I finished The Witcher 2 today after quite some time. It’s a beautiful game with a few niggly, tickly little flaws, but overall a fantastic experience for those with the hardware to back it up. Even better, Xbox 360 owners will be able to enjoy it for themselves at some point in the near future, too. This post won’t contain spoilers, for those of you still intending to play it.
The best thing about it is its uncompromisingly adult nature. It doesn’t do this in the slightly tacky way that its predecessor did with its collectible “sex cards” — instead, it keeps the best bits of its predecessor, which is a feeling that your choices throughout have consequence — and that said choices don’t have a “correct” option. You say your words, you deal with the consequences. This has such a big effect on the game that once you’ve finished Chapter I, the rest of the game is completely different based on a choice that you make — and then within each chapter, there are plenty of smaller choices to make that affect the way things transpire and indeed the way the whole thing draws to a conclusion. It is, in short, a Good Thing.
The combat is the biggest hang-up for a lot of people. Taking its cues from Demon’s Souls, this is a game that’s not afraid to stick its cock in your ear and thrust until it hurts — or, indeed, some equally unpleasant metaphor. You fuck up in combat and you will die against regular enemies. Several times. You will learn to block and you will learn how to use your spells effectively rather than just hacking away a la Zelda or Diablo.
For the most part, this is cool. Swordfights feel like swordfights. Boss encounters require strategy rather than endurance. But there were just a couple of points throughout where it just felt a little bit unfair — mostly when it came to situations where our titular Witcher Geralt was attacked by multiple assailaints from all angles. There were several occasions where I couldn’t see how I was supposed to defend against the barrage of incoming blows — this alone would be enough to put some people off, I feel. I, fortunately, have a bit more patience than that, and settled for a few expletives. Only once did I feel the need to lower the difficulty level — and I put it straight back up again to complete the game, and the bosses towards the end weren’t as difficult as this relatively incidental confrontation.
So in summary then, if you’re looking for an RPG that treats you like a grown-up without feeling tacky, The Witcher 2 will scratch that itch. If you’re not one for overly-technical action RPG combat, then bumping the difficulty down to Easy allows for a satisfying experience from the story without the frustration of dying repeatedly on a battle that really shouldn’t be that difficult.
And if you’re wondering why I titled this post “The Adventures of Lord Bath”? Well, when I explained the concept of the original The Witcher to my girlfriend Andie by pointing out that the protagonist was a “white haired dude who kills people and has sex with a lot of women”, her immediate response was “Oh, like Lord Bath?” (Disclaimer: I have no evidence as to Lord Bath’s extracurricular activities. But I find the alternative name for The Witcher amusing, so it stays.)