The RPS Verdict: The Witcher 2

By RPS on July 22nd, 2011 at 5:34 pm.


It feels like a long time since Jim delivered his thoughts on The Witcher 2, and we’ve all meaning to come back to it. Now Jim, Richard, and Kieron get together to compare considered opinions (and bedpost notches) on one of the most important games of the year. There are many, many spoilers ahead.

Jim: The Witcher 2: this year’s witchiest RPG has been played by we three men, and now those men aim to discuss it. Kieron, would you like to tell us what you think The Witcher 2 is?

Kieron: The Witcher 2 is a role-playing game, of course, you big ninny, sequel to the successful previous game, it’s a single-character game – so you only control Mr Witcher. But it’s main “things” are the moral tone (generally dubious) and the wide available choices (generally general).

Jim: What about that dude in the RPS comments who says that anything that isn’t a turn-based RPG from 1987 isn’t an RPG?

Kieron: That guy in the comments thread is basically a spam-bot from RPG codex. It’s not a real person.

Jim: That makes sense.

Richard: Anyone who says that clearly used Intelligence as their dump stat. Yeah. You just got +2 burned…

Kieron: Anyway – Jim liked it. Richard, in your review for another place liked it. Guess what I thought of it?

Richard: Best platform game ever?

Kieron: After Rainbow Islands, totally. Actually, as an aside, it reminded me as some interesting half-way place between the western PC game aesthetic and Zelda.

Jim: It’s not as open as Zelda.

Kieron: Yeah, totally not. But with various bits and pieces plugged in. (The closest there’s ever been to PC-zelda, of course, was the 57th best game ever.)

Jim: But it is single character like Zelda. Let’s talking about that single character thing – I actually prefer that in this kind of game. I find managing parties a bit tedious.

Richard: I see The Witcher 2 as simultaneously a great example of what can happen when a company has complete creative freedom, and what can go horribly wrong. It’s really interesting like that.

Kieron: I’ll agree with Richard there.

Richard: The world, the attitude, some of the asides… no game from, say, Bioware, is likely to do that.

Kieron: And while I like party based RPGs, I also think the Witcher 2 works brilliantly with its single class. It goes deep into WHAT IS A WITCHER. And puts you in his splendid leather boots. Magic, multiple swords, alchemy, monster studying, being sterile and having sex with folks, etc.

Richard: At the same time, someone really should have been there to say “No, you WILL have a proper tutorial. You WILL explain this. You will NOT expect everyone to have read seventy books – in Polish – to understand the big picture properly.”

Kieron: Oh, man, Richard. Let’s come back to the story and its telling. I’ve got lots to talk about there. But on mechanics…

Richard: I think they’re connected. You’re not just playing some guy, you’re a Witcher. To them, that’s as obvious as being, say, a Jedi. But it’s not. And there’s that instant disconnect with the game where you don’t really know what you’re meant to be doing. A Jedi for instance is a melee fighter with some magic. But is Geralt? The game doesn’t tell you properly.

Jim: Well, the very basics of the thing are that there is no tutorial and it’s too hard at the start, even post-patch. Or perhaps not too hard at the start, but significantly harder than at the end, where you are clearing a sky full of harpies in a single sword swish

Richard: The problem with the difficulty curve is that Geralt is useless at the start. Most of the early skills aren’t about getting better, they’re about not being crap. Especially the backstab damage.

Kieron: Yeah – it’s both too hard, and also too hard if you know the Witcher and know “Yeah, I should be doing some magic”.

Richard: You think you’re playing badly, but you’re just utterly gimped.

Jim: Yes, the sword and melee tree is uncrapifying the character.

Richard: Similarly, it doesn’t make it clear just how important the timing is. If you’ve got a bad frame rate, you’re just going to die. Period.

Jim: It does make me think that CD Projekt were too close to it. It feels like one of those games where the developer has been playing it for four years and thinks that the process of it is obvious.

Richard: Oh, god. No ‘feels’ about it. I was at a preview event and had the Senior Producer (nice guy, don’t get me wrong) practically playing the game over my shoulder. Use the medallion here, walk down that road, use a bomb here, go right…

Kieron: Don’t start me on the one-button leap attack, which got me into all sorts of trouble.

Richard: There were several moments where I was saying things like ‘But why am I going north when it looks like I have to go south’, or ‘why did I just fail this mission?’ and the answer was very obviously ‘We didn’t think of that because we know what to do.’ And in the full game, it was such a pain. So many quests badly explained or map pins in the wrong place…

Jim: So the start of it is awkward, because it’s frustrating, but once you hit your stride, so does the game – by the middle of chapter one I was revelling in it (kraken fight aside).


Kieron: Heh. I was about to mention the Kraken fight. But I realised we’ve been very down so far, and I didn’t want to go down that particularly squid-fucker hole.

Richard: I loved the game, don’t get me wrong, but it sorely needed more of the dreaded focus groups to say “This doesn’t work.” The Kraken fight is… ugh… All the bosses are ugh, really.

Kieron: Really, what I came away from was “making an action game is much harder than PC devs realise”. There’s an implicit arrogance there. I mean, it’s possible they hired someone with experience of something a little more tactile, but it doesn’t come across.

Richard: I think it’s more that they made a system that made sense to them, and played it so much that they became blind.

Jim: That’s interesting though, isn’t it? That every single review was able to pin-point the main problem, which was that the combat was no fluid enough for the kind of experience they were trying to emulate. Yet it still arrived like that.

Richard: You see it in a lot of the responses. Anyone who says they found it hard just gets beaten up by fans saying they suck.

Kieron:Exactly.

Richard: I suspect a lot of arguments were crushed with some variant of “We’re for REAL gamers.” REAL gamers won’t mind. REAL gamers will understand.

Kieron: The flip of the power thing is that at the end, when you are that powerful, the game falls apart because it’s so easy.

Richard: At the end? Try the end of the first act.

Kieron: To the point where I get to even a slightly more challenging fight my skills have totally atrophied. And I have to remember all those other abilities you’re meant to be using.

Jim: Okay, so let’s turn that on its head: why does it have fans so turned on and rabid about it?

Richard: The thing is, I didn’t care about the combat being easy. What I loved was the other stuff, with the characters and the reactive quests. Something as simple as a character butting into an unrelated fist-fight to say “Oi! Remember what you did! I’ve been waiting for this…” does so much to make me like an RPG.

Kieron: Even with the combat’s slide into easiness, it manages a certain spectacular charm which few RPGs even dream of. Which I appreciate.

Richard: It also makes sense. You’re supposed to be awesome. They outright say it in Act 2 – a Witcher has no excuse not to be the toughest guy around. They fight MONSTERS.

Kieron: Truth.

Richard: I think it’s just notable that because the game is so political, you don’t really do that much monster-fighting after Act 1. At least, not the silver-sword type.

Kieron: Well, Richard, *man* is the real monster.

Richard: I’m still voting for the demon farm equipment like things.

Jim: Heh. Okay, what about that sequence at the end of chapter two, on the supernatural battlefield. I found that incredible. /That/ was monsters.

Kieron: This is also true.

Richard: It’s still mostly against ghost-men. Until the end. But it’s still an awesome sequence.

Jim: Are ghost men still men?

Richard: I vote yes. You racist.

Kieron: The thing is, while you fight monsters, it’s not a game about being a Witcher. It’s a game where being a Witcher is useful because of the enormous skillset they bring to bear. You kill shitloads of monsters to actually complete relatively “standard” RPG quests, with its own grim-twist. But you’re not normally there to just kill the monsters.

Richard: Part of the trouble I had, especially when the ending collapses into irrelevance, is that for the most part it’s not really *about* very much at all. Lots of stuff happens, but there’s no big quest or anything.

Jim: Yes, you play a Witcher caught up larger things. The monster hunting is incidental, which is a shame in some ways. And then suddenly the main assassination plot is incidental too, which is odd…

Kieron: It is a bit.

Richard: Geralt is there. But even his big plot kinda fizzles in Act 2 when Henselt says “Oh, we have bigger problems now.”


Kieron: The problem – which Richard touches on – is that it’s a game which is fundamentally political and never actually does a very good job at explaining the set up.

Richard: And it’s politics of a kingdom that we just don’t know. If you’ve read the books, you’re fine.

Kieron: Exactly.

Richard: If you haven’t, who is Niflgaard? Who is Redania? Where are these places?

Jim: Yes, even the in-game map has the names in cyrllic glagolitic, so English-installs like me can’t see which nation is which.

Kieron: I mean… I was actually watching the Game of Thrones when I was playing through this and that does a lot of work to try and create the relationship between the places. And coming to the Witcher, I found myself thinking “I wish they had tried even a few of the basic set-ups there to create the idea”. I actually did try with the Journal – reading all the kings, trying to map the relationship. But it’s just not *there*.

