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  1. You know when you order a meal and every time you did, you got exactly what you were expecting at the end? But how would you feel nowadays if you looked at a meal on the menu, ordered it, and then you were shocked to see that some key ingredients were missing? That sadly happens nowadays, at least in the world of video games, and why is that you ask? DLC. Back when it was still a new thing, developers and publishers were still figuring it out, but when it became ever more popular, they unlocked potential behind DLCs as money making machines. And a lot of players (Not pointing fingers at anyone in particular) bought into those business practices and strategies to the point where there was a lot of DLCs in games that were intended as part of the base game, but now put behind a paywall. Now I don’t think DLCs are inherently bad, I’ve played a lot of good pieces of DLC, but not as much as I have bad ones. And after playing through Hearts of Stone, an expansion to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, I felt like it did a lot of things right that some companies should learn from. And if you have played Witcher 3 and haven’t played Hearts of Stone yet, I highly recommend it, CD Projekt RED have done it again and how! This is all an opinion so feel free to share your own thoughts. Now without further ado, let’s get into what I think developers should do to make DLC worth it. Step 1: Don’t Rip Us Off Now this is the core ingredient to good DLC that developers should always be aware of, it’s easy to make players feel they were ripped off, there are many ways. If it was day one DLC, of course they’d feel ripped off, because you made this along with the game so why not just put it in? If the DLC is of major importance to the game’s narrative (I’m looking at you Asura’s Wrath and Mass Effect 3) then never keep it locked behind a paywall, especially if it’s locked on disc. I know I’ve stated sometimes that there are reasons behind everything a developer/publisher does in this industry, but that doesn’t mean I’m willing to let them off the hook, players aren’t moneybags. And good PR is important. Here’s a link to a letter that CD Projekt RED put in every copy of The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt. Step 2: Think About Value Now that I said what I think makes DLC terrible, here’s what devs should know to make it decent and worth it. A rational consumer wouldn’t feel as appealed towards spending 3 to 20 dollars to grab DLCs that grant a variety of different skins as much as he/she would feel appealed to pay the same price for one piece of DLC that gives them all that and then some, some even do it for free like Portal 2's extra coop missions. Make your players feel like they got their money’s worth when making DLC, something you put sweat into. If it’s a map or mission, it ought to be one you spent enough time building to fit the price, just think about that. And to go back to Hearts of Stone, it costs 10 dollars, features 15 hours of new content such as new quests, gear and enemies plus the replay value that naturally comes with The Witcher series. Step 3: Always Experiment You know how to make DLC good, now how do you make it great and go the extra mile? If there’s one thing to take into consideration as a designer, is that since your base game is finished, you are 100% free to take risks because DLCs won’t ruin the base game (For the most part) so don’t be afraid to make the experience feel new and different. This is where I have to praise Hearts of Stone yet again, as it twists The Witcher 3 formula enough to make it feel like a different journey. Whereas the story of Wild Hunt was about saving the world as well as those you care for through investigation and battling, Hearts of Stone’s story is about how Geralt made a pact with the devil (Metaphorically speaking) and now has to free himself by doing tasks that are uncharacteristic of him, but he does it because of the situation present at hand so it doesn’t ruin the game, I especially have to commend a certain quest in Hearts of Stone that I won’t spoil, but I’ll just say, that quest changes how you play the game through its duration, and that’s the power of experimentation! Through downloadable content we want the player to feel like they paid for something that they can never get in the base game no matter what, not just by adding more but by adding new, without completely reinventing the game. Honorable Mentions go to Red Dead Redemption Undead nightmare, XCom: Enemy Within and most of Fire Emblem Awakening’s DLCs. That is all for today folks, what do you think of DLC? Do you like it or hate it? If you like it, when do you believe it’s worth buying? What’s your favorite DLC? Discuss at will. And for those who read my reviews, the Persona 3 FES review is still in progress, I’m 25 hours in and I’m still taking notes, the review will be there when I finish it.
  2. Winter Is Coming: Intro: They’re late, how dare they delay The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt to May? But then again, I was late in playing it. But here I am, after 80 hours of experience, I am here to provide an analysis of Geralt’s final chapter. The finale of The Witcher trilogy as a whole. I played every other Witcher game, and I expected this game to easily top the previous Witcher games. Did it manage to achieve that? Let’s find out. Story: Witcher 3 continues right after The Witcher 2 ends. If you haven’t played it, the game gives you enough context to work with so you don’t have to worry too much about playing the previous Witcher games. This game follows Geralt of Rivia once again, this time he’s on a quest to find his adopted daughter, Ciri, on the request of her real father, Emhyr Var Emries, the emperor of Nilfgaard. Throughout the journey, Geralt will encounter deadly beasts, but