My Favourite Games of 2015: The Witcher 3

Every time I think back to my time with Geralt on his quest to chase Ciri and the Wild Hunt, I always return to a single frame. It's the shot of the Bloody Baron sitting in his meagre throne, contemplating the failure of his marriage, the feeling of his fist against her flesh, recalling the pangs of her barbs.

It's an image that stayed with me through all of the game's faults and through the months that have passed since I saw the final screens. It's the most enduring image of any narrative I've experienced in a video game this year.

It might even be my favourite quest line of all time.

Pawel Sasko was the lead quest designer at CD Projekt RED on The Witcher 3, and he told Patrick earlier this year that players from all walks of life had sent in some remarkable feedback about the Baron. "One day there was a letter delivered to the office ... it was sent by a father who had lost his daughter when she was a few months old."

"In his letter he wrote about his experience trying to save the Baron’s baby daughter which had turned into botchling, how desperately he wanted to save her. It was a moving story about him seeking redemption for the Baron, for this character who was carrying his beloved child in his hands."

Watching the Baron's torment — and his storyteller-esque taunting of Geralt, in the way that video games so often do — reminded me of humanity. Not the warmth or the skill involved, but of that grey area in which some of the worst atrocities occur. The kind of humanity you hear about in war documentaries, the kind that, seemingly without rhyme or reason, suddenly becomes capable of great evil.

Not the worst evil, but evil enough. The kind of horror that one never forgets. Like beating your wife, and then beating her again to the point of causing a miscarriage.

Nobody ever wins in a Witcher's world.

Witcher 3 has many undisclosed moments of breathtaking beauty too

This is a shot of Witcher 3 that's been in our CMS for a while. I'm not sure how it got there, but I've always liked it for one very simple reason: the light through the trees.

I'd dreaded travelling to the shores of Skellige for a while, only because I knew — in all likelihood — that I'd never return. But once I started climbing the peaks and mountains of the northern islands, I never wanted to leave.

It was the light breaking through the trees, when I was travelling through the dense forests. The forest itself is a thing of beauty, with its density, the sound of the leaves and the branches.

But combined with the wind, bending the trunks and foliage so that the light peers through ever so inconsistently, Witcher 3 became a thing of majesty. It was one of those cheesy "oh shit" moments that programmers, artists, designers, project leads and animators dream about.

I still remember standing on the side of that hill, watching the forest sway back and forth.

The game is never short on surprises

I could go on and on about the little things in Witcher 3 that drew a wry smile, caught me off-guard or simply caused me to stop what I was doing. But the biggest impact the game had was stopping me from playing Bloodborne entirely.

For the first month and a half, Geralt's style of stabs and rolls continually reminded me of Bloodborne's movement system. This was good, I thought: I'd spent about 35 hours in Bloodborne but was yet to complete my tour of Old Yharnam. It felt like there were enough similarities that I'd be well served when I eventually found Ciri.

And then CDR caved; the movement patch landed. Geralt could make tighter turns. He responded instantly to a player's movement. It felt less like controlling a bull in a china shop. It also felt more like controlling a video game character, and less like controlling an actual human.

But it was more fun. And it ruined the thought of ever returning to the old system. And it destroyed the thought of returning to Bloodborne. How could I go back to From Software's slower, almost plodding pace, complete with its indiscernible plot and punishing difficulty?

Witcher 3 was built to enjoy. And it was something I could enjoy even while standing on the side of a hill, doing nothing more than watching the light peer between the trees.

What a beautiful game.


Comments

    God Damn it, I though the title Said 3 favoriate games of 2015 and im trying to find the Alex's other 2 favorite games

      Well we know one of the 3 http://www.kotaku.com.au/2015/12/my-favourite-games-of-2015-duck-game/

        Yeah, other two have been Homeworld Remastered Collection and Duck Game.

    The Bloody Baron questline is really great and it outweighed the shitiness of Dandelion's questline.

      I thought Dandelion was quite light and humorous - Had fun playing the theatre instead of constant blood and gore

      The contrast of these questlines is what made the Witcher feel exciting and new everytime i picked it up

      Still havent finished but delayed FO 4 after 10 hours to get this done!!!

    I can’t say enough good things about this game. I’m comfortable saying that it’s the best game I’ve ever played from a holistic perspective, if there’s one video game experience that’s the best one you can have in 2015, IMO it’s this one.

    Along with GTA V it stands out as the best example of a game that oozes with love, care and detail while still being astonishing in size. I’ve played (probably) 1000’s of games over the past 30 years, but I can’t remember too many that have made me smile as consistently throughout their entirety.

    So good on virtually every level. So much so, I'm almost apprehensive to plod through Hearts Of Stone, for fear it will soon be over again (and given how overburdened by software I have become).

    GOTY.

    Thanks Alex that was an enjoyable read. I think most people who played this game had moments of just standing and marvelling at the light and shade of the environment which felt so organic.

    Like beating your wife, and then beating her again to the point of causing a miscarriage.

    *massive spoilers*

    This is a common misconception! He doesn't directly cause the miscarriage through physical trauma, Anna was wearing a pendant from the pellar that protected her from the crones magic. Ana actually sought the crones to remove the child but realized her mistake (or felt awfully sick or something) so she went and saw the pellar to try and stop it (the pendant). That pendant got removed during the scuffle eventually leading to her miscarriage, after the miscarriage she left and the crones kidnapped her to seek payment for the miscarriage.

    Ultimately both were at fault. That's the great thing about the baron quest its got so many layers just when you think you've got a handle on whats going on another layer is peeled away. At the end of it I think the baron is a pretty good guy put into an awful situation, i certainly put just as much blame on ana (if not more!).

    EDIT: http://witcher.wikia.com/wiki/Anna_Strenger

    The Crones granted her wish in their own, twisted way: with a curse that made the fetus inside her wither on the vine, taking Anna's life energy with it. In despair, she turned to the pellar, who made her a talisman to hamper the evil magic's influence. Anna had lost this during her fight with the baron and thus rendered defenseless against the Crone's magic. After that, the worst was free to happen - the markings on her palms began to burn and a fiend dragged her to the heart of Crookback Bog, where she paid her debt as the Crones' slave.

    Last edited 16/12/15 5:26 pm

    I prefer bull in a china shop Geralt.

    I don't think the movement was fixed in the slightest and the combat isnt like bloodborne at all, that's like saying a modern shoot plays like goldeneye. I wish the movement was spot on and that the jumping animation didn't look and feel like shit. Best thing about the game is the lighting. The dialogue gets really really old on a second playthrough.

    I returned to this game after only having played till level 15, during the holidays (PS4). CDPR has really cranked up the game in almost every way. It feels great to play it now, more than ever before.

    The interface changes and movement mechanics are a welcome addition, whereas they were getting in the way of the mode the game was originally trying to create.

    People who had stopped playing this and moved onto other games (Fallout 4), should really consider returning.

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