It’s hard to believe that one of the industry’s most important recent video game releases – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – is already almost two years old.
In May of 2015 the world was treated to an expansive mythological journey through stunning locations such as Velen and Novigrad, an intuitive combat system, and some of the very best characterisation of a central hero since the likes of Solid Snake or Nathan Drake.
It’s with this in mind that I’d like to address the sudden surge in revisionist history surrounding The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Namely the fact that, at the time, the game was released to high critical acclaim, garnered numerous game of the year awards, and just generally captured the hearts and minds of not just hardcore RPG fans but the majority of gaming audiences.
The sentiment that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was anything other than an enthralling adventure and technical marvel has since started to arise as we edge ever closer to a certain other Triple-A open-world adventure that’s quickly approaching on the horizon (I regret nothing!). Now that the reviews for Sony’s first party post post-apocalyptic actioner have started to drop, the game has since garnered comparison with CD Projekt Red’s 2015 release, with many of these comparisons painting the latter in a bad light.
All of a sudden it’s “the open-world was too big”, “The side quests weren’t very inventive”, and just generally that there was “too much to do”. It might just be a case that the release hype surrounding The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has finally started to diminish somewhat, but I can’t shake the feeling that this revisionist history is to a certain degree unfounded, and if these critiques are fair: why weren’t they flagged up closer to the time?
As an example, Erik Kain of Forbes perfectly summarised how the majority of reviewers felt about the game upon release, with him calling it “one of the greatest open-world games” he had ever played. Hyperbolic or not, I think this is fairly representative of what The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt meant for most people at the time.
The way I see it there are two possibilities as to what’s happening here. The first being that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s sheen has finally started to wear off for initial fans, causing them to look back at the game’s flaws which were overshadowed at the time, thereby resulting in a revisionist outcry sparked by the release of a very similar title in the same genre.
The second possibility is that the responses that we’re only just hearing from now, are from an entirely different section of the gaming audience. I’m hopeful that it’s the latter, as otherwise we’d be left with a relatively unruly change in the tide that would make it difficult to pin down the general consensus of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s successes.
As someone who doesn’t have particularly strong feelings either way with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (I put roughly six hours into the adventure), I think it makes perfect sense for there to be an amalgamation of the two. After all, every gamer has their own specific tastes as to what type or style of game they’d prefer to play, but at the same time a problematic side effect of the marketing machine is that when such a big game releases, it tends to dominate the media, making it seem more popular or favoured than it actually is.
Final review scores will stand the test of time, telling the tale echoed everywhere during the initial period of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s release: that it’s a remarkable game that should be celebrated. Should the revisionist history currently surrounding the game following the release of Horizon: Zero Dawn persist however, it could be the case that popular opinion is in danger of being a little skewed.
In general, it makes a lot of sense for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt to draw in frequent comparison. Like the game or not, it was a technical marvel at the time and it will always remain as such, signifying it as somewhat of a benchmark game to which all others should aspire towards. For the longest time that game seemed to be Skyrim, but unlike The Witcher 3 that game seemed to be universally celebrated for years. It’s often said that history is written by the victors, we just don’t know who they are yet.