humans who can sometimes be just as dangerous, in a world where political warfare is waged and there is little room for trust. And also a world threatened by the White Frost and the Wild Hunt, a group of ruthless marauders who command beasts and come to capture Ciri in order to use her power for their evil deeds. Geralt’s primary goal, even more important than rescuing Ciri, is to defeat the Wild Hunt and save the world. Thus the name Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The story is told mostly through the perspective of Geralt but Ciri is playable at some points in the story, which helps to flesh out the events from her perspective. Geralt’s epic story spans tons of hours which gives it room to breathe, the most impressive thing about it, though. Is the huge variety of interesting side character and sub plots. The game’s side stories are equally as interesting as the main quest, which rarely happens in RPGs, if ever. Every quest in the game has flavor to it, and it keeps it feeling fresh and interesting. Stories in the game all have reason for every action you do. The characters of The Witcher 3 are memorable and interesting. The Bloody Baron who may seem like an utter asshole actually has very deep and interesting character development. The Sorceress Yennefer, Geralt’s first love, shows up for the first time. Strong, independent, stoic. She has all sorts of traits that makes her deserving of Geralt’s love and more. Returning characters reprise their roles and are still as excellent as ever. Vernon Roche, Zoltan Chivay and Dandelion have important significance in the story without feeling like they were recycled characters. New characters such as Dijkstra and Emhyr Var Emries also fail to disappoint. All and all, The Witcher 3’s story is filled with intrigue, politics but mainly a personal story about family, love, friendship and valor while faced with mighty odds. The main character himself, Geralt is one of the greatest protagonists ever written. As a witcher, he is a monster slayer, ridder of the world’s filth. A professional for hire but also a hero to the rescue, that’s his strongest quality. Geralt is also flawed, especially after suffering amnesia in The Witcher 2. But his biggest flaw is he’s human and can only do things that his strengths allow him to do. Geralt is brave and will do anything to survive and find his lost child. The Witcher 3’s story is one of the finest tales ever told in any game. It is definitely worth experiencing and will convince you to read the books eventually. I will talk more about the story, specifically, the pacing in the gameplay section. Since it affects it as much. Graphics and Presentation: The Witcher 3’s is a power house in graphical prowess and it never fails to show why. Hands down, the best looking game to date with outstanding character models, detailed textures, dense environments, impressive draw distance and of course, NVIDIA hair works. Who could forget that? The game’s technical achievement varies depending on which platform you play on, but if you played on the PC, the visuals are almost unmatched. But besides the technical achievement, the most impressive thing about the graphics is the visual design. Sure, the game has a lot of green areas and there’s no shortage of forests. But that’s not really all of what the game has to offer, despite being very frequent, it doesn’t feel repetitive. The game has enough variety within those forest environments that it never gets old. The villages and cities can be a nice break from it. And there’s no shortage of caves and dungeons in the game. With a dark fantasy medieval feel to it, having these kind of environments support the game’s storytelling and it has this Polish touch to it, naturally since it was created by Polish people. But there’s a lot of lore and in game bits that are related to Polish lore. Which makes this game an excellent cultural bridge to the world outside of Poland. The Wild Hunt’s audio is masterful! From the crackling sound of steel punching through your foes to the ambient sound effects to the sound of people in the world doing various activities that simulate the natural ecosystem, to even the monsters, is done beautifully. The monsters especially. The animation work is superb, one of my biggest gripes with The Witcher 2 is that the facial expressions were stiff, and that made it fail to express character emotion. Thankfully, they fixed that in The Witcher 3. Every character have very well done facial animations and always realistically act accordingly to their lines. Speaking of which, the voice acting is the best it’s ever been, the English team had aced it once again. Doug Cockle seemed to have finally grasped the Geralt of Rivia character. When he’s on screen, you hear Geralt speaking, not Doug Cockle. Which makes me feel that after the first two games, he finally adapted to the gruff voice and played Geralt like he his own persona. Charles Dance from Game of Thrones as Emhyr Var Emries is spectacular as expected. And pretty much every other character is well done. The audiovisual experience of The Witcher 3 is just as masterful as the story itself. Gameplay: Geralt returns and is stronger than ever. Now leaving the world of convoluted politics of The Witcher 2 and returning to his job as a Witcher. The core game is an Action RPG with lots of emergence and progression involved. The progression mostly lie in the skill trees and leveling up. Every time Geralt levels up, he can invest points in any of the following trees: Combat, Signs, Alchemy and General. The combat tree progresses Geralt’s combat prowess, self-explanatory. The Sign tree progresses his signs which are essentially spells in this game. Alchemy improves potions, decoctions and brewing, and the general tree gives him general skills like a lot more HP, bonuses for light armor and such. You equip those skills