Yesterday, I went for a walk to the corner shop. On the way, I was skewering ghouls and nekkers. My quest was a bit further up the hill. The goal – find a horse’s head in a sketchy part of town. Nice. Meanwhile, I picked flowers for alchemical ingredients, leveled up from the odd fight, and even made some gold for doing my dailies. All this, and The Witcher: Monster Slayer has me hooked. While Pokemon Go makes you feel like a Pokemon trainer, catching ‘em all and being the very best, The Witcher: Monster Slayer makes you feel like a voiceless RPG hero carrying out odd tasks for the locals. Only, rather than holding down the W key, you’re going for a real hike and experiencing the outdoors.
The general idea is the same across both games – Monster Slayer fundamentally feels like Pokemon Go. You’re strutting about with the odd random encounter while you send your long list of friends packages (or gifts, as they’re known in Pokemon Go). All the while, you rack up gold for store purchases like bags that increase your inventory space, alchemical stations (incubators), and scrolls (incense). It’s a lot like what Fallout is to Elder Scrolls.
The foundation isn’t that different. Ultimately, it depends on what franchise you prefer and what genre tickles your fancy. I love RPGs so The Witcher: Monster Slayer is right up my alley, and those extra elements that make it feel akin to an open-world fantasy jaunt set it apart enough that it works as its own thing rather than another wannabe clone that’ll get drowned out in a month or two.
I put on my walking shoes, sat on the steps by my front door, and while I was there, I quickly slew all the monsters around my house because I didn’t want the noonwraiths to upset our dogs or raid the pantry. I then embarked on an aimless bit of wandering as if I was trying to rack up levels before getting on with the main quest in Baldur’s Gate. The odd tough foe cropped up and kicked me to the curb, so I skedaddled to search for easier enemies more my speed. That’s essentially like straying off the beaten road at the start of Fallout: New Vegas to find Deathclaw mountain or whatever it’s officially called, only to take a quick turn and run in another direction to butt heads with geckos instead. It manages to – despite using Go’s formula – replicate the feeling of playing The Witcher 3 only in real-life.
Firstly, there’s the combat. It ain’t as fluid and intricate as Dark Souls or as weighty as For Honor, but it’s also a mobile game where the controls are limited to dragging your finger across the screen. It’s more on the level of the first Witcher than The Witcher 3. There are fast and strong attacks and – like in The Witcher 3 – you can level these up separately with skill points, resulting in more damage being dealt.
Meanwhile, you have your sign which, when used, has a short cooldown much like the main games. Only rather than pressing it, you have to draw it. It’s a neat little feature that makes the magic elements feel far more interactive. On top of that, you have to prepare for tougher fights by crafting bombs, oils, and potions… just like in the main games. Seeing a pattern here? The Witcher: Monster Slayer has all the RPG features of its mainline cohorts jammed into the Pokemon Go formula. It keeps you on your toes as you're hunting monsters to get ingredients to help you craft items to take down the tougher monsters while you level up, garnering skill points to strengthen your resolve.
You’re grinding. Normally, that’s a chore, but given the context of why you play a game like this, it works. I’m playing The Witcher: Monster Slayer to make my walks less of a drag. Sure, I could look at the scenery and bask in nature’s glory, but that gets boring after you see the same endless industrial parks and grey asphalt roads day in and day out. Now, I get to stare at them through my screen with an arachnomorph (spider was too simple a word, apparently) blocking the road.
The grind adds a freshness to my walks that gives me an instant sense of gratification just like in a video game – only now, I get the added benefit of being healthy. I guess that’s why Pokemon Go was such a hit – it incentivized people of all ages to get out and do some exercise, using the typical short bursts of serotonin that come with game design to make it less arduous. With RPG elements, that’s amplified tenfold. I’m desperate to complete my quests that often get pushed further and further back, taking me on a long walk away from where I started, resulting in me visiting places I normally wouldn’t. The RPG elements give CD Projekt Red more to do than just interacting with monsters. There are objectives, items to gather and collect, skills to earn and spend, and landmarks to visit.
It could do with some finishing touches here and there. It could do with more collaborative quests that utilize the friend’s list, craftable weapons and armor rather than store-only sets, badges, walking rewards, and some other tidbits that further incentivize playing it, but Monster Slayer has launched with a great foundation that I’m excited to see CD Projekt Red build from. It is a Go clone – that’s clear from the get-go. Yet almost instantly the RPG elements give it a unique edge that will no doubt serve to build its own identity as time goes on.