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As more of the gaming world continues to spend time with both the combat-focused Fallout 4 and the more free-roaming The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, many of us have weighed each game's design structure against the other. And we can now include Polygon amongst those comparing the games' strengths and weaknesses in a new editorial that declares CD Projekt RED's RPG the clear winner for finding a more satisfying mixture of dialogue, story-telling, and combat :
The crowd was cheering while sitting on the bleachers watching the spectacle. Perhaps, I thought, some had gambled their life savings yearning for a dream that would never become reality. I had some spare caps and decided I wanted to bet, too. The scene ignited my imagination.
Only, I had forgotten: This is Fallout 4.
The default for a situation in Fallout 4 is to kill everyone. There was to be no engagement with this lovingly crafted setup, and no interaction with the audience or the managers that wasn't in the language of bullets and death. Instead, my mere arrival resulted in the announcer summoning the audience to attack me. The scenario in my head remained there; the game was more interested in violence than world-building.
Throughout The Witcher 3, you encounter many situations that are almost entirely about conversations. In one of them, Geralt speaks with a troll; the entire quest is about getting paint for the troll. There's a scene in the expansion Hearts of Stone in which Geralt allows himself to be possessed by the ghost of a womanizing brute and attends a wedding with a woman he adores. He catches pigs, dives for shoes and dances.
Geralt fights often. He is, after all, a witcher: a monster killer for hire. But conversations matter as much as combat, and investigating the world of The Witcher 3 even if it's just a basic button press is essential. Not only do the stories themselves matter, but Geralt often has to piece stories together to solve quests. Gathering knowledge is how he comes to know his targets and how he prepares for battles.
The Witcher 3 is not a game that feels like it has to rely solely on combat to keep the player interested. Indeed, its most memorable moments for me are entirely about refined stories and interactions with characters. I still roar with laughter thinking of Geralt badly performing poetry on stage, or leading pigs to a magical cave.