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Witcher 3 is a great game. It surpasses Skyrim
in many areas but falls short on some others.
Maybe the Perfect Game would be combination of the
two, since they would fix each others' faults. I
already rated Witcher 3 in FB and gave it +4. It
is one of the best games I've ever played, even
with all the bugs and nonsensical controls. But
that's not what I want to talk about.
I want to talk about a feat unsurpassed in
computer RPGs: The city of Novigrad. It
set the bar for fictional cities in computer RPGs
so high I can scarcely see it anymore from Skyrim.
Also, as a history buff, a lifelong geek and a
student of Medieval Studies in the University, I
know something about medieval cities. Novigrad
might well be the most realistic medieval city in
video games, including the reality-based medieval
cities of the Assassin's Creed series. CD
Projekt Red has been criticized for being a slave
driver and while that is certainly lamentable, I
cannot help but admire the result. This attention
to detail... this attention to ultimately
non-relevant detail... I've never seen anything
Cities in Skyrim have half a dozen houses
and a bunch of people loitering around with
time-sensitive idle tasks. Novigrad is
about the size of the
late medieval city of Prague. It is a
true metropolis for the period and looks, feels
and matches the size of the part. You can't enter
all the buildings but quite a few, either casually
or as part of a quest. And even if the doors stay
locked, there are hidden paths, parkour routes,
roof-bound treasure chests and whatnot. Different
districts have unique look and feel to them and my
jaw dropped when I began to find slipways for
boats and ships, cargo magazines, the cloth dyers'
yard, dock hands leaning rails and so on. Anyone
will put a butcher's shop into their medieval
city. But cloth dyers? And you can't even buy
anything from them! It is just there. The whole
fucking yard! Something you can just stumble onto!
Many players probably never will but it is right
there! With all the right things in it!
There are good and bad parts, market squares,
main streets, side alleys, the hovels for the poor
built next to the wall (a fire hazard often torn
down should the city be under siege). No computer
in the world could render the real day-time
throngs of such a city but Witcher 3 does
a good enough job at it. Novigrad feels alive,
inhabited and even crowded, especially in the
markets during the day, or the toll bridges where
goods being brought into the city are checked and
taxed. My suspension of disbelief holds,
especially since the distribution and nature of
the crowds changes logically by the time of day.
They could have set the game just into Novigrad
and I wouldn't have complained. The only blemish
here is merchants and craftsmen staying open 24/7.
Even Skyrim had open and closed hours for shops.
Of course, as with many things in Witcher 3,
Novigrad is a city of assholes. I've always
detested witch hunts and burnings. Somehow, CD
Projekt Red got wind of this and went out of
their way to make smoke come out of my ears
whenever I see the bad guys in Novigrad. Moral
ambiguity is a running theme of the game but my
bias against witch-burning is so strong I would
have loved to tear out Radovid's throat with my
teeth. And to impale the priests and witch hunters
of the Eternal Fire onto the spires of their own
temple. And if I have to burn Novigrad to the
ground in the process, so be it.
Rumor has it that Novigrad in Witcher 3 is based
the real medieval city of Novigrad in Croatia.
Perhaps. I wouldn't know. What I do know it has
set an impossibly high bar for fictional game
cities in the future. In terms of detail and
embedded knowledge, I wonder if it will be ever
surpassed. In fact, if Witcher 3 had been an
open-world urban fantasy game set just in the city
of Novigrad, I would have still been happy.
Long time no see!
I just got back from Jaconia and believe me, the
jetlag is a killer. In truth, I spent a good deal
of June and virtually all of July hammering out my
next novel, Käärmetanssija. And very early
this morning, the alpha script was finished at
last. And it is massive. At 750+K characters the
script would make a roughly 450-page novel. I
expect it will be cut down a little but Käärmetanssija
will still be a hefty tome (unless my prospective
publisher decides to split it into two parts or
something). It took me roughly six months to write
it and I feel like I have been living in Jaconia
all this time. Finishing it was a surprisingly
emotional experience. I suddenly had to say
goodbye to a host of lovable characters with whom
I've been to strange and wonderful places and on
so many harrowing adventures. You never existed
and yet I will miss you all.
In other news, meet DEATHWATCH,
the best iOS game I've played so far. It is the
love child of Laser Squad and WH40K,
with you commanding a Deathwatch team of WH40K
space marines in a desperate attempt to derail a
Tyranid excursion with special operations. It is a
premium title (€4,99) and once you've paid for it,
you are set to go. However, I have to confess that
once I decided I loved this game, I paid €20 to
get my hands on some extra cards which can give
better equipment and more experienced marines. You
can get the very same cards just by playing the
game but I wanted to build a dream team of heroes
with high-tier mastercrafted weapons. Mainly
because it looks so damn cool! And I am sure the
devs could use the money.
I know that free-to-play is all the rage and it is what most of my clients want. But personally, DEATHWATCH is the game I have always wanted to have on my iPad. And now I've got it. Well done, Rodeo Games. You should have made much more money with this title than you probably did.
Final rating: +4
We will not fail. We are the Ultramarines.
I meant to write an angry rant but subsequent events
reminded me that if I think someone is not fully
responsible for his or her actions, I can't hold those
actions against him or her either. At least as long as
other people are not in danger. Thus my anger balloon
was burst prematurely and however ticked off I might
be, I must vent my frustrations elsewhere.
My gigs during the days and in some evenings have been a long one for Housemarque and a short one for Boomlagoon. While I can't tell you what they were about, I can say that they both kicked ass and I couldn't be happier. At least not without hospital-grade chemicals. If I could just do these kinds of projects for living, my life would be close to perfect. Of course, I'd still be struggling with obesity, pulmonary ailments and the occasional tumor in the skull, but who cares about when I can do something like... well, this. Unfortunately both gigs are coming to end. I hope there will be more but from the looks of it, I'll have the end of June and all of July off.
Speaking of awesome things, Housemarque had its 20-year anniversary party last night at The Circus. They are the oldest surviving gaming company in Finland, even though Ilari measures time from the first contract which happened some time after the founding. They had great food, great people, great conversations and I remember some band called Apulanta making noise in the background at some point. Boy oh boy, when the organizers flicked the switch on the Housemarque highlight reel, I was so giddy it was embarrassing. That euphoria I felt when I first got into the industry came rushing back and I was so happy to be working with games I could have cried! Also, some of the discussions I had that night were not only interesting but incredibly therapeutic. I have skeletons in the closet and somehow I feel like one of them has been laid to rest now. I hope the person with whom I had the crucial conversation with feels the same, because we sort of share that skeleton.
Happy anniversary, Housemarque! Here's to 20 more years. I'd be 61 by then, though.
This weekend we are heading to Leena's old haunts in Kainuu for a week and coming back just in time to get to Archipelacon in Aland. Then it's July and my to-do list reads as follows:
By the way, there is going to be a small but peppery gaming event called Otamacon soon. I won't be there since it coincides with Archipelacon but Burger Games is a proud supporter. I am not saying "sponsor" since I am only giving them competition prizes. But if you feel your Summer lacks a Ropecon, go there and play games!
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