Free W1:EE, see below - My Review of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (and general Witcher stuff, now with my own fan art)


#1

Any Witcher fans here?

This is a review of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt written by me back in February as an English exercise, I thought I’d share it with you if you’re looking for new games to play, new stories to experience, or just to have some conversation about it. As usual, it’s lengthy, a great read for your afternoon tea and biscuits :stuck_out_tongue:

The Witcher franchise is more than a simple high fantasy. It takes its audience seriously and treats them like adults. For example, the way they depict and treat sex is something that you’ll never find in a traditional high fantasy. If I can compare it to something else, it’s similar in ways to the Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones), and for me, it’s even better. The universe is rough, raw, and unforgiving. There are no black and white characters, everyone has a flaw or an agenda, and everyone is a complex character, even the peasants encountered during the smaller side-quests. For me, Ciri, Geralt’s daughter-by-choice is the best written character and best women character of the past years (which can argued I know, her personality and portrayal just clicked with me, I think she’s even better than Chloe or Max from Life is Strange, and that’s saying something). I’ve played all 3 Witcher games and I recommend it to everyone (and the original Sapkowski novels and stories too of course). Unfortunately the first one has not aged well graphically, and you can feel it’s their first ever game, the fight mechanics are weird, but even back then the storytelling was up to the task. The franchise uses some awesome Eastern European folklore and influences, so it has a distinctly unique feel that is close to my heart as a Hungarian (We are historically close to the Polish).

The thing about the Witcher 3 in particular is that the story is its main focus. It’s highly cinematic, and they’ve made it so that every little side-quest can have serious emotional conflicts in it and tough decisions. For example, there’s a little village. In this village someone contracts you to kill some monster terrorising the village, it seems simple. But as you talk to the folks and elders, you discover a complete history. Some say that the monster is a blessing, because they use it as a rite of passage for their young warriors. During the quest you discover that the monster can occupy someone so you start investigating. In the end, you can choose what to do, kill the monster as a true Witcher? Or make some kind of deal with it? Every choice has dark consequences.

In this, the world serves the story and not the story serves the world as in other kinds of open world games. And it just oozes the passion that went into it in every little tree, monster, sound effect, music, or character. My first play-through was 160+ hours, so you won’t see much progression in 5 or 6. I was a fencer in high school (the traditional Olympic kind), and I can say this with confidence that for me this game’s swordplay is the closest that gets to the real feeling with constant moves and countermoves. I played it on the hardest difficulty, and I was relieved when after 40-50 hours or so I’ve finally learnt the secondary defensive sign magic for my swordplay-build, it made a huge difference in terms of gameplay.

I’ll write another example that’s not a spoiler in any way. When I was around level 10-15, I saw an unidentified draconid flying through the air (it wasn’t tied to any quest), it did not care about me, and it was kilometres beyond my level, so I quickly got out of there. Lots of quests and levels later I was stronger, more educated on the nature of these beast from the lore (there’s a huge bestiary and codex), so I said to myself it’s time to deal with it, just for fun’s sake. I knew from the bestiary that it liked goat meat, and if I could confine it to a smaller place I could easily cut it down. So I devised a plan. I mind-controlled a goat so it would follow me and I found an abandoned ruin along the beast’s flight path, so I went there with the goat and waited. The beast came and went directly for the goat, I quickly jumped out and cut it down after a fierce fight. If that’s not the definition of role-playing a monster hunter I don’t know what is, and it wasn’t even a part of the written story, it was just me playing with the mechanics of the world.

Since I’ve written this, Blood and Wine came out, a completely new region with 30+ hours of content, new stories, gameplay elements, and some fan service for both lovers of the book series and the previous games. I have around 224 hours in the third game alone. I cannot recommend this franchise enough! It’s currently on sale, you can get the first game at around 1.3 Euros.

What are your experiences with this game or stories like this? I love how game stories have matured over the decades and how gaming can be sometimes considered a genuine art form now, and a great platform for sharing cinematic stories to the world and creating great experiences. This franchise’s growth from the first game is a great example, just look at the cinematography of the third game, or the sound design, lighting design, production design, etc.


#2

Hey @Kevin_Senzaki, I think you’ll like this if you haven’t seen it yet. I find it so cool that they went to an actual reenactment to record authentic sounds and used real helmets on speakers to record the knights’ lines. There are some great music and sound design stuff in this video, I would love to hear your input on it as a real sound designer.


#3

Thanks for sharing this; I found it really interesting!!

