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11th December 2017: Bloody Hearts & Wine Stones

So I may have told a lie and also told the truth at the same time. Back when I finished Witcher 3, I said I'd only come back to the franchise when I got the expansions. This was true. In fact, after the initial completion, I almost immediately went out and bought both Hearts Of Stone and Blood And Wine so I could play them while I was still in the mood. I did also say I probably wouldn't start again to do all the contracts and other stuff. This turned out to be a lie. Rather than do the expansions from where I left off, I just started again, and ramped up the difficulty.
My original intention was to do it all. All the contracts, points of interest, get all the Gwent cards, brew all the potions and oils, create all the witcher gear, everything. It's not quite gone down that way, but I've done way more than I did before. And now, after more than three months of straight play, I think I'm pretty much done with the game.

I played the base game until after I rescued Ciri and killed Imlerith. During this time I cleared all the points of interest except some in Skellige. One on land bugged out, and I couldn't clear it, but all the others I missed were out in the ocean and I really couldn't be arsed with them. I also played Gwent for the first time, and went through all the Gwent quests except the big tournament which I may do later. I'd also crafted all the witcher gear up to this point, but this run was to stop during the second expansion when it became clear that other items were far better than even grandmaster witcher stuff. That was something I was pissed about.

I did get round to crafting all the oils, all the way to max level, but did not do all the decoctions, potions or bombs, as I didn't find these anywhere near as useful.

Anyway, on I went to the first expansion, which I didn't really like except for meeting Shani again. The story and characters in this were really bad. Fucking infuriating in fact. There are two main antagonist characters that Geralt gets caught between, and they were both so annoying that I desperately wanted to kill them both. However, depending on your actions, only one can be defeated. I was livid. Grr.

Roach goes for a swim

Roach goes for a swim

Getting well and truly licked

Getting well and truly licked

This dancing is just wrong

This dancing is just wrong

Geralt sinks into the jetty

Geralt sinks into the jetty

Taking a stroll inside a painting

Taking a stroll inside a painting

Twonking Von Everec

Twonking Von Everec

I hated this floating freak

I hated this floating freak

The second expansion was a lot better. The only annoying thing really was the fake French accents. I'm sure they could have got some English speaking French people to do the voice acting if they'd really wanted to. But oh well. In this one, Geralt is hired to kill The Beast Of Beauclair, who is killing knights in the land of Toussaint. It felt like a much bigger expansion, and had more interesting side quests in addition to the much better main story. This time, in the end, both antagonists can perish, or depending on your actions, either one of them. Difference is, in this one, I really wanted them both to live. Damn you, CD Projekt Red!!

As I was playing it for so long, all the things that annoyed me about it during the first playthrough continued to annoy me, and to even greater levels. Despite the many wonderful things it's got going on, the game is just so janky. Movement and combat are awkward and sluggish, and you would never guess Geralt is supposed to have enhanced reactions, as sometimes it takes him so long to dodge or cast a spell that he just ends up standing there and getting smacked in the face.

Without a doubt it was Roach who was the main problem. Stupid horse didn't seem to like doing anything I told it, and a lot of the time I just ran around on foot. Sometimes it would run on the spot, as if against some invisible barrier, when there was nothing there at all. Something that happened only once in my first playthough probably happened around ten times through this one, and that was the game not giving me the ability to gallop when I got on the horse. Only way I could clear it was to save and reload.

I even tried installing some mods for the first time to help me with some of the more irritating elements of the game. Usually the mods wouldn't work or wouldn't do what I wanted, but the ones that did definitely made life easier.

Again it sounds like I'm ragging on the game, but it really isn't that bad. There's no way I would play a game this long if it was bad at all. It's actually pretty great. It's just that I can see how exceptional it could be with a little more work and a few more options, so the problems just irritate me a lot. It all just gives off the impression that the developers didn't play hours and hours of their own game, and that they didn't get frustrated with all the little things that ended up being complete time wasters. Why's there no auto-apply of oils? Why do the witcher senses take so long to kick in and fade out? Why can you only mark one quest on your map? Why's there no option to auto-skip all merchant chit-chat after you've spoken to them the first time? All the little things like these end up wasting so much time.