Richard: In my game, the big debate was whether I should trust Redania. I’d never even HEARD of Redania. Is that the local equivalent of Nazi Germany or Hawaii? I never felt I had enough information, even factoring in the Journal.

Jim: But then isn’t a more sophisticated plot and game world, like one that deals with complex lusty politics, actually what we are implicating every time we attack a weak fantasy quest offering? Don’t we bemoan exposition?

Richard: Yes, but I’d argue Dragon Age did it more successfully. Not necesarily BETTER on a technical level, but at least I understood the stakes, the people, etc.

Jim: CD Projket were *trying* to deliver what we ask for, even if it didn’t arrive.

Kieron: And yes, Jim. But the problem is if you try and do this stuff you have to bring more skill to bear on the implication.

Richard: In Dragon Age, if I died, the world is gone. In The Witcher 2… I could walk away whenever I like.

Kieron: Richard – I don’t think that’s a problem. Sorry – I’m sort of thinking what I actually meant by that. But I’m going to leave it hanging.

Richard: It’s not necessarily a problem, but it reminded me of an issue I had with Far Cry 2. The intro is the Jackal saying “You’ve failed, go home.” To which my response was “You make a good point.”

Jim: Okay, let’s change track slightly: the thing that impressed me most about the game was the bifurcation of the plot in Act 2 – there are genuinely two big threads of game there, quite different.

Kieron: Yeah, there were. Richard – which way did you go?

Richard: The scale of it is just ridiculous. In a good way. As before, it’s something NOBODY else would go near. I went with Roche, because I didn’t trust Iorveth as far as I could throw him. Whereas I figured Roche, away from his main power base, would be easier to deal with.

Kieron: He’s an elf. You could throw him quite a long way.

Richard: Yeah, but he’d keep *talking*. And I can never remember how to spell Scoia’tael, which would be a pain if I had to make any victory T-Shirts after we won.

Jim: I like Iorverth, the human bored me. He seemed indignant and at the same time a pushover.

Richard: For me, part of it was that Geralt had some history with Roche.


Kieron: I actually liked them both, but went with Ioverth as I thought Roche would be fine without me and I could make more difference with the Elf. And also hearing that this Virgin woman was leading his army. And I thought “not for long”, in a true Witcher fashion.

Jim: Heh. You felt like you owed him, Richard?

Richard: More that I felt I understood him, even if I didn’t agree. He’d already bent the rules to help Geralt, for instance.

Kieron: I’ll admit, he had a better hat.

Richard: And the interactions in the town were on a “I don’t agree with you on a lot of things, but at least I know how you think.”

Richard: Unlike for instance, the guy who ran Flotsam, who was a liar and a git.

Kieron: And bald. You can’t trust baldies.

Richard: Iorveth does however have the best End of Act 1 stuff. I love the bit where you escort him through the town. And he berates you for NOT letting the guards kick the shit out of him, since it’s damaging the illusion.

Kieron: How does the second act work if you go with hat-man?

Richard: For starters, they redecorate the town. Put up bunting and have a party. Which is one of those awesome little details I really loved.

Jim: Right, the town is on fire if you choose Iorveth.

Richard: After that, you work with Roche to take down the mayor guy, some bad stuff goes down in his house with Ves and another woman he’s kidnapped, and then you more or less leave by boat as before. But you end up at another king’s camp instead of Vergen. Either of the two paths would be awesome if they were the only option.

Kieron: That’s what I presumed. And, yes, that’s an incredible effort.

Richard: And it’s in the details. Redecorating the town twice, to burn it and make it a celebration. The subquests. Each path has its own ‘Witcher’ quest for instance. A Succubus on the Iorveth path, ghosts on the Roche one.

Kieron: Overambitious, I suspect, for the story they had to tell as well – which is why Act 3 and the prologue fail.

Richard: I… quite like the prologue.

Kieron: Er… epilogue

Richard: It has issues, but it got me in the mood. Aaah! True story about when I reviewed The Witcher 2:

Kieron: (But imagining what that would have been like if they had worked out a story that would fit inside their 3 acts could have been spectacular. As it is, it’s merely pretty awesome.)

Richard: I was playing it a couple of weeks before release, but I had the deadline coming up. I’d been playing solidly, and I pinged my editor to say “I’m (for the most part) loving this game, but I don’t see how I can possibly finish it by Monday.” Literally two or so hours later: “It just ended.” Opening the Journal in Act 3 to be told “Here is where the story of the Assassins of Kings came to an end…” is… what? You’re kidding? I thought I was… halfway through at most! You mean “So, you want a boss fight?” “Nah.” “Okay, we’re cool.”

Kieron: I was especially amused by the final conversation with Letho. “So – any questions?” “Nope” “Wanna fight?” “nope” “Bye!” “ooh – a ladybird” vs “So – any questions?” “Nope” “Wanna fight?” “yup” FIGHT! WIN! “ooh – a ladybird”

Richard: One of the complaints I had after the review was that I only saw one ending and maybe the others were awesome. No. Just… no.

Jim: The final act was an intermission, wasn’t it? It was the failing of the movie that doesn’t actually end, but simply sets up the sequel.

Richard: I saw about four of endings, and the main difference was that in one of them, Roche changed his shirt.

Kieron: I liked how Geralt was VERY INTERESTED IN A LADYBIRD

Richard: Well, he always did like the ladies…

Kieron: But he let it go free. Oh, Geralt, you sweetie. I admit, I was expecting him to kill the ladybird.

Richard: I honestly thought the final act was halfway through the story. So much stuff is set up or seems to explode, I couldn’t believe it when the words ‘Epilogue’ appeared. But I think it’s important to reinforce that most of my bitching about the game is disappointment that it let itself down. And I wouldn’t feel that if I hadn’t had a great, great time with so much of it. The choices, the character writing, the graphics – even the feel of the combat when you level out of being shit – are just brilliant.

Kieron: Yes.

Richard: I love that it was an RPG that made me actually *think* about my choices, and feel like it gave a shit what I chose, unlike DA2′s even worse epilogue sections.

Kieron: And it’s brilliant to see a large budget RPG which *isn’t* made by a developer who’s actually being limited by their 15-year experience by now.

Jim: Yes, i was sort of amazed when *big* consequences played out. It’s special in just that way. I also liked the troll.


Richard: And all the little details, from the tattoo gag to the call-backs, made it feel like anything *might* be bigger than it seemed.

Kieron: I liked the troll too! I liked when they turned up at the Siege.

Richard: The henpecked troll or the drunk troll?

Kieron: Henpecked.

Richard: What I love is that for all its budget, CDP really, really gets the importance of the smaller-scale moments. Nobody honestly cares about a war in an RPG. They care about the effect of the characters they’ve grown to love and hate. And every little detail…

Jim: Sometimes I feel like it’s really down to detail in terms of what wins us over in games. The bigger stuff almost doesn’t matter if the world is spilling over with bits and pieces to pore over and discuss. The fact that bits of The Witcher 2 feel like discovery, whether or not they really are, totally captured me. It managed elements of life within its scenes, it had things going on, the world was static but nevertheless full of action and events. I mean detail matters in a shooter, but in an RPG it’s literally life or death.

Richard: You guys didn’t do the Roche quest, right?

Kieron: No.

Richard: Okay. This isn’t a big plot spoiler, but it’s something I liked. One of the quests in Henselt’s camp is to have a load of arena fights with various guards, all of which are pretty damn easy by this point in the game. At first, your success amuses everyone, but then it starts getting embarassing. So, Ves (from the intro) puts herself forward as your next opponent, and the game makes it clear how much she wants to win their respect. You have the option to throw that fight. But if you don’t, she’s quick to tell you how grateful she is for that, that you actually took her *seriously* as a fighter. And then, this being the Witcher, there can be sexy-time. But it’s the bit before that that was just… yes. I really like these characters and this game.

Jim: Goddamn sexy-time…

Richard: In a way, The Witcher 2 reminded me a little of Hitman. You’re the monkey-wrench in all these plans, if you choose to be.

Jim: I was the least sexed Witcher ever. Nil sex.

Richard: I’ll actually defend the sexy-time stuff in The Witcher 2.

Kieron: Yeah, i’ll defend it in the witcher 2

Jim: Oh I am not criticising it, I just didn’t get any.

Kieron: And in the game?

Richard: Why do you think I played The Witcher 2? (sob) I thought it was pretty well handled, the scenes well scripted, and it took the time to make an emotional connection.

Jim: The only sex action I pursued was the elf in Chapter 1, and that was a trap.

Kieron: When Jim said he didn’t sex anyone, I took it as my mission to try and sex as many people as turned up. So I had sex with seven.

