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Minor, vague spoilers for a couple of quests, nothing critical

Buttons:

Load times: They’re longer than usual on the PC (usual means what I would expect from a PC game) and I’d say they’re coming in around 7 – 15 sec.

I’m at about the same place as you guys, just a little behind… I did the Keira invitation up until she… minor spoiler? takes over Fyke Island? and then because I’ve become extremely nervous about going higher than my level went and started the Baron’s stuff and did the pellar. I’m just after that.

My experience entering Velen was largely disasterous; I got there, tried to do the ‘ignore main quest and use question marks and side quests and witcher contracts to boost my level’ tactic and the game soundly thumped me on the head as I almost immediately found out that stuff in Velen is way more powerful than I am. So I stuck to side quests and witcher contracts that were my level ONLY and then followed the Keira line until, again, it was higher than my level. And then turned my attention to the Baron since it was the only thing left I wasn’t afraid of. 🙂

Gwhent: I’d heard such good things about it so I tried it. Won the first round, and had only 2 cards to play for the second round so… pretty much had to forfeit. So… forced into a situation where I couldn’t win and didn’t even know it. Grrr… So I’m buying every Gwhent card I come across, but I don’t know how many I actually need to be able to play so I’m likely not going to play for a while. I’m going to paranoically keep obtaining cards until I think I have enough and then I’ll start playing.

Feminina:

7-15 seconds! That’s lightning fast! I feel like my load times are closer to a minute. I haven’t for some reason actually timed them (now I will! when I remember), but I have gotten into the habit of playing with a book nearby, and reading a page rather than just staring at the screen while I wait to reload after I die. I do read pretty fast, but still, the fact that this works makes the load time seem long to me.

I think we’ve all found that wandering into the question marks first thing in Velen is a bad call. I’m at 10th level now, and getting to the point that more often than not the question marks are manageable, but this was definitely not true when I first got there.

Butch:

Oof, yeah, that’s far quicker than PS4. Which isn’t a surprise. How juicy is the rig you’re playing it on? I’m going to have to get out my stopwatch.

I think we all did that, running into too-powerful stuff. Randits ain’t messing around in this game. Still, I’m finding it easier than 2. I had to play 2 on easy until about midway through. I’m on Blood and Broken bones and only turned the difficulty down once, and that was on a quest higher than my level. But yeah. Found that level 33 contract just kinda sitting there. The baron is a great character. Very good game thus far.

Level ten seems watershed for Velen, not counting those contracts that need like level 24. Watch: we get to Novigrad and die all the time.

Gwent: depends on the deck. I have a northern realms deck that kicks ass. Make sure, though, that you don’t throw every card in there once you have about 25 cards or so. I had about 36, and some of them were better than others or duplicates, and I kept getting terrible hands. So I took out some bad cards, some duplicate weather cards, etc., until I was pretty sure I’d have the best hand of 10 cards at the start of the game my deck could give me. I still don’t have a complete monster, Nilfgaard or Monster deck, and I like gwent.

As for running out of cards, play spies early, and if you have a weather card to cancel them, the better (ie, if you have two close combat spies, make sure you have a biting frost so you’re only giving up 2 instead of 8 or 9). A medic card will change the game, especially if HE plays spies early on you. (Take his spy, replay it in round 2). Don’t bother with a clear weather card if you’re playing northern realms, the leader gives you one free, make sure you do that BEFORE you hit the other guy with a weather card. And think ahead, always. Don’t be afraid to concede the first round. I’ve won many a game knowing when to let him have round one, and taken the last two.

Oh, and make sure you have a commander’s horn (or two) in your deck at all times. Great, great card.

I like gwent.

Buttons:

I’m also at L 10 and find Velen remains largely impossible to deal with. I tried forcing my way too far south and was run off by Griffins and red skulls everywhere.

At the pellar I didn’t have axii enough to drive the men away and it ended up in a fight. I felt bad for killing all of them.

I as well did the wild at heart and after following the Baron’s daughter to Oxenfurt (where I got shaved) returned to the Baron and ended up following the Pellar on another issue.

At this point I’m basically chasing any non-main quest that are levels below me until they run out, at which point I switch to the lowest level main quest (I have two to choose from but have been trying to close out family matters) until I can’t. Like now; I’ve gotten as far as I can in family matters at my level and am now abandoning it.

As for themes, all I see are love, life, and death over and over. The ‘meatiness’ of the side quests, witcher contracts, et al. are what have me comparing the witcher to other things like DAI; side quests felt like twinkies in Skyrim, they give you pleasure but are ultimately not very nourishing, and here they feel like petit fours; small, elaborate, still without meaning compared to the story, but compared to a twinkie, oh so much more a delight to experience.

Some may disagree with the particular treats I chose for my metaphor but I think my point stands.

