The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a good game wrapped inside of a terrible one. This is a tale of two games: The Witcher and, what I call, the Glitcher.
The Witcher is a complex, woven story of Geralt of Rivia, the titular Witcher – hunter of monsters – searching for the girl he considers his adopted daughter, Ciri, as she is chased by the Wild Hunt – a gang of magical warriors – for reasons unknown.
The Glitcher is a poorly made RPG, full of sexist clichés, inexact fighting mechanics, occasional bugs, and infuriating design that often have you groaning or rolling your eyes.
Sadly. the two are inseparable.
Though a day-one patch has made some improvements, The Glitcher can still be rather buggy and frustrating.
Geralt’s horse, Roach, can be called with a whistle almost anywhere in the world, but always appears out of Geralt’s eye line. This means that Roach often ends up trapped behind trees, fences, buildings, or villagers, and in the large cities, the horse can get stuck on stairs. In one instance, Roach appeared on the far side of a river to me (one I couldn’t get to), and no amount of recalling could get the horse to my side.
Geralt’s movement is fluid but he suffers from small impediments in his way and trees he just can’t get past. The most annoying thing is getting in and out of boats. You then need to stare directly at the tiller in order to climb into one. After that sailing is a breeze, but getting out again is a case of Geralt having to leap from the boat as though he is an Olympic hurdler.
Geralt’s leaps may also see him tumbling from cliffs, after what seemed like a simple small jump having your hero overshooting and flinging himself from the rocks. At worst you die, at best you survive but now have to climb the damn mountain again.
His animations cause issues too. When Geralt stops sprinting he animates for three extra steps. It looks like natural running coming to a stop except when he casually does so off the side of a cliff or into a nest of bandits. Sprinting also hinders Geralt’s automatic sword drawing, which means you could start a fight with no weapon drawn.
The fighting is pretty hack and slash, which is fine, but you may end up finding yourself vulnerable if you just mash away. Geralt’s sword animations look cool and move you across the battle in a whirl of blades, but often also mean that you find your opponents are now behind the camera and stabbing you in the back.
...getting out again is a case of Geralt having to leap from the boat as though he is an Olympic hurdler.
Playing this on a big TV also showed some of the limitations of the console’s graphic power. Occasionally NPCs or even dead bodies (there are a lot of people hanging from trees in this game) would appear in the middle distance as “scarecrows”, legs akimbo with their arms straight out at their sides. They would revert to being more realistic bodies when you get closer. It’s the type of thing that once you notice it, you can’t unsee it.
[Editor’s note: the bulk of this review was played on pre-release (version 1.00) of the game. We also tested a retail promo copy (version 1.01), and encountered the bugs above in that build as well. Additional patches have since been released, and the game is now up to version 1.03 which addresses the bugs.]
But the Glitcher isn’t just about the bugs. It’s also about simple bad game tropes.
The missions are often designed so that you have to travel back and forth between places. Go here, investigate something. Go back and report. Head back to the first place and fight monsters. Go back and report. Repeat until done.
Not quite fetch quests, but pretty damn close. But the world is huge, seriously huge, so when the quest tells you to travel back and forth it gets really dull really quickly.
The other thing that gets old quick is the depiction of women. All of the female characters have the same body type and none of them seem to know how to operate a shirt because every single one of them wears it open to the navel. Perhaps the only reason the women aren’t constantly falling out of their tops is because the breast physics in the Glitcher are worse than in Ryse: Son of Rome.
Don’t worry though. If you want to see awful, solid, unmoving breasts you’re in luck, because the female characters whip their clothes off with regularity. Nearly all of them have one reason or other to sleep with Geralt and so you get to sit through a few pretty terrible sex scenes.
Sex in games is ok by me (if I have to pick one I prefer sex over violence), but it just seems stupid if the male character is running around in armour while the women are wearing light shirts that are unbuttoned to the waist. It’s not even pretending to be armour!
Moreover this game contains a lot of sexual violence. (I was a bit surprised to see it was only rated R16, though sexual violence is listed in the classification notes).
Rape is mentioned a lot by supporting characters and more than once Geralt saves women from being raped by soldiers. Somewhat disturbingly there is at least one scene where Geralt can walk away and leave a woman to be raped and another where he can leave a woman to be tortured.
One quest, integral to the main storyline, involves tracking down a gang leader who enjoys raping, torturing and killing sex workers. When you finally confront him, it’s in a room filled with dead women killed in various horrible ways and all naked. It can be incredibly jarring.
As you walk around villagers, guards and other non-characters will just randomly say things (it’s something I’ve never understood in games). Most of the time it’s the repeated garbage over and over or vaguely related to whatever quest you’re on, but one point in the game I suddenly noticed that the random lines were getting incredibly sexist, and homophobic. In part this is because the game had entered a darker phase, but at the same time it just felt wrong and put in for shock value. (The usual poor writing trope of “oh these guys are bad so they’ll say something awful about women/gay people”).
I should note that there is a scene with a character who cross-dresses and that is handled fairly well. It’s not perfect, but it was a good attempt and for once, the cross-dressing was not a punchline.
Continue reading on page 2.