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Second Witcher 2 and 3 playthroughs – a perspective after a couple of years

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Well, I did it. After a long month and a half I managed to finish Witcher 2 (actually played it a few times but never finished act 2) and clear out Witcher 3 GoTY. It happened shortly after I finally read all the novels, so I wouldn't have to compare it only to the brilliant short stories or help myself with Wiki. And to be quite honset … they're good. Even very good.

Well, maybe I should categorize my assessment. Witcher 3 is good, very good. W2 is… just adequate. After having enough of the frustrating combat diffculty and awful half-RNG mechanics I decided to go through on the easy mode and it payed off. I was rarely stopped in my tracks (although that still happened, as the combat simply cheats and animations have no meaning) and could enjoy the story and nice character build progression.

The story itself was by no means on the level of Sapkowski's original, but it definitely retained its spirit and you could very well see that the authors took care to translate some of his characteristics (e.g., complex, morally grey characters, lots of politics) into the game. What they accomplished was truly great and when you met characters from the book, you rarely felt they were completely different from what you imagined – the only exceptions here being the sorceresses, whose design I found more silly than respectable or powerful (that breast tattoo on Sheala who was portrayed in the books as a stoic, thoughtful intellectual…). Jaskier, Zoltan, Yarpen, even Triss – they are CD Projekt's great success.

Game design in 2 is a bit lacking, especially the long animations and engine limitations made it really frustrating. No jumping, swirling your camera to find the exact point where you can trigger an action, buggy stealth, and completely broken combat make it hard to recommend. It takes a while to get used to, but I guess if you are into the story itself, there is something to keep your focus on, so grinding your teeth serves SOMETHING. BTW, Iorveth's path is much more interesting imho, well worth choosing that over Roche.

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Now Witcher 3… That's a different beast entirely. Much of my gripe with 2 is addressed here – movement is much more free, combat was way more polished and though it sometimes cheats on the animations (no connection between character and weapon/fang, but damage still dealt) it is at least good enough to be only noticable after dozens of hours, not immediately. The ways to develop your character are bonkers, the Signs are very cool to use and develop, simply a great job.

The story manages to wrap all the events from the previous games, but also takes some too literal inspirations from the books, basically recycling old stories, so it's a mixed bag. However, it's done intelligently enough to keep you entertained for the long hours it takes to finish the game. What really satisfied me was that the game actually has a reason (with its plot, many little subplots and small quests) to be an open world, time-consuming enterprise not like other empty open world games with pretext padding instead of a story (looking at you, Death Stranding…).

There's tons of stuff to do, and this time I set off to uncover every question mark on the map, only to find out there's no achievement for that at the end :(. But I did it and I will never again play a game with a boat in it, Skellige can go &^$&#^ itself. So that was mostly a waste of time.

What wasn't was looking for witcher gear, which I completely ignored my first time through. It's great to have a full set and when you are able to develop it to grandmaster level (in Blood and Wine, also my 1st playthrough), you really feel like a boss. Btw, it costs like 30 000 for one set, so collect stuff along the way and sell it all the time to afford it…

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I also enjoyed Gwent which I completely ignored the first time I played in 2017. I got hooked and even installed the stand-alone version, but it's so different now, that I'd have to learn to play again, so maybe I'll get into that more later. Anyway, Northern Kingdoms rule, spies rule, great game.

This is maybe a bit chaotic, but I just finished and I'm simply tired. It took me 94 hours to finish the base game 2 years ago, and now around 140 to finish it for the 2nd time on a higher difficulty level (Blood and Broken Bones, hard) and… I'm out. This is the end. Likelihood of me playing it again is super low, no interest in NG+, I just feel super satisfied that I brought the story to a satisfactory conclusion and could enjoy CDP's great work. It is deservedly still present in the discourse and it stands out as an accomplishment of Polish game development scene, which makes my teeny bit proud, although I despise all nationalistic sentiments in general.

Great work, now I'm ready for Cyberpunk to come out!

Source: reddit.com

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