Monday, June 25, 2012

Don't look down

It is difficult to pick out individual events from Witcher 2 to talk about. The narrative is so densely packed that quests flow into one another. This keeps day to day play from feeling like working on a checklist, but it makes it much harder to tell amusing stories about what happens, and the games lacks the random, open ended nonsense from Skyrim that turned an evenings work into the next days conversation around the water cooler. There are choices in Witcher 2, but they are limited, so they way I handled the succubus is the same way about half the other people who got that far 'handled' her.

For the record, I thought she was innocent, but I couldn't find any evidence, so I killed her anyway. Besides, her goat legs were a huge turn off.

Garelt, in spite of loving Triss, takes full advantage of both his sterility and immunity to middle aged STD's. The number of conquests has been brought down from the first game, and you no longer collect naughty cards as a reward, but Garelt still gets more in one game than Kratos did in five. I am not going to get into any sort of discussion about the treatment of women in video games; much smarter and more eloquent men than I have taken up that gauntlet. I will say that the deed is displayed in a much more detailed (read: graphic) way than other (in)famous video game sex scenes. This is neither good nor bad, it just is. Witcher 2 gets away with an awful lot, up to and including full frontal female nudity, and I am just curious as to when the line was moved, and whose idea it was to move it south.

(This is not the first game to do so. The devil's undulating schlong from Dante's Inferno would like to say hello. Triss is just a little nicer to look at.)

Back to the actual game, Witcher 2 strengthens my belief that level caps are a symptom of lazy design. Garelt levels quickly, sometimes jumping two levels at a time, but his growth is capped at level 35. This is not a meaningless number: he only gets ones ability per level to use and there are well over 35 choices to make. There is also no way to re-spec after points have been allocated, so if you make a bad choice you are stuck with it. Witcher 2 is not the only game to do this recently; Kingdoms of Amalur made the same choice, but that level cap was so low that I hit it four hours before the game was done.

Most likely this is done to preserve balance and maintain challenge through the end game, but at the same time it does this it punishes people with the patience to max out their character. If I want Garelt to have all the abilities and have the free time to kill monsters until he gets there, let me. Instead what I get is a character that stops developing before the game is done.

Playing on easy doesn't help this, as combat stopped being challenging in the middle of the first chapter. I could bump it up to medium, but honestly, I am scared. My Garelt has gotten away with not using his alchemy or sign skills. He just wades into battle swinging his swords, having success using one third of his combat options. Force me to use the other two thirds and the results would look much like my Virtua Fighter 5 play.

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