Before I was introduced to the series four years ago with The Witcher 3, I had thought about playing the two before it. However, I saw people recommending over and over to skip the first one because it was dated. They mentioned it had lackluster combat and poor presentation, among other things. And so I skipped it.
I still had a great time playing The Witcher 3. Such a great time that I'm coming back to it four years later attempting to play the whole series this time. But damn do I wish I had not skipped the first one.
My 60+ hour adventure in Vizima was incredible. The atmosphere. The people. The world. All of it was incredible. I especially loved Act 4.
The funny thing is, most of the criticism turned out to be true. The combat is clunky, the presentation is spotty (a couple NPCs actually change voice actors midway through conversation), and the lack of fast travel can be frustrating. Some of the criticism I see is a little too harsh IMO, but it's mostly fair.
And despite all of that, I still had a fantastic time. Did I get through The Witcher 3 just fine without having played this game? I did. But this game does a great job painting Geralt's universe, and I regret having skipped it four years ago. It would've made The Witcher 3 an even better experience for me, without a doubt.
I think people focus too much on what the game does poorly and neglect what it does well.
I mentioned the atmosphere, and that seems to be its biggest compliment, but what struck me the most was the supporting cast. I won't mention any specific names to avoid spoilers, but the smaller characters you meet felt so well made. Even if some of them had copy-pasted skins! It's no surprise then that The Witcher 3's side quests get as much praise as they do. CDPR was able to take its talent in creating minor characters and scale that up into a massive open world.
Also, the tone had this great dark-light foil going on that you could feel throughout the game. The world can feel dreary at times, but you have great friends that accompany you along the way, never making the world feel too bleak. There's also a lot of comic relief. Like constantly being reminded that your mother sucks dwarf cock.
And the music… oh, the music… "River of Life" might be my all-time favorite song from any game I've ever played. And that's not hyperbole.
Overall, the game certainly has its issues, but for the amount of shit it gets I think it's criminally underrated. I recommend you give it a try if you haven't played it yet!
If you have played it, I would love to hear what you think about the game. To me, the game is an RPG classic.
If interested, I talk about the game more in-depth in this video: https://youtu.be/WwpXLLlzMcI
tldr: The game gets a lot of slack for what it does wrong, but not enough credit for what it does right. I had a wonderful 60+ hour adventure in Vizima, and I highly recommend RPG-fans to try it (even if you played TW3 already, like me).
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