Well, that is my journey through the Witcher franchise complete. I'll probably continue my current playthrough, and go back to the base game to complete the last few quests. I still don't think I'll do a full 100% run, as I don't want to go to all the points of interest in the Skellige seas, or go around getting all the Gwent cards. Not at all.

Overall though, really impressed with the series because of the stories it told and the characters that all played their parts. In that regard, I'll probably look back on these games much like I do with Final Fantasy 7. That is, I'll always fondly remember playing them, but because it's such a chore to play them, I'll probably never visit them again.

Geralt gets the horn

Geralt gets the horn

What a blockhead

What a blockhead

Two floating skulls stop me going through this door

Two floating skulls stop me going through this door

Geralt just having dinner with his wight buddy

Geralt just having dinner with his wight buddy

Fighting off a horde of bandits

Fighting off a horde of bandits

Guard sinks into the steps

Guard sinks into the steps

Bad kitty!

Bad kitty!

And now Geralt's talking to a horse

And now Geralt's talking to a horse

Yes, clean my boots child!

Yes, clean my boots child!

Geralt can always light up a room

Geralt can always light up a room

That's a strange insult to throw at a vampire

That's a strange insult to throw at a vampire

"Just don't tell Yen we got to ride unicorns."

"Just don't tell Yen we got to ride unicorns."

Interesting constructions in this part of the world

Interesting constructions in this part of the world

Geralt copping a feel

Geralt copping a feel

Regis being awesome

Regis being awesome

That's one dead vampire

That's one dead vampire

28th September 2017: Punting The Hunt

Phew. Not really sure where to start with this one. Back at the start of the month I finally got my ass in gear and began spending any little bits of free time I'd got working on getting through the Witcher 3. Yep, it finally got its sharp pointy claws in me, and wouldn't let go. Happily, I've had the last few days off work, during which I've been glued to my computer.

So, now that it's over, how in the world do I start summing it up when there's so much to say? How do I even remember everything I wanted to say?

I guess I start at the beginning. When I came back to it, I wondered whether to start again, but decided to just carry on from where I'd left it, around this time last year. I'd only done the prologue, and a couple of quests in Velen, so I thought I'd pick it back up fast enough.
I remembered that using mouse and keyboard had got me a bit confused last time I played it, as I was just coming straight from the Witcher 2, and some of the controls had changed, and I couldn't get my head around it. So what helped me when I initially came back to it was that I switched to controller. I found this great for some aspects of combat, but really did miss my mouse for looking around and going through all the menus. So after a few days play, I went back to mouse and keyboard, which was much better once I got used to it.

Dude makes out with a plague maiden

Dude makes out with a plague maiden

Geralt and a werewolf strut their funky stuff

Geralt and a werewolf strut their funky stuff

They're behind you Geralt

They're behind you Geralt

Only in the Witcher world could a baby be this ugly

Only in the Witcher world could a baby be this ugly

Poor bloke

Poor bloke

This kid has magical levitation powers

This kid has magical levitation powers

I found the basic story running through the game a bit easier to follow than the other two games in the series. You once again play as Geralt, the Witcher, who this time is trying to find his adopted daughter Ciri, who is on the run from the Wild Hunt, who are evil elves from another world who want the power in the young woman's blood.

While the main quests focus almost entirely on that story line, things still got really messy purely down to the secondary quests, and just the way the game is presented in general. In the Witcher 3, in nearly every location you visit, you are able to wander around an enormous map, where there are loads of quests and encounters for you to discover, and contracts you can take to go and hunt dangerous monsters. While all these things are nice for people that want to spend more time in the game, it just felt to me like there was this massive disconnect between the main story and all the other things you could do. Why, when Geralt is so urgent to find Ciri and defeat the Wild Hunt, would he be going and taking part in horse races, or stealing treasure from bandits? It was stupid, and I just wish the game forced you to focus more on the matter at hand. Sure, both previous games allowed you to do other things and take contracts, but to nowhere near such a scale, and Geralt was not in such a rush in those games.

