Open World Combat (and Witcher 3)

Witcher 3 first imps?

It’s leaps and bounds better than Witcher 2 is what I’ll say. The combat feels so much more solid it’s ridiculous, and the addition of the dodge option was very sensible. The spells have all been tuned to make more sense, the parry option works a lot better than the old block option did. The Witcher Sense looks a lot nicer visually. The quest lines do a good job mixing up the gameplay, between chasing people down on horseback, to stalking deadly creatures, to rescuing people from burning buildings, and more. The graphics are perhaps one of the most beautiful 3d graphics I’ve ever seen, and as I typically do, I’ve been screenshotting up a storm. Far as people have informed me and my experiences with the game, it’s like the perfect marriage of Skyrim and Mass Effect, being able to accomplish both the unique open world questing and choices with consequences that neither could achieve individually, let alone together.

So I think it deserves a 3/5.

Despite the combat being tuned a lot better based on visual cues and the like (I haven’t had anyone block any attacks while literally attacking me yet, thank hell), it’s still really simplistic overall, and I have no fucking clue what controls the swings geralt chooses, so frequently I try to move in close and do a fast swing for damage, and I end up with a REALLY long swing animation and get interrupted by the faster enemy. Other times I get a really fast swing, but it’s so short range it misses, so I try really quick to throw out another attack before the enemy can and I get smacked with a long attack. Also he swings at such angles, and the hitboxes are so accurate to the blade that it frequently flat-out misses. Often times I can get crazy combos off of one hit, then others the enemy just falls out of it and is able to attack me before I can dodge. Sometimes dodges and rolls seem like they have iframes, sometimes it seems like they don’t. Sometimes geralt swings in completely the wrong direction, which is aggravating. Sometimes he can fire the crossbow fine without reloading and sometimes you’re forced to reload. It’s frequently flat-out aggravating. That and I’m playing on death march difficulty. It feels more fair than hard difficulty of the prior game, mostly due to the newfound consistency in most of your combat options, but the game is still crazy amounts of random which drives me up a wall sometimes.

Beyond that, it’s not terribly complex so far. Dark Souls didn’t have a complex combat system either, but it was so much more reliable in every way that I could do things like intentionally swipe inbetween two enemies without using lockon and expect to hit them both. I could remember how long my slashes were to interrupt enemies. I could outspace enemies and punish their whiffed attacks as they did them.

They have a lot of content in the game, the content is very nice, but the fighting drives me up such a wall. And it’s so close to being a reasonable, sane system that it’s all the more maddening.

Could you expand on how you feel about Witcher 3’s open-world gameplay? I’ve always felt that as games strived for bigger worlds, the gameplay and design took a hit, became less focused, and couldn’t decide between a cool sandbox to fool around in or proper missions that just took place in different areas. If they did the latter, than you might as well have a mission-based structure instead of wasting money on a large world to explore, it would just be pointless. How do you think Witcher 3 succeeds at balancing this open-world ‘free time’ and actual missions?

Witcher 3’s open world gameplay from what I’ve played so far appears to have a large number of unique quests with unique focuses that usually tie in some way back to making you fight things. Like I get a quest to bring a goat back, they have me track it through the woods with a bell and witcher sense, then carefully lead it back with the bell, and of course a bear attacks and there are wolves in the woods too.

Rather than just having a single open world, they have like 5 big maps, and they have quests and little things you can do, like destroy monster nests, bandit camps, treasure chests, depopulated villages, etc scattered all around them. Unlike Bethesda games, I haven’t been able to identify reused art assets as readily and the dungeons don’t look like they’re put together in a formulaic way. They went a long way in making areas feel unique. All the missions have their own areas in which they occur that fit into the larger world, most don’t even use dungeons.

It honestly feels a lot like Far Cry 3’s theme park approach. There’s all these little things floating around that you can stop by and interact with for a bit, most of the quests are fairly short, and you’re picking up goodies all the time.

I don’t think the gameplay and design takes a hit from being open world intrinsically in any way. You can still make the primary interactions deep. It’s just that open world games tend towards having worse game mechanics because it isn’t the development focus, though I guess that’s what you were saying.

What do you think of denser cities or set dressing in games that involve some sort of adventuring? E.g. villages with buildings and NPCs that don’t fundamentally add anything to the gameplay and are just there to make the world seem ‘real’ or bigger with small talk and lore. By ‘what do you think’, I meant, would you dock a game points for having cities with only quest-related NPCs?

To answer the latter question, no. I don’t really give a fuck except in a tangential sense.

What I said was kind of confusing maybe, but think of it this way: could you have DMC/NG/Bayonetta combat in The Witcher? How about Quake or non-ADS gunplay in Far Cry? Vanquish in GTA? Probably not, or not without destroying something that lets those combat systems work so well.