Jim: I just don’t play sexy.

Richard: But seriously. The one with Triss in Act 1 could have been awful, but I thought it fit their characters really well. I was then completely loyal, as far as the Quicksave button knows.

Richard: Although there’s some really, really weird sex stuff with the other characters in Act 3…

Kieron: I missed all that. I was sort of rushing by that point.

Richard: One scene with Deathmold. Really. Was not expecting that…

Kieron: Can I say the one moment which actually yucked me out? The sorceress’ eyes…

Jim: Yeah, there is some far out stuff. Oh God, yes, that was genuinely nasty.

Richard: A guy gets castrated on the other path.

Kieron: The sound-effects were the thing.

Richard: The Witcher 2 really does do squicky well. The concepts and the executions. Never too over the top, like many fantasy stories.

Kieron: We probably should be wrapping up.

Richard: So should Sile.

Kieron: Baddumtisch!

Richard: A one-woman war against the ‘mature’ rating. To wrap up, despite all my problems, I loved The Witcher 2 and I badly want a third game, right now. It really, really humiliates Dragon Age 2 especially, and while I think Skyrim will be great, it’ll be in a different way.


Kieron: Actually – before we go, there is one thing I want to say. As in a quick topic: The bugs. Fuck me, it’s a buggy messy at times and its UI needs a complete work-over. And the doors. The fucking doors.

Jim: Oh, God, the doors made no sense.

Richard: The doors are weird. So is the streaming technology.

Jim: They were tied to the animation, I think, like so much of the game. The animation dictated what could happen.

Kieron: (My favourite error was when I was dying at the same time as fighting the dragon at the end, but the cutscene cut in, I went through it, about 10 minutes of conversation and when it gave me proper control back in the prologue, my character just died.)

Jim: Okay, let’s put our critical cards on the table: how will gaming history remember this game? I think it’s going to be one of the great (skill-based, action-led) RPGs. A defining moment for the swords & conversation genre.

Richard: I don’t think it’ll stick in peoples’ minds as well as the original Witcher, simply because of how original that game was. But I do think it’s a far better game, and one that people like us will be referencing for years and years and years. But primarily on the story side, not as a game. It’ll be “Remember the Act 2 split?” rather than “Remember how awesome the Aard sign is?”

Kieron: The Aard sign is pretty awesome!

Jim: Well Aard, i say.

Kieron: Basically, if you liked the Witcher, you’ll love it. And if you had problems with the Witcher, you’ll probably like it, as it’s just generally a step up.

Richard: I so very, very, very badly want CDP to get more eyes on their next game. Not that it should be focus grouped to hell and back, but just to make sure someone has a bit of distance before it gets burned to disc. Or downloaded into our brains, if the development time of this one is anything to go by.

Kieron: I actually want them to be slightly less ambitious with the story. Which is a strange thing to wish for.

Richard: I honestly don’t think ambition is the problem. I think they consider it a great finale. It just isn’t.

Kieron: Really? They could have just done it around the Siege, and had as much detail as the game had, and it’d work.

Richard: And since John isn’t here, I can add “Just like Dreamfall”

Kieron: A siege is meaningful. Meaning=emotion, and all that jazz.

Richard: It probably could, but I don’t think that’s the issue. Flotsam is the disposable bit, really.

Richard: I just think they gave us Acts 1-3 of a 5 act game.

Kieron: Yeah? Well, budget isn’t going to get bigger, so better to make a plot that fits in 3 acts then. That’s what I’m saying.

Richard: Or, maybe, ‘don’t make 2 act 2s’ It’s a cool feature, but they didn’t need to do it. I’d have sacrificed one of those paths for a proper fourth act.

Kieron: And make another basically linear RPG? I think you’re throwing the baby out.

Richard: You don’t need two completely divergent paths for that. Look at Fallout. Or what Dragon Age 2 could have been, with its one location. For me, choices on their own aren’t the exciting bit. I want to see results from them.

Jim: To be honest, as I was playing I’d imagined that Iorveth and Roche were interchangeable, before I realised there were actually two different paths. You could have done that and had real difference in the story, while reducing the needs to duplicated so much content.

Kieron: That’s the thing – I think you’re losing some of the strangeness by doing that. What is most interesting about it is that it’s *different*.

Richard: It’s different enough already. And most people will assume that Act 2 is mostly copy-and-paste anyway. Which it totally isn’t.

Jim: But yes, the difference in that fork in the road is incredible. No one else dares do that. Any final words?

Richard: It’s awesome. But it’s the attitude, the world, etc that makes the game special. That’s just a cherry on the cake. If you haven’t played it yet, play it immediately. For all the bitching, it’s at least 89% of awesomeness.

Kieron: Yeah, thumbs up, play it.

Richard: You will not see another RPG like it for a very, very long time.

Jim: Yes, it’s the game I have to insist people play, even if they whinge about it being too hard to start with. (Like we did.)

Richard: Yeah. Hint: Aard to knockback enemies, Quen for shields, don’t get hit from behind. After Level 7 or so, you’ll never have trouble again. Oh, and sacrifice looks for framerate.

Kieron: And sex people with your albino penis.

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301 Comments »

  1. Teronfel says:

    I love Triss

  2. TillEulenspiegel says:

    Strange. How is The Witcher 2 any more an RPG than Mass Effect 2? Didn’t you say that was better described as Guns & Conversation?

    • Premium User Badge

      sasayan says:

      “A defining moment for the swords & conversation genre.”

      They call it more or less the same. Both would still be stocked on the RPG shelf though, being stat-driven.

    • Wizardry says:

      And being at the very least equally player skill driven. I’ve seen many conversations about how players aren’t fighting right in the game and are making it hard for themselves. Less so about character builds.

    • Walsh says:

      It seems like the only prerequisite to be called an RPG these days is to include PC/NPC conversations and the ability to outfit your pre-made character.

      I’d argue these days the definition of an RPG is a game where player dexterity does not factor into his success.

      To stretch this: If you don’t have have fast reflexes and your APM directly maps to how well your character performs, how can you possibly “role-play” as Geralt who is supernaturally quick and be successful in the game?

      If I have to push my physical abilities to accomplish actions as my character, am I role playing? I’d argue you aren’t.

      Yep.

    • Nalano says:

      I think you’re wrong, and I think your methodology is flawed.

      RPGs aren’t defined by the ability to up your Dex and drop your Cha any more than RTSs are defined by your ability to turtle base buildings or FPSs defined by your ability to rocket-jump.

      R. P. G. Role. Playing. Game. So long as you have a role and you’re playing it – which means conversations and the option to say things your way – you’re playing an RPG. Simply because your accuracy with a rifle is based on your mouse hand and not a RNG under the hood doesn’t mean it’s not an RPG.

      Kinda reminds me of FO3 and FONV in a way; especially the latter: Yeah, you had stats, but in combat with the shooty-shooty they largely meant nothing and, ultimately, seemed like they were left in mostly to placate old-school grognards.

      I’m not even going to get into “hybrid genres” because to so narrowly define a genre is to suffocate it to death via No True Scotsman.

    • Wizardry says:

      @Nalano: So explain to me how you play a super dexterous rogue as a guy with chronic arthritis in his wrists (or something similar)? The idea is that you are always limited by your own ability if the game is player skill based instead of character skill based. You can no longer just pump statistics like speed and dexterity while choosing acrobatic skills and dual wielding proficiencies to make this fast attacking, quick dodging rogue. You have to actually be good at playing fast and dexterously yourself. On the other side, if you want to play as a character who is poor at dexterous things, who is slow but powerful in battle, yet you are great at dodging and weaving in and out of enemy attacks, you have to actually play worse than you can in order to role-play the character successfully. By shifting everything over to statistics and making everything turn-based you get around this entirely by delegating responsibility of small actions such as dodging and hitting a target to your character. You can then create a game with a combat model similar in depth to turn-based tactics games if you wanted, where you can use all of those statistics to do interesting things.

    • Nalano says:

      So the heart of your argument, Wizardry, is, “I’m old?”

      I dunno what to say, except to ask what that has to do with the definition of a genre.

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      Oozo says:

      Wizardry, I just wanted you to know that you are probably my favorite spam bot in the whole wide web. And I’m not only saying that for the alliteration.

    • Vinraith says:

      R. P. G. Role. Playing. Game. So long as you have a role and you’re playing it – which means conversations and the option to say things your way – you’re playing an RPG.

      The usual line, and the usual rebuttal: By that definition, every adventure game with conversation trees, every FPS with dialogue options, indeed any game with conversations in it is an RPG. That definition has no utility. All other game genres are defined in terms of their mechanics, why should RPG’s be any different? Why attempt to water down the definition of RPG to the point where it is meaningless, in that it tells you nothing about how a game plays? As a simple matter of clarity, RPG should be defined in the same terms and by the same metrics as any other game genre.

