Thursday, July 30, 2015

Improving Witcher 3 would be Witchcraft (5): Signs

Geralt´s magic arsenal consists of 5 different signs and each one of them has its own mechanics and purpose. This creates the favorable situation that no spell is entirely worthless as there is a niche for every spell and they don´t have to compete against each other that much due to their different functionality. The Quen damage shield is surely the most useful of them but figuring out nasty tricks with the other spells is totally possible. While the balance is okay for the most part, 2 particularly nasty spells and a few underwhelming talents do stand out.

Geralt knocks down an enemy using the shockwave spell.
An enemy falls flat on his ass after being hit with a shockwave from the Aard sign.

6. Signs and the skill tree


Quen

As I mentioned, Quen is by far the most useful of the signs. It allows people that are not perfect at dodging (like me) to not die in every second fight. However, the problem with Quen is the alternate mode, which allows you to instantly heal yourself based on the damage it absorbs. Completely refilling your health bar is no issue with this spell. Considering how stingent the game is with instant healing abilities, this healing effect seems oddly out of place. I consider it the second biggest balance issue that is currently in the game (version 1.07). At least on higher difficulties, the healing should be reduced significantly.

Geralt using the Quen sign to protect against an attack.
Going back to full health in the middle of a battle is easy with this shield.

Igni

The Igni sign itself is not that spectacular. It deals low to moderate damage in a cone in front of you. What makes the sign so powerful is the chance to ignite your enemies. Ignited enemies can´t act, giving you more time to prepare your next spell or attack, and on top of that they take incredible amounts of damage. Every second. Until I accidentally hit them or until they die. It also works on most bosses. And some have a weakness against fire.

Geralt using Igni to make enemies burn.
Setting enemies on fire is a guaranteed win.

To bring the spell in line, either damage or crowd control have to be reduced. Ignition could either continue to tick for high damage but stop after something like 2-3 seconds, or retain its duration but the damage would have to be greatly reduced, maybe up to -90%. Personally, I would prefer the first solution because there is already long-lasting crowd control (Aard and Axii signs) and damage over time (poison and bleed) in the game, and a short but dangerous ignition would help to keep things different from each other.


The magic skill tree, tier 3

The third tier in the magic skill tree stands out as the most uninteresting set of skills in the whole game. Each of the talents here increases the sign intensity of a single sign by 25% when maxed out. It appears especially weak when compared to "Synergy" from the alchemy skill tree, which can net you 20 - 80% increased sign intensity for all your spells at once.

The talent "Igni Intensity" from Witcher 3.
Probably the weakest skill tier from all trees.

I would not suggest to increase the intensity bonus from the magic talents. This would make them better, of course, but it will encourage the player to stick with a single sign. But combat in Witcher 3 is the most fun when you chain together a healthy mix of different attacks, spells and potions. And I feel that the skill tree should put a bigger emphasis on this. Due to this reasons, I suggest to rework the tier 3 talents of the magic tree to something like that: "every time you use a particular sign, you will get a bonus for the next cast of a different sign". Example talents:
  • "Borrowed Time" After using the Yrden sign, your next spell other than Yrden will have its duration increased by 50%.
  • "Strength of Earth" After using the Quen sign, your next spell other than Quen will only consume 50% stamina.
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Interesting links: 

Official website of Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Buy the PC version on gog.com
Game review on YouTube by AngryJoe
 

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