In Dying Light, another game I’m catching up on these days, I can make five fire shurikens with a blade, some gauze, and a can of aerosol. So far, the blade and gauze are easy enough to find. But I also need the gauze for medkits, so tough choices must be made. The real bottleneck is the aerosol. I’m constantly on the lookout for aerosol. I’ll even buy it from merchants if they’re selling it. Every time I find an aerosol, I think, hey, now I’ve got five fire shurikens! Conversely, every time I throw a fire shuriken, I think, well, I’m going to need to find more aerosol. This fits well enough with a post-apocalypse. When the world ends, I expect to scavenge. I accept non-renewable resources as a facet of any apocalypse.
After the jump, you gotta spend to earn?
There’s a potion in The Witcher 3 called swallow. It’s important because it heals you in a fight. Normally, you heal by taking the time to eat a meal. This isn’t convenient when you’re fighting. So if a fight isn’t going my way and I’d like to hold out a little longer, I’m going to need to stock up on swallow.
I can brew a potion of swallow with five celandine flowers, a bottle of dwarven spirit, and a drowner’s brain. The celandine flowers are easy enough to come by. The world is lousy with them. What’s more, they’re easy to spot. They look like buttercups. Bright and orange, very visible from a distance. The dwarven spirits aren’t quite so easy to find, but I’ve been lucky enough to loot them from random boxes. I see merchants selling dwarven spirits, so if it comes to that, I can support local economies. The drowner’s brains are the problem. Drowners are blue water goblin sorts of things that appear in groups by the sides of rivers. There are usually about five. If I fight carefully, I can take them. It’s often touch and go. I often have to drink a swallow potion. So I’m using up drowner brains to get drowner brains.
This is the balance videogame economies have to manage. In Dying Light, I use my fire shurikens to fight the battles that happen while I’m trying to get the resources to make more fire shurikens. Maybe I shouldn’t use my shurikens after all. Dying Light has given me a nifty tool, but it sets me back a little every time I use it. It’s the same with The Witcher 3’s nifty oils, bombs, potions, and decoctions.
(A decoction is something that’s made by distilling a substance, whereas a concoction is made my mixing substances. I had to look that up. If nothing else, The Witcher 3 has improved my vocabulary by one word. I still haven’t been able to work it into a normal conversation, but I’m hopeful.)
Of course, if you’ve played The Witcher 3, you know I’m wrong. It took me a while to realize this. I spent most of my time in White Orchard dreading the prospect of farming drowners for something so basic as healing potions. But I noticed my supply of swallow seemed to constantly hover around two potions, even when I thought I’d used them. I have zero swallow potions one moment. Time for drowner brains. Then it’s back at two before I can get around to mixing more. Which I never get around to because for some reason, I can’t see swallow on my potion list anymore.
Wait a minute. Why can’t I see swallow on my potion list anymore?
Because I’ve already brewed it and refills are free! The Witcher 3 is a game that wants me to use my swallow. It wants me to use my thunderbolt, which improves my combat ability. It wants me to coat my blade in specialized oils against specific types of creatures. It wants me to choose among a list of decoctions based on what monsters I’ve killed. It wants me to lob bombs freely. It doesn’t want me to fuss too much with picking flowers, farming drowners, or buying mats. Any game where I find myself using the word “mats” is a game with too much emphasis on crafting.
So in The Witcher 3 — and 2, I seem to recall — once I’ve brewed a potion, mixed an oil, crafted a bomb, or decocted a decoction, my supply will replenish whenever I rest, without having to respend resources. These items, these tools, these buffs and weapons, are more like magic spells than resource sinks. They are a renewable resource with a daily allocation. This is a small shift with a huge impact. When potions are like spells, when alchemy is like magic, when bombs and grenades are essentially on a cooldown timer, I’m going to use them more freely. I’m going to be less concerned with the post-apocalyptic business of scavenging, hoarding, and rationing, and more willing to be a badass monster hunter who leaves the quartermastering to quartermasters. Drink freely, The Witcher 3 says!
Well, almost freely. For potions, I have to spend a bottle of dwarven spirits to refill my supply. Leave it to the dwarves to be greedy little bastards in an economy where everything is free.