What I'd Like To See In The Witcher 3

I liked The Witcher 2. Mike liked The Witcher 2. And if you had a taste for lustiness and swordplay (and could put up with some rough edges), you probably liked The Witcher 2 as well. But what of The Witcher 3?

The game, recently announced for the PC, PlayStation 4 and presumably the next Xbox, will be the last in the series. It will be an open-world game many times larger than its predecessor. It will be developer CD Projekt's biggest opportunity to fully realise author Andrzej Sapkowski's dirty, violent, sexy world, and its hero, the gravel-voiced ronin Geralt of Rivia.

I spent the better part of last weekend replaying a big chunk of The Witcher 2, and fleshing out a list of things I'd like to see in the new game. Some of these are small. Some are large. Collectively, they make up the things I'd like to see in The Witcher 3.

We're going to start with the sexiest, most exciting thing possible. That's right...

Manageable Alchemy

The world of The Witcher has always felt welcomely grounded to me. Everything is really rooted -- when Geralt makes potions, he kneels on the ground and takes his time. The crafting in both The Witcher and The Witcher 2 are defining elements -- or at least, they're supposed to be. Geralt is a master herbalist, and what he lacks in powerful magic he makes up for with scientific knowledge and alchemy. But the crafting system itself is a touch impenetrable in The Witcher 2. Of the three specific skill trees available (the other two are swordplay and magic), I never chose to drop a single point into herbalism, and as a result felt like I was missing out on a big chunk of the game. The whole thing was difficult enough that even on replays, I never felt confident ditching swordplay and magic to focus on herbalism. It'd be great if in the third game, alchemy not only became easier to use, it became a universal skill that could be used by any player. I'd love to craft and use more potions, but I don't want to have to forsake vital combat skills to do it.

A Smoother Difficulty Curve

This one's a no-brainer, and almost certainly something we'll see in the new game. The Witcher 2 has a couple of notorious first-act difficulty spikes, from the Kayran (very difficult until you know exactly what to do) to the first fight with Letho, a vastly more powerful Witcher that feels damned near impossible to defeat. I must have taken on that Letho battle 30 times, and even upon replays I get stuck there for a while, though it helps to know that I only have to get him down to half his health. I know a few people who quit the game outright at that moment never to return. Surely CDP doesn't want that to happen in the new game, and it's a safe bet they'll smooth out their difficulty some. I certainly hope they do.

Better Doors

I picture a world where Geralt of Rivia walks up to a door and simply goes through it. In this world, the camera does not pull in tightly behind him, the screen does not fade to black. It's a magical place where the doors work like in every other open-world game. Dream with me, and maybe we can go there.

Better Stealth, Or No Stealth At All

Some of the worst bits of The Witcher 2 involved half-baked sneaking, with one in the first act closing off a notable large chunk of story potential if you were spotted. Contextual sneaking -- that is, sneaking where you don't have a "sneak" button, but where your character crouches on his own -- is almost always a drag, and it was a drag in The Witcher 2. Hopefully the third game will jettison stealth altogether, but if they decide to include it, I hope that the system underlying it will become a bit more robust. Some kind of improved line-of-sight notification, a detection meter, something. If you're gonna make me play a stealth-game, act like a stealth game!

Non-Terrible Menus

The menus in The Witcher 2 (this is based on the PC version) are pretty terrible. it seems to be some combination of not quite designing the game to work with a controller and not quite thinking through the way a player might have to access them every time they play. They violate several of The 10 Commandments Of Video Game Menus, including the fact that the first option after loading the game is not "continue," and that you have to go through multiple menus just to quit. Here's hoping CDP rebuilt their menus from the ground up.

A Better Map

While I appreciate the earthy look of The Witcher 2's map, it's awfully useless. Look at this thing:

It's very difficult to tell just what the hell is where. Given the layered, overlapping maps in The Witcher 2, particularly in the dwarven city of Vergen (which the map above is of), it's not an easy task to create a two-dimensional map that can accurately convey where everything is. But surely it's possible to make a map that's slightly better. In fact, here's a total lark: Given how earthy and rooted everything in the game is, what if CD Projekt bucked tradition and gave Geralt an actual in-game map, like in Far Cry 2? Every time you needed to check the map, you'd pull it out and actually look at it. It'd make it clear where you were going, but you'd eventually learn to navigate the world using a combination of your senses and visible points of interest. Hey, that'd be pretty cool. (It will never happen, but OK.)

Dodge Interrupts, Better Targeting, Better Parrying... Better Combat

Replaying The Witcher 2, I was struck by how much I actually enjoyed the way combat felt. I like how Geralt pulls pulls cool summersaults and dive-bombs to move himself across the battlefield, and I like the music and the satisfying feedback from smacking an enemy with your sword. But I don't like the fact that most of Geralt's moves can't be interrupted in order to dodge, which often leaves Geralt flailing like an idiot while a huge enemy winds up an attack and crushes him. Combat in the game would be a lot more fun if it was possible to interrupt Geralt's swings at any time to dodge, and it'd make some of the more maddening bosses much more survivable. It'd also be cool if parrying got an overhaul, and just sort of worked, without draining the same energy you use for magic. I guess what I'm saying here is that while the fundamentals for combat were ok in The Witcher 2, it'd be nice to see the game's action become truly fun.

