The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is 2011’s sequel to 2007’s not-that-good-but-somehow-promising original. Right off the bat, you see that the writing hasn’t exactly gotten mature, since a court jester lighting a fart is a part of the opening cinematic, my first dialogue choice caused my character to say “fuck you,” and the first cutscene features a naked woman in bed next to me (and the “comic relief” of a random guard interrupting and sneaking a not-so-quick peek at her). I can’t play this game at work if anyone else is in the building. But also right off the bat, you see that the graphics have improved a ton, there’s a big upgrade in the voice acting, they’ve arrived at a great looking cinematic style, and it’s generally a huge improvement over the first game.
Except the fucking map. I have so many complaints with the navigation and map in the game, it’s insane. To the point that I quit about 1/3 of the way through.
- Like the first game, there is no fast travel.
- Like the first game, there is no way to track more than one quest at a time. So if you want to find the nearest objective for your ~5 active quests, you have to one-by-one select each quest then go to the map and see where the objective is then go to select the next quest and oh god it takes forever. But the alternative is running back and forth all over the area at random which also takes forever.
- One quest, you go down to the basement of a haunted hospital by jumping off a high ledge. So high that you can’t climb back up. You get to a point where you talk to a ghost and strike a deal with it that involves leaving the hospital and coming back. Fade out and fade in, and you’re outside, have a short conversation, fade out and fade in, and you’re back with the ghost. I approve of this! Because otherwise I’d have to run all the way out of a dungeon and then run back in, which is boring. However, once I finish my business with the ghost, I have to leave. My character has already left and come back, so he should know how to get out of the basement. But I haven’t, so I don’t. I check the map, and it shows me zero indication anywhere of an exit or stairs or a ladder to get me back up to the main floor. So I spend a few minutes going from room to room randomly. Even though, again, Geralt of Rivia made this trip 5 minutes ago, but now I, supposedly playing as Geralt of Rivia, have absolutely no idea how to repeat this journey out.
- The quest objective indicator shows the precise x,y location of the objective, which sounds helpful but it’s not at all. It gives no indication of elevation and it doesn’t tell you what door to go through. It also only shows the exterior terrain and doesn’t indicate any of the structure beyond a door. The result is that… say there are two doors, and the objective is through the door on the left. Inside that door is a hallway then a hard right turn to the objective. On the map, the objective will look like it’s directly behind the door on the right. Or, you’re in the forest facing a ledge. The quest objective is about 20 feet in front of you. So it must be up on that ledge. You spend a good while trying to find a hill up to that ledge, and when you get up there, there’s nothing. You resort to google and discover that the objective is actually underground, and if you go off on a whole different direction, you find an entrance to some tunnels. The top of that ledge was the right place in x,y, you just needed to be 25 feet below it.
- There’s no non-map indicator of a quest destination either. In a small hallway with about 25 people gathered, I’m supposed to talk to someone. The minimap indicator basically covers the entire hallway, so it’s no help. He keeps saying “say, Witcher, come over here” to get my attention, and the subtitles show me his name. But I have to point at each of the 25 people to make their name appear over their heads until I find the right one. I know having an arrow over his head or something like that isn’t exactly realistic, but it’s a lot less frustrating.
Fetch quests leave me seething as I take wrong turn after wrong turn just to pick up some stupid thing and bring it back.
It’s not made any better that every time I got pissed off and went to google to to figure out where the hell I was supposed to go, someone else had inevitably had the same problem, one helpful person gave directions, and then one douche complained that people need the game to hold your hand and called the questioner a “casual” which pisses me off.
The also did a couple other things that irritated me.
I only got to chapter two, out of I’m guessing five, but on three different occasions I played as other people. I don’t know why RPGs do this. It’s an RPG where I play as Geralt of Rivia, sword-wielding Witcher. Why am I suddenly Dandelion the bard? Why do my actions as Dandelion determine whether Geralt succeeds or fails at a quest? Just show me a non-interactive cutscene, no big deal. (I didn’t like the short segment where I played as Joker in Mass Effect 2).
They have a dice poker game just like the first one. At least for human rolls, it now seems to obey the laws of probability. But for some reason, they decided to up the “realism” by having you use the mouse to have some degree of control on the origin, direction, and speed of the dice rolling. And to let you be able to roll the dice off the table, eliminating those dice from your hand. Why did they think this would be a good thing to include? Plus the camera angle on the thing makes it hard to read the dice (not helped by the fact that they use elaborate dice markings with a roman numeral/circle combination to indicate the value).
You import your save from the first game. You only really make two decisions: do you back the elf rebels, and do you pursue a relationship with Triss or Shani. I chose to back the elves, forcing the king to accept most of their demands, and I chose Shani. So after importing my save game, I start up this one, and I’m in a relationship with Triss, and I’m still buddies with the King even though he’s totally dicked over the elves. So what was the point of that?
Back to SWTOR for a bit. SWTOR has an economic interest in making the game tedious as long as I’m free playing, yet it feels much less tedious than the Witcher 2. I doubt I’ll do the Witcher 3 ever, even though I feel like it’s a few mechanical tweaks away from being a quality game.
