Over the past couple of months I’ve fostered an enduring yearning to delve back into a game I’m remiss to admit that I’ve excluded for conventionally asinine reasons. Secreted between unfinished copies of Star Ocean and Watchdog’s, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has been a permanent resident of a shelf scattered with intermittent reminders of my failings. The explanation for my prolonged evasive absence in vacating the Witcher’s replete land isn’t attributed to the conditioned difficulty, nor is it a measure of enjoyment prescient from my adventures or even the time permitted to explore, but rather I find negotiating such spaciously endowed lands rather intimidating to traverse. Convention would dictate that such behavioural peculiarities are cause for dismissal from gaming in general as though I should be banished to the darkest alcove of restricted linearity. There’s always been something about being capaciously uninhibited in a game that strangely generates a sense of isolated impediment. It’s an arcane sentiment that has precipitated cursory rifts between games abounded with richly pliable ecosystems and my own refractory coordination. Games that encourage an almost coercive requisite for exploration are liable to provoke a lapse in concentrated motivation for me. I kind of need narrative boundaries to help me focus or become totally overwhelmed by the frivolity proposed by games like Skyrim.
“Welcome to Skyrim sir. Hope you weren’t too inconvenienced at being apprehended by our local constabulary. Frightful misunderstanding I assure you. I’m afraid the temperatures here are rather bracing and the continent as a whole is rather disrupted by the sudden return of dragons, but take a look around and go wherever you want. We have caverns, mountains, forests and streams for you to explore, at your earliest convenience of course. We have a beautiful settlement off to the north there, with resources, commerce and stocked with all the necessary amenities a vascular adventure such as yourself may require, all replenished frequently. Anything you want, we’ve got. Taverns, an adoption agency, blacksmiths, a medical canopy with adventurers much like yourself nursing knee wounds sustained through arrow penetration. Whatever you want to do, you can. So, where would you like to go sir?”
“Uh, could you point me in the direction of the main quest please?”
“Oh. Well, certainly……I suppose. You sure you don’t want to go through the dense thickets over there first? Maybe go up that ledge a little? No…..OK then. (weirdo?!)”
If I ever begin to feel disconcerted by the imposing environment, regardless of the setting I could rely on the escorting repose of prime directives. In GTA V, before I’d become accustomed to extracurricular activities at my convenience, I could expedite the discharging intimidation of my surroundings with the simple adherence to the cardinal missions to suppress the formidably prodigious suburbs of Los Santos. The same applies to the Witcher 3, albeit exhibited at a later date than I had anticipated. But with the Witcher 3 you have the added pressure of trying to understand anything that is going on, let alone mitigating the ambient distractions of a region encrusted in proponent mythology and fabled creatures. Comparatively more detailed than GTA and consisting entirely of its own fictionalised heritage separate from the elder scrolls your not ever really sure what it is your supposed to know? The Startling contextualised brevity administered only elevates your confusion as these are tales largely populated by characters many have familiarised themselves with during the previous titles, none of which are available to me. Once you’ve breached the atmospheric thematics however and adapted to the overwhelmingly auspicious spectacle all the imitative conjectures that stifled your inaugural ventures is soon dispersed. Now equipped with my duel swords, hilt etched with gilded runes, clasped to my back with elegant poise, I once again set off on my journey destined to replicate my grandiose overtures months before. And it’s like playing a new game, a reformed adaptation of my memory.
Because months of alienation has permitted interpretive perception of what I think I’ve played, I’ve been exposed to the rigidity of my misinterpreted evocations, recalling issues that only manifested in my head. These partial cognitive recollections are laced with such indistinct memories posing as fact. Like an administrative error or archival misplacement that belies the flourishing retinue of the Witchers environments. You forget how intuitive the combat was, how satisfying it is to gallop across dusty thoroughfares that reticulate through venerable woodlands. You don’t expect the superfluous exteriors to be as interactive or indeed accessible, with deeply detailed landscapes so huge you’d think the continent had been rogered by an omnibus! With active and responsive wildlife, residencies nestled with integrated communities and pragmatic commerce. Even the cities have distinct territories. From the rigorously occupied commercial districts, smiths forging steel for the domestic military and the municipal domesticity of occupants saunter between various outlets, to the palatial spires adorned to the ornate fortifications adjacent to the squalor of a poverty stricken community, with the fettered carcass of some unlucky transient being gnawed on by famished rats and sewage drifting through the murky cisterns. No idea how this happened. Certainly nothing to do with me obviously! With some residents struggling for mortal purchase, desperately bartering for provisions while others dine on braced lamb and suckling pig. This operational class system is indicative of a game that requires your undivided attention.
These kind of immersive and polished titles remind me why I’m a gamer. I know people that claimed to be gamers, the types that love Fifa and COD, that would hasten to add the personal rancour they reserve for RPG’s, particularly open world ones. The general antithesis towards RPG’s like Skyrim is a shared ambivalence deployed by those of a more casual persuasion. The functionality of an RPG is contingent on your routine, prioritising regular intervals of interactions that desultory persuasions simply aren’t compatible. Even the most intimidating, perhaps even confusing games require a second chance. It’s then perhaps a little sad that some won’t even attempt one chance.