Witcher or What? Seeking game recommendations
October 2, 2021 2:44 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for an immersive RPG game with a huge world to explore. What I really want is to wipe Dragon Age Inquisition out of my memory so I can start it again without knowing anything about it. I've seen this post but the suggestions given there are not really what I want. I've got Witcher 3 in my Steam cart but I'm hesitating - is it more Skyrim or Dragon Age? How does it stack up against my very long, detailed wishes below?

I want to wander around a beautiful world, exploring new places and finding things. I do want some reason to wander and pick things up, not just selling them for better equipment. But I don't want an interactive movie or chose-your-own adventure where there's a strong storyline that I must follow (even with 'choices' I hate feeling like I'm working my way down a flowchart).

Do want: space to wander around and reasons to walk around and interact with the space. The feeling that my character is advancing/improving due to my efforts. Fantasy or historical setting, characters to interact with, interesting scenery and creatures to discover. I like a lot of non-combat things like crafting, building a base, learning about a world.

Do not want in mechanics: controlling an army, obsessive focus on inventory limits, need for quick reactions, 3-D navigation (i.e. flight simulator), critical verbal information without subtitles, frequent puzzles.

Do not want in genre/themes: jump scares, gore, torture, despair, spotlight on people being shitty to each other, constant risk of death from starvation or weather, plague, rape, non-linear timelines, rampant sexism or racism, mystery as the main focus.

No Multiplayer: I have not tried an online multiplayer game in 15-20 years, I had several terrible experiences and decided it was not for me. In school I was the bullied, excluded, weird kid who could not figure out the social rules and that's how MMORPGs felt. Do not want to pay money to feel that way now.

Physical limitations: I have poor reaction time and less than ideal dexterity; I utterly fail at jumping at the exact moment, hitting a moving target, reacting quickly to visual or audio cues, walking on a tightrope, flight simulator controls, etc. I have audio processing issues and tend to keep the sound low or off, if there is critical verbal content there must be subtitles available.

Hardware: Running Windows 10 on AMD® Ryzen 7 4800H, NVIDIA GTX 1660 Ti, 64MB RAM. I usually prefer a controller rather than keyboard/mouse.

What I've played (or tried to play) along these lines over the last few years:
  • Dragon Age: between the three games I have played over a thousand hours, and the main reason I'm looking for something new is I just can't make myself care about Mages vs Chantry anymore and I get sad about killing the dragons. It's gotten to be like a book I've read so many times (LoTR) that I can open it at a random page and just start reading. The combat mechanics on easy mode are right where I need them as far as dex requirements and the subtitles mean I can turn off speech.
  • Skyrim: tried again last year, still literally couldn't get past the opening scenario. Steam tells me I have spent 7.5 hours trying to get out of that damn burning keep. The actual mechanics of play have defeated me, and now I just resent the very idea of the game.
  • Morrowind: Utter fail. I kept accidentally stealing because of dex failures and could not survive first combat. Murky and dim, could not tell what was happening.
  • Eastshade: I really wanted to like this more, but gave up out of boredom and the creepy 'bad taxidermy' character faces. I got really tired of solving the puzzles, it felt like I was following a script. Also could not sail the damn boat, kept getting stuck on rocks.
  • No Man's Sky: tried a few random starts until I got a world where I didn't have to worry about dying from temperature or toxic gas. Was really enjoying until I had to fly a ship in space, and got shot at. Do not want flight simulator and adding combat to that is a hard no.
  • The First Tree: beautiful and good game play but too short. I turned off the sound, I could not take the man-pain anymore and as far as I could tell the man's daddy issues were unrelated to the fox's quest.
  • The Lost Ember: too much spoken word content that I could not follow and it was too frustrating trying to find the right things in the right order to stay on the story path. Don't want to think so much about death.
  • The Spirit of the North: rage-quit due to dex fail. Also too many wandering-leaping fox/wolf games in a row.
posted by buildmyworld to Computers & Internet (23 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Zelda: Breath of the Wild? Lacks difficulty settings though so you might have to grind/level a bunch for plot battles.

