Tuesday, May 17, 2011

TW2 Playthrough: Baseline expectations

Hours In: 0
Character Level: N/A
My Score: 85 (Baseline)
Metacritic Score: N/A
Player Score: 91

Today is the day when we begin to find out if the hype is justified. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is out, and as I did with Dragon Age 2, I thought I'd record my impressions as I play through the presumptive RPG of the Year.

But before I click Launch game for the first time, let's once again record my expectations at the start so we can see how they change over time. I'm not the type of person to read a lot of preview articles, so some of my impressions could be flat-out wrong. That was certainly the case with DA2, and I knew a lot more about that game than I do about TW2 (thanks to the demo and the Bioware forums). In other words, don't take these impressions as factual statements. Finding out where I'm wrong is half the fun of this exercise.

As before, I'll be recording the Metacritic score with each post. There are only three reviews listed right now (90, 95, and 100), so this time I've started early enough to track any trends in the score over time. This time around, I'm also tracking the User Score from Metacritic to see if players have a different opinion than critics.

All right. Here are the things I expect to be the positives and negatives of TW2.

  • Dark tone (for real): The words "dark" and "mature" are often bandied about by game marketers, but the larger studios rarely deliver on the promise in any significant way - possibly because they're confined by public relations concerns. While CD Projekt RED decided not to include the "sex cards" featured in the first game due to the controversy they stirred up, they still don't seem to be bound by the same rules. In short, TW2 seems poised to deliver on its promise of a "dark" gaming experience.
  • RED cred: The first game was lovingly crafted, with thoughtful touches that could never be justified by the sort of brutal cost/benefit analysis that dictates a lot of software development. Everything I've seen suggests CD Projekt RED put similar effort into TW2. They've certainly earned the benefit of the doubt.
  • Combat: I enjoyed the simple rhythmic element of fighting in The Witcher, and the combat styles were a neat innovation (though better in theory than practice). However, what I've heard about the new system - which features the ability to use different attacks and dodges - has me excited. My only fear is that it might be too twitchy and action-oriented.
  • Decisions, decisions: The first Witcher game was renowned for presenting the player with difficult moral decisions, and Assassins of Kings figures to continue this tradition.
    • Preset character:  I mentioned in the first post the DA2 Playthrough that I didn't like preset characters, and my opinion hasn't changed since then. TW2 offers even fewer customization options than DA2, which also gave the player the power to tinker with party composition.
    • Geralt of Rivia: Worse, I don't particularly like this preset character. Geralt strikes me as yet another supercool sociopath contending for biggest badass in the videogame multiverse. If I have to play a pregen character, I'd rather it be someone unique. Early previews say the writing is better in TW2 - we'll see if they managed to add depth and distinctiveness to Geralt this time around.
    • WASD: TW2 will apparently feature WASD controls, with no point-and-click option for movement. I've spent enough time with the Elder Scrolls games to become comfortable with this scheme, but it's not my preference. 
    • Selective interaction: TW2 will allow you to sneak, jump, and interact with the game world in new ways. So what's the problem? Well, based on what I've heard, the interaction is selective - ie, it's only allowed at predefined points in the game. This seems like window-dressing at best, and railroading at worst. But we'll see.
    • Character advancement: I had mixed feelings about the leveling system of the first game. The base abilities were unique and compelling, but the incremental way they were built up did not keep me hungering for the next levelup. I know the leveling system in TW2 is different, but I haven't heard enough to decide whether it will be a positive or not.
    • Dialogue wheel: As I've mentioned many times before, I dislike dialogue wheels. However, if there's one case where it really should be used, it's in a game where you play a fully fleshed out character like Geralt. Since you don't control his personality anyway, it doesn't matter as much if what he says doesn't always match what you intended.
    All right, I'm ready to play. I'll post first impressions shortly.


      1. I'm very much looking forward to playing this. Unfortunately, I'll need to upgrade my PC first.

        I find it interesting that US/UK media outlets were seemingly not given review code prior to the game's release. Normally it's the European sites chasing Gamespot/IGN and not the other way around. I guess CD Projekt did what EA and the other NA publishers do and furnished the most sympathetic reviewers with the game in order to help define the tone of the critical reponse. :-)

        Oh, I'm a cynic.

      2. Actually, I may have to upgrade as well. I took it for granted that my PC would be able to handle it, but I'm getting some annoying mouse lag. If it doesn't let up, this "playthrough" is going to be a short one.

        My impression was that everyone and his uncle got preview code. Even GameBanshee and RPGWatch got to play the game for 10 hours. But maybe only European sites got the full version. I don't know why else there wouldn't be more NA reviews.

      3. I had a problem with mouse lag at first, i fixed it by disabling Vertical Sync.

      4. Thanks Anon. I'll give that a try.