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Red Dead Redemption 2 vs. The Witcher 3: Which Is the Better Open World Game?

Image Source: Rockstar Games and CD Project Red

Red Dead Redemption 2 vs. The Witcher 3: Which Is the Better Open World Game?

Two of the vastest open worlds go head-to-head in this comparison. Two will enter, but only one can leave as the definitive open world experience.

Red Dead Redemption 2 vs. The Witcher 3: Which Is the Open World King?


Combat, Gameplay, The Witcher 3

The focal point of being immersed in an open world is the gameplay behind it, and these two games both manage to do so with deftness and skill. Both have different focuses on gameplay and feel, but they both execute on the feeling that they want the player to identify with. Whether it be in combat, the way that the world interacts with the player, or something that’s as simple as riding a horse down the open road, both games feel exceptional.

Red Dead Redemption 2’s gameplay is all about weightiness and realism. Whether it be the impact of a punch in a drunken brawl, or a bullet breaking through a wooden cart and whizzing by your head, it all feels like a tangible interaction. The game feels less focused on the skill of Arthur Morgan as a fighter or a gunslinger, and more about the luck of the draw. Sometimes, you’ll get jumped on the road by a rival gang and end up dead; other times, you’ll dispatch them, but find yourself close to death, or worse,  find that you’ll have to leave your horse dead on the side of the road. Everything in the world feels real and dangerous to Arthur Morgan, and by that, the player as well.

Traversal in Red Dead Redemption 2 is largely the same. Arthur is a heavy character that takes time to get moving in any given direction. It can be frustrating, because it gets to feeling like he just isn’t responding to inputs, but it has more to do with giving the character realism in his movement, than simply having shoddy control. Similarly, Arthur’s horse is not a race car that can turn on a dime. It takes time to get the horse moving, both in terms of speed and direction. It might be more realistic, but the game just does not feel particularly game-y in any facet of gameplay.

The Witcher 3 feels particularly different, by comparison. Geralt moves swiftly in combat making it feel less plodding and dangerous, and more like he can skillfully dispatch any typical opponents ahead of him rather handily. Fights with some of the contract monsters require preparation and can prove to be dangerous, but in moment to moment gameplay, the player should have little to no concerns with most monsters and men they come across in the world. Combat feels robust and each button tap has a direct and clear outcome.

Traversal is similar as well. The player should find little issue with getting Geralt to move around the world, whether that be on foot or on his trusty steed, Roach. You’re just a button press or the flick of a stick away from getting Geralt or Roach moving the way you want them to, and he game itself has no concern with trying to make it feel real. Moving faster on horseback or on foot is just a matter of holding a button and managing a stamina gauge. The gameplay of The Witcher 3 benefits from the lesser focus on realism, and it makes controls feels responsive in nearly any situation a player might come across.

Winner: The Witcher 3

Red Dead Redemption 2 vs. The Witcher 3: Which Is the Open World King?


Graphic, Red Dead Redemption 2

Considering the length of time that it took to put out both of these projects, and the depth of the world surrounding the gameplay and story, it should be no surprise that they both excel in terms of visuals. The lighting system and dynamic weather systems across both games give the feeling of a dynamic world that is alive, whether that be in the detail of the skybox, or the quality of textures on a dirt path.

Both games put an emphasis on world building and this is consistent with both the environment and character interactions, ranging from inconsequential NPCs roaming about a town or characters that are relevant to the story.

Where Red Dead Redemption 2 shines most is in its use of facial and motion capture technology and in its lighting system. Every movement taken in the game feels real, and there is very little to no uncanny valley when it comes to facial expressions (thank you, L.A. Noire) or even simpler movements like taking a gun off of your horse or drinking a cup of coffee. The animation is so deftly put together that each character, regardless of importance to the story, come off as real people that react to the world around them properly. Facial expressions are subtle and believable.

The lighting system of Red Dead Redemption 2 is definitely what has left the largest impression on me; there is actually a dynamic level of moonlight. It’s something that has existed in games before it, but this is the first time where night time comes across as feeling truly alive. It accurately captures what night time would be like in the period of the old west, prior to the extreme light pollution we experience in the modern day.

Staying on the topic of environmental fidelity, the draw distance in the game is even more impressive. You can see across valleys and down mountains for what appear to be miles and make out distinct features on the land ahead.

The Witcher 3 proves to be a very visually impressive RPG as well, in both its environmental and character texturing. The dynamic day and night cycles are beautiful and each have their own distinct features to them, including a great lighting system; the environment and draw distance is nearly as impressive as that of Red Dead 2’s, which is incredible for a game that’s more than three years old. It is easy to look ahead and find distinct markers to move to, without marking anything on your map.

