I just spent a long weekend playing The Witcher 2 on the PC, and while I played it all the way to the end, I don’t think I would say I enjoyed it. In the end, I felt the game was held back by numerous flaws. Most notable among them was the fact that about 50% of the game was cut scenes. It’s hard to consider a game an RPG when you spend half the time watching it rather than making it happen yourself.
Even more disappointing, sometimes cut scenes actually showed something different from what you did. For example, I fought this one mini-boss so well he never landed a blow on me. When it came to the killing blow, instead of giving me a slowed-camera finishing move like it often did with normal mobs, it changed to a cut scene that showed a completely different fight. Oh sure, the fight was beautifully executed (no pun intended), but in it, Geralt took a hit that knocked him back. That wasn’t what happened. It was as if the game was saying, “No, no, this is what really happened! Watch all this cool stuff our animators can do.” It was my fight, not theirs, and they took it from me.
Another flaw was that sometimes I made a story choice, and something completely unexpected happened (and not in a good way). I was left confused on more than one occasion when I thought I’d said I wanted X to happen, and then Y happened instead. I couldn’t tell if it was simply bad writing in explaining the course of action or if the game intended to steer you down certain courses of action regardless of what you said. The game also made the mistake of not letting you know that if you do this particular main quest, you won’t be able to finish your side quests. Sometimes what seemed like a simple step in the main quest line (talk to this person) led to the entire main line continuing on and forcing you along a path. Once I started failing side quests because I’d inadvertently gone too far in the main quest to turn back, a little of my interest in the game began to wane.
The Witcher 2 is absolutely beautiful*, no doubt, and the voice acting is terrific. The man who voiced Geralt did a great job of doing that deep gruff that seems to be the default “I’m a badass.” So many try it and fail (think Christian Bale as Batman). The fight animations look awesome, and I never tired of watching Geralt flip, leap, and twirl while he sliced and diced. (Good thing Geralt has unlimited energy, because expending that much of it in combat would wear a normal human down in a heartbeat).
The UI, on the other hand, made me want to punch the developers with an Xbox controller until they learn that making a UI for the consoles doesn’t mean they get to use the same one for the PC. PCs don’t have to have scrolling, unsorted inventories. Really, they don’t. Promise. It was so clunky and sluggish I got into crafting and then dropped it almost immediately. Eventually, I even stopped looting. I just no longer cared. As long as I had two good swords, one good piece of armor, and enough potions and bombs for a fight, that’s all I cared about.
Crafting armor, weapons, and traps was particularly annoying. While you could craft potions and bombs in the field, in order to craft armor, weapons, and traps, you had to find a craftsman and give him the blueprint and all the ingredients. Oh, and pay him for his time, too. Those craftsmen have a pretty sweet setup going. You give them everything they need and pay them money, and they’ll make something for you. It would be like going to the store, buying all the ingredients for pizza, finding the recipe for it, and then paying Pizza Hut to bake it for you.
I only encountered one bug, but it was a rather obvious one. Sometimes keys didn’t seem to work. For example, I would attempt to throw a bomb or use a Sign or even swing my sword, and the game wouldn’t react. I could usually get it to come back by hitting Esc and returning. Sometimes it would come back if Geralt got knocked down by an enemy. Regardless, I couldn’t help but feel that was another symptom of consolitis.
Like I said, I did finish the game, but even knowing I was near the end, I was tempted to drop it. When I got to the third town, I didn’t even bother to read the notice board and pick up the side quests. For one, it seemed odd considering where they were to even have side quests by that point. For another, I just wanted it done. It’s not a good thing when your audience thinks, “When will this end?” You want people to finish wanting more, not be glad it’s finally over.
Would I recommend it? Conditionally, I suppose. Wait until the price drops to $30.
*I would’ve taken screenshots to include with this post, but the game doesn’t have an option within it, and I don’t have FRAPS installed. What kind of game doesn’t have an in-game screenshot option? Oh, right, a poorly done console port.