Friday, May 20, 2011

TW2 Playthrough: This is not a CRPG

Hours In: 4
Character Level: 2
My Score: 75 (-10)
Metacritic Score: 92 (-2)
Player Score: 90 (no change)

Good news. Installing the new beta NVIDIA driver has solved the worst of my technical difficulties, freeing me up to, you know, actually play the game. I still have the lip-flapping issue in conversations and some mouse lag on certain UI screens, but performance is fine when I'm actually running around in the game world.

Now that I'm playing the game as it was intended to be played, I can offer my initial impressions. In my search for answers to my performance issues, I've come across a lot of other opinions about the game, and I think the critique I would offer fits with a lot of the complaints. It's early and I could easily change my opinion later, but here is what may be my final take on The Witcher 2:

While the game is everything one could have hoped for artistically, it's decidedly not an old-school CRPG. When CD Projekt RED said the game was "designed with console in mind," they weren't kidding. Anyone who was horrified by the direction of Dragon Age 2 ought to be downright mortified by TW2.

Despite being vaguely aware of the "console" quote, I was taken off guard by this myself. In my joke post comparing DA2 and TW2, I had TW2 whispering to PC players that it wouldn't "be thinking of other people when I'm with you." In fact, TW2 is not only thinking of other people, but screaming their names out. And those names are "Xbox" and "PS3."

The biggest problem for me is simply the lack of a mouse pointer, which makes basic tasks a lot harder than they should be. If you were designing this game for the PC only, I don't think there's any way you would not include the pointer, even if you were still committed to WASD controls for movement. It's obvious to me that CD Projekt RED is banking on a port, and simply wanted the game to play the same across platforms.

This results in some serious annoyances for a PC gamer like myself. For one thing, finding and clicking on interactive objects is a chore. As opposed to the usual case where you can send your mouse pointer roving for things to click on, in TW2 you have to be standing directly on top of an object before you know whether it's interactive. In a game world where interactivity is so selective, this is a problem. You have walk over to heaps of trash to find out whether you can search them. Some objects, like doors, are always interactive, but most often are locked anyway. It's nuts.

"I should be able to climb over this obstacle or blast it with my Aard spell, right? Oh."

Secondly, I'm convinced a big reason people complain about the combat system being "clunky" is due to the lack of a pointer allowing you to target enemies. Unless you tell Geralt to lock onto an enemy, he simply targets whomever is closest. A typical scenario: Geralt hits an enemy, who staggers backward. Now a different, off-screen enemy is closer, so the next time you click, Geralt somersaults off in a completely unexpected direction. If you're a console player, you might respond to that with "so what?" But as someone who plays exclusively on the PC, I find it needlessly disorienting.

I know, I know, I just have to learn the system. The cues are there. I suspect that as I play through the game, the interface and controls won't bother me as much. It's a -10 now, but by the end of the game, it might be more like a -5.

It's will always be a negative, though, because there's no way this is optimal for the PC. And that means there's no way this is an old-school CRPG.


    1. The lack of a pointer only really becomes a problem later when you get into Chapter 1 when you start seeing traps. They are a real pain to disarm because you have to be right on top of them to disarm them. Most of the time you'll set them off instead. You can also press the z button and it acts like your "highlighter" that some games have implemented. Its localized highlighting and temporary though. You can always tell when loot or something is nearby whenever the wolf head glows orange on your screen.

      I've only a few extra complaints to add. The Prologue is ridiculously harder than Chapter 1. Chapter 1 is a joke even. Its because of the Prologue that you don't want to even bother playing on Insanity, mainly because of one part right before you start the monastery story. It wasnt even the combat that was difficult, it was being insta-killed that was annoying.

      Speaking of combat, Igni and Aard are probably the most useless spells in the game. They deal little to no damage or don't keep the enemy down for very long. Axii is alright. For some reason it always stuns you for a second as well. The other two are essential spells. Yrden and Quen.

      I had no problems game-wise until Chapter 1. There you'll find plenty of crashes to desktops randomly. Pretty area, really annoying with the crashes though. Hope you're not plagued with that nuisance.

    2. Anduraga, I just figured out the Z button. It's annoying that I have to keep hitting it all the time, but definitely better than nothing.

      One thing I didn't mention is that I sometimes have a stupidly hard time trying to open a loot bag. Those things are small, and you have to be standing right on top of them. Sometimes clicking the movement key once makes Geralt completely move into and out of clicking range. It's a minor thing, but cumulatively very irritating.