Brace yourselves, I’m going to do something I don’t let myself do very often in the public forum… I’m going to complain. I may even stamp my feet a bit and flail like a child who hasn’t gotten her way, so if you’re not into that sort of thing, I say move along. Nothing to see here.
The moment they announced the coming of this game, everything inside me tightened with unbridled excitement. CD Projekt Red would bring the journey of Geralt of Rivia full circle at last, and they promised so much from the series of books that inspired the games. They have not disappointed, though my experience with the game itself comes with a few setbacks.
Last August my Alienware laptop died unexpectedly. I woke up one morning and it was just… gone. It wouldn’t power up, there was a whiff of ozone every time you plugged in the power cord, and my hopes for gaming sort of whirled down the drain with it. It takes a lot to run a video game on PC these days. The intensity of the graphics is often far more than a standard desktop or laptop can handle, but the guy who sold me my replacement desktop said I shouldn’t have much problem gaming on this thing. Since my priority at the time revolved around work, and my budget wasn’t anywhere near extravagant, I couldn’t indulge in another gaming computer–no matter that brand. I had to settle for something that would ensure I could still write and edit, so that’s what I did. In November, when Dragon Age Inquisition came out, I was surprised to find that despite a few plugin issues everyone playing on PC seemed to experience, the game ran rather well. There wasn’t a lot of lag, the graphics looked great and I effortlessly ploughed through that game, lending more then 600 hours of my time to romping through Thedas and kicking demon and darkspawn ass. It was glorious, but as the release date for The Witcher 3 grew nearer, I began to doubt I would be able to play it with the same effortless intensity I played Dragon Age. We did everything imaginable to restore my laptop before release day, but it is still out of commission until we can cough up the cash for a graphics card worth its salt.
That said, even on my Alienware laptop, the Witcher 2 struggled at times, and that worried me. I could only have about 15-20 game saves before it got bogged down and began crashing repeatedly as soon as the graphics got too intense and usually right in the middle of a fight I had no desire to repeat. It was very frustrating. I tested Witcher 2 on my current setup, and it moved like some turtle prancing around in a broken pair of roller skates. I was severely disheartened. I highly doubted I would be able to indulge at all once The Wild Hunt released, but release day was just around my birthday and I wanted nothing else for that glorious day than to play that blasted game.
So I did. I double-checked all of the recommendations before I took the plunge, and my computer has all the minimum requirements to play the game… but to say I’m actually playing the game is stretching it quite a bit.
I was disappointed on so many levels. Not in the quality of the game or the story itself. All those things were exactly what I wanted them to be. The open world was immense and beautiful, the characters were glorious and wonderful, and the story is perfectly crafted, but the graphics are so intense that even on the lowest settings, poor Geralt of Rivia moved at all times as though he was trapped under water and still expected to fight for his life. Mouths continued moving, sometimes for upwards of a minute, long after dialogue had been issued and I was repeatedly mashing the X button on my gamepad controller to get through it.
I didn’t let it stop me. I tweaked all the settings, as recommended, and even got some help from friends to improve the speed, without much luck. Despite all that, I played anyway, spending 1-2 minutes longer than necessary to do each task, slogging slowly through fight after fight, and putting in nearly 90 hours of gameplay before I started to reach the final handful of quests that would wrap up the main story. As much as I was enjoying it, the experience was frustrating and I began to spend less and less time exploring a world I wanted very much to spend every waking moment in. The intensity and beauty of the fighting style was muted by the poor quality of my standard issue graphics card on a computer that is less than a year old.
The thing is, I get it. With technology continually advancing, games become more lifelike, more beautiful and amazing, but I’m so disappointed that they’re all but unplayable on a standard setup or gaming system. So many people I know, who are still gaming on Xbox 360 and PS3 because they haven’t been able to afford the upgrade to Xbox One or PS4, find themselves disappointed that CDPR physically cannot release the game to such dated hardware.
I want to finish this game. I’ve come so far, and as I said above I’m within the final stages just before the main quest, but the idea of spending the next twenty or so hours trying to wrap up ten hours of game so I can see how it ends feels… I don’t know… annoying. I actually found myself hovering over the “play” button on Dragon Age Inquisition because I knew I’d be able to play it without disappointment and lag.
Has anyone else had this kind of experience with this game? Most of the people I know are playing on console, rather than PC, so I’d love to hear from someone playing on a standard PC without any fancy graphics upgrades. If you have a secret to speed things up, I’d be grateful to hear about it because I really want to finish this game.