Originally Posted by Le Saboteur
I'm sure Finn's seen this, but I thought I would share it here as well. It's oddly affecting, and I'm not even a long time fine. The world though, the world is a fantastic place.
Yeah, I saw that last night. If you felt affection, try imagining my feels when Geralt broke the fourth wall, as someone who was there ten years ago on day one.
I paid the full price at release for two games in 2007. The other one was Jade Empire
Back then, I pretty much went in blind with no prior knowledge of the book series and other lore the game was based on. I saw some blurbs about "gritty dark fantasy world", and while the reviews weren't shining, they were still solidly hovering around the 80-point-mark, giving the vibe of what I call an "acquired taste" game.
The fact that they cleverly touted BioWare's involvement in their marketing probably helped too. (In reality, that amounted to CDPR licensing said firm's already-somewhat-aged Aurora engine, but I can't help wondering how many copies they sold simply because they had the gall to slap that logo
on the game box.)
Well, the hive mind was pretty much spot on. From a purely technical standpoint, The Witcher
in its release form wasn't a masterpiece. Needless to say, that vanilla 1.0 has also aged horribly. (However, the Enhanced Edition with better-if-still-somewhat-wonky voice acting + a bunch of mods that enhance certain gameplay mechanics, textures and other visuals can make it a passable experience even by modern-day standards.) But despite its shortcomings, even back then the game's worldbuilding did achieve some unique highs. They were trying to tell stories by planting little details around the world even back then.
Despite its flaws, the game obviously did get enough things right in the end to make The Witcher 2
a day-one purchase for me. (CDPR's business practices helped too.) And if the first part of the series probably requires a hefty bit of nostalgia (and those mods) to enjoy it today, part two actually manages something marvelous for a game that's six years old - it hasn't aged a day. If it came out today, it'd clear every bar most gamers expect from a 2017 AAA title release. And again, it achieves it through meticulous worldbuilding. The environments are clearly lovingly crafted with plenty of attention to detail. So much in fact, that many of them feel almost underutilized. There are places you spend perhaps merely a few minutes in and others that are completely optional - meaning they don't even have a side quest attached to them. And yet there's nothing about them that are usual telltales of "secondary content" in most games*.
And this gets us to why The Witcher 3
is such a digital wonder of the modern world. Somehow CDPR built a game that's at least twenty times bigger than the previous entry, but the attention to detail didn't suffer at all. Every nook and cranny in this world is so friggin' detailed, no matter whether it's a place where something plot-critical is supposed to happen or just something you pass by on your way to turn in the next quest. Usually these massive open worlds recycle content or otherwise cut corners somewhere**. The Witcher devs never did, and it's not easy to give them enough rounds of applause for that***.
*If you want a particularly good example of a game that puts in some nice attention to detail for the main story content and quests, but the execution of the side activities is down right sloppy, look at Mass Effect 3.
**A prime example of this: Skyrim. While I've never been particularly bored with its endless dungeon crawls, there's hardly anything uniquely memorable in them either, thanks to heavy asset recycling. It somewhat extends to the story content too, with its "radiant" questing mechanic. Or perhaps that's because. The locations need to be uniform enough because a random quest can send you into any random dungeon.
***They're not completely unique in this sense though, Rockstar is pretty good with it too. It's especially hard to find cut-and-paste stuff from GTA V. But they've been at it for two decades, CDPR essentially nailed it with their first try. (Also makes me wonder what's up with Ubisoft, since they continually fail to take notice. Really, guys. You could just try releasing the game "when it's done", not because you have a set deadline for a given year's holiday market.)
TL;DR: It's been a good decade for sure.