You Me and the Apocalypse is I guess a British show from last year that they decided to air on NBC. Jenna Fischer and Rob Lowe are in it, so I’m surprised it didn’t start on here. But one of the other main characters is a British dude, and his storyline is full of British people. So maybe they spent 6 months editing out any slang or references that might confuse American audiences.
Anyway, it’s not good. Checking out some reviews, it sounds like it does eventually get better. But it’s ostensibly a comedy, and nothing funny happens in an entire hour, so I lack the patience to put up with it for a whole season on the word of reviewers.
Baskets is Zack Galifianakis’s new FX show, co-written by Louis C.K., about a… loser who wants to be a clown? It’s weird. Like, a little too weird. I’ll probably give it another couple episodes because of the talent involved, but the first episode didn’t have many laughs.
Legends of Tomorrow is the latest entry on DC’s CW TV universe, and this seems like maybe one too many. Rip Hunter assembles a team of heroes and villains from 2016 to fight Vandal Savage in what seems to be maybe various timelines? I dunno. It’s a show centered around a bunch of existing characters I’m not all that fond of.
But unfortunately, they have cast Jewel Staite as someone eventually, so I’m going to end up watching it at least until she shows up., because I’m dumb like that.
Two things irritated me in the pilot (minor spoilers):
- “In 2166, you’re not just remembered as heroes, you’re legends!” says Rip Hunter. “I dunno, don’t you have to be dead to be a legend?” says one of the other guys. But… was he planning on being alive in 2166?
- This future time travelling bounty hunter guy comes after them, but oh no! Half of Firestorm and Ray’s armor are back in the ship, and Canary/Cold/Heat Wave are off somewhere else. So Hawk-people go after the guy, holding their own for a bit, which along with Rip using a laser revolver or something, buys enough time to get to the ship, pick up the armor and the rest of Firestorm, just as the two bad guys and Canary return, so obviously now they win the fight, right? Nope, they flee, barely escaping with their lives. Somehow a massive upgrade in their forces doesn’t seem to help a bit.
Billions is Showtime’s new drama about a shady billionaire hedge fund guy (Damian Lewis) and the US Attorney (Paul Giamatti) trying to bring him down. The pilot is solid. It’s not super exciting or anything, but it’s engaging in a certain way, which is somewhat explained by finding out afterwords that it’s created by the Rounders guys. Both sides read people and manipulate them in ways that aren’t too dissimilar from Mike McD.
Lewis and Giamatti are joined by Maggie Siff, Malin Ackerman, Gale from Breaking Bad, and that guy who was the Kingpin’s right hand man in Daredevil. And Jerry O’Connell but I think that’s just a short-term thing. But a solid cast.
Angie Tribeca is TBS’s new procedural spoof show created by Steve and Nancy Carell, starring Rashida Jones. It’s familiar Police Squad, Naked Gun, A Touch of Cloth territory, but not executed as well. The spoof works best when it’s generally played straight. The actors perform as if they were actually in a real show, but their words and actions are ridiculous. Here, Rashida Jones does ok at that, but a lot of the supporting characters ham it up, and the result is pretty unfunny.
The Hateful Eight is Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie, and it’s quite good, but also helps increase my distaste for Tarantino personally. As usual, he makes sure to remind us that it’s his movie. In this case, by narrating portions of it himself. And in interviews, he states that one of the influences on the film is Reservoir Dogs, which he himself wrote and directed, and I find an incredibly douchey thing to say. It is similar to Reservoir Dogs in a lot of ways (Michael Madsen and Tim Roth among them), but why would you declare yourself to be one of your influences?
Anyway, Reservoir Dogs remains my favorite of his movies, so the similarities are pleasing. A lot of long monologues, characters stuck together, unsure who can be trusted, and eventually a whole lot of blood. The western genre doesn’t appeal to me as much as the neo-noir, but it was still good.
Star Wars: The Old Republic is Bioware’s Star Wars MMORPG that I’m playing as if it were a single player game. It’s pretty solid, with basically all the usual Bioware stuff. Dialogue wheel, assemble companions, bang one, etc.
I’ve been doing the free-to-play content, and at least up to level 50, with what appears to be the game’s original content, the annoyances are minor. To progress further, I’ll have to pay. Which, I like it enough to do so. The Jedi Knight story is good enough, and I’m told the Sith Agent one is better, so I’m going to try that one for free as well (after probably playing The Witcher 2). Then, I guess pick whichever one I like playing more to do the advanced content once I start paying.
Not unlike Fallout 4, the romance bit was a little underwhelming. In FO4, it was because you could romance them all, while here, at least in the Jedi Knight story, my choice was either to bang the one girl, or no one at all. The games where I’ve really enjoyed it is where I have options and pick (sometimes after agonizing over it) the one I like. I actually did like the one girl in the Jedi Knight story fine, but if I’d had another female crew member to reject, somehow that would have made it better. I guess because I’d feel like this was my choice, and other players would make their own (wrong) choice.
