I've been playing a bit of Witcher 3 (I'm up to level 15 I think). Beautiful open world. Fun combat. I love discovering new potions although I pretty much never use more than three of them.
The writing is really good and funny, on a moment to moment level. There is quite a bit of wit to some of the stories. There is the the dungeon of the guy who's been making magic using smelly cheese. There is the notice from a guy complaining that his donkey started to death between two troughs of food
. There is the interview with the girl who complains that she never got to see Dandelion's etchings, though he always promised to show them to her. There is the battle that ends with "can we never talk about this again?"
And there is the lovely story of the Bloody Baron, who's a really terrible person and yet very human at the same time. He's well-written, and you keep having to remind yourself how awful he is.
My problem gets back to the ancient divide between story and gameplay. When I'm playing a game, I want to make choices. So when stories get too long without a choice, I get frustrated.
The Witcher 3 stories generally boil down to: talk to someone to get a quest; go to the area the questgiver suggested; use Witcher senses to find the clues (marked in red). Then Gerald will tell you what the clues meant, but it doesn't even matter, because your next search area is pinpointed on the map. Go there, search in the yellow circle, find the red things, click on them, have Gerald tell you what they mean.
In other words: the stories are completely irrelevant to the gameplay.
Now, at one level, story is bound to be irrelevant to gameplay mechanics. Story is where I tell you who your character is, what he or she wants, why it's important he or she gets it, what he stands to lose and what he stands to gain. In general, the more I control that, the better a story I can tell you.
But I'd like it better if Witcher involved me a little more in the story.
I'd like it if I had to do at least a little figuring out what the clues meant, or where they pointed. Even if the game is meant for players who just wanna kill a few dudes and not strain their brains, at least make me choose between three possibilities, two of which are actually wrong, but easy enough to rule out if I'm paying attention.
I'd like it if it were at least possible to fail the conversations with witnesses -- if there were dialog options that don't
lead to me finding out what it is I'm going to find in the dungeon. So if I fail the dialog, I'm going in blind. I can still fight my way out, but I'm going to feel stupid if I applied wraith oil and I'm fighting trolls.
If I could fail the dialog encounters, then I'd have to play closer attention to what people were saying. I'd be more immersed in Geralt's story. But more importantly, I wouldn't be bored and frustrated that the dialog was taking so long. The cutscenes seem quite long. I don't want to click through them, because they're supposed to be my reward for all that fighting. But boy, they do go on.
I hope our cut scenes in We Happy Few
aren't too long. On our budget, we can give the players really brilliantly voice-acted cut-scenes. We can't afford a lot of dialog options. On the other hand, building a roguelike with permadeath, we aren't afraid of giving you options that, should you take them, you will not be able to get a happy ending for that particular story. And you'll have to listen to what people are saying to be sure you're not about to screw things up. And to get the next bit of story, you'll have to find it by its description -- no map markers or illuminated clues.
Man, what we could do even a slightly bigger budget