Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Witcher 2: Enhanced Edition (2012)

I am a big fan of the Witcher series (opening  & closing remarks) though I've not read the books or might not have nerded all over myself during my time with the first installment.  If that's the case then why do I call myself a "fan" of the games?  Because after playing through Witcher I still talk and think about it.  I recommend it to people.  I don't proselytize but I definitely talk the game up a bit.

When I found out that The Witcher 2: Enhanced Edition was coming to XBOX 360 I clapped my hands like a fat kid finding out he was having cake for dinner.  I still haven't gotten my PC up to the required specs for a game like Witcher 2 and looking back at my old posts (and in the interim playing other PC action games) I've realized that I kind of suck at using a mouse and keyboard for action games - thirty years of console controllers vs a few years of mouse and keyboard training, you figure out my handicap.

This is a first impressions post/review and, following a marathon gaming session yesterday, I'm roughly twenty-five-ish hours into the game (possibly near the end of Chapter One).  I'm going to try a list review with call and response rather than the standard pros and cons layout.

  • Graphics/Load Times/Basics
    • I couldn't have run W2 on my PC, or perhaps I could have but it would have been like trying to run the Iditarod with kittens.  On the 360 the game runs pretty smoothly.  I've noticed a few moments of tearing and voice synch has been off here and there.  In the area I'm currently quest/grinding in though the game looks and runs excellently.  There have been a few moments where there's been pop-in but those are rare (at best).  
    • Load times are damned quick (enough for one swig of beer before moving on to the next area) especially in comparison to Skyrim (or any Bethesda game).
    • I love that not every piece of crap is pick-up-able.  If you can use it or it's worth picking up you can loot it.  There's no, "I just picked up a plate that's worth fuck-all.  Wheeee!"
  • Sound & Score
    • Sound is solid, Dolby DTS, though I'll have to tweak my settings a bit.  Ambient sounds are well done, combat is crunchy, and dialogue is well channeled.  A downside is I wish there was a way to turn down Geralt's footsteps.  He stomps/sloshes/squishes around with no grace.  He doesn't need to be some kind of sissy stepping knife ears but there are times his walking sounds like a fat lady jumping in a kiddie pool of oatmeal.
    • Adam Skorupa and  Krzysztof Wierzynkiewicz worked on the score and it is fucking brilliant.  "Assassins of Kings" is a good example - opening theme is much better.  Skyrim does have a "better" score (e.g. "Opening Theme") but in all honesty I prefer W2's score.
      • That being said, the edition I was given had a cracked soundtrack CD otherwise I would be listening to it as I wrote this.
  • Combat/Magic/Alchemy/Traps
    • Combat is as smooth as fucking silk, especially since I unlocked a couple of basic swordsman skills (riposte & dodge distance).  You're going to face quite a few mobs in combat who will tear you apart if you don't manage to dictate the flow of combat in one of several ways.  You can spam attacks on some opponents but at my low level of skills right now even lumpen bandits will house me if I get swamped.  Higher level enemies require a combination of reflexes and skills (especially if you're playing on Hard) and it's easy to get caught with your pants down if you're just derpin around (I was looking to complete a side quest and just doing a bit of grindy grind and this beastie just knocked my dick in the dirt as I lifted up my skirts and ran shrieking).
    • Magic is often one of the weakest links in games for me since I tend to take Conan's corner on spellcasters.  Geralt is a different animal than Conan though and magic - like his bladecraft and penchant for alchemy - is another tool for putting a whompin on foes.  You start off with all the spells unlocked - albeit at base level - and can only be used sparingly.  I'm sure magic gets more wicked awesome if you level it up but for my needs I just need stun.
    • Alchemy.  Mmmmmmmmm...alchemy.  Crafting bombs, combat drugs, poisons, and weapon enhancements.  This is my kind of magic, good old fashioned grenades with AoE.  My favorite so far is the Red Haze - a grenade which releases psychotropic gas thus causing enemies to attack one another.  