Further problems occured due to some of the secondary quests and how some quests interact with each other. Now, a lot of the secondary quests were not really important at all, but others, while maybe not having much to do with saving Ciri, were still huge in terms of the politics and machinations of many of the supporting characters. Some of these quests, depending on their outcomes, even determine who wins the war which is going on in the background between the Northern Kingdoms and the invading Empire of Nilfgaard. Some even help determine the endings for some of the main characters, including both Geralt and Ciri themselves. The fact that these secondary quests can be skipped over entirely seems weird to me. Also, due to the fact that only one quest can be tracked at a time, accidentally skipping quests was really easy to do, especially ones that were time sensitive or ones that went away once other quests had been completed.

I frelling hate this poser

I frelling hate this poser

Troll gives Geralt the finger

Troll gives Geralt the finger

Twonking a wyvern

Twonking a wyvern

That thing just went pop

That thing just went pop

Cerys looks uncannily like Rhona Mitra

Cerys looks uncannily like Rhona Mitra

This guy is still keeled over, several in-game weeks after I punched him in the gut

This guy is still keeled over, several in-game weeks after I punched him in the gut

Though it sounds like I'm ragging on the game, that's not really the case. Other than its scatterbrained approach to telling the story, I actually got on really well with it. There were a few little niggles I had with the sometimes sluggish combat, and a few bugs, mostly to do with that stupid horse, but overall I really enjoyed it. The characters were as interesting and entertaining as ever, and there were funny moments as well as really dark and disturbing moments.

Some of the bugs I had:

Overall though, I had far less trouble with this than with the first two games. There was only one hard crash, which was when I was loading into another area, and the screen just remained blank.
As I mentioned in a previous entry, the game also ran a lot smoother, with no input lag. Also, while not the absolute best graphics you'll see, the game was also quite beautiful, and I couldn't help but snap a few screenshots to act as my desktop wallpaper for the next few months.

Twonking a harpy

Twonking a harpy

Triss being a badass

Triss being a badass

This is the bad guy? Seriously? Ha ha ha ha!

This is the bad guy? Seriously? Ha ha ha ha!

Ciri looks really pissed off

Ciri looks really pissed off

Geralt gets snowballed

Geralt gets snowballed

This is just creepy

This is just creepy

Making choices and decisions always seems to be an important part of the games in this series. While that was true here, it was done in a different way to the previous two games. There was no single big choice in this game, for example, where Geralt chooses which side he's on. Instead there were many small decisions that all built up to shape the way the game ended, especially for Ciri.

Here are the outcomes of my decisions:

Ciri deals with the crones

Ciri deals with the crones

Dealing with some of my favourite Youtubers in troll form

Dealing with some of my favourite Youtubers in troll form

Ciri ready for action

Ciri ready for action

Clashing with the end boss

Clashing with the end boss

Ciri forges on to face her destiny

Ciri forges on to face her destiny

So where do I go from here? When I came back to it, I kept changing my mind about whether I should be trying to 100% the game, or just go through the story. In the end, I didn't do many of the bonus quests and contracts, and just focused on getting the game finished. Just doing that took long enough as it was. I did however make a save at a critical point, before some major story events, which I can go back to if I want to clear all the maps and quests, and get better loot, without having to start the game all over again. The chances of me doing that though are very slim, as it would take hours and hours to do all that and I've still got dozens of games to get through.
More than likely, I'll only be back to the series when I get my hands on the expansions, which I'll look at doing sooner rather than later.

28th November 2016: Witcher Update

These two games are not the only two I've played since the last update. Though I wasn't expecting to go straight into Witcher 3, that's exactly what I did. Sadly the story failed to grip me and make me keep going back to it, so I haven't got very far yet, and it's been a good few weeks since I last played it. I want to get back to it again soon and hopefully get addicted.

I was incredibly happy to find its controls had none of Witcher 2's problems, and even though it's a newer game, the framerate and performance seem better than its predecessor. Good stuff in that regard.

Roach tries to climb the fence

Roach tries to climb the fence

I find her interesting because she's a client and she sleeps above her covers. Four feet above her covers.

I find her interesting because she's a client and she sleeps above her covers. Four feet above her covers.

Griffin proving a problem

Griffin proving a problem

Oh Geralt you naughty boy

Oh Geralt you naughty boy

This place seems inviting

This place seems inviting

Boxing a bear

Boxing a bear

One slice or two?

One slice or two?

Come on then, Wild Hunt scum!

Come on then, Wild Hunt scum!

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