I’m Ready To Bounce Off The Witcher 3 Again, This Time With Ray Tracing

The Witcher 3 is a game that seems like it was made for me. I’m a Lord of the Rings nerd to the extreme – my annual Tolkien rereads outnumber my Rings tattoos – and love the fantasy genre well beyond the OG. From your Gaimans and Pratchetts to Jemsins and Kuangs, you name it, I’ve read it.

The same goes for games. Skyrim nearly caused me to fail my A-Levels (I’m joking if you’re reading this, mum), and finally playing the Dragon Age series this year has been an even more enjoyable experience than the hundreds of hours I spent wandering around Tamriel. And yet, every time I attempt to play the game widely regarded as the greatest fantasy RPG – if not the greatest RPG full stop – I bounce right off. What’s worse, one of my best friends and former colleagues, who shall remain nameless, constantly preaches the virtues of The Witcher 3, his love for which is only eclipsed by his passion for crisp pints of Guinness. I trust his taste impeccably, and we share practically every interest bar this. I’m sorry, former TheGamer Features Editor Cian Maher, for I have failed you.

I’ve tried time and time again. I’ve tried on PC, I’ve tried on PlayStation, and I even tried on Steam Deck, to see if playing in bed and on the loo would endear me to Geralt and co. I desperately want to like this game, I know I should love it, and yet…

Let me explain how far into the game I’ve got in the past. The first time, I couldn’t work out how to kill the griffin, which is basically a tutorial. Since then, I’ve made it a little further. I think I met the Bloody Baron once, but I’m not entirely convinced that I haven’t just read about him or learned his story through the osmosis of frequenting online gaming circles. One time I died to some ghost in a well like nine times in a row before quitting on the spot. I loaded it up on my Steam Deck halfway through a save, seemingly in some kind of palace I don’t remember in the slightest. After an hour of tweaking the game and handheld’s settings to get it to run well, I tapped out again.

As you can tell from my vagueries, I don’t think The Witcher 3 is a bad game. My repeated attempts to play it show I want to like it, too. But it leaves little to no impression on me, and I always end up abandoning The Continent in the game’s first act.

I’ve got a theory. I played Skyrim at an age where you have an abundance of free time. Exploring a huge world and burrowing yourself in every side quest is exactly how you want to spend your evenings, nights, and mornings. At 18, you can also survive on very little sleep. I noticed this when I fell off Dragon Age: Inquisition earlier this year: the open areas and abundance of side quests were a hindrance to my enjoyment, not a supplement. I don’t have 100 hours to put into an RPG any more, I have a job and a child now. It’s not you, Geralt, it’s me.

But that won’t stop me from trying again. I mean, I’ve got nothing to lose. I’ve got two weeks off over the Christmas period, and while there’s plenty of toddler-based festivities booked in, my evenings look relatively free. What’s also free is The Witcher 3’s current-gen upgrade. Like I said, nothing to lose. Now Novigrad will look even better on my big telly, as Ray Trace has worked his magic on the reflections, and the sunsets over Skellige will be even more nicerer, apparently. Plus, the horse can walk backwards!

The Witcher 3 was made for me, and yet I was not made for The Witcher 3. Will a lick of paint and some QoL additions change that? I'm being reductive, but it seems unlikely. But I’m willing to try again.

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