Witcher 3 might be a little darker than you're looking for, judging by your theme veto list. "People being shitty to each other" features pretty prominently. Horizon Zero Dawn, my other fav open world lately, is a little closer tonally but has big times-are-lean background themes. Both have great "story" difficult settings so you can wander around and not really have trouble with random monsters, or with plot battles.
posted by february at 3:47 PM on October 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild is the best game I've ever played. It's nonlinear and open world. I've played it for maybe 600 hours or more. You just have to buy a Switch.
posted by MythMaker at 4:02 PM on October 2, 2021 [3 favorites]

I'm sorry you said no MMO's, because I'd love to rec Final Fantasy XIV to you - it ticks every one of your boxes except that one, and I say that as someone who loves Dragon Age to absolute distraction. I love the characters in FFXIV too, almost as much as those in DA, and it's easily playable in single-player style, ignoring that there are other people there at all. That's basically how I play it. Ok, so I have just recced it, sorry! Did I mention it's free to play to level 60 so there's no $$ loss to try, and you can play it on a controller? SORRY! But now I'll move on:

Re: Witcher - coming out of DAI, I found the combat needlessly fussy and uncomfortable. I'm an Old, and not very coordinated, so bear that in mind. I also found it was a grittier experience than I really wanted; there was a LOT of people being shitty to each other. That said, I have other long-time DA friends who completely loved Witcher 3, so ...

May seem a bit out there, but have you considered Stardew Valley? It's not absorptive storytelling in the way Dragon Age is, but it does have a fun story, a bit of romancing, a lot of base-building, crafting, etc. I really enjoyed it, and I have a lot of your preferences and limitations. Combat is rare, only in certain areas, and all you have to do is hit one button!
posted by invincible summer at 4:25 PM on October 2, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I don't think Witcher is right for you. It has a strong story, but the world is dark and people are not very good to each other at all (Its meta point is that people can be just as monstrous as the monsters Geralt is hired to kill, even though everyone thinks Geralt is quite monstrous himself). The combat is also very action oriented.

Skyrim has the immersive qualities, but if I recall it is real time combat and doesn't really force you down a story (even the main one.

I would recommend Divinity Original Sin 2. People aren't really great to each other and it does have some gore... but it is very similar to that what you'd see in the Dragon Age series IMO. It has turn based combat (very puzzley) and a lot of difficulty settings to adjust play (and mods!). I think it'll give you STRONG Dragon Age vibes, with its church/government factions, overall dark magic is breaking through into reality, and mages are scaaarry and should be locked away. It's open world, and clever -- there's lots of ways to do a single objective.
posted by ellerhodes at 4:38 PM on October 2, 2021 [4 favorites]

Witcher is super hard to play compared to Skyrim, IMO, and should be a hard "no" for that alone. Agree that you might want to check out Stardew Valley although it's not really what you're looking for.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 4:49 PM on October 2, 2021

Another vote against Witcher, but this one based on the map itself, which is huge but which I at least found really grim and drab and same-ey. Like not super well differentiated, and without much excitement in exploring, just a million of the same spooky crossroads with the same tree full of bodies, and the same muddy towns full of coughing, glowering peasants.

BOTW and Horizon Zero Dawn both seem like much better options from a purely "this map is so fun to explore" perspective, although HZD might be a bit tricky in terms of combat (although it's possible to play almost entirely as a sneaking/archery game).
posted by saladin at 4:56 PM on October 2, 2021

Best answer: Witcher 3 has some pretty twitchy and difficult gameplay, a ton of racism, people being horrible to each other, plague, and loads of sexism. That said, I have played it for hundreds of hours and consider it one of my favorite games, especially with the fantasy france expansion. But it sounds like it would be frustrating for you.

Instead I highly recommend Dragon Quest Builders 2 - this might seem a little out there but stick with me. There is of course a ton of crafting and building your base. The story line is shockingly compelling and wonderful with memorable characters and a surprising amount of complexity. There is a good amount of sexism but in that classic Dragon Quest “pretty girl confuse me with strange pants feelings” fan service way. But despite that it was easily one of my games of the year, and ticks nearly every one of your other boxes.

I would also suggest looking at Horizon Zero Dawn, although combat might be tricky. Final Fantasy XIV is also one I would point you to, although it’s a mmorpg. If you do poke at FF14, make an AskMe about finding other players and groups and you will be inundated with friendly invites. Kingdoms of Amalur recently was remastered (it’s appended with “Re-Reckoning” which is hilarious IMO), and while it’s an older game it ticks almost all your boxes too.
posted by Mizu at 5:12 PM on October 2, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: For what it's worth, if you find the exploration aspect of No Man's Sky interesting, you quickly get to the point where the space priestess pirates are no threat whatsoever and you can either run away or lazily blow them up.