by placing them in the appropriate open slots. The skill tree is made more interesting by the mutagens. A much needed upgrade that help form a marriage between gameplay and narrative. Geralt is a mutant, so it makes sense to give him mutagens. The way how it works is with every skill color in a tab where there’s a mutagen of the same color, the bonuses improve. This gives a lot of interesting synergy to build creation and allows you to apply different bonuses and seeing what works best with your build. But not only is the leveling system fun, but the game’s combat is visceral and skill based. It’s a hack and slash-like combat system that offers a lot of depth and freedom to your approaches. Geralt’s controls and swings are responsive, new functions like dodging without rolling are excellent. And more key assignments added make combat a lot more convenient than ever before, like finally being able to have proper controls for blocking and heavy attacks, at first it was hard to get used to, but after I got used to it, I never want to go back to Witcher 2 (Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great game) combat has never felt more exciting and fresh in The Witcher series as it has here. The additions of the crossbow help add variety to the combat. And playing at higher difficulties makes using features like potions and bombs essential. Speaking of bombs and potion, the crafting system of The Witcher 3 had much needed improvements from Witcher 2. In terms of alchemy, you now only have to brew a potion, decoction or make a bomb only ONCE! And if you have strong alcohol in your inventory, then they will all refill. It’s a very convenient feature since the open world of this game is massive and it would be tedious to craft them over and over again. Geralt doesn’t have any smithing or armor crafting skills so you must find a blacksmith or armorer in order to craft these items. You obviously don’t refill them if you drop them or sell them as that wouldn’t make sense at all, but the system for that have remained more or less similar, which isn’t bad. The in game exploration is also improved significantly. Loot is now much better and much more exciting. All of the items and armor look great and have distinct looks. Witcher gear are weak at the start and don’t look all that good, but they get better and better as you create higher grade versions of them. The city of Novigrad is massive in scale and has billions of tasks for you to do. It’s impressive how much detail they have put in one area of the game, and it’s the biggest city in the game as well. It’s not like the game has a lot of massive cities which I was misled to believe, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Especially since Novigrad has enough depth in it for you to spend hours doing quests and activities in it. The character interaction in The Witcher 3 is one of the greatest things the game features. I can’t praise the game enough for its amazing pacing, both for the story and gameplay. The game never feels like a drag or like a chore to play since it has a fun feel to it in the moments where you’re interacting with other characters. Stuff like getting drunk with your friends and doing crazy things. Spending time with the lovely sorceresses the game allows you to romance. A lot of them can be emotional, striking sadness and grief, and there are some others that are cheerful and happy, some others are awe-inspiring. The game has a lot of variety in those moments and there’s much more that I will not dare spoil, but the game can get really creative at times with these moments. The main object of the game is Ciri, Geralt’s adopted daughter. In her gameplay section, you get some more depth in her storyline by seeing it directly played out in front of you, but what’s even better is your ability to control it. You can play as Ciri in certain sections of the game, and while it isn’t as nonlinear or as open as Geralt’s part of the story, it’s still very well done. You get to control a decent amount of dialogue choices as her and progress her tale. But her powers as child of the elder blood are more impressive than anything Geralt can do. There are times in the game where she can be devastatingly overpowered, like a wrecking ball, she smashes everything in her path. She’s able to use teleportation, blinking and delivering quick and powerful blows to make quick work of her enemies. Overall, it’s fun to play as her, even if she doesn’t have as many options as Geralt has. There’s one more important thing to talk about when it comes to this game. But before that, I would like to talk about the flaws I have with it. Different than my other reviews where I typically talked about gameplay flaws as my last thing. First of all, it can be immersion breaking that sometimes, in quests where NPCs accompany you, they can talk casually all the time, even while fighting with filthy monsters of the wild. In the inventory screen, the potion and decoction effect durations are highlighted in seconds all the time. Which is inconvenient when you have some of them that could last anytime several minutes to an hour, it doesn’t make sense that this flaw exists because it perfectly highlights the duration, minutes and seconds, in the actual gameplay, but this is a smaller nitpick. A somewhat bigger problem is the crossbow felt useless a lot of times, which is a shame because it’s one of the things I was most excited about, but it really doesn’t break the game, I just would’ve loved to see it utilized more, it still has its important uses. My biggest problem with the game is that it crashes on PC from time to time. It’s not as bad as I’m making it sound, there are some sessions where it never crashed, and others where it crashed four times over. It’s not terribly game breaking since it didn’t happen that much for me to consider it game breaking. There are also