The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is one of the best games Sherif Saed has played all year. So why can’t he finally finish the damn thing?
The Witcher 3 has been out for a good chunk of time. Good enough for me to play it at any sort of pace I like and still finish it. Most of my friends who played it have already done so.
Yet, I can’t seem to find the urge to get on with it and see how it ends. I don’t get the rush I have for other games when I think about how I’ll be playing them in a few hours after work. Most recently, with Batman: Arkham Knight and Galak-Z – there was a sensation there that I couldn’t escape. I got excited just thinking about them. Hell, I even get this right now when I think about making further progress in Dark Souls 2, a game I’ve already finished. Twice.
Let me be clear, The Witcher 3 is not a boring game. In fact, it’s doing everything it can not to be a fetch-quest-heavy fest, a collectathon, or yet another grand story about saving the world. It’s a collection of coherent, masterfully-written short stories that flesh out the world and make it a bit more believable every time you finish one.
I don’t get the complaints about its combat either. I love that it’s all based on your momentum. It punishes those who over-commit and those who strike once and roll away in surprisingly equal measure, creating a ballet of sword swipes and dodges. I’ve enjoyed all my encounters with the hundreds of different monsters I’ve faced, and I enjoyed studying my target and preparing for the hunt quite a bit. It’s one of the game’s strengths, and one that no other game, save for the impregnable Monster Hunter, can deliver.
So how come I am not itching to be swallowed up by its world? I’ve been playing The Witcher 3 since launch day. I started off with daily sessions, before graduating to three or four times a week. Each session would last me a good few hours, not even doing one thing and popping off, either. I’ve only just realised that I haven’t played it in over two weeks.
When I stopped, it looked like I still had a way to go. Speaking to a few of my friends confirmed this. I had only just got to the ’round up the gang Mass Effect 2-style’ point of the story. Not to mention the unending checklist of Contracts, Treasure Hunts, and side quests all waiting to be played. I struggle, even as I write this, to come up with one compelling reason why I stopped. I can’t name a single thing that put me off.
What I can say for sure is that the game’s enormous size has overwhelmed me. I always have too many things on my plate at any given moment.
It was this way on launch and it’s still the same now. Even as I go about checking things off my list, I get distracted with others that have only just become available. I can’t just ignore them because every time I get treated to an interesting bit of story, earn new loot, or dive deeper into the world.
It’s all too big. I don’t have the energy to play a few hours every week only to find myself no closer to my goal than when I started. I’ve been doing this exact thing for a few weeks now and it’s daunting. I know what you’re going to say; ‘leave that side stuff until after you finish it and focus on the main story’.
I tried. I finished two story missions in one day last time I played. Then I reached the story moment I noted above, which comes with its own thread of sub-quests that involve other small quests and quests and quests and quests. Knowing that I was nowhere near done isn’t doing me any favours. I couldn’t muster the energy for a last hurrah. I just gave up.
I’d like to think this is all on me. After all, you can’t fault developers for making great games that just happen to take long to get going. However, I think there’s more to it than that. I believe CD Projekt RED was very ambitious with The Witcher 3, almost too ambitious. The studio created a world of living, breathing characters that occupy a universe with the internal consistency of a Tolkien book. But one that also crumbles under the weight of its enormous size.
I want to finish it, I really do, but I know the next time I play, it won’t be that different from the last few times. This isn’t some game journalism snobbery either. I have the time. I finished Batman: Arkham Knight (everything except Riddler at 100 percent) in three days straight. I don’t think I will ever finish The Witcher 3, even though I love it and there’s not a single thing that’s tedious in it.
Perhaps knowing there is no end in sight for what you’re doing, even if it’s still really fun, is the problem. The next time a publisher tries to sell me a game based on its hundreds of hours’ worth of content, this is what will spring to mind.