Thursday, June 21, 2012

But I just did this for eight hours

I have started the first Witcher at least three time, the last one only a few weeks ago just to see how well it would run on my new, untapped video card. The first two attempts ended with broken quests that annoyed me right back into the arms of console RPG's, and even though I found that it runs quite well now and has been patched from stem to stern I just haven't been able to make the time to get back to it. This made it difficult to start Witcher 2 a few nights ago, and the game made no apologies for not hand holding the uninitiated. I know who Geralt and Triss are, and I think I remember the dwarf, but who the hell is this bard named Dandelion and why can't I kill him?

The tutorial does indeed pass judgement on the players ability, suggesting the appropriate difficulty level based on how many bad guys are killed before Geralt is overwhelmed.  I killed three, then died horribly, so decided it would be in my best interest to allow the game to mock me into playing on easy. There is so much to the combat, from two main weapons to daggers to mines to traps to six different spells to buffing your weapons to drinking potions before the fight even starts, that I was admittedly overwhelmed myself. Too many options, too soon, so I died. Playing it on easy has certainly made what would have been a very frustrating experience much more enjoyable, and I still managed to die last night because I don't understand the difference between blocking and parrying.

This is not a console game. No concessions were made in its transition from the mouse and keyboard to my controller, which leads to a few unfortunate fights between the PC user interface and my weary thumbs. There is a lot of shit to wade through in the menus, all of which looks to be very easy with a pointing device. On on controller I need to juggle between screens using the triggers and bumpers, which makes checking the map for a quest marker after changing weapons an arduous task. Not that most of the quests even have markers. They are content with a line or two of instruction and a pat on the back. 'You'll do fine,' they say, 'what you are looking for is out there, somewhere. Just don't get killed on the way.'

It certainly has it's own feel: dark, lurid, morally ambiguous. Sounds like Game of Thrones, I suppose, but this games is actually good and embraces the supernatural. There was a dragon in the prologue, and while I never fought him his return is all but guaranteed. I also ran into a drunken troll who stopped collecting a toll to cross his bridge in lieu of pestering travelers for vodka. He was depressed because his mate was gone; I found her head on a collectors wall. Even this little side quests had at least two ways to turn out: I could have killed him or killed his mate's poachers and saved him from the demon drink.

I saved him, because a drunken troll is not something that I have seen before.

While I am enjoying it, I can definitely understand why Chance did not make it to the end. Witcher 2 is work. Quests are not always explained very well and do not ever resolve as one would expect them to. Combat is not easy even on easy. There are quite a few characters to keep track of and who is on your side is also never clear. I do have a feeling that it will be worth the effort, but maintaining my focus of this kind of game for a long period of time is not easy.

Especially when I bought Magic 2013 last night. The old addiction to paper crack returns.

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