I do find it extremely annoying that you often are sent to a planet to do one thing, like to the planet where the Jedi Council meets to talk to them. So you pick that planet on the galaxy map and a quick “flying the ship” cutscene you’re there. Except when you exit the ship (after a loading screen), you’re at an orbital docking station. So you run/speeder across the orbital docking area, take an elevator down, run/speeder across the main level of the station to a shuttle, then you have another loading screen and you’re actually on the planet. You do this a half a dozen times just for the Jedi Council world, it happens other places too. And the docking station never has anything of importance in it, except sometimes a person to talk to to initiate a quest. Which they could definitely have on the regular planet, couldn’t they? And skip the docking station business entirely? Unless it turns out that subscribing lets you skip it. That’d be mean to do that to us freeloaders.
They frequently design dungeon type areas so that you have to walk all the way back out through an empty dungeon. Most modern games design dungeons to have some kind of direct exit from the end part of the dungeon. The only reason I can think for this is that subscribers have more frequent access to a “fast travel” function, while freeloaders can only use it once every 26 minutes, so I have to be careful to use it wisely. But even then, the fast travel destinations are limited, so I think even paying players are going to have to choose between a long walk out of a dungeon, or a long speeder ride from the fast travel point to the next area on your agenda.
But basically 95% of my enjoyment was story/character related, 5% was running around with two lightsabers. The actual combat is… slightly more entertaining than the first KotOR game, but not by much. In every fight but the final one against the Emperor, I could just hit buttons repeatedly and eventually kill whatever I was up against. From about level 20 on, my real tactical decisions were about how to get to the end of a dungeon area with as few fights as possible. Seeing if I could hug a wall to avoid triggering combat with an enemy, because it’d just slow down my story progression. Not a great thing in a game where you spend a lot of time fighting, but oh well.
I gave a shot to The Shannara Chronicles because I knew it was some sort of fantasy story and that there was a cute girl in it (pictured). Being on MTV probably meant it’d be like, a CW show but with even lower budget and less talented (but still attractive) actors, but you never know?
But no, it doesn’t work. Fantasy dialogue is tough to pull off*. Prophecies and magic and elven lore and all that shit sounds ridiculous unless you’re a quality actor. And the main cast in this, at least based on the first 20 minutes I saw, they’re not up to it.
* – Science Fiction can be tough too, depending. Technobabble can be rough, but you can get around that with slang. Keanu Reeves in The Matrix worked fine because he was never asked to talk about reality simulation technology, artificial intelligence, direct neural interfaces, or any of that. Just “I know Kung Fu,” and that’s within his capabilities as an actor.
Everyone seemed to like the hell out of The Witcher 3, but starting with the third game in a series seems like madness to me, so I picked up The Witcher: Enhanced Edition for $1.50 in a steam sale in October. Now that I’m through Fallout 4, I can actually give it a shot.
Apparently, it’s based on some Polish fantasy novels (the developer is also Polish). What I imagine is pretty generic for modern fantasy: an edgier version of Tolkien-y stuff with a gruff anti-hero protagonist. Gravelly-voiced, foul-mouthed, five o’clock shadow 24/7, usual 21st century genre fiction guy. Womanizer, alcoholic, not a hero, just in it for the money, that kind of thing.
He lost his memory, so of course everyone has to explain to him all the shit that I, the player, doesn’t know. A Witcher is a professional monster hunter, someone attacks your base with some sort of sinister plan, you’ve got to track them down and stop them. Also pretty generic plot. The dialog and voice acting are both pretty weak, but I gather this is just the English translation of an originally Polish script. By being based on an existing character, you don’t get a lot of customization. No character creation at all. No class choice, no race choice, no gender choice, no appearance options, no stat allocation. There’s a skill tree to progress through as you level, but that’s it.
It’s pretty… not progressive as far as gender goes. The women are almost exclusively peasants and witches and barmaids and whores. You have the opportunity to sleep with many of them, and are given a card with pin-up art on it for doing so. Basically “congratulations on banging this girl” trophies. Some of which are NSFW. And there are tons of them. It’s horribly sexist, and yet every time I have the opportunity, I ignore all my important quests and do whatever is required to have sex with the girl, because I am a hypocrite.
The combat is not great, but when trying to compare it to other older games, it’s better than like KotOR. The questing can be pretty tedious, it’s in desperate need of fast travel and a better navigation system. There are a few story choices, but a lot of the time you don’t have enough of an idea about the situation to know what you’re deciding. Like, you’re forced to choose between two love interests at some point. They both seemed perfectly nice, I thought one was a little bit hotter, and the other had some agenda she wasn’t forthcoming about, and that’s all I made the decision on. And it’s a bit buggy, there were a few times the game just stopped working right and I had to load an old save (or sometimes shut the game down and start it back up).
But I can see potential in subsequent games, so I stuck it out and finished. Definitely taking a break before proceeding to the next one, though.