Friday, 8 February 2013

The Witcher Is a B*tcher

With the third installment of the Witcher video game series being announced in the most teasing of all teasing trailers ever, Steam decided to put up the first two games for sale. I have bought and successfully played through the first Witcher game after seeing a highly entertaining Let's Play of it done by Veriax, but restrained from getting the second one straightaway after its release, mostly due to the high price but also because I was afraid my PC couldn't handle it.
However, 10 € for a two-year-old video game is not too shabby, so I bought the second adventure of Geralt in hopes of a dark and believable setting, mature characters and decisions that will influence the storyline. All these features made 'The Witcher' to one of the few RPGs other than the Gothic series that I truly enjoyed and had high hopes for the second one.

I'm not very far into the second game now but can already tell you that it is one of the toughest games I have ever played. Sure, it is fun and all, but despite the fact that I already played through its predecessor, I decided to go through the (very badly designed) tutorial with the result of me getting my buttocks kicked and the game advising me to go for 'difficulty level: easy' with a condescending digital smile. 'Easy' of course means 'noob', so I went for 'normal', which turned out to be a bad decision.
The game heavily relies on preparations for a fight, inexplicably forbidding players to drink potions while they are in a combat area. That means even if you manage to run away from the mob that almost killed you, you cannot save your sorry skin, because the game thinks it's not safe to drink a potion before you killed everyone around. Now potions can only be drunk while meditating. So please take the time to find a secure area, sit down in the mud, meditate for a bit, empty a bottle of your choice and then get back up again. Is there an easier solution to quenching your thirst? I don't think so.
But it's not just that. They overhauled the entire combat system as well as any interface in the game, Geralt's looks and every single voice actor I encountered so far. Geralt is invincible during the tutorial, but died at least TWO DOZEN TIMES in the prologue alone before I figured out that bunny-hopping is indeed a proper solution here. Now, that's all fine and well. I prefer challenging games over dumbed-down ones and like to feel rewarded when I finally get the hang of it... but 'The Witcher 2' doesn't reward you. Once you think you figured out how fights work, it throws you into a completely different scenario. For example a dragon attack right at the beginning of the game. Or a fist fight, which requires you to ignore anything you learned about the combat so far and press some random buttons as soon as they pop up on the screen. The term for this is 'Quick Time Event' and right after ladders, bugs and Adam Sandler, this is one of my personal archenemies. They even implemented it in some of the dialogues, making it impossible to actually read through all the available options before time is running out. 
Speaking of different buttons for different actions would suggest that this game was released for PC first, but it rather feels like a console import. Geralt might be the toughest witcher in the kingdom, but he simply cannot jump. Climbing is only possible in a very few, pre-designed spots with the advice to 'jump' or 'climb down' popping up whenever one gets close. Geralt can magically run on the spot at the edge of any cliff without the risk of falling off, but will never be able to commit suicide this way. Ah, well, he could just swallow some potions and intoxicate himself. But only if he finds a secure spot to sit down and meditate at.

Now, despite all my hatred against the difficulty level of this game, I quite enjoyed it so far and will definitely continue playing it. I just hope that they didn't get rid of the infamous girls cards from the first game...

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