    • FakeAssName says:

      it’s about the focus of the game play.

      RPGs are considered RPGs because they are story driven.

      yes, in an action adventure game your playing a character and there is a story, but the reason why you are playing is because of the action & and adventure … the story is just there to back up the game play.

      in a RPG you can have just as much action-ing and adventure-ing but the whole point of the game is to follow the story like reading a book, the bits where your swashbuckling or platform hopping is simply icing on the “story” cake.

      with that example in mind: two cakes, both are made out of chocolate and vanilla. one is a chocolate cake with vanilla icing while the other is a vanilla cake with chocolate icing … are they equivalent just because they cover the same general points?

    • Wizardry says:

      Not sure if serious. Hope not.

    • Walsh says:

      By your definitions, every fucking game is a role playing game. I am role playing as a big brother in Bioshock 2, I am role playing as a space marine in Doom, I am role playing as a race car driver in Dirt. Every fucking game is an RPG according to your definitions.

      Every game on earth is numbers driven. It’s just how well you can see those stats. Apparently if you can see under the hood a little bit, then it’s considered an RPG nowadays.

      To counter someone’s point about masturbation to stastistics, Baldur’s Gate is a good example of an RPG that you can hide a lot of the numbers but still peek under the hood if you want.

      You don’t need to be a numbers whore to have an RPG, but you do need to remove any form of dexterity required. Otherwise you aren’t fucking role playing as someone else.

    • bluefire says:

      “Jim: What about that dude in the RPS comments who says that anything that isn’t a turn-based RPG from 1987 isn’t an RPG?

      Kieron: That guy in the comments thread is basically a spam-bot from RPG codex. It’s not a real person.

      Jim: That makes sense.”

      That is all

    • Nick says:

      They weren’t being 100% serious you know, they aren’t nasty people =)

    • bluefire says:

      No I don’t, never met any of them in the physical world. They could all be evil masterminds planning on blowing up the sun for all I know…

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Right now, we’re leaning more towards a zombie apocalypse.

    • Kadayi says:

      “By your definitions, every fucking game is a role playing game. I am role playing as a big brother in Bioshock 2, I am role playing as a space marine in Doom, I am role playing as a race car driver in Dirt. Every fucking game is an RPG according to your definitions.”

      Story driven game where in you not only evolve the narrative through choice and consequences that shape and transform the game state to some degree, but also evolve your character as well to the extent that when comparing playthroughs with other players there are distinct differences in terms of how things went down. Can you live with that sweary angry internet man?

      “You don’t need to be a numbers whore to have an RPG, but you do need to remove any form of dexterity required. Otherwise you aren’t fucking role playing as someone else.”

      Clicking on a target is merely directing the action. There’s a big difference between what’s going on when you click on a target in say MW2 (Boom!! Headshot!!), Vs clicking on a Bandit in Oblivion. In Oblivion it’s no different than clicking on a target in BG2, just it’s a first person pespective game, Vs an Isometric one. That you aren’t seeing the numbers at work doesn’t mean they are not there.

      For the record though I have to say I do find it fairly hilarious that what’s ‘important’ for some people is combat mechanics at the end of the day Vs narrative. Says a lot really about mindset.

    • Adventurous Putty says:

      I think it is a matter of emphasis, really, more than anything else. Vinraith said it best (and, I might add, most civilly): defining an RPG as nothing more than a game in which the player assumes a role is watering down the definition past the limits of usefulness. The question, then, is how best to arrive at a definition.
      If you take one thing from what is sure to be an overlong and pretentious post, make it this — ANY DEFINITION OF “RPG” MUST BE DEFINED BY THE GAME’S MECHANICS. That’s simply how useful genres are made in gaming. Take it or leave it.
      From my many long and flame-filled fights on RPG Codex, the Elder Scrolls forums, and various other assorted RPG boards, I can pretty much say with a fair amount of confidence that there are two types of RPGers, distinguished by which mechanics in particular they choose to emphasize in their RPGs. The first group, of which Wizardry is a part, defines RPGs by their stats — which is to say, the player’s ability to customize their player character (PC) through the use of a system of attributes, skills, and special abilities (often, but not always, inspired by or derivative of DnD) and a gameplay system that emphasizes these skills over the player’s twitch abilities. In doing so, this group argues, an RPG distinguishes itself from the other game genres by allowing the player to make choices that would not otherwise be available. Wizardry’s thieving rogue is a good example of this, but creates a bit of a strawman scenario in which a crippled player would somehow need a stats-based system in order to enjoy the game — a plausible scenario, but not a very common or even probable one. In fact, such a system usually makes a player LIMIT his/her agency (that is, his/her ability to do stuff in the game world) in order to experience the game world in a unique, specialized way. Those who argue for a stats-based definition to the RPG say this encourages replay value and immersion, as it is inherently disassociating the player from his/her real-world personality.
      I respect this view a lot; it informed a lot of my favorite RPGs. However, I belong to the second school of RPGers, who view stats-based mechanics as IMPORTANT (note that I’m not minimizing their importance, Wizardry) but not the MOST ESSENTIAL GAMEPLAY ELEMENT of an RPG. Instead, I believe that the most important mechanic in an RPG is what the good fellas at Iron Tower have so usefully dubbed C&C, or Choices & Consequences. C&C, simply explained, is the player’s ability to make concrete choices in the game (usually, but not necessarily always, clearly presented) that impact the game world in a visible fashion, define the player’s character, and present both immediate and long-term consequences that may or may not be foreseeable. By this school’s view, the RPG distinguishes itself from other game genres in its narrative flexibility, its meaningful (key word!) character customization options, its world-building, and its insistence upon making player choice the center of its architecture. The main medium by which the player makes choices in most RPGs, by nature of its ease of construction and versatility, is the handy-dandy conversation tree. Many RPGs, however, present choices in the gameplay — one need only take into account Deus Ex’s marvelously open level design and, most importantly, its acknowledgement through later dialogue and story branchings of the players choices in those open levels. And, in fact, the stats-based system that Wizardry touts so passionately began (I would argue) as yet another means of enforcing the doctrine of C&C. That does NOT, however, mean it is the only way of doing so, and that an RPG lacking a stats-based system must also by definition lack C&C. I think Alpha Protocol, KOTOR II, Vampire: TMB, the Witcher, and Deus Ex are all good examples of good RPGs (in terms of C&C) that partially or wholly eschewed a skills-based system. Mass Effect is middling; Mass Effect 2 was significantly better. RPGs that gave up on a stats-based system and (for different reasons, as well) were bad in terms of C&C include Oblivion and its expansions. Morrowind, by contrast, was better — but not necessarily because its stats-based system was more intact.
      But again, it’s a matter of emphasis — of leaning. The two schools, ultimately, are not mutually exclusive. I think the future of the RPG is bright, as long as developers keep C&C in mind, and perhaps the Witcher is an indicator of that (I wouldn’t know, having not played it). But I can’t help but think Wizardry’s bitching on literally every single RPG thread on RPS reeks a bit of old geezer syndrome, and perhaps an unhealthy dose of nostalgia. I don’t mean to criticize too harshly, however, as I totally see where he’s coming from. I just disagree.

    • Kadayi says:

      @Adventurous Putty

      Good post. I think the fundamental problem (and one Wizardry seems both unable and unwilling to grasp judging by his responses so far in this thread) is that a lot of people nowadays prefer C&C RPGs over stats driven ones, especially given so much of what was previously abstract can now be carried through and simulated inside reactive game environments by leveraging the much more sophisticated Graphical & CPU power we enjoy today (Vs the display being little more than moving wallpaper with negligible relationship to the actions happening behind the curtain with the games of old).

      For some reason this seems to be some kind of red flag to a bull as far as he’s concerned and so like some crazed religious zealot he insists on barging into any RPS RPG discussion and derailing the conversation whenever C&C is on the table. Ironically he’s all about saying his simply stating his ‘opinion’, but seems unable to grasp that when people say want to have a discussion about (for example) the pros and cons of the unfolding of the narrative within DA2, having a guy repeatedly churning out variations of ‘that’s not a true RPG’ or how it’s a terrible game because it wouldn’t let him stab the (plot essential) homosexual in the face for daring to make a pass at him, Vs Ultima VII which allows you to ‘kill everyone’ (and one assumes ‘break’ the storyline in the process) , it gets a little wearing.

