In the two and a half years since it was released, The Witcher 3 has received hundreds of mods from enthusiastic fans. Some were silly, others were deadly serious, but the latest is a litany of unofficial improvements done as a side project by one of the game’s original developers.
Andrzej Kwiatkowski, a Senior Gameplay Designer at CD Projekt Red who worked on The Witcher 3 and is now helping to design Cyberpunk 2077, somehow also found time to release the “Immersion and Gameplay Tweaks” mod for the former earlier this week. It might not sound that sexy, and the things it changes are pretty granular, but anyone who’s played The Witcher 3 knows how much it relies on getting the nuances right to keep its finely-tuned world alive and engrossing.
One of the more clear-cut changes the mod introduces has to do with how non-playable characters react when Geralt steals something. The game’s world is rife with food, booze, and little trinkets just sitting around for the player to nick, usually in plain view of other people. In the original game, people just go about their business, but Kwiatkowski’s mod adds a bunch of NPC reactions that differ depending on the circumstances surrounding the theft.
If the people around are in the middle of a task like talking to someone else or tending to a merchant stall, they’re more likely to ignore you. Others passing by might call you out, while a few will occasionally get intimidated and cower in fear, or even run away. The best part, though, is how local custom augments this behavior: The people of Novigrad reacting the most to a thieving Geralt, while the guards in Toussaint won’t even blink an eye.
Kwiatkowski’s mod also re-balances the game’s weapons and skill trees, reducing the effectiveness of certain alchemy play-styles (in some builds you can buff Geralt with potions to the point of being nearly invincible, despite slowly losing health from having nearly reached max toxicity). As an example of just one of the eight detailed sections in the mod notes, this is what the tweaks to character progression look like:
• Decreased skills max levels (most had 5, now 3) and adjusted stats to retain the same balance. Utility skills like slowdown on aiming now have only 1 level.
• Nerfed Acquired Tolerance skill to grant 0.5 Toxicity point per level to prevent safe activation of more than 3 decoctions at the same time in end game.
• Quen doesn’t remove damage over time effects on cast, instead it protects player while DoTs consume the shield. Resistances on armors should matter more now.
• Reduced healing from damage on alternate Quen from 100% of received damage to 0.1 * damage * Spell Power. This mechanic was clearly overpowered and made player nearly immortal.
• Decreased toxicity overdose damage threshold from 75 to 50. That was the initial original idea for toxicity handling encouraging player to take risk and correctly time potion use.
• Equalized out of combat and combat toxicity drop rate (used to be twice as fast).
• Crippling Strikes skill: Deals regular bleeding effect damage that cannot go below the dmg value specified in skill description. Also effect duration was increased from 5 to 10 seconds to match the duration of regular bleeding. General idea is that effect originating from skill shouldn’t be weaker than bleeding from item.
• Adrenaline Rush mutation: When at maximum Vitality, Adrenaline Points drop after 4s delay. Introduced new potential skill combos and play styles instead of another percentage damage buff.
• Deadly Counter mutation: A counterattack immediately triggers a finisher with a chance based on the number of Adrenaline Points. Opponents immune to counterattacks are not affected. Used to work only on opponents below 25% health.
• Toxic Blood mutation: doubled the returned damage value (3% per toxicity point, was 1.5%) to compensate for reducing maximum achievable toxicity.
There are some other neat changes as well. Enemies fall quicker from the sky when killed and also take more damage when they hit the ground if still alive. The guards stationed outside particular buildings or key characters’ houses have been changed. Originally, guards who only attacked you when provoked were pretty much impossible to kill, but the Immersion mod debuffs them to be more in-line with the player because, and I quote the mod notes, “a random guard shouldn’t pose a threat to [a] legendary witcher.”
As the title of Kwiatkowski’s project suggests, the aim is to alleviate any small wrinkles still left in the game that have the potential to take the player out of the experience. He did something similar for The Witcher 2. His mod “Full Combat Rebalance 2” came out in 2013, shortly after Kwiatkowski had joined CD Projekt Red, with a similarly extensive list of tiny changes. While the studio announced it has no plans for a Witcher 4, and has no plans for further updates to The Witcher 3 outside of the game’s recent 4K update for the Xbox One X, it seems Kwiatkowski’s didn’t get the memo.