The Witcher 2, You and I are Through

the witcher 2

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.

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  • Guest

    the game does stink

  • cmoyano

    lmao at the map comment.  the game doesnt hold your hand at all, its not cod.  quicktime eventS? options, disable difficult QTES.  simple.  Play withcer 1 to understand the story a little better, this is made for a cult group of fans that appreciate every single bit about the game.  it is a masterpiece of its own in this genre and bioware doesnt hold a candle to the choice system witcher 2 offers.  

  • YachtCaptainColby

    An inaccurate destination marker is worse than no destination marker at all.  If it were merely a case of not having my hand held, I wouldn’t complain.  But if someone says they’re going to get you somewhere safely and then leads you into traffic, that’s kind of a problem.

    I was very impressed with the choice system, especially when I started looking through the little guidebook that came with the game.  My problem is more with what I had to go through to get to those choices.

    I think there’s a good game buried in there somewhere.  I just don’t have the patience to dig through all the cruft to get to it.

  • Guest.

    Some people are just use to the softcore rpg’s they have been fed over the years. Sorry it’s not as easy as Skyrim, ME, or any other so called “RPG” that has plauged this gen. Sounds like a you problem, not the game’s problem.

  • YachtCaptainColby

    When it comes to gameplay, it’s not the combat I don’t like.  It’s the half-assed quicktime events and terribly implemented stealth.  I’m not happy with the current state of the genre, which was one of the reasons I was so excited to play The Witcher 2.  Sadly, there are just so many irritating things about it that I can’t get into it.

  • Dave Hundley

    It’s not at all confusing if you pay attention.

  • Nathan Ortega

    Eastern European games have been notorious for having quirky design decisions, unforgiving difficulty, and generally big ideas marred by issues due to small development teams/budgets.  Gotta adjust your expectations accordingly to give it a fair shot.  They can’t all be AAA high profile games with tons of QA time, sadly.  I guess if you’re going to hold them accountable for something it would be being too ambitious compared to their limited resources.

  • PrisonerofIce

    I don’t get your rage over the QTEs. Yeah, they’re far from best thing ever, but it’s not like they show up every fight (or even 1 in 100 fights) and you can disable most of them anyway. Agree about the map but again, it’s hardly a gamebreaking problem especially since you’re given a quest guide with the game.  “The other story” is a secondary plot that evolved from the books the game was based on. I can understand how it might be confusing to a newcomer but I guess that’s just the price of entering an estabilished franchise in the middle – gotta read the journal more carefully than you normally would. I think it all comes down to patience. Witcher 2 has possibly the most convoluted, multilayered plot ever. And I don’t mean overcomplicated. It’s all very logical. In fact one fan who happens to have a degree in political science made a careful analysis of the game’s politics and he claims it’s actually all pretty viable and consistent with the real historical processes. It does take quite a while to untangle all the conspiracies within conspiracies though.You might have nothing to hide, but pretty much everyone else does. You only fully get to grasp what happened after at least 2 playthroughs with different choices made. Personally I found it a lot of fun. If you didn’t, maybe the game’s just not for you. Judging by the reviews, the problem (if there is one to begin with) is on your side rather than the game’s. If the devs made the game more to your liking, they’d probably disappoint many other gamers. Well, maybe except the map :)

  • Ar2r-m

    Well I suppose you can’t please everyone… :) But I would like to address yours complains about the story.
    1. Yes. the “other crap about Geralt’s history” has nothing to do with what’s going on. The problem with  Witcher 2 is that it’s not only a sequel to first game (obviously), but that both games are actually a fan fiction continuation of a long-ass book series (with 5 years gap between end of the last novel and beginning of witcher 1). Whole sub-plot about Geralt’s memories just connects books with games and it seems that it’s going to be important for third game. It’s a bonus for me, as a fan of  witcher book series. but I can see that it’s a major flaw for people like you who haven’t read them. Especially since  you can’t read most of them, unless you know original Polish 😉 (or German, Russian, French, Spanish or other language in which complete translation is available)

    2. Where did you get the impression that Kedwen is Roche’s side? He hangs around Kedweni camp because Henselt of Kedwen is next on king-slayers list and he wants to get them and whoever send them, he is not Henselt’s subject or soldier nor he care about his victory. Actually he would rather see his defeat, but that is clearer in Roche’s path.

  • YachtCaptainColby

    I can see that.  The problem is that I have so little time (and money) for gaming nowadays.  I feel like I have to make every minute count.  If a game’s irritating me with imperfections, I’m going to look elsewhere.  Unfair?  Maybe.  But that’s the way I approach gaming, and I feel like I’m not the only one.

  • YachtCaptainColby

    1.  I’ll have to brush up on my Polish.  :)  Geralt’s history just felt kind of tacked on, and the events that triggered the return of his memory didn’t seem big enough to do so.  In most cases it was just the mention of a place.  If that’s all it takes, why not just look at a map?

    2.  I took Iorveth’s path, so Roche’s story wasn’t very clear.  I saw him camped outside the walls of the Kedweni fort.  And then he walked right into Kedweni camp and rallied a few of their troops on the auspices that the Nilfgaardians were beating up his men.  I never heard him say he hadn’t allied with Henselt, so I assumed he had based on the above.  

  • YachtCaptainColby

    I feel like QTE’s detract from overall gameplay.  Why am I fist fighting via QTE when the game’s all ready got an excellent combat system which could handle that?  Why am I tapping A repeatedly to cast Axii on a camp cook in this one situation when I just select it and cast it with X pretty much everywhere else in the game?  QTE’s are unnecessary.  Now that I know I can disable them (I never expected game developers to include such an option), I might try again.  Can I disable the terrible stealth, too?

    I enjoyed the combat.  It was smooth and logical, and adding oils and potions made it pretty deep.  But the parts in between…that’s where I thought the Witcher 2 failed.

  • YachtCaptainColby

    Stopping to take a piss break during every cutscene probably didn’t help.

  • Ar2r-m

    I said that Roche’s relation to Henselt is clearer in Roche side, but it was clear to me that he is not actually serving him even in my first playthrough, when I took Iorveth’s path to. Well, maybe that’s because I talked to Roche before making decision.

    If I remember correctly the Kedweni soldier that Roche spokes to is at first like “What do you wont here Temerian?” and changes his attitude after hearing the magic world “Nilfgardians”. Hatred towards Nilgardians is the only thing uniting people from Northern Kingdoms. If you got to the camp through brothel you could hear Kedweni soldiers complying about camping with “Black Ones” and their king making some dealings with them. 

    BTW in journal (locations section) you have information that Roche camped outside main Kedweni fort because Henselt don’t trusts/respects him enough to let him and his men inside.

  • Todd_byan

     The story is interesting and deep. I found the quicktime events just added some variety and slowed down the end of the battle.

    Who cares if they make you sneak around once or twice in a game. Have you ever played splinter cell. Most annoying games ever.