    • Archonsod says:

      “defining an RPG as nothing more than a game in which the player assumes a role is watering down the definition past the limits of usefulness”

      It’s not, providing you’re clear on the difference between assuming a role (roleplaying) and playing a role (acting). In Bioshock for example you do not assume a role, you are playing a role; your part has been pre-determined and set out by the developers. You have a little influence on certain nuances such as which weapons or skills you upgrade, just like an actor playing King Lear has some influence on mannerisms and the like, but neither are role playing. Your character will ultimately act within the story as pre-decided by the writer, and there’s nothing you as the player can do to change that.

      As Kadayi says, in order to qualify as an RPG there must be the ability for the role the player takes to evolve and change the game. Broadly speaking, if two people can play the game and come away with radically different experiences then it’s probably an RPG. If on the other hand it’s the same experience for both players with only some minor deviations, it’s not.

    • Chris D says:

      “Any definition of RPG must be defined by the games mechanics”

      I’m gonna take issue with this. I’ll admit that on the face of it you might have a pretty good case in that it’s probably true of any other genre. It’s also a nice logical system that if we’d all sat down to decide on genre naming conventions we’d probably have picked. But, unfortunately, that’s not how names actually work.

      To repeat myself a little from another thread currently stuff that is lumped under the RPG banner includes ARPG’s, MMORPG’s, JRPG’s, pen and paper RPG’s, guns/swords and conversation, roguelikes, tactical RPG’s, roguelikes, puzzlequest-alikes and that’s without looking at the many hybrid games also out there. Mechanically there isn’t very much common between all of those.

      You could argue that levelling/experience are common to them but there are RPG’s that don’t use levels or xp and there are also non-RPG’s that do (Brink for one).Again you could say that actually we shouldn’t call all of those thing RPG’s but that’s like saying you shouldn’t call Tetris a puzzle game; that ship has sailed.

      Defining everything mechanically may be a good engineering viewpoint but computer games exist halfway between engineering and artform, both art and craft, both software product and creative expression. What I think all of these games have in common is that they’re attempting to capture the feel of the genre of uh.. genre literature/tv/film/comics and put it in a game. It’s a chance to play out a story you could only otherwise observe and make it your story in some way.

      It’s not a particulary neat definition but I think it’s a genre that you’re only able to cram into a box by cutting off some bits I think we’d be poorer without.

    • TariqOne says:

      I don’t have a terribly dogmatic view of RPGs. But for me, this isn’t one, or at least, isn’t a form of one I care for. It’s missing key features I enjoy about RPGs, namely: (1) fussing over creating your character’s physical/biological self; (2) mulling over your character’s personality and backstory; (3) choosing a class; (4) fiddling endlessly with your character’s stats; (5) mulling over party composition and companion kit; and (6) sweating over math and dice rolls. (Admittedly it does have other things I like, like narrative, crafting, and character advancement.)

      I don’t think a game needs all or any one of these things to be called an RPG. But despite being a huge lover of the genre, the Witcher games don’t do it for me. I don’t enjoy driving around in Geralt’s skin, and in fact find him hugely dislikeable. I don’t find the Witcher “class” terribly compelling to play. I don’t enjoy the clicky/rolly combat much. I’d much rather play a game where I have some say in who the character is, their appearance, their gender, their race, their personality, their playstyle/class/powers, who their friends are and what they do. I’d rather have more pensive and tactical combat.

      In all honesty, for all the complaints about this game or that game being “dumbed down” or “consolized,” I’m a bit surprised that a game with none of the above complexities present is being hailed as such a monumental advancement in computer RPGs. It’s a pretty shallow set of mechanics to me, and I hope it doesn’t encourage more RPG developers to strip away core RPG features going forward.

    • Wizardry says:

      @Adventurous Putty: Good post, but I hugely disagree. “C&C”, as VD calls it, cannot be the defining aspect of the genre. For a start, it can exist in equal amounts in other genres without turning them into CRPGs. Imagine a branching adventure game with multiple routes and multiple endings. No statistics are present, everyone plays the same character, but the puzzles you get the chance to solve changes based on the order you solve puzzles in or the way you solve puzzles. It has choices and it has consequences. Characters may die if you do some things, others may like your or hate you for your actions. Is it a CRPG or is it an adventure game with lots of branching? It’s an adventure game with lots of branching!

      Conversely, take a look at something like Wizardry. It was created in an era before you could even fit a story on a floppy disk, let alone a branching one. Does it have C&C in the sense of a reactive story? No, it doesn’t. So why is it one of the first CRPGs? Because you can define the make up of your party through the creation of various characters and then go off to play with your characters as a party. Statistics are used mechanically instead of through scripts in the story to branch the game. Putting more points in strength would turn you into a heavy hitter, while putting more points in agility would allow you to evade better. Stretching this to non-combat gameplay you could allow strength to give you a better chance of smashing down locked doors and agility could give you a better chance of successfully climbing a wall of a city.

      If a game gives you options to solve problems in ways suited to your character then that’s good enough to define something as a CRPG. You might have a few ways to get into a guarded city at night. Sneak in through the back gate, fight the guards, charm the guards and scale the walls. Scaling the wall may the best option for an agile character who avoids fights. Charming the guards may be an option for a charismatic character who likes talking their way out of situations. Sneaking in the back may be the best option for a stealthy character who can hide in the shadows well enough and move silently. Fighting may be the “default” option for everyone else, and the favourable option for pure fighters. Having a game full of options such as these (Darklands is a good example, it’s the game that I based this example off of anyway) lets you role-play your character. Everything you can do in the game uses statistics in some way, either to gauge your success/failure rate or to calculate the degree of success (for example, how much damage you take while doing an action). It’s a CRPG because it favours playing the game through in a role suited to your character. It doesn’t favour playing the game through in a role opposed by your character (fighting all the time with a frail character who usually prefers to stealth past all hostile encounters).

      So no. CRPGs aren’t defined by their C&C. They can’t afford to be, really. Having a branching story unfold around you just means that you’re following the game in exactly the same way the developers had hoped for. When people complain about CRPGs always restricting their experience and their options in relation to pen and paper RPGs, it’s exactly because the games they are playing are content heavy. They require the developer to account for all possible actions. Not the computer. The computer sits there and displays content for you to see. The developer scripts things for you to experience. And to address Kadayi on this point, how is this the best use for computers? How is pushing all the burden onto the developers to create masses and masses of content the way to use computers optimally? How is number crunching using the statistics of the player’s character and the environment around him not what computers are good at? There’s a reason why Wizardry sits at a few kilobytes compared to the many gigabytes of a game like Dragon Age II. It’s because Wizardry uses the computer to make things happen in the game while Dragon Age II loads up script after script after script after script and merely displays it to you in a linear fashion.

    • Archonsod says:

      “how is this the best use for computers?”

      Why does it need to be? lol. I’m pretty sure one could put forward a rather strong argument that using a computer to play games would constitute a sub-optimal use of said computer in the first place.

      As to why it’s best, you’ve pretty much answered your own argument. In tabletop, it’s the job of the GM to craft something for the player(s) to experience; as you say that role is taken on by the developer with the computer relegated to replacing the tabletop. In the triad of GM, table and player I can’t think of a better role the computer could replace at current technology.

    • Wizardry says:

      Why does it need to be? lol. I’m pretty sure one could put forward a rather strong argument that using a computer to play games would constitute a sub-optimal use of said computer in the first place.

      It doesn’t need to be. Did you read Kadayi’s post or not? He mentioned making good use of the CPU and GPU. I only countered it. Personally, I don’t give a damn whether something makes the best use of them or not.

      As to why it’s best, you’ve pretty much answered your own argument. In tabletop, it’s the job of the GM to craft something for the player(s) to experience; as you say that role is taken on by the developer with the computer relegated to replacing the tabletop. In the triad of GM, table and player I can’t think of a better role the computer could replace at current technology.

      Well, the computer can replace the reactive elements, taking the burden away from the developers. Think about a simple combat encounter in a game like Pool of Radiance. None of that is scripted. All that is created by the developer is the initial enemy placement. The rest is controlled purely using statistics and AI. The developer scripts nothing. Expanding that outside of combat would be an excellent thing. Combat is truly a reactive experience, you strike a troll and they can react accordingly, such as fleeing at low hit points. This rarely happens outside of combat. You walk close to a group of townsfolk and a cutscene starts, the guys talk to each other in an animated fashion, and then a dialogue wheel pops up asking you what you want your character to say to them. That’s all scripted by the developer. The entire thing. It’s the complete opposite of combat.

    • Kadayi says:

      “Personally, I don’t give a damn whether something makes the best use of them or not.”

      And you come to this site (a site principally dedicated to new PC games) why exactly? Seems to me that Retrogamer would suit you better (I get the increasing impression you long since got yourself banned from the RPG codex tbh).

      “It’s because Wizardry uses the computer to make things happen in the game while Dragon Age II loads up script after script after script after script and merely displays it to you in a linear fashion.”

