Was The Witcher 3 Popular Because It Was Easy?
When I brought this up to a friend the other day, he just shrugged and said, "Well sure. It's easy."
It's not the first time I've heard gamers accuse the open-world RPG of simply being too easy to breeze through, which got me thinking: While it's certainly true that such a game would normally appeal only to the hardcore crowd, it's arguable that, using the default difficulty, The Witcher 3 is very casual-friendly. I know someone who went through the entire game without ever using bombs or signs, and he didn't really struggle at all. Then I realized that most avid gamers I know played through on a harder difficulty because it just wasn't all that satisfying on the default difficulty setting.
Then, you factor in a pretty hefty marketing campaign that often disguised the game's depth and emphasized the action segments, and you start to wonder...did CD Projekt Red now precisely what they were doing? In order to appeal to the casuals, you can't put up an intimidating front; you have to highlight the "fast and dumb" side, even if the entire game hardly qualifies as "fast and dumb." Basically, just take a page from Hollywood's playbook when it comes to movie trailers. There are quite a few gamers out there who will tell you that they never play RPGs but they did play The Witcher 3. And I bet many of them played it just like the person I cited above. They didn't want to bother with the nuts and bolts and in truth, didn't really have to. Just kill enough stuff and you can kill more stuff.
Then again, micromanagement is still a part of the experience. Buying, crafting and alchemy are big parts of the game, right? Well, they don't necessarily have to be. Really, if you just check what the merchants have to buy and you snag some good equipment that way, I wonder if you ever have to use crafting or alchemy. I'm willing to bet that you don't, provided you play on the default difficulty. Blocking, parrying, and dodging are pretty crucial on the battlefield and if you've got a skilled action veteran, that person can probably still play, enjoy and complete The Witcher 3, without really touching any of the deeper, more intricate parts of the production. Perhaps this factored into the product's popularity as well...
10/16/2015 Ben Dutka