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.