      LOL. Now I truly know you never ever played the game. Sure DA2 is splint into acts (it’s a story driven game, not a sandbox after all) , and sure it arrives at a defined denouement, but the choices you make as a player have consequences both for yourself and those around you. The impact of which will carry across to the next title.

      “Good post, but I hugely disagree. “C&C”, as VD calls it, cannot be the defining aspect of the genre. For a start, it can exist in equal amounts in other genres without turning them into CRPGs. Imagine a branching adventure game with multiple routes and multiple endings. No statistics are present, everyone plays the same character, but the puzzles you get the chance to solve changes based on the order you solve puzzles in or the way you solve puzzles. It has choices and it has consequences. Characters may die if you do some things, others may like your or hate you for your actions. Is it a CRPG or is it an adventure game with lots of branching? It’s an adventure game with lots of branching!”

      Your argument is flawed (and disingenuous as usual) because you’re extracting ‘choice and consequence; from a broader description.

      Choice and consequence alone are not what makes an RPG experience; character progression is another vital element (which can be overtly or covertly statistical in nature).

      A puzzle game might have multiple branching paths, but unless it’s got character progression as well it’s not an RPG by any stretch of the imagination (Heavy Rain is not an RPG).

      Fundamentally a RPG is a story driven game which features branching narrative based on player/character choices and consequence coupled with the evolution of the character as that narrative progresses.

    • Wizardry says:

      Kadayi, this is now the 14th time you’ve told me to post elsewhere due to my opinions on video games. How many times do you have to do so before getting kicked off here yourself? It’s getting really tiresome.

      EDIT: How do you report posts on here? There’s no report button.

    • Nick says:

      block him, he isn’t worth reading.

    • Gvaz says:

      The Witcher 2 is an rpg because:

      - items
      - stats
      - conversation choices
      - options
      - linear without being a corridor shooter

      Mass effect 2 is not an rpg because:
      - no items (armor customization is weak and doesn’t even compare)
      - simple stats
      - corridor shooter
      - options amount to Yes/Yes/Yes

    • Kadayi says:

      @Wizardry

      LOL. I’m not telling you to go. I’m merely making a suggestion that you might be better served in terms of a receptive audience at a site like retrogamer. Because let’s face it you’ve been banging the same drum repeatedly for month and months and months here, and no ones dancing to your tune. Even sympathisers like Vinraith or TillEulenspiegel only seem to be half on your page.

      Still I like the fact in adopting high dudgeon, you’ve conveniently bailed on addressing any of the counter arguments I’ve raised. A less magnanimous man would gloat, but frankly I’m just terribly disappointed in you.

      @Nick, King of the one line posters.

      No calls of cuntery this time? Shame. Still I’m bemused by the notion that you’re somehow siding with Wizardry not because you necessarily support his arguments on RPGs but simply because you seemingly ‘hate’ me with a passion. Good to know what’s truly important in a discussion is not the weight of the words, but who says them. Let’s pray you’re not called up for jury service any time soon.

    • viverravid says:

      Oh look it’s the “what defines an RPG?” argument again. Never seen this one on a gaming site before.

      Can I make a suggestion?

      RPG is a gaming industry marketing category. Games are marketed as RPGs if they want to attract the paying audience of previous games that were marketed as RPGs.

      Way back at the start of that chain were games with heavy inspiration from Pen & Paper D&D mechanics, but it’s been a long time since then.

    • TariqOne says:

      @Wizardry: Don’t sweat it. It’s a favored tactic around here to tell people to go post elsewhere — kotaku, Retrogamer — when they have stances out of tune with what is at any given time believed to be the prevailing view. Somewhere around the time Gillen left, the “hivemind” became the “echochamber.”

      As if unanimity were a virtue. And as if there were any consistency of thought or view around here anyway.

      So yeah, keep on keepin’ on. I for one enjoy your posts and like that you’re around. Even if you are a bit batshit crazy.

    • nmute says:

      my favorite rpg this year is NBA 2K11.

    • Wizardry says:

      @viverravid: Well, I actually think The Witcher 2 is partly a CRPG (as opposed to TillEulenspiegel’s view). It fits well enough within the action RPG genre, anyway. The Witcher 1, on the other hand, is more of an action adventure with RPG elements. Though that’s another topic entirely.

      @TariqOne: Thanks. I don’t think I’ll feel the need to “go post elsewhere” because right now I know I’ve done little wrong. A quick scan through all my replies to this article and comparing them to those by a certain member beginning with K reveals that I spend most of my time actually talking about games as opposed to insulting people, telling them to post elsewhere and recommending people for blocking.

    • Kadayi says:

      @TariqOne

      You really shouldn’t humour him, and I’d really rather he answered the questions I set down than dodge them tbh. I’d be interested to hear his counterpoints.

    • Nick says:

      I don’t normally do that (in fact, never have before), but really it makes sense just to ignore him as he had nothing to add but attacking you.

    • Adventurous Putty says:

      Well, quite a lot has happened in this conversation since I posted, so forgive me if this post is a bit fragmented. Hopefully I’ll be able to clear up some of your questions though:

      @Archonsod:

      You bring up an excellent point about the nature of the gamer as an actor in all video games, not just RPGs. In fact, I think the whole player-as-actor idea is a notion worth discussing in its own right. When, however, you use it to discredit my notion that RPGs must be defined as something more than “role-playing,” I think you’re mincing words. You yourself say:

      It’s not, providing you’re clear on the difference between assuming a role (roleplaying) and playing a role (acting). In Bioshock for example you do not assume a role, you are playing a role; your part has been pre-determined and set out by the developers…Your character will ultimately act within the story as pre-decided by the writer, and there’s nothing you as the player can do to change that.

      I agree entirely. And you will notice that the player’s ability to make meaningful choices that change the game world — what I define as Choices & Consequences — is precisely the mechanic that I use to determine what is and is not an RPG. In other words, we’re saying the same thing, in slightly different language. Most people would not make the distinction between roleplaying and acting that you do; you make the distinction based on certain mechanics in RPGs that let you play, rather than act, a role. All I’ve done is give those mechanics a name: C&C.

      @Chris D:

      Also an excellent point, in that the RPG genre is not a neatly defined little bubble with uniform mechanics. You are absolutely right when you say, [C]urrently stuff that is lumped under the RPG banner includes ARPG’s, MMORPG’s, JRPG’s, pen and paper RPG’s, guns/swords and conversation, roguelikes, tactical RPG’s, roguelikes, puzzlequest-alikes and that’s without looking at the many hybrid games also out there. Mechanically there isn’t very much common between all of those.

      Exactly right. What you’ve done, Chris, is catch me in the act of being sloppy with my nomenclature. When I refer to “RPGs” in my comments above, I’m really referring to the Western tradition of RPG or the CRPG, as Wizardry calls it, which is a very specific tradition within which these tropes and mechanistic conventions apply. JRPGs, ARPGs, and Mamorpaggers are different beasts entirely, based upon different foundations and having an unfortunate similarity in title.

      Thus, to clarify, I would say that, “Mechanistically there isn’t very much common between all of those — but certainly between some.” And it’s precisely that “some” that I’m trying to tack down. So consider my definition for RPG in the previous post to be a particularly liberal definition for the Western RPG genre, whose subgenres (I would argue) include Guns/Sword & Conversations, Tactical RPGs, and roguelikes.

      But — and the fact I’m rambling so much about this should tell you that you’ve made a hell of a point — I want to make clear that I’m not trying to be dogmatic about my definition for the Western RPG. I actually hate genres, in video games and elsewhere; as someone points out in a snarky remark above, they’re more a marketing convention than anything else. I’m more interested in the idea of RPGs as a sort of artistic movement, if you’ll allow me the decadent analogy — a general group of games, loosely defined, flexible, liable to evolve, but based upon certain principles of aesthetic and mechanical taste. Therefore, don’t think of me as an engineer, trying to pin down an exacting definition of the RPG, but as a critic, trying both to sort out what made these various developers tick and to counter a theory by another critic (Wizardry) whose definition of Western RPG I find to be too constricting and dogmatic.

      @Kadayi:

      I’m glad that you agree with my points, and I appreciate that your posts tend to be so lucid and free of bullshit. I would, however, ask that you be more civil to Wizardry — eccentric and opinionated and sometimes abrasive though he may be, I think that an objective reading of this thread shows that he’s generally behaved himself, whereas you’ve been the one lobbing ad hominems and patronizing suggestions for a change of forum. I can see why you’d want to be snarky — God knows I’ve found him exasperating at times, in other threads, which is why I decided to post — but I think it’d serve both your points and the conversation better if you just played nice.

