Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Witcher 2 Early Impressions

I must say, my early impressions of The Witcher 2 weren't really what I expected them to be.  The game is far more different from the original than I expected, I know that there was some talk that they were making changes to help them one day sell a Console version, and they denied that, but it didn't take very long to come to the conclusion that the folks who surmised that were in fact entirely correct.  The changes 'have' to have been made for that reason, because the game is far too different for them to have just decided to make all these changes for no reason.

First, the game plays VERY differently, for starters there is NO mouse cursor!  Of course the cursor was an integral part of what made the original game so great.  In its place is a more conventional, and inferior, system whereby you have to make your character stand in a certain area to see if there's anything there, such as something to pick up.  It is MUCH harder now to find things that you need to pick up, especially the 'alchemy' items, because there's so much (very beautiful) scenery, flowers, bushes, etc. it's very hard to at times to tell whether a certain part contains something you can pick up or not, and you can't click on it from a distance, you have to walk over to it and see if something comes up that says you can pick it up.  That is extremely annoying at first, eventually you get used to it, but obviously it would be better if things had stayed the same from the original, where you can tell from far away what's what, and you can click on it from anywhere to pick it up.

The combat is also radically changed, with no cursor that means the entire TW combat system is right out the window.  The new combat system is very reminiscent of Gothic 3, for those of you who played that.  In fact the game overall has a major Gothic 3 sort of feel, from the combat to the music.  Of course the graphics are much nicer in TW2, which is a major plus, and for their sakes hopefully the fact that it looks so much nicer than G3 will prevent too many comparisons between the two games.  The combat in TW was a combination of action based and turn based, sort of.  It was highly unique stuff, and quite cool.  That has been replaced by a pure hack and slash style combat, which again is extremely similar to Gothic 3's system, but it should be noted that TW2's combat is MUCH harder than G3's, and that's on 'normal' mode!  There are actually two higher level modes, I can't even fathom how difficult they must be.  It is extremely important to save VERY VERY often, because you're probably going to die a WHOLE lot, and it's going to be extremely frustrating.  Minimize that frustration by hitting the F5 button with extreme regularity. 

The single worst change from TW to TW2 is in the extremely bad language.  There's just a tremendous amount of horrible language in TW2, obviously TW had a bit of bad language as well, but nothing remotely like this, its just unfathomably bad.  To give you some idea, I'm still in Chapter 1, and I probably have LITERALLY heard the f word spoken more than 100 times.  Its WAY WAY WAY overboard with the bad language, just no excuse for something like that.  Also, on a more subjective note, you may or may not like the idea of nudity in games, and there is very little of it so far, it's not at all avoidable like in a game like Mass Effect, where you can see the love scene or not.  In the very beginning of the game, your character's girlfriend/wife/whatever (its somewhat undefined) Triss is in bed with the Main Character, and she's naked.  And I do mean naked.  She's very attractive, surprisingly so in fact, but the fact that seeing her au natural isn't at all optional might upset some folks.  Of course a strong case can be made that its a lot like a regular movie in that regard, an argument I would be sympathetic toward personally, but everybody will have their own opinion on that.  The bottom line on this is that TW2 goes WAY out of its way to earn its 'M' rating, completely unnecessarily in the case of the vulgar language, far less extremely in the case of the very brief nudity, but make no mistake, you MUST be 18 or older to play this game.

Back to the graphics, they really are impressive.  TW's graphics were awesome, and TW2's graphics are even moreso.  Such beautiful scenery, and plenty of it.  From the trees and plants and such, to the lifelike people, the VERY well designed monsters, it's truly a feast for the eyes.  On the downside, the main character, who was always a generic and bland looking sort of character, really doesn't look any better at all.  There's still zero customization, not only can you not play as a male or female character, you can't even customize the character's face at all.  The lack of customization options, which are so well done in games like Mass Effect, Fallout, Dragon Age, and Fable, is especially unfortunate since clearly the graphics are so impressive that the character you would design could be a MILLION times better than the one you're stuck with.  But certainly the other characters are very nicely done, whether you're talking about the previously mentioned Triss, or any of the other multitude of characters in the game.  There's tremendous individuality and uniqueness about them, they're so well done.  Hopefully eventually they'll get the message that fans like the ability to create their own character, there is so much potential there, the graphics simply blow other RPGs out of the water, it's time they let us use them to create our own character.

As I mentioned earlier, I'm still in Chapter 1, I've played quite a long time, and I feel like I may be nearing the end of the Chapter, but the story is already pretty interesting.  One thing missing is that I'm still hoping to define my relationship with Triss in some way, obviously she's my character's girlfriend at a minimum, but exactly how close they are isn't something I've really had the chance to figure out or influence at all.  In the original, you had the chance to basicly marry either her or one other woman in the game.  So is she the one your character married by default?  Certanily the other woman, Shani, is nowhere to be seen so far in the sequel, inexplicably so, which makes you wonder what the exact default nature of those relationships truly is.  Also, while I've had no chance to influence my character's relationship with Triss or any other woman in the game, I've also had very little to no opportunity to influence the storyline so far either, something that was a very strong point in the original TW as well, but certainly in that one the major decisions didn't come until later also, so hopefully that will still happen in a big way.

The bottom line right now is that I'm quite impressed in certain ways, unbelievably underwhelmed/disappointed in others, but overall it's been a lot of fun, the storyline is interesting, the combat takes a LOT of getting used to but once you do its at least tolerable, and hopefully it'll only get better and better as the game goes on!  In the meantime, have fun everybody!  I've got some more TW2 to play :) . 

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