By Gemma ~ @JuicyGameReviews
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Skyrim are both fantastic Role Playing Games with vast expansive open worlds to explore. Despite deriving within the same genre The Witcher 3 and Skyrim feel different on so many levels. The obvious differences are that Skyrim is almost 4 years older than The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Bethesda and CD Projekt RED are clearly different developers. I want to break this down and try to and dissect my experiences between Skyrim and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. In terms of time, Skyrim has the edge as I have put over seventy hours in to it whereas I’m just over twelve hours in to The Witcher 3. Does this mean I am going to be bias? No not at all. I have the upmost admiration for both of these games and I feel it’s important to embrace the differences as well as similarities…
In Skyrim, as with all Elder Scrolls games, we have the ability to choose a class and be creative with the basic traits from the get go. Typically I’ve always enjoyed a plainer look in Elder Scrolls games, namely, a human with minimal scarring. I agree that this sounds pretty boring but there’s a reason for it. I wasn’t bothered with what colour eyes my character had. Scars, tattoos, hair colour and piercings seemed completely irrelevant if I were going to lather myself up in armour anyway! As with every RPG I sought immersion within the storyline and world and as with the last three Elder Scrolls games I’ve played I’ve been anything but immersed as I’ve spent the first thirty minutes creating a character look. This is not the case in The Witcher 3. Geralt is the default although it feels terribly wrong referring to him this way. Geralt looks and feels great right out of the starting scenes and I was happy to drop straight in to the gameplay. How do you feel about this? Would you prefer to customise your character or jump straight in?
NPCs in Skyrim are living, breathing beings as they are in The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt. As I traversed the towns in Skyrim I found most NPCs inside of buildings going about their menial business. General conversations were pleasing and NPC detail was impressive. Typically Skyrim characters seemed to lose their battles to age as opposed to war as there were more wrinkles on the faces of townsmen and women as opposed to scars. That gave me a sense of Skyrim being a peaceful place as opposed to a dangerous place. When in the deepest of dungeons in Skyrim, enemies were always plentiful but often lacked individual strength making certain aspects of the dungeons very easy. This changed when enemy numbers increased, thus making portions of certain dungeons increasingly difficult. I would have preferred single enemies with higher strength and skill in Skyrim. NPCs in The Witcher 3 are a stark contrast. In towns, there are more of a wider range of NPCs. Travellers, residents, workers, children, animals and enemies seem very real and very ready to engage with you. Unlike Skyrim, Wild Hunt allowed me to have conversations with most people. So far I cannot recall being greeted with a generic response by simply facing somebody. I’ve always had to choose to interact, which feels like I’m in control a lot more. At times, we can forget these finer details in RPGs as they can become swamped within the huge worlds.
Let’s cut to the chase. Skyrim is huge. The terrain is varied, the flora and fauna varies depending on where you are, the water looks great and the towns are alive with people. The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt is 3.5 times bigger than Skyrim according to the guys over at Gaming Bolt. That is absolutely incredible. Does size matter? On the one hand it matters as some gamers want bigger maps, more places to go, more quests and side quests to tackle. One the other hand, there’s a question of quality of over quantity. I’m going to be awkward and say that I prefer larger maps with a ton of interesting things to do, see, feel, experience and explore!
The world in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt looks absolutely stunning. CD Projekt RED made the transition from day and night very smooth to the point where dusk and dawn are very noticeable by the colour changes. I noticed a lot of burnt orange coming through at sunset in The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt, which made the transition to night a little more realistic and tasteful. Skyrim’s world is not as aesthetic. Before I played The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt I wouldn’t have noticed at just how drab Skyrim’s world feels. The colour palette leans more towards colder colours like blues and greys. Now I’m fine with this but it’s important to recognise at just how bright, rich, warm and alive The Witcher 3 feels in comparison.
Travelling around the world in The Witcher 3 feels a thousand times for enjoyable than in Skyrim and at times lives up to its name Wild Hunt. Don’t get me wrong, Skyrim is an impressive and immersive world but I feel The Witcher 3 has the edge. CD Projekt RED included a fantastic feature that allows travelling on horseback feel smooth and fluid. A simple press and holding of a button whilst riding means the horse will adhere to the path it’s on. A kid of cruise control for horses. We can change the direction we’re travelling if the paths split which is a nice touch. I always found travelling on horseback in Skyrim a little more complex. Imagine a riding a horse with three legs. Sometimes horse riding feels like this in Skyrim but it still does the trick. If horse riding isn’t your thing then you can walk to your hearts content or fast travel. Fast travelling is simple to use in both games, which can often provide important breaks in between loading screens. But wait. Did I say loading screens? Yes I did. In The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt there are no loading times unless you’re starting the game, die or fast travel. In contrast Skyrim has loading screens every time you enter a building and dungeons (at times this led to Skyrim glitching out too). The lack of loading times could be down to the hardware of next generation consoles so it’s an unfair comparison overall but certainly worth taking in to account.
One of the more intriguing appeals of playing RPGs is that you never know what you’re going to see and you rarely see the same things twice. I’ve often ventured off on random side quests or been caught in battle with a large bear whilst wandering through the land of Skyrim. Having now experienced The Witcher 3 I realised how unnatural Skyrim feels. Certain enemies appear as though they shouldn’t be in that area and more like they spawned out of nowhere. I’ve literally observed wolves appear on top of snowy mountains in Skyrim and wondered where the hell they came from? I would have preferred a little more realism to this side of the world. Perhaps a nest, cave or some kind of habitat near to the animals would have been more believable? Is this something you’ve noticed?
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt had a much easier tutorial than in The Witcher 2 (thankfully) and the game allowed me to choose whether or not to play through it. In Skyrim you don’t get to choose. You’re playing through the brief set of instructions in the initial moments whilst trying to evade the Dragon. I understand that some people will prefer the brief or no tutorial but I preferred the slower pace offered in Witcher 3.
Choosing Weapons, armour, magic and signs have always been the elements to RPGs that I’ve dreaded due to overly menu systems. Fortunately Bethesda simplified the menu navigation in Skyrim compared to Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Whilst they looked and felt easier to cycle through Skyrim’s menus were no less time consuming. During key battles in Skyrim I remember spending a lot of time syphoning through lists of magic, weapons and armour to ensure I was as ready as possible. This annoyed me intensely as it interrupted the flow of battle. Again, I know you may feel very different and prefer your time in the menus choosing your load-outs. CD Projekt RED seem to have gone all out in overriding that, as the menus are shallow in comparison to Skyrim. It’s almost like the developers want us to spend as much time in the world as opposed to menu hopping.
Both Skyrim and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt are amazing games. Ultimately your own perception of these games will bore down to your personal preferences and let’s face it, with RPGs there are a lot of preferences to choose from. I’ve skimmed the iceberg of this debate but one thing is clear to me. The main differences come from the hardware of the consoles they were created for. Skyrim for the PS3 and Xbox 360 and Witcher 3 Wild Hunt for the PS4, Xbox One and PC. Perhaps there would have been fewer differences if Witcher 3 had a Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 release? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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