A Quicksave Slot

This seems like something the CDP will almost surely address in the new game. One of the weird bugbears of The Witcher 2 on the PC was the fact that while it had an autosave slot, it didn't have a quicksave slot. So, every time I'd hit F5, I'd get a brand new save. I saved quite often, and as a result wound up with a crapload of saves. A minor thing that I bet will be fixed in the new game.

All The Pretty Horses

Despite the fantasy setting, I've always thought of Geralt as more of a Western hero. He's a man with no allegiances, on a personal quest, with nothing but his own code to guide him. He rolls through towns, helping people along the way. So it's great to see that Geralt will finally get to ride a horse in The Witcher 3. Here's my one request with the horses: Don't make them suck. Look to Red Dead Redemption and even Skyrim -- the horses may not have been perfect in those games, but at least they could go pretty much everywhere. I've always noticed that The Witcher 2's areas aren't nearly as open as they seem, and that Geralt runs up against a lot of invisible walls. As Assassin's Creed III showed, invisible walls and horses don't really mix. I'm glad that there will be horse-riding in The Witcher 3, but I hope that it's not terrible.

Keep The Dandelion-Written Journal

I sincerely hope that the poet/bard/goofball Dandelion is back for the third game, and that Geralt's quest "journal" is still written by him. That was one of my favourite parts of the second game, and his narrative way of summarising what I had done until my current point in the story actually made it much easier for me to keep track of the twisting, often difficult-to-parse story.

Keep It Difficult

Neither The Witcher nor The Witcher 2 were easy games -- in fact, both could be right difficult, even on the normal difficulty setting. While I'd love to see combat get a facelift, I hope that the third game is just as difficult as the first two. In particular, I dearly hope that CDP doesn't add the ability to take health-replenishing potions mid-battle.

Keep Those Big Branches

The second act of The Witcher 2 remains as audacious today as it felt back when I first played the game. Depending on a single decision, you'd spend the entire second act, possibly the biggest act of the game, in an entirely different area, doing entirely different things. While it seems unlikely that the third game will have any blocked-off content that large, it stands to reason that the game will have some branching. Hopefully it will be more dramatic than the "kinda but kinda-not" branching in other similar games.

So there you have 'em -- some things I'd like to see in The Witcher 3. But that's just me talking; I'll be sitting down soon (probably later this month at GDC) with some of the people working on the game, and I'll probably ask about half of this stuff right off the bat.

In the meantime, what do you hope to see in The Witcher 3, and what do you hope will get fixed? And given that I've never actually finished the first game, is there anything that was removed from the second game that you'd like to see in the new one?


Comments

    I hated the combat but loved the story.

    The worst thing to me was the potion management and need to equip potions before each battle.
    It meant that unprepared I died on almost every single battle the first time, even if it was just a band of low level characters because I didn’t know what to expect and couldn’t prepare.
    It made the whole game feel like 2 steps forward one step back as I constantly died and reloaded often to win easily once I could prepare the second time around.

    In the end I got frustrated and turned the difficulty down to easy, which meant that I then breezed through the game just running in swinging the sword.

    I would like to see the combat get a major overhall for the next game.

      There was a real problem of execution there. They wanted to capture the lore, whereby the Witcher would prepare and take potions prior to combat, but failed to implement any amount of scouting ahead. I ended up setting the game to the lowest difficult because I thought the fact you hd to die in order to know what potions to take was stupid.

      For many though, that's the attraction. Going down into a cave? You have to think about what you might come across and what buffs you'll need. It puts you more into the role-playing aspect of Geralt, where if you're running in blind without preparation, you'll probably die.
      By comparison, I'm currently playing Skyrim for the first time (PS3, wanted to wait until it had as many patches as possible) and it kind of breaks the immersion where I can stop in the middle of a fight & drink 10 potions or eat some pies while the dragon kindly waits for me to finish.

        I understand the idea, but the execution was off and to some extent it reminded me of failing a quick-time event a lot of the time.
        It’s not a case of a battle being too difficult or even particularly interesting (in the case of the lower level monsters that would kill me), it was just me dying the first time because I didn’t know what was coming next.

        The story and setting were GREAT, but it feels like false difficultly (some parts of the game were genuinely hard) when 90% of deaths are just you not being given an opportunity to prepare. By the time I turned the difficulty down it was almost not worth trying half the time, as soon as you get attacked to see what you’re up against and you reload and equip appropriately.

