Monday, June 26, 2017

Reading the Witcher Books Before Playing Witcher 3

Ever since the Witcher 3's game release (May 19, 2015), I have been debating whether I should play the game or not: the major deterrent is that quite a few players of the game noted the clunky melee combat. I tried to play the Elder Scrolls Series (Oblivion and Skyrim), and while realizing the critical and commercial acclaim, the melee elements were so unsatisfying that I couldn't continue with the games. 

Often times, a game's story is such that even if the gameplay elements are not quite satisfying, I end up enjoying the game nevertheless. Therefore, I felt that I may enjoy playing the Witcher 3 if I appreciate the story more; the plot and character development eclipsing the awkward gameplay mechanics.

Upon researching, gamers have almost unanimously agreed that reading all the novels in the series of which this game is based on will make you appreciate the game considerably more, though not necessary. I thought it made sense to read the novels and if I really love the series, then playing the Witcher 3 is a no-brainer. Further, I want to support CD Project Red as they are incredibly generous to their fans.

I started with the first of the two short-story collections, The Last Wish, on the Kindle eBook device. It was recommended by gamers to read the first two short-story collections, and then the next 5 novels.

I was impressed by how the game closely adheres to this book, from what I've read about the video game. The very beginning of course introduces us to our hero, Geralt of Rivia, and describes what a Witcher is and does. The fact that Witchers make their livelihood by successfully completing paid missions, lend this novel very well to the open world genre due to the genre's sidequest structure.

The other thing the game developers did that was truthful to the novel is how Geralt's in-game movement matches the novel's description. Often, I would read complaints about how he pirouettes more than he attacks in combat gameplay, and in fact, in the novel, the author constantly describes Geralt pirouetting to dodge attacks.

The author also discusses how Geralt uses potions to "buff" himself before a fight, such as granting him night vision and other alchemy, which is also a significant gameplay element.

A little further in the novel, it is clear that Geralt is "over-sexed" and irresistible to women which is also consistent with the game.

I very much enjoyed the first two short stories, as the description of how Geralt comes upon the missions, the mission description, and his use of tools and techniques were new and hence interesting. The issue is that after these missions, it becomes repetitive. I don't expect The Last Wish to be as unique and varied as Edith Wharton's collection of short stories, but it gets old after awhile, using the mission, complete the mission story arc.

Additionally, there are quite long passages describing Geralt battling the various monsters which become tiresome after reading the umpteenth pirouette. Action in novels can never be as gripping as they are in movies, television and videogames (pictures are worth a thousand words). Finally, the relational dynamics between the characters are not quite compelling.

As a result, I could only read up to 51% of the novel (the Kindle gives you markers) before I gave up. I wonder if I'm overly critical of The Last Wish, since the last books I have read were Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks (with the ever demanding N.C., Esq. lurking around) and Haruki Murakami's 1Q84.

Indeed, instead of finishing The Last Wish, I could be reading other more interesting and compelling books, and I still want to get around re-reading Baldwin's Go Tell It on the Mountain.

I recommend that you borrow the book from the library before committing to a purchase, or even more conveniently, read the fan-translations. I've read comments that they are quite close to the official translation, some arguing that they're even better. If you're able to finish it and you truly enjoy it, then it makes sense to read the remaining novels. 

However, if you are like me, I would recommend reading synopsis of these novels.

Even so, I might give The Last Wish another go at it, especially as readers mention that the novels get better, and really helped them to significantly appreciate the game.

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