Yes. You definitely could have that type of combat in The Witcher. A lot of the Witcher’s combat is just fighting enemies in areas without significant environmental interaction, much like DMC, NG, Bayonetta. More difficult would be Dark Souls, which is very level design driven. Quake style combat is harder in Far Cry because it is more environment dependent, but it’s certainly possible and there are a ton of fan maps that have compelling fights in more open arenas. I think Blood Dragon showed it was possible to have less ADS style combat in a Far Cry game. We got Prototype and Infamous, which is pretty similar to Vanquish far as freedom of movement goes in an open world setting, I don’t see what’s stopping something like Vanquish from working on that scale.

The primary issues to consider in porting those are the level design, progression, enemy types and their synergy with the main character’s actions and the environment. The primary thing that tends to get worse in the transition to open world is level design tailored to individual encounters. If a game’s systems would work on a flat empty space without much deficit, then it’ll be fine in open world. Maybe level design tailored to the encounter level is something worth looking into in the future for open world games?

In DMC/NG/Bayonetta, you’re generally in a closed off arena. Ok, not always, but you generally are and it should be that way to prevent the player from running off (of course, they shouldn’t run off by their own choice and fight like a man, for how else would they improve?). In an open-world game you can run off. Also movement options would have to be tailored to the environment. Though I supposed making enemies aggressive and persistent enough would make up for any major design issues.

In The Witcher 3 and Skyrim the player can run off too. So what? The prevention of the player running off in DMC/NG/Bayonetta is because progression is tied not to the accomplishing of objectives, but of reaching the next area. In an open world game, you need to kill the enemies usually, because progression is tied to advancing quest flags, so it doesn’t matter if you can run off really, you have to come back anyway. You could also take the Okami approach and summon an arena when the player engages in combat, problem solved.

You can run away in many encounters in DMC/NG as well, but that’s called cheesing the encounter, since the enemies are more spread out and not as threatening as they are in groups. Furthermore, spreading out the enemy doesn’t require any kind of calculated/tactical approach (i.e. mastery of combat and movement) since you can just take your time, move up to an enemy and slap it with whatever you want. The more ‘abstract’ options are basically useless. Summoning some sort of arena conflicts with the open-world design (I already mentioned this). The whole idea of open-world games is to have one massive, seamless world within which every action takes place. Summoning an arena is kind of antithetical to this and a lazy solution.

It’s called cheesing the encounter because you’re skipping it and don’t have to deal with it. The objectives are different in open world games, usually requiring you to engage the monster, so you can’t run past it. I said this already. Sure, you might introduce issues of being able to kite, but beat em up games have kiting issues already, the solutions that work there work here. If people are allowed to back off and take their time, have the encounter reset, or worse, grow stronger as a penalty.

I’m proposing summoning an arena in the cases where you absolutely don’t want dudes running.

I don’t see how introducing good combat systems equivalent to those mentioned makes running away any more prevalent a problem in these games than it presently is.

“It’s just that open world games tend towards having worse game mechanics because it isn’t the development focus, though I guess that’s what you were saying.” That is what I was saying, though to an extent I do think that open-world intrinsically harms gameplay. I mean, it depends. The larger worlds are often meant to simulate real-world elements like traffic or travelers. There’s nothing deliberate about this kind of design and developers can’t make any kind of interesting gameplay around them. You can have robust combat mechanics, but to make interesting encounters, you’ll have to do something to limit the environment, which will conflict with the open-world design. For the record, I don’t consider Dragon’s Dogma or D. Souls open-world per se. I mostly referring to GTA, Far Cry, Ass Creed, and the sort. combat and movement) since you can just take your time, move up to an enemy and slap it with whatever you want. The more ‘abstract’ options are basically useless. Summoning some sort of arena conflicts with the open-world design (I already mentioned this). The whole idea of open-world games is to have one massive, seamless world within which every action takes place. Summoning an arena is kind of antithetical to this and a lazy solution.

They don’t have to simulate things little unimportant things like that at all (though it is expected by this point). I’m purely thinking about open world as a level design structure, for one.

I’m pretty sure dragon’s dogma is more on the open world end than otherwise (even if it is a small open world).

You don’t have to limit the environment, because the objective isn’t based on getting from point A to B. If you make the objective to kill enemies then people can’t ignore every encounter. If you make fortifications on areas with chokepoints and enemies designed to keep you out, then location based objectives can still be tricky.

This isn’t complicated, this isn’t preventing you from delivering content in an open world style, from wandering all over a large map with tons of tiny objectives dispersed across it. I don’t really care if you consider summoning an arena a lazy solution or not, or whether it doesn’t fit an open world game because an arena means it’s no longer open for the duration of the encounter. It would still be damned better than the open world games we have currently, and that’s good enough for me. Make the enemies tougher if you run away, give them decent aggro ranges, make the character only good at getting close to enemies and not good at getting away.

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