The Witcher 3 Will Still Grab Your Heart Strings – And That’s A Good Thing

As I play through The Witcher 3 – The Wild Hunt for the second time I am paying more attention to side quests and taking a new direction on the main quests as well. That is the best part about New Game + (the option some RPGs are giving to play the game again with some new quirks added to the successive playthroughs of the story).

For those of you that haven’t played The Witcher 3 please take this as a warning that…

SPOILERS ARE AHEAD SPOILERS ARE AHEAD SPOILERS ARE AHEAD

SPOILERS ARE AHEAD SPOILERS ARE AHEAD SPOILERS ARE AHEAD

Bloody Baron
When you play through The Witcher 3 and make the less sympathetic decisions this is the general response from most characters… especially The Bloody Baron.

As much as I wish I could play through a game the first time as a complete a-hole and do most of the things that we reserve for the sociopathic tendencies some people exhibit digitally or in gaming – I just can’t do it. Maybe that’s a sign I am a bit more sympathetic and empathetic than I sometimes think I am. Either way – I just started playing through the initial quests and came across the questline with the Bloody Baron… the botchling in-particular.

I decided to attack and kill the botchling this time around. Not only was it incredibly difficult (even on the easiest difficulty level) but it was the exact opposite in terms of rewards and overall effects on the relationship you have with the Bloody Baron. I had no idea that it would take such a reversal from what I had experienced on the first play-through when I saved the botchling.

That is part of the benefit of playing through a second time. The biggest downside to this is that I have been using one primary save file while doing this because I felt that it would keep me focused on one path of decisions throughout the second play-through. While that is true, I found instant regret in saving the game after this battle. It left me with a sour taste in my mouth and real questions about what this choice really does that provides any good outcome for Geralt immediately after. The loot from the botchling wasn’t anything special and the Baron’s reaction when I told him to ‘calm down’ wasn’t exactly surprising either – but it also left me thinking that he will not be much of an ally for me later on as I play through the other quests.

I think I have the heart to play through the game and continue making the opposite decisions from what I normally would, but I can’t help to already look forward to my third play-through just so I can finish playing this game with a clean conscience.

What’s the worst decision you made while playing an RPG in terms of feeling bad about the outcome or how you had to go about doing something?

The only one I can think of off the top of my head is when my decision led to Jack’s death in Mass Effect 2… that one still gets me.

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Warmer Weather Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Less Gaming

Now that spring has started to grace us with nicer weather it is starting to become more difficult to want to plant myself in front of a TV or monitor for hours of gaming.  Also, over the last few weeks I have found my interest in ‘new’ releases to be less than prime for commentary or even some sort of review.  Why?  Frankly, because video games have become rather dull in their current state of shooting guns or scoring touchdowns based on some sort of twitch reflexes.  While most gamers rarely have a difficult time setting aside a few minutes/hours during the week for their favorite titles; it becomes increasingly frustrating to see the days get longer and temperatures warm up and have a desire to stay inside after a cold winter.

There are a few solutions to this conundrum.

1 – Open The Windows and Doors – While this might seem obvious, there is a lot to be gained from having some fresh air come into your gaming area.  Just considering some of the basements and man caves in which I have been an invitee, they should sometimes be referred to as a ‘Stank Zone’.  Give your gaming domain a chance to air out and in the mean time you should also consider recycling all of those Mountain Dew cans and throwing away all those White Castle bags.

2 – Walk or Ride a Bike to a Friends Place – I grew up in the country (cornfield, Ohio) but that didn’t stop me from walking to my neighbor’s house 1/4 mile away to play some Tecmo Super Bowl on his SNES – even during the winter.  Give your car or your parents’ car/drive time a break and walk if you can to game out for a bit.  Hanging out in person opens you up for other gaming as well (that is coming up)

3 – Tabletop/Card Games/RPGs – Until recently I had never really experienced gaming from any other perspective than on a video screen.  I have started to put more time and effort into playing Magic The Gathering.  While games like this are for a relative niche group of gamers, I would highly suggest to any of my fellow/former jocks to give these games a fighting chance.  I grew up in a home with caring parents that were sometimes confused as to what some games really entailed.  To make this clear for any of you out there that are reading this as a concerned parent – Magic The Gathering is NOT a tarot card game.  Dungeons and Dragons isn’t satanic… and yes, you might need to lighten up a bit.