If you need some parts to get there, send me a MeMail and I'll give you what you some shields and weapons. I need something to do anyway, lol.
posted by wierdo at 5:34 PM on October 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don’t consider myself a twitchy gamer but I’ve really been enjoying Valheim. Huge worlds, you fight some monsters, you can choose to fight bosses, but there’s also building and gathering and farming.
posted by Hypatia at 6:03 PM on October 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Also, not to be that person, but I think you might get a ton of enjoyment out of Skyrim if you mod it (which is pretty easy) and/or experiment with basic cheats! You can skip the opening (for example) and it is generally considered a gold standard open-world-ish RPG for a reason -- it's super engrossing and very fun.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 6:52 PM on October 2, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Hello I think we might be gaming preference twins. (I was able to finish Eastshade but I never warmed up to the characters.) I agree with Rock em Sock em that you can install a mod to skip the start of Skyrim - it was the one of the harder parts of the game for me since I had never really played a game like that before. It’s still my most favorite game and I think you might like it.

I have played Witcher to completion and I did like it, but it was very gore-y and upsetting in some parts, especially as a woman. Horizon Zero Dawn is next on my list, and I have tried Breath of the Wild but I couldn’t get into it (despite hearing wonderful things).

Subnautica might scratch your itch - there’s not really any combat, just exploring and building and collecting. I play on the mode where I don’t have to worry about eating or drinking. And then maybe look at Raft - I play it on easy mode so it’s not frustrating, but it’s also a pretty immersive game that I’ve enjoyed. You do have to get food and water, but if you play on the mode without the shark attacks, it’s not so bad to get those set up.

My partner games a lot and has been doing a lot of searching and suggesting for games I might like, and there really aren’t a ton out there, which is too bad as I think there are other people out there like us.
posted by umwhat at 7:07 PM on October 2, 2021

Best answer: If you're only on PC then Breath of the Wild is right out, so I'd recommend Horizon Zero Dawn (I'm playing it right now) as the PC version is supposed to be quite good. You can also change the difficulty at any time, I was playing on normal and bumped it to easy just to go a bit faster. There's a "story" difficulty level after that.

Divinity: Original Sin 2 is supposed to be fantastic and quite open, but the combat is more strategic - your ice wizard casts this, then your barbarian does fire spin, etc.

If you're not bothered by anime tropes, you should give Genshin Impact a try. It's free and has a huuuuge world to explore at your own pace. It can get a little complex but generally you can overlevel and power your way through rather than try to finesse a hard area. Happy to give more tips on this if you decide to go for it. The opening hours are pretty slow FYI.

I can't remember if Dragon Quest 11 is on PC but if it is that's a very straightforward JRPG with a huge world that was fun to explore and a looooooong and not too complex story.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 7:08 PM on October 2, 2021

If you're only on PC then Breath of the Wild is right out

Strictly speaking this is not true: the WiiU version of the game can be emulated very well on a decent PC, though it may be more of a pain to get it set up than it's worth.
posted by BungaDunga at 7:35 PM on October 2, 2021

I would tentatively suggest Biomutant if you don't mind playing on the easy difficulty. There is a main story line but you can pretty much ignore it and focus on exploring side locations and doing quests if you want. The setting is technically post-apocolyptic but they went for lots of color instead of the Fallout-esque brown.

Watch some footage first to see if it's your thing before you buy it. It ticks some of your boxes but not all of them.
posted by MaryVictoria at 7:49 PM on October 2, 2021

Best answer: Ooh, Dragon Age is the best, isn't it? I wish they would remaster Origins for a newer console. I agree with other posters saying that The Witcher is heavy on gore/torture/despair/plague etc. As far as gameplay goes, though, I'm also pretty bad at reflexes/spacial intuition in games (no FPS for me), but I just set it on easy and had a decent time. I also liked the story and characters a lot. I also set Skyrim on easy and got farther than you, but found it too drab, and I'm playing on Switch so I can't mod it. I played Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and had fun, though it's a little too anime-y, but I did like Xenosaga back in the day so appreciated the nostalgia. Otherwise I've been playing old Final Fantasy games. If you find a good prospect, let me know!
posted by catcafe at 8:54 PM on October 2, 2021