Butch:

Largely? I dunno, man. I’m at 11 and I’m chewing through a lot of it. I mean, save the quests that say level 33. I think the whole level 33 quests lying around thing is a good sign that we will either a) be able to come back to these parts later or b) will HAVE to come back to these parts later, and, as I have already bounced to and fro already, I’m guessing B.

As for making it easier, I’m finding this game REALLY punishes you for not thinking like a witcher. I mean, getting the whole oil/sign/potion cocktail for each monster is the difference between dying like mad or thinking it’s easy.

I’ll take that metaphor.

But then, the over and over is ok. I mean, I’ve said before that one of the better ways that open world games can be great in terms of narrative is to think more like an anthology of short stories on the same theme rather than a novel. It’s hard to see a game like TW3 as that, because it has so many characters and story arcs and sweeping epic, but it really is a bunch of little stories that all look at a similar theme from different perspectives. Fallout 3 was the ultimate example of that. It was, essentially, a short story collection on imaginations of the American Dream. Perfect.

Buttons:

Velen impossible: Yes, largely (I’m excluding main/side/witcher quests); there’s a blob of question marks in the middle that are ‘safe’ to deal with, but I eventually find a hard border of ‘ok, I see all the other question marks need to wait; they’re death’. There’s even a town I can somehow fast-travel to that is infested with red-skull alghouls. I try not to use that one.

Admittedly I do only engage all the witcher systems (oil/sign/potion…) when it’s really challenging, not when I’m jumping 4 drowners, but still. They’ve thwarted my evil plan of question-mark-level-up.

In fact since I was level 10, I tried the Jenny of the Swamp quest. Granted I don’t have the right oil, I did try several times to get all witchery up in there and was still soundly defeated by it every time. I’ve now abandoned that one and am chasing the witches of the bog quest. Hide and Seek.

I think your metaphor of short stories rings quite true, which brings me to thinking about another theme running through the Witcher 3; broken families.

Butch:

That’s likely Byways. Yeah, that’s pretty much the border of doable. (By the way, that’s a quest point. Should be something in your log about that). See, I think that’s what Femmy and I are referring to as “herding.” The game saying “Sure…it’s open world…you COULD go there….but…..” which is fairly important to narrative flow. Some freedom, lots, really, and totally freedom to be nuts, but not so much freedom to skew the story. I tend to like it.

There also isn’t much XP to be had in question marks. XP comes from quests.

Ah, see, no oil, no dice. I tried the shrieker contract without the proper oil, died a SHITLOAD, finally turned the difficulty down and barely won. Then I said, you know? I’m going to do these contracts AFTER the main bits, when I’m getting ready to leave for Novigrad. Which is where I am now. And hey, all those main quests got me a whole mess of formulae. Ready to kick butt.

Broken families! Good one! That is pretty common, now that I think on it. Even in the side bits: we talked on tower of mice, and even the shrieker started with a kid who had lost his father to the monster (don’t like dead dads, game) and ended with me letting the guy keep his money cuz he took in an orphan.

This theme is worth some bloggage.

Feminina:

Oh man, Jenny o’ the Woods! That thing is BRUTAL. I’m level 12 and she wiped me out with a touch, even though the quest is supposedly level 10. She is an extremely angry wraith. I’m going back later. Also later for the red-skull alghoul town, where I feel it’s just a cruel taunt to have the fast-travel signpost. I once tried hurrying up and using it to get away before they spotted me, but had no luck. I’ll go back and kill them eventually.

Witches of the bog, yes, that one should be doable. I also found a whole line of question marks along the west coastline that were lower level opponents (although sometimes a lot of them). Maybe check that out if you get tired of the witches.

Butch:

Good to know. I did the same damn thing with that signpost.

“Ah, thank God NO PUT YOUR SWORD AWAY! THEY’RE RED SKULL! DUDE! WE GOTTA GO shit.”

Add that to the “C’mon Roach! Not now Roach! ROOOOOACH!” List.

I concur with Femmy about the western coastline.

Except there, did you say “Oh, look, a little island with a question mark, here on this nice coast of wimpy people. I’ll go check it out. What’s that? Oh a wraith. Must be level 5 or so…little spectre oil and HOLYFUCKINGSHIT IT’S LEVEL and I’m dead.”

Feminina:

Well, yeah, there was that particular wraith. You’re right, that was kind of an anomaly in an otherwise-unthreatening area. I didn’t even try to fight it, just snuck around the other side and snagged the treasure while it wasn’t looking, then ran off. Perhaps someday I’ll feel like going back there and killing it just for the hell of it and the 12 XP or whatever. Perhaps not. In the meantime, I’ll happily take the loot! I’m not proud.

Butch:

Man I HAVE to get better at grabbing the loot without being noticed. Every time I’ve tried to do that, I’ve died. You’re good, man.

Feminina:

Must be all that Assassin’s Creed practice. Waiting until people move by on their rounds, then slipping past. Sadly, you don’t get XP for successful stealth, but whatever. You don’t die for it, and that’s what matters.

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