One thing that can be stated about the types of games in item #3 is that it will allow many gamers/nerds/geeks to feel like they belong to something.  Being a geek can be a lonely title, but when you are building decks based on your own creativity and growing knowledge or slaying dragons with friends there is something gained that takes away all of those lonely moments.

Take this nicer weather as an opportunity to get some fresh air, walk around your neighborhood or socialize and meet new people in the process.

Open World RPGs – What Else Can Be Done?

Games like Skyrim and Fallout have done a fantastic job of bringing otherwise disinterested people to the RPG scene.  Yet, it feels like once you finish the main quests the games can lose their luster titles that are more action-packed.  Some games like Borderlands do a really nice job of taking the boring exploration for explorations sake out of the mix and inserting crazy bad guys and mutant creatures for you to shoot and explode at your leisure.  Even after a couple hours of that type of gaming you will find yourself bored of treasure hunting and shooting random baddies.

Is this what your character is saying?

What else is there to do at this point?

You can kill things, you can amass wealth and you can even find relationships with other digital ‘people’.  Granted, when all is said and done – you are still roaming a world that doesn’t seem to have a reason to be booted up.  Sure, there are side-quests and random things you can do for people… like kill a guy for the Night Mother or maybe collect a trinket for some lazy scared guy.  Regardless, it is an important question that might not really have an answer.

Outside of turning open world RPGs into another version of Second Life – what can really be done at this point?  Leveling up doesn’t matter after awhile.  Not to mention to never-ending stream of DLC that seems to seduce people regularly into forking over another $10-20.  Some DLC is well worth the payment but at what point are we going to expect something more and realize that there really isn’t more to be had?

Is it a sign that perhaps it wouldn’t hurt if games started having some sort of finality that pushed to you play through the story again and again in different ways?  Mass Effect did this and it was nice that they actually tied Achievement Points to playing through the game multiple times.  Even games like Diablo 3 and Borderlands give you multiple character types to build up and roam around with.

What is your take?  Is there anything more that can be done for open world RPGs?  If you say yes, what are your suggestions?  Post in the comments below!

Are RPGs Dead?

I was never a fan of Role Playing Games as a kid.  Some people consider it sacrilege when I say that I never played and have never had an interest in Final Fantasy IV.  I never played (and have never played) Dungeons and Dragons, but I would love to!

Final Fantasy 7 usually tops many lists as the best RPG ever made.

It wasn’t until I was in 9th Grade that I jumped into Final Fantasy VII.  The only reason I made the plunge was because I had some extra money and picked it up at Electronics Boutique in the local mall.  I was hooked from the start.  Something about the story grabbed me.  Was it the underlying politics or corrupt energy company (I’m looking at you AEP >:{ ) taking the life-force of the planet?  Was it the ability to rename Cloud (and every other character)  as I saw fit?  Who knows…  all I do know is that I loved the stories that all came together like Pulp Fiction. (Virtually the same thing can be said for Final Fantasy VIII in my case as well)

This brings a new conversation almost 15 years later.

Why haven’t I played/enjoyed a turn-based RPG sense FFVII and FFVIII? 

Have tastes changed? 

The most successful RPGs in recent history have been The Elder Scrolls and Fallout series from Bethesda Studios (at least from a sales perspective).  The entire focus of gaming has gone first person.  Whether it is shooters or journey games like Borderlands or the aforementioned titles from Bethesda.

Are we so obsessed with shooting things and having real-time control at all times to that we have forgotten what it is like to play a turn-based game with an amazing story?

What happened to great stories?

The downfall of Bethesda’s titles is that they are so predictable that by the time you play them for 30 minutes you can pretty much figure out how it ends.

The last game that provided me with an ending that I found satisfactory was Red Dead Redemption.  While that doesn’t really fit this RPG discussion, it does add to the fact that we really don’t have a single turn-based ‘typcial’, ‘old-school’ RPG that reaches a massive market of gamers.

Any suggestions?

So, the question is out there for the NTTV readership/community.  Actually, there are two questions –

  1. What is your favorite turn-based game?
  2. What are the best turn-based RPGs out on current gen systems (360, PS3 and PC)?