Where The Witcher 3 falters is in its moment to moment animation. It suffers from the issue that most RPGs have in that regard. Body motions in dialogue scenes come off as unnatural, with strange hand motions or head tilts, and facial expressions that don’t have a very far range between angry, sad, or happy. Characters don’t come off as real people, but rather just as NPCs there to serve the needs of the player character.

The overall graphical fidelity of The Witcher 3 is of an incredibly high standard considering its age. Booting up the game, you can instantly observe the dynamic movement of grass on open fields or the attention to detail put into texturing. However, comparing the dynamics of NPC interactions and quality of design, along with the details in character animations, gives Red Dead Redemption 2 the advantage.

Winner: Red Dead Redemption 2

Red Dead Redemption 2 vs. The Witcher 3: Which Is the Open World King?


Red Dead Redemption 2, Story, Cutscene

Both games feature malleable main characters, to some degree. Arthur Morgan is unquestionably a bad man that had made poor decisions in his past, but how bad he is, and how much he has learned from those decisions, is at the discretion of the players and how they choose to play him.

Similarly, Geralt is an antihero, though not necessarily as bad of a person as Arthur is in general, you can easily push him into the direction of being at that level. Both games tell the stories of flawed people doing their best in situations that go beyond their ability to handle.

Red Dead Redemption 2 tells the story of outlaws being pushed out of life in the wild west, in favor of having a more uniform life controlled by laws and law enforcement groups. The gang’s way of life is being destroyed, and a compelling story is told about having to come to terms with a world that no longer has a place for people like him and the other members of Dutch’s gang.

Arthur Morgan realizes this and has mostly come to terms with the fact that the decisions he’s made in his life have led him to these moments, yet he chooses to continue with it either in an effort to protect those around him from that realization, or to protect himself from having to properly face his failings. It’s a nuanced story that is easily understood and supported by the many side missions and sub plots in the world surrounding it.

The Witcher 3 tells a story of fatherhood (a popular theme among games as of late). Geralt is on the hunt for his adopted daughter, Ciri, in an effort to protect her from her supposed fate. It is an epic quest that spans many different regions and environments across the world of The Witcher universe. There’s a compelling story here about caring for and taking in someone to be your own regardless of blood ties.

However, the essence of that story often gets obscured by the world surrounding the game; there is simply too much to do that has nothing to do with the quest to find Ciri. It causes the player to neglect the main story and lose the meaning behind what they’re doing at times. It’s a strong story when you’re on the trails of it, but it quickly loses steam when going off into one of the many side quests or jumping into one of the expansions that the game has now.

Red Dead Redemption 2 manages to strike a balance between its side missions and main stories, because the story is about the changing state of the world itself. On a micro level it does focus on Dutch’s gang, but everything you observe and learn in the side missions is easily applicable into the grander story of what’s happening to the wild west during this era. The same just can’t be said about The Witcher 3. It can feel more like a season of a shippuden anime with a bunch of filler episodes, whereas Red Dead Redemption 2 feels more like Band of Brothers, where the story and all of its subplots are all leading in one direction with a common thread between them all.

For those reasons, Red Dead Redemption 2 manages to edge out The Witcher 3, in terms of story.

Winner: Red Dead Redemption 2

Red Dead Redemption 2 vs. The Witcher 3: Which Is the Open World King?

Who Wins?

Red Dead Redemption 2, download size, file size, install size, how big, gameplay trailer

The Witcher 3 is one of the finest open world experiences available in games, and it is unequivocally one of the greatest open world RPGs of all time. That’s why it’s such a great feat for Rockstar to have delivered on a level that it seems easy to say that they created the best open world experience available in video games. Rockstar Games has managed to do something truly special, in creating an open world environment, that doubles as a supporting character to the story of Red Dead Redemption 2.

This isn’t to say that Red Dead Redemption 2 will be the superior open world game for everyone. There are plenty of people that have expressed concerns over the pacing of gameplay and the greater focus on realism over convenience. By no means is it a perfect video game, but it also isn’t meant to be.

A game like Red Dead Redemption 2 offers you the ability to experience something. Rockstar games made it their mission to create the ultimate experience regarding a romanticized period of time in American history from a unique perspective; the perspective being from those whose way of life is becoming a relic of the past.

Red Dead Redemption 2 just might be the riskiest AAA, big budget title that video games have seen in a long time. Those risks proved to pay off in dividends now, and it’s probably one of the primary reasons why it’s received perfect scores from so many outlets, including our own.

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