other bizarre glitches and bugs in the game that are typical in an open world game, but not nearly as many as Bethesda titles like Fallout and Elder Scrolls. None of these flaws take enough from the experience for me to not recommend it. And now I’m ready to talk about probably the greatest mini game in any open world game, probably the greatest mini game there is, Gwent! Gwent is a collectable card game inside the world of The Witcher 3. It’s very addictive and fun. The rules are simple but the synergy of cards adds a great deal of depth to the game. It has similarities to other CCGs (Collectable card games.) but enough differences to set it apart. The objective of the game is to defeat your opponent by taking out both of his or her life tokens. Each player plays cards that have different numbers, the numbers are strength points, you add them together at the end of the round and the victor is the one with the higher strength number. The game continues until one player is defeated by losing all of their health tokens. The game has a couple of twists, though. For example, you cannot draw cards. You only have the ten cards you have at the start of the match. There are some ways to draw more cards either by your faction’s perk if you’re the Northern Realms or by using spy cards. A double edged sword that you can play for giving your opponent a minion but being allowed to draw 2 cards as a result. Those spy cards can become essential later on. Card advantage is a big part of Gwent. So it’s one of the few games I know where it can be a good strategy to let your opponent win, because you may end up with the card advantage and thus winning the round. The game has a lot of depth to it, a variety of different cards to collect and an interesting lineup of factions all with different advantages and disadvantages. It’s very rewarding to build your deck and keep developing it with every new card you get. There’s always new challengers to find who may have better cards than you do. The game still remains a game of skills. Luck of the draw can be argued but the ability to mulligan at least two cards mitigates that. Gwent is challenging, fun, rewarding, addicting and adds a whole other layer of depth to an already amazing game. I could go on forever talking about things The Witcher 3’s greatest triumphs. Boss battles are very well designed, each of the monster boss battles typically have interesting stories behind them that you could get by investigating using your Witcher senses, talking to NPCs or reading your bestiaries. Every monster has their own strengths and weaknesses that forced me to change my tactics and equip different potions, decoctions and other items. All of the five signs you have distinct uses in battle. Each with their own color, particle effect and ability. Aard is a telekinetic blast that pushes your enemies, useful for throwing them off of high places for significant damage or if it pushes them enough, it can make them fall down for the ground, vulnerable for an instant kill. Quen is the Witcher’s shield, protecting Geralt from all damage for one blow. Igni is The Witcher’s fire spell, allowing you to light up fires, extinguish them, burn enemies or melt down frost armor. Yrden is a field that slows down all enemies, trapping them in there for enough time for Geralt to take advantage. Finally, Axii is the mind control spell, allowing Geralt to stun enemies in battle or mind control people in dialogue and make them obey you. It’s all very deep and there are skills that give them alternate modes for different functionalities. Igni for example has an alternate called Firestream that allows you to use it as a flamethrower for burst damage and extra control for aim. There’s just a lot of depth that this game has, its maps feature a lot of white question marks that are all points of interest, there’s almost always something to do in there. There are brawls, races, Witcher Contracts which are essentially side quests but for hunting monsters, these have their own stories too, and you can haggle the client for more money too. I’m running out of breath, the game probably has the largest open world in a single player adventure game and there’s enough content here to give you over 100 hours of gameplay. I’ve played it for 80 hours and have gotten a lot of side activities done on top of the captivating main story. And there’s enough reason to play through it again on a higher difficulty to see more reactions from your different choices. Even if there wasn’t a New Game+ added as free DLC. It still has enough replayibilty in it to keep you busy for months. And now, for the final verdict. Final Verdict: The Witcher 3 is a hard game to fault and it has impressed me in multiple ways that it’s hard to comprehend. Its single greatest victory is not only having some of the best visual design in a game, or having side quests of equal quality as the main quest, or also its ability to provide a marriage between gameplay and story, but most importantly its ability to create a dark, violent, yet beautiful world that’s believable and enjoyable to go through. There are a lot of stuff in this game worth covering, but a lot of it is better for the player to find on their own. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is an achievement that won’t be surpassed for quite a while. The next generation of open world RPGs is upon us, and CD Projekt Red delivered what they touted. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a masterpiece that is one of the best games ever created, and perhaps the best RPG ever conceived. Final Score: 10/10 Masterpiece! Update On Upcoming Reviews: Well, I'm back! The next game on my plate is Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain. Snake returns for his last adventure, the closing of a saga and the beginning of the end.
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