Its that fantastic time of year, when there aren’t a whole lot of new game releases and real life hasn’t really kicked back in. The last few months have been kind of a whirlwind in the realm of video games, so its nice to be able to catch a breath, relax, and contemplate ones backlog.
My own isn’t actually all that bad, all things considered. Sure, I never quite got around to finishing up Persona 5, which was probably my biggest gaming surprise of 2017. Not the game itself, of course. We all knew it would be incredible, no, the fact that I never finished it was what was so surprising. I was super pumped for P5, but it just kind of came at a strange time for me, and I never got there. But I’ve recently picked it up, and have been making some good progress.
There is Xenoblade 2, but honestly, I think I’m just not feeling it. Maybe I’m getting old, but that game is kind of embarrassing to play. My girlfriend is understanding of my little hobby/obsession, but Pyra and Co are kind of hard to explain. And the combat is kind of wonky. And those rabbit people are really annoying. Actually I think I just broke up with Xenoblade.
But really, whats captured me over the past week or so is 2015’s The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt. It really just came out of left field, hidden in a game folder on my PS4. I played a whole bunch of The Witcher back when it came out, all the way through. But I did that thing that I often do with games that are just incredibly dense, about halfway through I just mainlined the story until we rolled credits. And in doing so I missed a lot of the incredible side quests that are so often what people praise about The Wild Hunt. Plus this was at launch, when the game was in a much buggier state, and long before the release of Hearts of Stone or Blood and Wine.
So with that in mind, I booted up a new game on Death March difficulty, with the idea to just slowly dip my toes back in to this wonderfully dark world. I did everything possible in White Orchard before moving onto Velen, and here was where the enormity of this game truly hit me. There is just so much to do, and it is all so lovingly crafted. The team over at CD Project Red really captured lighting in a bottle with this game, that so perfectly brings the world of Andrzej Sapkowski’s books to life, and its just works for me on so many levels. The grim-dark fantasy, the incredibly well written characters, and the surprising historical authenticity of its medieval world comes together in a very effective way, and I realised that the Witcher has completely pulled me back in.
That was around 30 hours ago. In Velen alone, I’ve come across dozens of quests I missed, whether they were involved adventures or mere roadside encounters. I reunited the Bloody Baron, and this time I slew the abomination that his cursed child had become. I knew not to release the evil hidden under the hill, and I did the bidding of the Crones of Crookback Bag, even if it goes against everything my Geralt stands for. A second playthrough has given me a lot of perspective, taking the time to encounter Letho, the antagonist from The Witcher 2, was really cool and something I had totally missed the first time around.
And I don’t know if I will see everything that The Wild Hunt has to offer, my original goal was to just tool around until something else caught my eye. I’m already far deeper into the game than I thought I would get. Just the change in direction for me has revitalised this game entirely: I’m not here to see how Geralt’s story ends, I’ve seen at least one version of how that can go down. What I am here for is the window dressing, the fluff that I missed out on last time. And I wont pressure myself to do more than is fun for me in this strange post-holiday bubble… But Blood and Wine is meant to be incredible, and that content is only around 10 levels higher than I am now. Who knows, maybe I will actually see this whole thing through, I might even write a proper review. I hear Toussaint is meant to be lovely this time of year.