This week, Zero Punctuation reviews The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings.
Hey, everyone, let's all be PC gamers! Let's all talk on Skype and change our desktop wallpapers and play proper games with mouses and keyboard, where you wait all day for the fucking update to download and then cross your bronzed, muscular PC-gaming fingers that the damn thing will even work. But it's so much purer than console gaming, isn't it? Where you wait all day for the PSN to come back online and then cross your bloated, filth-encrusted console-gaming fingers that your credit card details aren't being hacked by African warlords. Perhaps we have more in common than we think.
Anyway, back about the time the Magna Carta was getting signed, I reviewed a game called The Witcher on PC, but for reasons that have gradually been lost to historians, I didn't play more than a few hours. "How did that happen?" thought I in retrospect. "Why, my unprepared, console-scrubbed mind must have simply been overwhelmed by the richness of the experience, like a starving man binging on praline truffles. I owe it to The Witcher 2 to play it all the way to the end. I don't even remember how I could have been so unprofessional." Then I started playing Witcher 2 and said to myself: "I remember now!"
I will say that I was actually quite surprised by how well the game ran on my laptop (after I put the graphics on the lowest setting, obviously), cause I tried running Brink on the lowest setting and it played like a narcoleptic running a PowerPoint presentation. So I guess that game was poorly optimized on top of being just generally shit. But I digress.
Wurrr, look at me, all PC gaming it up. Seems a bit weird for an action RPG to be PC-exclusive in this day and age when it doesn't contain any real-time strategy or restaurant management minigames, but I can already feel the burgeoning sense of smug superiority.
The Witcher 2 starts out a bit Game of Thrones-y, with white-haired STD-archive-waiting-to-happen Gerald of Rivia suddenly being BFFs with the king after saving him from an assassin, although Gerald's new status as assassin-repellant swiftly takes a severe hit when another assassin shows up and gets the job done properly. Wrongly accused, Gerald goes on the run to pursue the real killer, like The Fugitive but with elves and knobbing. On the way, he'll get caught up in a large conflict that threatens to take the world apart while initiating lots of much smaller conflicts that threaten to just tear his bodkin apart. But that description of the prologue doesn't come anywhere near doing justice to the sheer bloody-minded arduousness of the whole process.
From what I understand to be a nightmarishly long game, The Witcher 2 is strangely stingy with player training, introducing combat in the same way a randy horse introduces his powerful, turgid cock. In practically the very first fight, you're expected to handle a large number of enemy soldiers. You can block, but even once you've gotten the upgrade that lets you block from any angle Gerald just flat-out doesn't block if you started pressing the block key while he was picking his nose or distracted by thoughts of tits. You can dodge, but Gerald's not as young as was and needs a second's notice to do a little roly-poly (which will almost inevitably be straight into another enemy). The magic spells all have really weird names, so you need a fucking glossary to tell if you're flinging a fireball or a magical gender-reassignment surgery. And you have one sword for monsters and one sword for humans, God knows why. One would think the monster sword could pull double-duty, but apparently not. And if you're using the wrong one, then the game laughs at you, like you're eating salad with a dessert fork.
Yes, Gerald was raised properly and checks a lot of his behavior by a strict code of etiquette. It's like going to dinner with the Sultan of Brunei. "Drink a potion in the middle of a battle? What? Perhaps you'd also like a paper bag to put the bottle in! A true gentleman only drinks potions before a battle and only while kneeling with an over-complicated interface and an overlong animation (if there's no wine waiter available)." I guess asking the question of how you're supposed to know a battle is about to happen or what potions would be suitable would just give away my lack of breeding again. It seems a true gentleman also diligently quicksaves.
Amongst the seven hundred subcategories of inventory items you can gather like a bum with a shopping trolley are mutagens and weapon upgrades, but if you ask how you're supposed to equip them, then you're committing a social faux pas again. Why do I even have an inventory screen if double-clicking on every single item makes the game slap you across the wrist and say "No! We do that from a different screen! No, we won't tell you which one! And put on a fucking tie! Where were you raised, Azeroth?"
The writing? Yeah, it's alright. It's dark, like every other fantasy game these days, meaning the people say "fuck" all the time and everyone's a racist asshole. I ran into a sidequest where a bunch of racist asshole humans accuse a willowy elven hottie of leading their friends into a trap, and mindful of the franchise's liberal approach to naked titties I helped clear her name. With the promise of a toot on the old bagpipes, she invited me into a romantic spot in the forest and revealed that she'd been evil all along and I was now going to have more arrows in me than a computer-aided design project. Well, at least it was gratifying to know that it's not just the humans who are complete fuckwits for once. Fortunately, the ensuing mob of ambushing elf warriors got into a fight with the conga line of rampaging monsters that had been pursuing me since the instant I left town, and I was able to sneak off pre-emptive erection dejectedly wilting.
You see, combat's manageable with one or two guys but it gets unfair when you're up against groups, which is all the time. This game really does not autosave often enough for a game where you take one step outside the village and immediately get jumped by giant spider crabs from the local council estate.
You'll be pleased to hear I managed to stick with this game a lot longer than the first one, cause I got all the way to the first giant monster boss fight. Not that it was hard - any monster that fills the entire screen might as well telegraph its attacks over the fucking PA system - but after dying a few times because Gerald dodged the wrong way, I decided I'd be buggered before I have to sit through that 5-minuted unskippable pre-boss cutscene for the umpteenth fucking time. Maybe not seeing it through invalidates my opinion, but I don't care. I'm just not having fun. I wouldn't check myself into Bedlam on the off-chance they serve ice cream for tea.
It could be everything I just described has made you leap to your fight and cry "At last! An uncompromising game that'll treat me like the incredible clever clogs that I am and which will make full use of my large amounts of free time now that I've been fired from the dick-sucking factory."
- Much richer than a witcher: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- I tried seducing women by killing a whole bunch of non-humans but they just screamed and ran out of the pet shop
- Leave it he's not worth it