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Friday, April 20, 2012

The Witcher 2

7.5 out of 10

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I know I said I was going to review Ninja Gaiden, but I couldn't help pick up a copy of The Witcher 2 when I stopped by the local game store. Full disclosure: I have no idea whatsoever what happened in the first game. I picked this up on a whim, because I'd heard good things.

Right off the gate, I was confused. But not so confused that I couldn't get a vague idea of what was going on in the previous game. These two sentences more than ably sum up the review for anyone who didn't have a chance to play the original: you'll be a little confused, but you should get the general picture. If you're struggling with some small story issues, stop by Wikipedia for a brief rundown.

This lack of backstory made it impossible not to check out the detailed notes in the menu screen, and I found myself constantly going back to it in order to make sure I was getting as much as I could out of the interesting, intriguing story. Because it really is an OK fantasy story! Here's the rundown:

You play Geralt, a witcher who's tasked with hunting monsters. But after a failed assassination attempt on a king, you become drawn into a much bigger story full of intrigue, treason, politics and bloodshed. Geralt is a slightly brooding fellow, but thanks to the dialogue options you can add a little humor to his overall demeanor.

Like any good big-time RPG, your decisions matter. The actions and dialogue you choose have a profound effect on the game, which would be massive even if it had been designed in a more linear fashion. You'll find your side-quests, and your main quests, and you'll get to immerse yourself in this fantasy world just like you would expect in a good, high-end RPG.

Still, I had some qualms. And I'm going to list them here because maybe these won't bother you as much:

  • Your character doesn't move very fluidly. The camera slips behind objects sometimes, and Geralt really doesn't react to your controls incredibly well.
  • Sometimes, if you get too close to NPC's, they keep repeating the same line of dialogue again and again and again. Even if you're engrossed in a mini-game like dice or arm wrestling.
  • The story, like I said, is OK. It's not amazing or anything, and because it's so complex and convoluted, you might find yourself wondering what the fastest path to the end is rather than hanging out and enjoying the world.
  • No sound effects for a lot of the menu effects. This sounds like a small qualm, but when I select “meditate” and nothing happens and there's no sound, I have a tendency to select it again … only it was already loading to begin with! And so I've just pushed a button a second time, which usually takes me to another screen I don't want to be in … see where I'm going here? I need a sound to tell me the command is being carried out!
  • The storytelling gets strange. First, it starts out like Dragon Age II. Then, there are these weird cartoonish cutscenes. Then there's this other dude narrating things. I had a hard time staying grounded.
  • The menu activities are insane. Crafting, alchemy, potions and all that crap are here, and they're complex enough that you might feel overwhelmed and just stick with the tried-and-true process of using whatever sounds cool.
  • The combat is good, but infuriating at times. Not all the time, mind you, but lots of times you'll find yourself getting a little annoyed when you have to take down a bunch of enemies at once. Luckily, you can employ some strategy to deal with these. One strategy I like: fight and run like hell.
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