We get fussy with one of the best games of 2015, because there's always room for improvement.
It's undeniable that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a great game. We explained exactly why in our review, and all the players that have been enjoying it since release have pretty much unanimously confirmed it's quality. However, even the best harvest comes with some rotten fruit, and we won't let our friend Geralt get away without a little constructive criticism. Below we bring up ten things from The Witcher 3 that could be improved via subsequent minor updates or deeper, more complex revisions.
The Font Size
CD Projekt Red seems to have forgotten that their game does not only rely on exploration and epic battles, but also on written instruction and conversation. The Witcher 3 is an adaptation of the universe pulled from the novels written by Andrzej Sapkowski, one the most renowned writers in Poland and a giant in the fantasy scene. The game offers plenty of interesting quests, and that's the reason why we're annoyed by the tiny font size on screen, a problem that becomes even more noticeable when reading subtitles. The developers have promised that this issue will be addressed in patch 1.04, but as it stands the game constantly has you squinting at the screen. How did they overlook such an obvious flaw when putting together their opus? Did they put the all testers in front of PC screens and forgot to check readability with a TV and a console?
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The Great Ingredient Hunt
In the world of The Witcher, those who hurl themselves into battle without proper training can and will be heavily punished. Each beast has its own characteristics and weaknesses. If you have to fight against a Wraith, for example, you'll have a better chance to succeed if you cover your sword with Spectre Oil, use the right sign and carry Moon Dust with you. The problem here is getting all the items and recipes you need to create the right oils and bombs. In short, finding the ingredients to prepare a single potion can turn into a painfully frustrating affair. If you want to go into every battle with the right potions and lotions, you're going to have to scour the land more than you might want to.
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The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt offers an almost overwhelming number of items. There are lots of herbs, potions, useless objects, and an endless number of additional items that will end up filling your inventory. The problem comes when you try to decide what to do with all your accumulated trinkets. Should you sell them and become rich, dismantle them in order to get raw materials, or perhaps simply just keep them for nostalgia's sake? The easy option is to walk around like a kleptomaniac collecting every single object on the way, because you never know if you'll need it later. As a result, you will fill up your inventory with a huge selection of items, much of it stuff that you'll likely fail to organise. Alchemy and crafting would benefit from a diary to take notes. On the other hand, the UI has way too many menus, and some of them are incoherent. And, again, the text is tiny!
It might seem a minor issue, but, for us, one of the key aspects in an open-world game is the interaction between the character and the environment and the way this ‘dialogue' is communicated to the player. There is no general consensus on the subject, but we believe that the feel of a game can greatly affect the overall experience. Grand Theft Auto V is an example of a title with polished feedback, where characters respond organically to the player's directions, and take their time when turning or going from running to walking. Unfortunately, in The Witcher 3, Geralt skips many of these steps and fails to move in a natural manner, so the reality that you're playing a video game constantly tugs at the immersive feeling of being in the wonderfully constructed medieval fantasy world.
Close Quarters Combat
One of the most remarkable changes introduced in The Witcher 3 is the completely reworked battle system. Because combat is focused on strategy, dodging and attack timing, fighting is best initiated in open areas with no obstacles in the way, and it's at its trickiest when there's fisticuffs in tight, enclosed spaces. Apparently, the Polish devs haven't realised that some quests take place in limited, enclosed environments, such as taverns and other such locations, places where it's almost impossible to keep your distance and take advantage of the battle system mechanics. The camera will make you suffer as well.
Oil Yourself Up
Continuing with scenarios where strategy is pushed on the back foot, some quests will basically invite you to reboot the game in order to complete them the way that they should be done. Not using oils can be an important handicap when you're trying to kill certain monsters, and unfortunately this can only be done before entering into combat. The problem comes in those quests in which you don't know what kind of beast you're going to deal with until it's already standing in front of you, and where it still hasn't been included in the bestiary. This is even more frustrating when you actually own the oil that would cause more damage but you can't use it because the battle has started. It's also unclear when the effects of each application will wear off, so you'll often end up using too much.
CD Projekt Red's RPG is one of the largest, richest open-world games ever made. Such vastness is crying out for a more accessible way to zoom out after looking at points of interest. More than once you'll accidentally find yourself in the world map when trying to zoom out after inspecting a particular area. If you're playing on console, checking the map can be a real burden (however, it's worth noting that this is not an issue on the PC version of the game).
The Difficulty Curve
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt offers four different difficulty levels. The first one transforms the game into a breeze, but in the other three the difficulty leap between quests for lower level characters (1 to 5) and those for more experienced players (level 10 or higher) shoots up unexpectedly. Watch out when you arrive at the second map because some quests will be difficult to tackle at your current level. On the positive side, these quests are marked with a red skull, but you can still get in trouble simply by travelling around the map and stumbling on a challenging opponent.
The trading system in The Witcher 3 is well balanced, but unless you want to use an exploit, making a good chunk of change can be really tricky. The selection of shops, the competition among merchants, and the (virtually compulsory) item-selling creates a complex economy in which you will spend hours. So what's the problem? Well, it turns out that it's just too hard to see your item's value because it is shown in a small font below the inventory. A useful confirmation screen is also missing here. It's a pity, because it would definitely be very handy to see how much money you're being offered for an item and thus giving you the option of cancelling a sale if you've changed your mind. Comparing the gear sold by merchants and your own is also a hard task unless you check it in a different menu. In short, the prices should be more visible and prevail over other minor details, such as the amount of money owned by the merchant.
Roach, the loyal steed Geralt rides through swamps and forests, can be a total pain sometimes. It's obvious that CD Projekt Red have been inspired by Read Dead Redemption and Shadow of the Colossus, two games with excellent mechanics when it comes to horse riding, but we've still found some control issues. The first one happens when you call Roach. If you call her in the middle of a city, she will dodge most obstacles by jumping or walking round them, but she will take a while to work out how get past them and thus to your position. The second and most remarkable problem occurs with all the horses in the game, and it happens when you go into battle. In the best-case scenario, the poor animals will get scared and break into a gallop in order to get away, especially if they are being attacked by beasts, but sometimes they will start running around right in front of you, making it impossible for you to fight. One thing you can do is dismount at a certain distance from the battlefield and walk, but if you want a definitive solution you'll have to activate a command to tap Roach and make her run.
These are the little issues we've found in CD Projekt Red's game. Of course we're aware that creating such a huge title without any flaws is practically impossible, especially if the game features an open-world as huge as this one. In spite of the problems we've mentioned, The Witcher 3 is one of the best games you can sink your teeth into in 2015, but the experience would certainly be improved if the developers corrected the aforementioned issues. That said, the game has only just been released, so we're sure that many of our gripes will be fixed in the coming months.