    This post actually covers some very good points:-

    Alchemy/crafting - I agree that the crafting was a little convoluted, and should be more accessible without having to sacrifice attack etc. I suggest removing it from the skill tree entirely and make it a progression instead. Something similar to Skyrim whereby you create a potion it levels you up in potion making. Potions can play a big part in combat if used correctly, therefore in a non-forgiving game like this, it's almost essential to have a good potion making skills - but the witcher 2 didn't supply the adequate tools to really make you want to.

    Difficulty curve - I don't entirely agree. I didn't have that many troubles, and akin to something like Dark souls it doesn't hold your hand. In saying that, I want that game to succeed and be accessible - so perhaps a more fleshed out tutorial, or some helping hand that you can turn off.

    Better doors - The last I checked Skyrim's interiors where a separate instance. I don't want this. I like an open world that doesn't require loading times to enter a building. This is hard to do, and resource intensive - depending on building amounts, so it may not be entirely achievable.

    Stealth - I didn't entirely mind the stealth components, but agree that it was clunky. I would certainly like stealth in the game, but it does need to be implemented better than is was in W2 or I would agree that it shouldn't be in.

    Menus - I agree the menu system was terrible, and this comes down to ports. You could tell they had the xbox in mind before they even announced it, just by looking at the menus. This is an rpg, and you are collecting loot, nobody wants to waste time in menu's when there's more loot to be had. I don't even like Skyrim's, and use the modded version, which is still not perfect. Don't get me wrong I lived with W2's menu's, but yes they need improvement.

    Combat - I believe with most sequels, dev's are able to tighten up combat and make things flow better. I enjoyed the combat a lot in the W2, I felt Geralt had a lot of weight to his character. Now, that's not to say it doesn't need improvement. In a game that relies heavily on dodge and parry, these things need to be nailed down. I don't mind a slightly more action orientated approach, whereby Geralt moves are more fluid in combat, but not at the expense of difficulty. I believe it was a design decision to have the combat feel the way it did, and I didn't mind it at all.

    Quicksave - yes I agree, but also it's a point of design. I speculate that this was done for difficulty reasons, and to enforce punishment for dying. I could be wrong and it was just slack, but I doubt it. This game is difficult and draws much from the dark souls side of difficulty, which is good but also can deter people. Perhaps its something they can incorporate into the difficulty settings, Normal and below you can save as much as possible and enemies are still a challenge, anything Hard and above you have to rely on auto-saves and then the extreme of one life etc etc.

    Horses/mounts - Gearlt riding a horse is cool, but a troll would be better :P Although that may seem a little far fetched, and I'm excited enough at using a steed - lets not forget that this is still fantasy and there are many possible mounts in a game like this. Gearlt is a witcher and is one with the land, he could possible tame animals to mount and/or ride. Just a thought...dragons.

    Journal/story - Anything story related I like, because of how well it was told. The story itself was a little textbook, but it was the way it was delivered that makes the difference.

    Difficulty - already sorted covered, but yes yes yes. BUT I do want as many people to play this game as possible, and although dark souls is unforgiving in its approach to difficulty levels, if they were to incorporates a difficulty level system for the masses its not going to hurt the game in any way and just helps the dev's get there game into more hands.

    Branches/story - Totally agree, and although this game is set in an open world, and I don't know how viable a branching story can be, in the sense of how it was in W2. W2 had the luxury of being a little more linear and could pull off entire different acts depending on your choices. In an open world that's a little more tricky but still probably viable if done right.

    Personal thoughts, suggestions:-

    Side quests - Most open world games that are a million square meters on adventure zone almost always make the mistake of 'filler' quests. I would rather see a smaller zone, with more of a variety of things to, then the collect x amount of this and kill x amount of those. MMO's (slightly have an excuse), skyrim, assassins creed (bad offender). Sometimes it's a necessary evil, but at least make it enjoyable as possible. I roamed the entire land in Red Dead redemption doing this exact thing, but man I did not stop having fun. The mechanics worked. The hunting worked. I can see this incorporating hunting (via mount anyone). The W2 felt alive and I hope even though this game is going open world, I want it to remain true to that feeling.

    The dev's said to a certain degree Skyrim was a little boring, a little underwhelming - I agree for some aspects. Again I refer to the point that making a big sandbox is great, but you have to put toys in it, or it's just sand. I 100% completed Red Dead Redemption and Skyrim is some crazy amount bigger then that, and I 've barely scratched the surface of that game. That could be viewed a good thing, and for the most part it is, great money for value - but I'd trade that for tools that give me more motivation to keep playing. As it stands I haven't played Skyrim for some time, granted I abused it when it first came out, but it's only the setting that really appeals to me. Not much of the story or world keeps me going. Yeah the mods make it look beautiful, but it takes a special ingredient to keep a player focused.

    Now this is all my opinion, but I'm greatly looking forward to The Witcher 3 and I have faith in the dev's to make a great game.

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