Since others have brought up Horizon: Zero Dawn, I just want to mention that it does have adjustable difficulty. The super easy story mode got me through some combat I physically couldn't complete due to vertigo.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:18 PM on October 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Agree with what others have already said: I don’t think you’d enjoy The Witcher games much. They are dark and the people in the world are awful and lots of bad stuff happens. Plus, combat requires close timing for things like blocking or countering attacks.

I’m gonna go kinda left field and suggest Disco Elysium. It’s an isometric RPG with avoidable/minimal combat; no jumping or reflex reliance; very atmospheric; and lots of character customization that you can totally overthink if you want to (although you are stuck playing a white male protagonist). It’s not very long but I suspect you can replay it for different outcomes. The setting is quite sad and bad stuff happens (maybe… or maybe not), but it still manages to be surprising and sometimes funny and sometimes beautiful. It’s definitely very different from other RPGs.

If, on the other hand, you want a longer story and more traditional fantasy fare, I’d recommend Divinity: Original Sin 2. This is a turn-based isometric strategy RPG (kinda more along the lines of Baldur’s Gate), so there’s no reflex issue involved as you have all the time you’d like to consider your next move. Plus, combat is clever with lots of neat synergies to discover. OTOH inventory is an issue—not so much having to juggle weight limits as due to the sheer amount of stuff you collect in the world and the not-terribly-transparent crafting system. Still, it might tick lots of your boxes. PS - you don’t have to have played Divinity: Original Sin 1 to enjoy its sequel (and you’re maybe better off not playing DOS1 first as it is beset with several issues that were, thankfully, fixed in DOS2).
posted by disentir at 9:30 PM on October 2, 2021

Best answer: The Witcher 3 is my favorite game pretty much ever, and it has a lot of the things you are looking for. The combat is timing-based, but if you throttle down the difficulty level, it's also very easy. But content, as others mentioned, might not be up your alley...the Killing Monsters cinematic trailer is a pretty accurate reflection of the kind of dilemma you'll face a lot in the game as well as the overall tone of large chunks of it. But I never found it a big downer or anything like that.

Divinity Original Sin 2 was mentioned above a few times, and it is also great and has truly excellent turn-based combat and a lot of the things you're looking for. I do want to call it out for content, though -- the story is very dark, with lots and lots of slavery and torture and people being terrible to each other and themselves, to the point that there are even some real eyeroll inducing moments because it's just so over the top. (YMMV.)
posted by phoenixy at 11:57 PM on October 2, 2021

Best answer: I would suggest Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles. Literally zero combat. There is a story, though it is not nearly as deep as Final Fantasy XIV, Skyrim, etc., but it is coherent. You can explore, farm, raise animals, find all the lost kitties (this is actually how you progress) all at your own pace. No complex mechanics, no combat. There is a little bit of inventory management depending on how much of a hoarder/collector you are, but it's not hard to get around.

Also, maybe The Talos Principle. No combat as in fighting, but there are some aggressive enemies that you deal with by solving puzzles. Great story, intricate and deep. It's not truly multiplayer, though you can encounter messages left by players on your Steam friends list. It's very atmospheric puzzle solving, sort of like Myst. It's not just a walking simulator, though, there is jumping and getting objects positioned just so, to solve a puzzle.

Sort of in the same style, The Witness is about using the environment to solve puzzles. Not much story here; there are fragments, but most of it is inferred, or a framework for you to create your own tale around. Great use of the environment and specific camera angles to solve puzzles.

RIME was recently recommended to me, and I absolutely loved it. Fantasy setting. It's third person (behind and above you) exploration, basically Breath of the Wild but only the exploration bits. No combat. No spoken dialogue. The story is communicated via imagery and gestures, and is done incredibly well. Game progression is by exploration, discovering items, and moving things around in the environment to solve puzzles. Some jumping, but nothing requiring great timing or dexterity.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is, IMO, a masterpiece. Fantasy setting. It's one of the very few games where after finishing it, I contacted the devs to thank them for the experience. (And I got a heartfelt response back!) It's exploration and puzzle solving, the combat is done through using traps and puzzles, not hand-to-hand fighting. There is dialogue, but it is deliberately nonsense syllables, but the art and voice acting are superb, and everything needed is communicated by gesture and vocal tone. There are no jump scares. I have gifted more copies of this game to friends than any other game, by a wide margin.

