the side quests and monster hunts. The side quests didn’t feel like identical copies of each other. They were all individually crafted and had their own respective story, again showing the devs dedication towards their product. The Witcher 3 had a vast map, but so did Mass Effect Andromeda, so where did it go wrong. The Witcher 3 had it’s map populated with story rich and unique activities, unlike Andromeda which was full to the brim with fluff and repetitive fetch quests.
Another factor that made Witcher 3 so darn good was player choice. As per Reddit, the Witcher 3 culminated into 30+ different endings if you take into account all the variables. And the best part is that it felt like your actions were making an impact, it wasn’t just the illusion of choice as with many other RPGs. The questline of every particular location had many different conclusions depending on your actions.
Lastly, lets talk about the crux of the game, namely the main story, the characters and the visuals. The main story was an absolute treat, as the game had some of the most masterfully crafted quests I’ve seen in a game. They had just the right amount of humor and emotion and the excellent writing make them quite memorable. The romances too are much better than the generic, linear ones BioWare has been shoving into their games as of late. They make you admire the characters and understand their pleas and objectives. Witcher 3 was first built on the PC and then ported to the consoles. That is the reason it looked like a game from the future and was so damn taxing on hardware back then.
I gotta say, The Witcher 3 is one of the main reasons I love RPGs so much. I was already into Role Playing Games before, but this was more of a reminder that how amazing this genre truly is if treated right. Just thinking about it brings a tear to my eye (no it really does). CD Projekt Red made me fall in love with it’s world and characters, and for that I’m really grateful. I hope they continue to do so in the future with Cyberpunk 2077 and that more and more studios follow their lead.