Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Best RPG ever

That is, up to 2016. It's called Witcher 3.

By the way, I'm a big fan of pc gaming. But good games are hard to come by. I remember when I started PC gaming, it wasn't counterstrike. It was Lode Runner. 2d, played over a 386 or a 486 as the intel platform was then known - and at that time, it was ms dos, and not even windows. That was more than 30 years back. I didn't experience the first few generations of Optima. My next big experience was Red Alert. Russia invaded the US. It was the first time in my life glued to my pc playing overnight as mini pixelated soldiers and military units fought with tesla coils (electro turrets), chronospheres (teleportation device) and red (invulnerability) curtains. Lode Runner was platform game. Red Alert was RTS. I remain hooked to RTS for a long time leading to in more recent times - Supreme Commander, Homeworld Deserts of Kharack.

On the other hand, my first RPG experience was Knights of the Old Republic where dialogue choices lead to different outcomes. My next big addiction came in Mass Effect trilogy. Between then and now, there're a load of really good first person games including Crysis, Hitman, Deus Ex, Remember Me etc. Didn't really catch my imagination though they have really good graphics. Then I dabbled, and was hooked for a while with Fallout 4. There as a bit of hiatus between Fallout 4 and Witcher, but I finally came about to play the Witcher series. The first one was a bit dated in terms of graphics, and the inventory system was just tiresome. Witcher 2 had a great story, but I didn't like the time sensitive reactionary boxing matches, and I couldn't jump or fall off the ledge even if I wanted to.  Then came Witcher 3.

Here's why I love it.
1) The graphics is excellent - the sunsets make you want to just ride your horse around the countryside without caring about your quest
2) The story line is gripping, even the key side quests
3) Multiple outcomes - the team must have really cracked their heads together considering all the permutations of one side quest finishing before or after another - how that would affect dialogue - and they are cohesive
4) The characters - both NPC and playable characters were all beautiful - we could be talking about a peasant girl or elf right up to the townfolks or the tavern help
5) they must have spent considerable time designing the costumes and weapons because the variety is just mind boggling - just building up a witcher school full gear will take you some time that it is effectively a full storied side quest - but it's worth it
6) the opening music to Witcher 3 was wistful, haunting and in a way majestic at the same time - the music is just lovely
7) every time your quest deals with ghosts or vampires, and you are in a dungeon or cave, you can bet that your hair will stand up - now, try playing this part at 2am in the morning for maximised scare factor
8) there's a subtle reference to Star Wars - some NPC soldiers/guards will pip the tune that sounds like the Star Wars theme. There is light reference to Star Wars in that Witchers are warrior monks, taken away for training at  young. Substitute the Force with magic and mutations, lightsaber with steel/silver swords, and you have a relevant comparison - nothing like this archetype for people to relate to
9) the entire witcher concept makes sense - in the end, the hero has to fight vastly more powerful monsters and enemies - how could be survive, unless he has extraordinary powers  - therein lies the justification of mutation
10) the magic users have a lot more depth - they cast a variety of spells, not just raining meteor from the sky, but teleportation, seeing into the past/future, lighting up a dark place, or closing inter-dimensional portals. Magic towers can be teleported in entirety due to magic based security system. There's handheld device that looks like modern day long distance walkie talkie. All these references to conventional and futuristic technology makes it so relatable
11) the hero does not just brood - he has a wicked sarcasm and humour about him, and has a good way with children and women, even though he is wont not to dabble into politics. He whines to people he knows and who cares for him and he is lazy at times - which sounds like any man worth his salt. The two leading ladies are diverse, yet both in some ways loveable, so much so that it is difficult to choose between them
12) I don't have a problem with the gameplay mechanics at all, except perhaps you can't dump any quest items even though they carry weight
13) For educational value, it is worth playing Witcher 3. Grey moral decisions that require some thinking, very good English (except when they purposely replace words like "thought" with "thunk").

There's only 1 reason I don't like it - I hate that it eventually came to an end and there's no further expansion. And there are some bugs yet to be worked out. For instance, upon finishing a stage to a quest, the next goal may not be correctly prompted - and if you skip that goal, you cannot continue.

For me, Witcher 3 sets the benchmark as to what a story based RPG ought to be. I hope there will be more of the Witcher in the future.  In the meantime, the developer is making an epic modern game called Cyberpunk 2077. Can't wait to play it.

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