If you have a VR headset, Moss is absolutely adorable. There is combat, and a couple of the fights took me a couple tries, but it never felt punishing, it was always "Oh, I need to do this!" and then it clicks. Absolutely beautiful. Achingly so. Rewards exploration. Story is worth it.
posted by xedrik at 8:26 AM on October 3, 2021

Best answer: Plus one for Valheim. I've really enjoyed being a Viking, finding beautiful vistas, fighting baddies at my leisure. It's a bit grindy (understatement!) but I feel like that's part of the dreaminess of it.
posted by unlapsing at 12:09 PM on October 3, 2021

Best answer: I’d like to suggest the charming and humorous Immortals: Fenyx Rising. In it, you play a lowly storyteller in Ancient Greece who washes up on an enchanted island populated by a few gods and a slew of mythological beasts. It’s an extremely beautiful world to explore. The combat is pretty low impact, I think on a similar level to Dragon Age. And it has a story mode to make it even lower.

One way it diverges from your requirements is that there are a lot of puzzles, but most of them are optional, and most of them just require thought and not snap reflexes. Another way is that there are only a handful of NPCs to interact with, but you interact with them a lot. No dialogue trees, though, it’s through cut scenes.

But you do get to customize Fenyx, collect new weapons, armor, and abilities; collect materials to upgrade them and yourself; all with absolutely zero inventory restrictions. You also find a bird companion that Fenyx plays with if you leave them idle for a bit.

When it was released, many reviewers called it Ubisoft’s take on Breath of the Wild. Since that’s been suggested a few times in this thread, take it as a recommendation for Immortals too.

Note: If you try it and decide you like it, you’ll still probably want to skip the first DLC “A New God,” which was dex-intensive enough that I decided to skip it after the first level.
posted by ejs at 1:50 PM on October 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: - Seconding Skyrim with mods/cheats - I found it a gorgeous adventure to walk around with when I had no real worries about inventory or dying.

- I also recommend Summer in Mara and its predecessor (in a different universe), Deiland, which is on PC and mobile.

- Torchlight 2 since you can send your pet back to sell stuff for you instead of doing your own inventory management
- Titan Quest II plus expansion packs

Breath of the Wild and Dragon Quest Builders 2 are also great recommendations from above on the Switch - BotW is mostly about mashing buttons and those buttons are generally very good at deciding based on context what you're trying to do. It allows for a lot of different play styles and is gorgeous. Plus, if you get or make some NFC amiibo cards, then you can get a lot of extra crafting materials and good gear, plus Wolf Link who can help with battles.

If you weren't looking for specifically fantasy settings, then I'd also recommend the following PC games, as my husband and I both really enjoy these kinds of games:

- Red Faction Guerilla Re-Mars-tered
- Saints Row games starting with Saints Row 2
posted by bookdragoness at 9:52 AM on October 4, 2021

Response by poster: So thanks to the suggestions here I have gotten past the beginning of Skyrim using a cheat to not burn to death (and for lockpicking because I broke a dozen lockpicks on the easiest lock and gave up). I put on a mod to make the map more clear which is a vast improvement for me visually. I've kind of been playing that rather than replying here :)

I also deleted Witcher from my Steam cart, I was pretty sure I would not like it and you all have ratified that. Sounds like Divinity Original Sin 2 has the same dark feel that I want to avoid.

I'm still not willing to try mulitplayer, if I did I might try LOTR online or something, but I can't get past the anxiety that people would be rude/weird/condescending at me like when I tried Everquest and WOW. I barely manage playing tabletop with other people sometimes, and I've known those people for decades.

Stardew Valley was a bit eh for me. I tried it back when some of my friends were realy excited about it, and I just couldn't get my suspenders of disbelief buckled in to get that immersive feeling.

I've put some of the other suggestions here on my wishlist and will try them out when I get fed up with Skyrim. Thanks everyone.
posted by buildmyworld at 2:54 PM on October 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

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