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.
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.