I had such high hopes for our relationship, Witcher 2. Everything I heard about you got me really excited for our time together. Reviews of the PC version made you sound like the best thing since Knights of the Old Republic: a choice based game in a huge, intricate world with solid combat, multiple ways to approach every battle, and a story that shoves its foot up the ass of traditional gaming narratives. With this knowledge in hand, I rushed out and purchased you the week your console version was released.
Things started out ok. You weren’t perfect–so few of your kind are–but I saw a lot of potential in the gameplay, story, and characters. If I just gave you a chance, I thought, you’d eventually do something great, something to justify your excellent reputation and make me forget all those other games.
Our Facebook relationship status quickly degenerated from “In a relationship” to “It’s complicated” and finally to “we’re fucking done.” My timeline quickly filled with the kind of emo, passive aggressive status updates everyone knows and loves. A sampling:
- “Quicktime’s only good for watching movies on your computer.” Though The Witcher 2′s combat was fluid and logical and interesting, the developers just couldn’t leave well enough alone: they quicktimed the shit out of this game. Fist fights, which easily could’ve been performed using the existing combat mechanics, degenerated into boring, ridiculously easy games of Simon. Killing a giant tentacled boss involved climbing onto one of its prone appendages and repeating the buttons flashed on the screen so you don’t fall off until it’s time to jump. And don’t even get me started on the instances where you use your magic by tapping a button repeatedly rather than just casting it the way you always do everywhere else in the game. Quicktime events need to die a fiery, painful death.
- “I’ve got nothing to hide. I wear my heart on my sleeve. Why do some people insist on making me feel like a sneaky bastard even when everyone knows I’m not?” You know what other gaming trope needs to be involved in a horrific bus crash? Stealth sequences that automatically kill you when you fail. The worst offenders are those that occur right after your character took out a few dozen enemies by himself without breaking a sweat–just like the Witcher 2 does late in its second act, when our hero is dispatched to infiltrate an enemy camp. The player spends the entirety of the game beating up groups of guys by himself, but get caught by one guard and it’s all over. This is stupid.
- “Some people make everything too complicated.” I had high hopes for the story. It started interestingly enough, with the main character, Geralt of Rivia, locked in a dungeon for a kingslaying he didn’t commit. The other main characters are memorable and fun to talk to. As events progressed, I found myself hopelessly lost. Who the fuck is this other king? Why is Roche helping me after I ran off with his enemies, especially when I’m trying to save the only commander who might be able to save the city his side is about to attack? What the hell is this other crap about the Geralt’s history that seemingly has nothing to do with what’s going on? There were also several occasions when the onscreen narrative didn’t provide certain information and I found myself having to dig through the (admittedly impressive) encyclopedia of quests and characters. Confusing me with a narrative is no small feat; I can explain all six Dune books and the entire Game of Thrones series to you in infinite detail. But the Witcher 2 makes Final Fantasy XIII’s story seem like light, sensible reading in comparison.
- “Why can’t I find what I’m looking for?” The map is one of the worst I’ve had the displeasure of using, especially in areas with multiple levels. Objective markers aren’t placed accurately, and it’s often hard to figure out how to get from Point A to Point B. There is no excuse for this.
I’m sorry, The Witcher 2, but we’re done. Maybe I went in expecting too much. You’ve got a lot of potential; you just need to harness it and turn it into something coherent, something that doesn’t try so hard to go in so many different directions. If you’ve got a younger sister coming along, hopefully she’s paying attention and won’t repeat your mistakes.