I may be aching of sinew and wearied of eye but the Witcher 2 is complete (again). I only planned to finish off Act 2 but caffeine and compulsion dictated otherwise and I pushed on through Act 3 and finished the game. I think ultimately I enjoyed Iorveth’s route more than Roche’s. Each has its ups and downs but the event in Iorveth’s route tie more closely into the major setting events taking place at the time the game is set. Iorveth, though he features very little in his own route, also feels like a more intricate character than Roche. That was the good, now for the bad.
I’ve covered the mechanical issues in my previous post so I won’t go over them again. The narrative, specifically the characters and dialogue are the games major strength. They are in fact so strong they easily make up for the games short-comings. The problem is that while each scene is excellent in and off itself they are often connected poorly and the main plot lurches from one event to another, often with jarringly little organic flow. The narrative, partially on purpose I feel, does a poor job of giving you a full grasp of the bigger picture. It seems to assume the player has access to knowledge beyond what’s available in the game. Events and characters which the player has no in-game way of knowing about get referenced enough to be irritating (and this is stuff that also wasnt covered in the original Witcher game).
On a personal note I also would have been happy not to see yet another fucking fantasy witch-hunt. Perhaps its just a coincidence but a lot of the stuff I’ve watched/played/read this year has rolled out witch-hunts against magic users or non-humans. I’m going to uncharitably assume its due to (perhaps unintentional) laziness on behalf of the writers. It’s an easy way of generating conflict and tension. It maps easily to conflicts in our society that the games target audience are familiar with, etc. Unfortunately any kind of nuance in the conflict is non-existent, the best boil down to binary black and white and the worst do absolutely nothing to hide the writers personal agenda (Path of Exile was largely ruined in its last act by this). I’m not a magic user holocaust denier, I just want something different.
The Witcher 2 does an excellent job in its final act of letting you know the fallout of your various decisions throughout the game. Sometimes your actions have unintended consequences. But they’re believable consequences so it doesn’t feel like a “Gotcha!”. Have to say, few games are as adroit at making you absolutely despise NPC’s. I don’t know much about The Witcher 3 but I sure as fuck hope I get to cut the smug look off Radovid of Redania’s face (and the fact that King Henslet is guaranteed to live is the worst thing about choosing Iorveth’s route). But that’s a mark in the games favour of course.
The games third act was originally quite short and fairly anemic. The second act pushes things to a climax and the third act kept that momentum going. I know the Enhanced or Extended or whatever the fuck edition added some quests in act three. Which I picked up. But I was swept up in the story and it felt odd to take a break to go and complete quests that were extremely tangential to the main thrust of the story. So I think in term’s of meaningfully expanding content the game fell down a bit there. On the other hand I also didnt miss the content, either on my initial playthrough or my current one.
All in all I’d still recommend The Witcher 2 as a good CRPG in general and one of the best CRPG’s out there in terms of character and dialogue. I’m really looking forward to The Witcher 3 but I’m going to hold off for next week’s patch and expansion. I might finish off those quest’s in act three that I skipped, after all they give you the chance of having sex with yet another NPC.
I suppose I’ll finish off by commenting on the sex in the series. It was what it was infamous for a while after all. The first game had its infamous sex cards and a laundry list of NPC’s to sleep with. It felt fairly juvenile, though the illustrations on the cards themselves were well done so it sort of worked from a titillation standpoint I guess? The sex scenes in The Witcher 2 are more graphic. They’re short and softcore in nature, classic Christopher Lambert action. They’re presented without ornamentation and are just workmanlike, they fit naturally into the tone of the game and the world presented. They’re also pretty boring. Amusingly the more people you have sex with the more boring they become I found, true to life? I don’t really have the experience to comment. So while they work as part of the setting presented I don’t think they really work in terms of titillation (English language is provably the best language because titillation has tit in it!).
The Witcher 2 also only gives you one shot at sleeping with a “monster”, which ruins the Captain Kirk aspect of weird fantasy sex I feel. Still, the hooves alone made sex with the Succubus the most interesting sexual encounter in the game.