      And, finally, @Wizardry:

      I guess the gap of our disagreement is unbridgeable, because I find your example of “an adventure game with branches” to be precisely the sort of interesting experimentation in RPGs that my looser definition strives to allow. I think that, in the process of creating a counter-example, you’ve actually opened the door to a fascinating thought-experiment.

      First, your words: Imagine a branching adventure game with multiple routes and multiple endings. No statistics are present, everyone plays the same character, but the puzzles you get the chance to solve changes based on the order you solve puzzles in or the way you solve puzzles. It has choices and it has consequences. Characters may die if you do some things, others may like your or hate you for your actions. Is it a CRPG or is it an adventure game with lots of branching? It’s an adventure game with lots of branching!

      Well, to channel John Lennon, yes — let’s imagine! Imagine that this strange little game does indeed allow story branches of various types, and has various types of choices the player can make. Let’s say that the branches in the mid-story (the most important ones) are a result of one of two types of choices: conversation choices and puzzle choices. Conversation choices are self-explanatory; puzzle choices would be more interesting, because it would imply the creation of adventure game-style puzzles that a.) can be solved multiple ways and b.) change the story depending on how they’re solved. Now, a step further: let’s say that, in keeping with the C&C theme, the game acknowledges ALL your choices with intended and unintended, short- and long-term consequences. So character relationships change, story line branches become/cease to become available, items and encounters change, and dialogue ACKNOWLEDGES PLAYER ACTION.

      And even further: let’s say that, at the very start of the game, there is another type of branching: early-game branching. Here’s the rub — I would argue that most RPGs of the traditional model create early-game branching through stats-based gameplay, which creates differences from the very start as to what choices are/aren’t available to the player. And I would also argue (and this point is the one that will probably make you want to smash your keyboard in frustration) that stats are not the only way of doing this. I envision this little “adventure game” as offering different choices for character history, “kit,” and strengths/weaknesses — all binary choices rather than numbers. Think the non-numbers parts of Daggerfall’s character creation system. If you have a strength against fire, you must have a weakness against, uh, toads; if you start with a knife, you cannot start with a bow; if you already saved the princess, you can’t have already had a connection to the king who kidnapped her. Now, think of these sort of kit/background choices in terms of adventure game gameplay, where items — rather than being loot — are one-of-a-kind and your only way of interacting with the world and solving puzzles. Think also of how certain character-based RPGs treat character relationships and faction alliances (like Alpha Protocol). THUS, your choice of knife over bow or king over princess determines which puzzle solution options are available to you (at the start anyway), creating more branchings, more consequences. There reaches a point where it becomes fluid, complex, rich — and, most importantly, novel.

      I think this kind of blurring between what are traditionally considered elements of separate genres — the RPG and the adventure game — would be immensely interesting. I would buy such a game, just to see how the batshit permutations work out. And who knows? Maybe it could help reinvigorate RPGs in the same way Amnesia: The Dark Descent reinvigorated horror games — by blending elements some might see as foreign to its genre while maintaining the essential kernel of what makes that genre tick.

      That you would preclude such a transformation from occurring — that you would so deeply invest your faith in the systems of the past as to make them static and dogmatic — is why I fundamentally disagree with you. Not to mention probably why my games library is likely more up-to-date, my palette a bit more polychromatic.

    • Wizardry says:

      @Adventurous Putty: Funnily enough, that thought experiment would lead to an actual CRPG. You see, you’ve taken what I said before, an adventure game with branches, and added on actual CRPG elements, that of being able to define a character through binary items/abilities/traits that are “unique” to your game (unless someone else happens to pick the same, of course). You now have a character. The game can then lock content or branch the story based on how you’ve defined your character. You might have picked the “lazy” trait, the “popular” trait, the “funny” trait and the “argumentative” trait, all of which are binary (you have them or you don’t). These might manifest themselves in the game as items that only you have and only you can use to solve problems and to branch the game’s story. It doesn’t really matter. It would be functionally equivalent to a computer adaptation of one of those pen and paper RPGs that don’t use numerical stats but binary traits instead. You can still have game mechanics that use those traits. You can still have rules underpinning the game that resolves actions through comparing traits. You still have a CRPG.

      It’s when you remove those elements from the game things start moving into “choose your own adventure book” territory. If you start with the same character, a fixed protagonist if you will, and then choose whatever route you feel like picking when branches arise, you end up playing a player controlled story game thing. Take Dragon Age: Origins, remove the character choices, remove the levelling up, remove the distribution of statistics, skills and talents, and what are you left with? Real-time combat with fixed characters, so that’s a real-time tactics game, but with quest branches and dialogue. You have a real-time tactics game with branching dialogue. Everyone plays the same character and so everyone can use the same tactics to win, and all the decisions the character can make are open to the player to choose, with nothing locked away due to character builds of any kind.

    • Chris D says:

      @Adventurous Putty

      Thanks for the gracious response. I think we’re broadly in agreement. I think discussions about genre can be useful and interesting (sometimes) as a means of shedding light on the games we like so long as we remember that genre is really just a tool and not something we should allow to limit what’s possible and what isn’t.

  3. Dominic White says:

    My greatest frustration with the game isn’t even with the game. It’s trying to report bugs on the official Witcher 2 forum. Not only will you get shouted down by fifty sycophants who are convinced the game is entirely too easy AND completely perfect, but you’ll have the developers walking in to let loose gems like ‘Geralt not responding to controls is how we intended it! The combat is perfectly balanced!’.

    Someone needs to go around to the CD Projekt offices and slap them around a little until they stop being such egotistical twats, because the game is fantastic in most other aspects. It also has the single biggest and best plot-branch I’ve seen in an RPG. A single decision earlier on branches off into two completely seperate latter-halves of the game. Great stuff.

  4. LimeWarrior says:

    Well, I say that anything that isn’t a turn-based RPG from 1987 isn’t an RPG.

  5. GraveyardJimmy says:

    Wizardry will not be happy:

    “The Witcher 1 is more of an action adventure game, really”

    • Vinraith says:

      Wizardry isn’t exactly diplomatic, but he’s not exactly wrong. The Witcher is almost as light on RPG mechanics as something like Mass Effect 2. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a good game, but it’s certainly more action game than RPG in a lot of ways. If we acknowledge Mass Effect 2 is really a “guns and conversation” game, isn’t the Witcher pretty much a “swords and conversation” game?

      Maybe the Witcher 2 is different in this respect, I wouldn’t know. I picked it up on launch but have been waiting for a lull in patching to try it.

    • GraveyardJimmy says:

      Well not really, judging from the fact that there is far more depth to levelling skills in the Witcher (4 attribute trees, 5 signs trees, the steel sword and silver sword trees, each of which have 3 styles). Each of these trees has roughly 5 levels, with different talents within them.
      That is a massive amount of talents to spend, alongside the fact that there are lots of potions to get yourself involved in (which I haven’t even touched near the end of chapter one yet).

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      ” A defining moment for the swords & conversation genre.”

    • Vinraith says:

      @Jim Rossignol
      My sincere apologies for commenting before having read the entire piece (my only excuse is a fear of spoilers). Well done, then, I’ll just hang my head, move along, and never doubt you again.

    • Nalano says:

      Once I read “What about that dude in the RPS comments who says that anything that isn’t a turn-based RPG from 1987 isn’t an RPG?” I knew there’d be a comment about Wizardry.

    • Kadayi says:

      Personally I’m glad they called him out. Fundamentally Wizardry can’t see the wood for the trees when it comes to what constitutes ‘role-playing’ . He seems singularly unable to get the whole ‘Role’, ‘Story-line’ Actions & consequences’ ‘Character Evolution’ aspects of modern RPGs Vs ‘stats, lots of stats’ which are for all intents and purposes a P&P RPG hangover and in a way a bit of a redundancy when you can increasingly bake in player impact into a game world. His obsessive derailing of any RPG comment or forum thread with another variation on ‘that’s not an RPG!!’ (by my anal & regressive standards) pretty much makes it impossible to have a decent discussion around here on the subject of RPGs because invariably someone get’s drawn into arguing with the wretch.

    • Tei says:

      You know wen you laught so strong that it hurts, but you can’t stop? this. This article almost killed me. Is also really interesting, but I stoped reading because most of it is deep into spoiler territory and I have not finished the game.

    • DainIronfoot says:

      “His obsessive derailing of any RPG comment or forum thread with another variation on ‘that’s not an RPG!!’ (by my anal & regressive standards) pretty much makes it impossible to have a decent discussion around here on the subject of RPGs because invariably someone get’s drawn into arguing with the wretch.”