On the music front, it was neat seeing that a lot of the folk musicians were self-taught so they had to devise other ways outside of written score sheets to communicate ideas. I have some limited experience in music recording and group songwriting, etc., so I found that to be a relatable experience - outside of trained studio musicians, you often have to resort to other methods to convey ideas! (Like with me; I lack formal training.)

On the sound side, it’s definitely always a plus if you can record original material if it’s for very specific situations - while libraries can cover a lot of common stuff pretty well, stuff like period dramas benefit greatly from gathering original material. The one challenge the team must have had to deal with recording the reenactment was unwanted noise, not only from the environment (background noise, airplanes, etc.) but also from the spectators - people talking, laughing, cheering, etc. could ruin an otherwise good take. While I’m sure all of it was denoised in the editing process, that’s still a challenge when field recording in uncontrollable situations. It looks like they went with multiple people and probably recorded a lot, which increases your chances of getting something usable!

While I’ve never used a knight helmet, I’ve done some similar reamping techniques to add effects to voices, which is a technique I personally absorbed from rock guitar production (track your guitar with a temp distortion on, but also record a clean signal, edit the recordings, then play back the edited clean signal through an amp for the final track). This general concept is something I may be revisiting for D404 to add some “authentic worldization” to certain effects!

My overall impression is that they’ve done some really good work, but what I appreciate most is that they’ve taken advantage of what’s available to them locally. One of the more subtle, but significant, drawbacks to a lot of libraries is limited diversity in recording location - while there’s plenty of modern libraries available that are from all over the world, a lot of the common older effects are recorded in and around Los Angeles. A lot of the appeal of LA as a filmmaking city is that nearby you have oceans, deserts, mountains, and forests - easy access to a lot of things. However, that also means sounds unique to the LA area have become “generic” library effects, and even something as simple as a nature recording with insects from another place can really enhance a film with a more unique identity. (I specifically try to always record ambient tracks when I travel, since I invariably hear something new.)


#4

Playing Witcher 3: Wild Hunt as of right now. Didn’t think I would get into it. But I love playing it. I love the details in the game, plus the story. It’s really fun! Plus somewhat addictive!


#5

I’ll make sure to answer properly tomorrow to both of you, but I have to go to sleep now :smiley:


#6

Paging @Matt who has absolutely no opinions about Witcher. None. At all.


#7

Nice review.

One of my favorite games of the past 10 years. The books are brilliant as well.

The writing is brilliant, and I love that the moral choices don’t really have gameplay effects. So you aren’t making moral decisions on whether or not you get some upgrade, but because you think its the right thing to do.

I would take it even a step farther than saying the world serves the story, I would say its the only video game I have played where it feels like the world doesnt give a crap about you as the player, or character. People have their own lives outside of Geralt. You are just a member of this lived in world like anyone else.


#8

The first is for @Kevin_Senzaki, glad that you liked the video! :slight_smile:

I can relate to this as well, my brother plays the harmonica (accordion) and he’s self-taught, and basically everything that I know about music is from listening to a lot of John Williams and teaching myself, with some stuff that are actually from engineering development classes and programming :smiley:

Nice insights on the workings of the outside sound recordings, I cannot help but learn stuff from you every time you comment on something, you make it sound easy, accessible, and fun at the same time. And it all sounds logical, the background noises from people, airplanes, etc. I would love to hear more about this denoising process, do you have sophisticated software for that, or is there a trick to it?

Ooh, D404 info bits, those are always nice to hear, this shows again my perspective on the creative mind that you can find a way to use almost any experience from your life, like here with your past rock guitar production experience.

I actually wondered about this when we were touring Mount Zemplén with my brother and her girlfriend, the whole place is one great atmosphere filled with beautiful environments, sounds (and even smells) that begs to be captured and recorded, and you sound like a true craftsmen that always has his tools with them :smiley:

(I actually uploaded some pictures from that trip if you’re interested)

This is for Brit:
Woohoo, another one for the team! I hope you will enjoy it throughout and then share some of your favourite experiences from it! :slight_smile:

And last, but not least, @Matt! :smiley:
Thank you for your answer and I’m happy that you liked my review! :slight_smile:

Yes, absolutely! They even make fun of that in the first expansion when you decide on a specific path, the antagonist tries to delay you by providing a maze filled with stuff that should tempt you, like a one-of-a-kind silver sword that’s not available anywhere else. If you linger too much to get everything you may run out of time to solve the riddle at the end. (Or you read a walkthrough before and devise an optimal path for looting :D)

