I had a fight with a hag in a park yesterday afternoon and no one seemed to notice. I had a fight with a griffin the size of a bus stop too, coincidentally right next to a bus stop. Did the people on the bus care? No they didn't. I fought ghouls and wyverns and there was even a horse's head on the pavement for a while. Somewhat amusingly, none of this looked particularly out of place in Brighton.
I'm playing the brand new Witcher mobile game, The Witcher - Monster Slayer. It's the game that's a bit like Pokémon Go and uses real-world map data to populate your local area with monsters for you to fight. You are a witcher after all (I'm actually a trained witcher but that's another story entirely).
It's not bad. A lot of effort has clearly gone in. Characters are voiced and there are illustrated cut-scenes. There are a few dialogue choices, there's limited character creation and customisation through skill trees. There's crafting and equipment to upgrade. The hallmarks of a witcher RPG are here. And seeing the monsters of that universe standing right in front of you, using the game's augmented reality mode, is endlessly cool. You get a real sense of their size.
It's not the most comfortable way to fight them, though, because you have to hold your phone up towards where they would be stood in real-life, and sometimes they're so big they obscure their own health bar, which signals when they're about to attack - something you have to pay close attention to in order to parry perfectly and negate their damage. You also look a bit stupid holding your phone up when people walk by.
In non-AR mode, you see the monsters in a Witcher world, and are able to fight with the phone in a more natural tilted-down position, and - anecdotally - the game seems to run smoother. But it's not as fun.
Combat is quite involved. You swipe to hit, either quickly to perform a fast attack (which you can upgrade via the skill tree) or with a bit of a pause for a strong attack (which you can also upgrade). Some enemies are weak to one type, some enemies another. And the more you hit, the more you build a critical gauge, until it triggers an icon which passes across the screen and that you need to press at the right moment to perform a powerful critical hit.
You can also throw bombs and cast Signs (which you can upgrade too). Bombs only require pressing a bomb icon, but Signs require pressing a Sign icon and then tracing the shape of the Sign on the screen. The Igni fire spell I have requires a V shape, for instance. And these are powerful abilities you will want to use a lot, because enemies in the game are tough. Without them, you will struggle to win.
Don't do what I do and walk 20 minutes across town stalking a griffin for my main quest - a cool idea for a feature, I must admit - only to get there and not be able to kill it. I figured that as my first real quest it would be easily attainable, but after several tries, and much hot afternoon sun later, I gave up.
Maybe it was because I had used all my useful oils and bombs and potions beforehand. These you use before a battle to give you an upper-hand (potions and oils are used automatically when the battle begins). Maybe I needed to level up more. (I tried to find more enemies to fight but they were scattered inefficiently around. I should have made better use of the initial pack of enemies that surrounded my starting area: my flat.) Maybe I shouldn't have been trying to take screenshots at the same time as fighting (I'm an idiot.) Maybe I should get a better phone (I am actually quite surprised it runs at all on a Pixel 1).
As it is, I'm a bit stuck. I've hit an impasse. Devoid of many nearby creatures to fight, and devoid of potions and oils and bombs to use, there isn't much I can do. I can craft, but only one potion or oil at a time, which takes real-world time - anywhere between 10 minutes and an hour. I tried adding a friend in the hope they'd be able to help me with the griffin, but all they can do is send me packs of herbs now and then. Do I really need to grind so soon?
Or do I need to spend? I am reminded about the store almost every battle, which I don't like, but then it is a free-to-play game so what did I expect? I do earn money in the game I can spend there, but it's never, of course, enough.
It all leaves me in two-minds about The Witcher - Monster Slayer. For me, it got slow quickly. I'm also not sure where the social aspect of the game comes in. I don't see things like Pokémon Gyms or reasons for people to gather in places and meet. I did see a strange tree planted on the map at one point, which apparently attracts creatures, but I had to be level 10 (I am level three) to interact with it. And no one else was there. Possibly I'll dabble with it a bit more, then, but I'm not sure.