    • Traps, dirty dirty traps.  Combined with grenades and lures these can be brutal.  However, you can easily slaughter yourself since the traps can affect Geralt as well (I thought I was being all slick and bushwackery and a gribbly set off a combustion trap I got trapped in, then I burned to death).  Also you can't just spam traps and kite, foes have a limited engagement range (for the most part).
  • Story and stuff
    • W2 is a direct sequel to The Witcher but if you didn't play the first game then it's okay, W2 catches you up pretty quick.  The downside to just picking up this game without playing the first is the joy of meeting old characters again and there are a lot of inside jokes, quips, and asides which you'll just miss if you jump right into W2.
    • I also wish there was a way to bridge my experience in the first game to this - a la Mass Effect.  One of the great things about ME2 (I haven't and probably won't play the third installment of that series) was the continuity of choices made in an earlier game.  That being said, in W2 I'm very conscious of my actions because I know repercussions can come sooner and later.  
      • Consequences are (one of the elements) that set both games apart from other RPGs.  More accurately put, there is no way to gauge consequences.  It's not some simple BioWare be a dick or a nice guy choice.  If you try to work the middle ground some  NPCs will fuck with you.  In most (if I have the choice) RPGs I'm Yojimbo,  Playing this way has made W2 more difficult for me (especially since I'm not save/quit/reloading conversations).  There's an impending conversation I've put off for now because I want to think about how I'm going to play it.  I know things are going to come out badly either way I play the hand dealt but I feel I need to be careful.
    • While you can just pick up and play W2 I wholeheartedly suggest picking up The Witcher.  Yes, it's only available on PC but if my piece of crap jerry-rigged machine can play it then I'm sure yours can as well.  If not, W2 does do the back story justice.  I guess.
  • Misc. and a warning or two
    • Misc
      • If you're looking for Bethesda free-roam randomness then, sorry, W2 does not have that.  The exploration areas are bigger than they were in The Witcher but paths and areas are still limited (along the lines of Dragon Age: Origins but not the piece of shit sequel).  Some of the paths (in the area I'm in) double back on themselves and it's easy to get turned around and short-bussing.
      • You are limited to 250kg of gear/loot but most everything has some kind of use and junk items are in a junk items folder in inventory control so they are easy to either drop or sell.
      • You can reloot crafting items after a day or two (in game) meaning, you walk into a house and loot the place you can later reenter the place and get more loots.  Stupid NPCs.
      • I know this is common sense to old RPG gamers but talk to all the NPCs.  There aren't glowing doodads above quest givers so it's easy to miss quick XP quests (or in some cases involved XP quests).
        • Downside to some of these random sides so far is that you have to search for the end trigger.  I spent quite a bit of time looking for one woman all over hell and high water until I gave up, ran another mish, and found her by accident.
    • Warnings:
      • W2 is a game for grown-ass folk who don't get sand in their vaginas about adult themes, Hot Coffee, or the term "sand in their vaginas".
      • It is not an easy game, unless you put it on easy but even then that doesn't impact story.  I'm playing on Hard and the combat is brutal.  Even crappy bandits and nekkers can shred me if I'm not on my toes.  Also on Hard, loots and pickups yield less, so I've been  more cautious about spam crafting and using items (aka I has a kajillion grenades and Clawers nerf nerf nerf).
        • Seriously, Hard is hard, at times frustratingly so.  After dying during a side mission for the umpteenth time I almost rage-spiked my controller.
      • If you're looking for some kind of JRPG or KRPG or Dragon Age simulacra then you might just want to avoid W2.  I don't have much respect for Asian RPGs anymore and BioWare and Bethesda just kind of disappoint me.  

I'm not totally in love with W2, I'm not gonna Whedongasm, but it is one of the best console RPGs I've played in quite some time.  I did realize that I'm taking a different approach to most RPGs I play/ed.  I feel like I'm playing a dual role with Geralt, seeing events through his eyes and limitations and not being some sort of omnipotent (bored) player.

We'll see if I feel the same way when the bloom is off the rose.

Greatest Hits

Blog Archive (s) It's like a Wayback Machine!