I absolutely agree with you, even on a technical level they’ve managed to create the illusion that it’s a living world even if you can’t actually interact meaningfully with every NPC. My favourite example is (huge spoilers for Brit, look away! :smiley: ) the story point when Ciri is summoned to the sorceresses’ gathering, and you can decide whether to go in there with her to speak in her name or to actually stay behind if you trust her enough as a grown-up human being that she can handle her own. And the game registers this latter choice as the “good” one for Ciri. This is the first time a game actually made me actively miss out on some content just because I believed that a written character can handle the situation. You can be overprotective and unsupportive to her, but if you do, don’t be surprised at the end. Another example I can think of are the love interests. If you’re an asshole and you declare your love to both of them when they’re at their most vulnerable, and then you expect for them both to tend to your every wish, you will be surprised that they actually have a mind of their own and will not tolerate your bullshit. Of course, sometimes you Can directly influence the fate of characters, like If you take away Keira’s one bargaining chip and don’t send her to Kaer Morhen, because you think she’s morally wrong, then she will be hunted down and burned alive. (Now it’s safe Brit!)

Thank you again Matt for you great input! Have you tried the Gwent closed beta yet? The redesign was huge while they’ve managed to maintain the basic flow of the game, I want to share my experience with it in the future.


#10

No!

Where do you get to play the closed beta?


#11

I registered on the official website of the game a while back and then I got my email on the 25th of October in which I could unlock the game for my GOG account


#12

Thanks so much for the compliments; I really appreciate hearing that!

So for noise removal, I use iZotope RX (which is an industry-standard not only for film, but it’s also used by police etc. for cleaning up phone calls and things… which I think is at least kind of interesting). Newer versions of RX can integrate into most video and audio editing programs as a plugin, which makes it very easy to use. We did a video awhile back that goes into some of the features:

You can of course do some noise removal with careful editing and using more standard tools like EQ, but the ability to visually see and edit a spectrogram waveform gives you a lot more power and control.

I definitely agree with your statement about trying to be creative and using all kinds of life experience in your work - there’s almost always more than one solution to everything, and doing something a bit unusual can have the added benefit of giving you a more unique result. Here’s another random time I used some more rock-based stuff for sound design:

I’ve not always had “proper” recording equipment with me, but I’ve been able to capture things on my phone that I’ve been able to clean up and use in projects - it’s come in handy while traveling when I don’t have better equipment available!

Those photos are great; I can only imagine what those places sounded like!!


#13

Your welcome, keep up the good work! :slight_smile:

Oh yes, I knew there was something, but I forgot about it, that’s my bad. Thank you for reminding me! :slight_smile:

The countryside is so peaceful here, I’ve lived for a year in one of Budapest’s most loud and traffic heavy places up on the 10th floor (we called it First Galactic Empire Space Station because it was on the highest floor, and “The Death Star” was maybe too aggressive and probably copyrighted :smiley: ), which is also an interesting ambience, but it was tiring, and nothing compares to those forest atmospheres. It can be used as a therapy just by itself.

I’ll make sure to watch both examples as soon as I can!


#14

Any luck registering to the beta @Matt? I would love to read your experience of it and your insights.

I want to share a little project I did with my brother, it’s a comic book cover style fan art featuring Geralt and Triss in a highly fantasised situation :smiley: I love Triss’ character and how she was developed throughout the games, in my playthrough she really fell in love with Geralt and vice versa, so in my canon he stayed friends with Yen and declared a relationship with Triss, regardless of their past in the books and the developers main intent for Yen to be the canon choice. I considered the games and his amnesia a great new starting point for their lives, he’s matured as a character over the games (at least for me, I played him in the first game as a womanizer who couldn’t settle down to gradually have him fall in love with Triss regardless of both their faults), and I personally wanted to treat the past as the past so everyone could start anew.

For this little project, I just wanted to have fun with it, fighting monsters and sex with a sorceress under the moonlight are typical Witcher stuff so why not both? :smiley: It’s not at all explicit, only a bit risqué, but I should put a warning that it contains adult themes. I did the concept and a crude sketch, collected some references so details like Geralt’s back scars can be authentic, and then my brother figured out the final composition and drew the whole thing from that.

Hey guys! With the Gwent beta I’ve recieved a free copy of the first Witcher’s Enhanced Edition for the PC. All of my friends who play games or interested in this are already have the game, so I’m willing to give it away to you, anyone who’s interested message me with an email and I’ll send it to you!

I haven’t anwsered to this one yet, I’ve seen it since and it was awesome, I loved the whole concept and what you did with those bass sounds, how you put together the whole soundscape of the swordfight to make it sound well defined, unique, but still familiar!


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