The Witcher 3’s next-gen upgrade is right around the corner and I’m amping myself up for a playthrough where I actually beat the damn thing. I’m 400 hours deep, started it when I was in secondary school, and now – I’m wrapping up university and still haven’t quite finished it. I’ve poured hours in, went back and beat the first two games, dipped my toes into the standalone Gwent experience, watched the Netflix show, and even read a couple of the books. But for the life of me, I can’t muster up the willpower to finish The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, even though I adore it.
It’s a problem I’ve run into with a lot of gigantic open-world RPGs that are stuffed to the brim with content. Most of my hours are spent on side quests, Gwent tournaments, and the optional little hot spots outside of cities in the vast fields where I can loot, maim, and dance around to my heart’s content. Hunting monsters is so much fun, and actually getting to be a Witcher trumps the main story for me – it’s what I treasure most about the first entry.
Building up the Bestiary with little tidbits of information on how to take down a Cockatrice or an Ekhidna before hunting down ingredients for making oils and potions ahead of the big fight is a treat. The odd moment where Geralt is put into a tedious situation that drags him from the muck and the mud to the mundane and normal hits close – I’d much rather be doing all these Witcher-y things too. That’s probably why I’m still yet to finish the story, but I’ve heard great things, and I’m desperate to finally dive back in, but each time I’ve tried, I get caught up in all that side content that just refuses to let me go.
It’s not just The Witcher 3, though – I’ve also put 400 hours into Assassin’s Creed Origins, and by god I want to dive into Valhalla, but having not beaten the two prior – it just feels wrong. Games with these sprawling open-worlds are time sinkers, with the main story only being touched to advance to a new area where I can do more side quests, visit more dense cities, and play more Gwent, but maybe feeling guilty is the wrong approach. Perhaps, I should embrace that I’m finding so much to love about this game that I’m not even compelled to beat the main story. The Witcher 3 is so gripping that I can’t let go of all of its extra little cherries on top which, for me, have become the main course.
It’s not unlike a slew of other RPGs in that regard – I spent most of my time in Yakuza 0 doing the side quests and I’ve put a good 100 hours into that without denting much of the main plotline. Skyrim? I’ve beaten the main story maybe three times while putting in a good 800+ hours. These RPGs have great tales to tell, there’s no doubting that, but perhaps that perceived information overload is the actual beef to the pie – perhaps, all along, it’s the narrative that’s the cherry on top. I can’t say that’s how earlier Witchers were for me – it was all about getting through the story while the side content was a distraction or a grind, and I adored those in that respect, but while the Netflix series tossed the coin, The Witcher 3 flipped it.
The next-gen update is set to release later in 2021, and that’s incredibly exciting with the expected additions of ray-tracing, updated graphics, and better performance. Seeing magic with RTX is going to be gorgeous, and just maybe my next encounter with the Wild Hunt will be with all the modern bells and whistles that have come and gone in the past six years. The love for this series is palpable and infectious, and it’s truly one of the better fantasy worlds out there, slotted alongside Dark Souls’ twisted land rich with intricate lore and The Elder Scrolls with its towering civilizations that have come and gone, ancient races lingering on the precipice of extinction. I’d love to find out how it all ties together, but perhaps I’ll procrastinate on it a bit longer, and pop to the pub for a quick round of Gwent. One more, I swear.
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James Troughton is a writer at TheGamer. He’s worked at the Nintendo-based site Switchaboo and newspaper TheCourierOnline and can be found on Twitter @JDTroughton.
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