      Not just RPG threads. ANY thread. I’m fairly sure there must be some element of jokish/trollish persona in there because he will be deliberately obtuse in order to drag a thread onto his favourite bugbear. See his comment re the Far Cry 2 health system most recently. It really is quite funny: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/forums/showthread.php?764-In-defence-of-health-packs/page2

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      Tom De Roeck says:

      It must get lonely.

    • Pointless Puppies says:

      @DainIronfoot:

      Maybe there’s a new type of sexual fetish in which a person gets aroused when specifically playing stat-heavy RPGs. The more numbers, the bigger the hard-on.

      At least that’s my most logical theory as to why he seems to be so singularly OBSESSED with the damn things.

    • Vinraith says:

      I’ve nothing against a good action RPG, but I can certainly understand (and agree with) anyone who laments the death of RPG’s where character ability was a product of careful decision making, rather than twitch skill. I have a harder time understanding people who feel the genre would be somehow fundamentally better, or fundamentally more modern, if it was entirely consumed by “gun/sword and conversation” gameplay.

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      SMiD says:

      Wizardry needs his own sub-forum.

    • Kadayi says:

      ‘Wizardry needs his own sub-forum.’

      If only. I sent him to ignore along time ago. Unfortunately he’s a bit of a power spammer with his ‘RPG opinions’ and I find I’m still subjected to him via the osmosis of other posters ‘quoting’ him whilst attempting to tackle his madness.

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      SMiD says:

      @Kadayi – I hear ya.

      “You guys wanna talk about how much fun Just Cause 2 is?”
      “IT’S NOT A cRPG FROM THE GLORIEST OF GLORY DAYS!!!!!”

      Thread derailed. Thousands killed.

    • Wizardry says:

      @SMiD: No. I stay on topic. I don’t post about Just Cause 2.

  6. pakoito says:

    LOTS OF SPOILERS EVERYWHERE. Anyway, I got past lvl7 no problems, got myself killed a couple of times but no more than the usual. I got killed more times by the kraken than 10 man teams…the trick earlygame is running around herding everyone into a BOMB IN THE FACE.

  7. McDan says:

    I’m still playing the first one through for the first time and loving it, how does it compare to that?

    • Gar says:

      I really enjoyed the first one (played all the way through it twice), and there are some things that I thought were done a much better in the original. But overall, The Witcher 2 is definitely the more entertaining game. The things that stood out to me the most as being far superior in the 2nd are the more interesting characters overall (For example, I hated Dandelion in the first, but he was actually rather amusing in the 2nd) and the combat – especially the combat, which I thought was rather dull the first and fantastic in the second. Obviously these are very important improvements considering you slay hundreds of men and beasties in both.

  8. 0mer says:

    A lot of things regarding the story assume that you are familiar with Witcher 1. A lot of the political stuff, like Redenia and Nilfgaard are covered in books, conversations and plot lines.
    ************SPOILERS************
    In TW1, you find out that the King of Redenia was one of the major forces behind Salamandra and The Order of the Flaming Rose. It was a ruse to get Temeria to weaken and allow Redenian forces to intercede. Also, you find out that Adda and King Radovid, if you spared Adda, are to be wedded as part of an agreement allowing Redenian troops into Temeria to quell the uprising. Regardless, 50% of Temeria is to go to Redenia as part of the agreement after Foltest dies.

    Regarding Nilfgaard, you find out that the three major Kingdoms of the North, Temeria, Aedirn and Redenia just finished fighting a war that ended in Nilfgaardian defeat. Through books and conversations, you learn that Nilfgaard is basically the Roman Empire on steroids and hatches all sorts of plots and intrigues to suit it’s expansionist desires.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      “A lot of things regarding the story assume that you are familiar with Witcher 1″

      Which is quite the exposition fail. Hell, I’ve played it, but it was fucking years ago.

      KG

    • Symitri says:

      “Through books and conversations, you learn that Nilfgaard is basically the Roman Empire on steroids and hatches all sorts of plots and intrigues to suit it’s expansionist desires.” I always thought it was more like nazi Germany; this is a story from a Polish writer after all. All the Nilfgaardian character names also point towards this, and they’re all fairly mechanically evil and precise in that obscene way that only the Germans can manage. And I say this as somebody with German blood in me. No, it’s not part of my glass a day, I was born with it.

    • Ghost of Grey Cap says:

      Admittedly, I’m only halfway through TW2 (Roche’s path), but from books, the ambassador and TW1, I’d say Nilfgaard are a lot more patient than Nazi germany. They actually remind me the most of Prussia, under Bismarck and Wilhelm I. Scheming, conquering, empire-building (with a large and effective army) but ultimately more conservative (and succesful).

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      “But Mr Dent, the history of Nilfgaard has been available on your shelves for the last five years.”

      “Oh yes, well as soon as I heard I installed it to see it, yesterday afternoon. You hadn’t exactly gone out of your way to call attention to it, had you? I mean, like actually telling anybody or anything.”

      “But the information was available …”

      “Available? I eventually had to go down to a wiki to find it.”

      “That’s the infodump department.”

      “With a flashlight.”

      “This metaphor has broken down.”

      “So had the stairs.”

      “But look, you found the information, didn’t you?”

      “Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was seventeen bloody hours in, in a random book in some shopkeeper’s inventory, with a sign on the door saying ‘Shouldn’t You Be Looking At Boobies?’”

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      sonofsanta says:

      I don’t know if it’s been said recently, Mr Cobbett, but by the Gods you’re awesome.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Humbly, I suggest that such things CAN NEVER BE SAID ENOUGH!

    • Gar says:

      Agreeing with sonofsanta, I’ve really enjoyed your recent contributions to this already fantastic site!

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Thank you :-)

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      Tom De Roeck says:

      RICHARD! YOU ARE OVER NINE THOUSAND!!!!!1111

    • Nalano says:

      Win. That is all.

    • Edgar the Peaceful says:

      Yes, let’s have Richard as the new full time chap. Then pursuade Ross to leave Blizzard and the gang’s back in town.

    • Yosharian says:

      I’m a lore freak and I couldn’t understand what the fuck was going on in this game. It fails at exposition, miserably. Don’t get me wrong though, I fucking love this game.
      Oh and Hitchhiker’s comment is pure gold.

      Edit: oh yeah and this is nothing to do with this thread but while I’m here: one of you (in the article) said why not get rid of the Act 2 fork, but you forget one thing – replayability. It’s the one excellent reason to keep it.

    • Nick says:

      I will take out a second sub if Richard becomes a full RPS member. You can pay him on a quid or so a month, right?

    • Juan Carlo says:

      I actually like the lack of exposition in Witcher 2. The problem with games as an artform, I think, is that they hold your hand way too much. Yes, every little detail is not explained in W2, but to me the world just felt all that much more expansive and realistic because of it. You are basically dumped into a world that is already in motion and the designers rely on the intelligence of the player to pick up on the nuances rather than explaining everything.

      One of the problems with video games is that they don’t just let characters “be” in an interesting way. So if you watch a movie, for example, the viewer has a good deal of room to speculate on characters motives intentions and actions without the film spelling it out. In good films, this can even lead to a certain amount of ambiguity. But Games don’t seem to have reached this point yet. Most video game characters are exactly what they appear to be–and even the mysterious ones will be “revealed” to be something at a latter date.

      Personally, I say create a world that is incredibly complex and feels lived in with characters that all (at least seem) to have complex motives and screw the player if they can’t keep up. If video games are ever to move out of the nursey, they are going to have to do this.

  9. Premium User Badge

    FriendlyFire says:

    I didn’t really care about the game’s mechanics being a little awkward (yes I died a lot in the prequel). The experience of the game, all the quests, the voice acting, the story, the depth were what made it a masterpiece. I loved the game.

    I’d also disagree that the lack of exposition was such a bad thing. Remember: Geralt has lost his memory. If you dig down a bit, speak to people, ask questions, fork dialogues, you can glean some information about people and places like Redania. Likewise, playing through TW1 helps you fill in the blanks. Apart from that, you’re left exactly as Geralt is; not entirely sure who to trust, but having to make a choice anyways. It’s something fundamentally different from most games where you’re some kind of omniscient puppeteer controlling your character through perfection. I liked that. It’s the first game in which I actually pondered about my choices for a long time.

    As much as I liked Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age: Origins, I’ve never felt this compelled by a story, by a world. The entire thing just felt incredibly vast and realized, not some sort of cookie cutter stage for you to look like a cool dude in. The fork in Act 2 is also something that actually prompts me to replay the game twice to try both campaigns (oh and by the way, there’s even more depth to it: I went with Roche, but only after going with Iorverth first, so I had Flotsam in flames but still went to Henselt’s camp later), which is a first for me.
    TW2 will probably stay my best action RPG ever for a long time. Until TW3 comes out!

  10. Symitri says:

    I’ve actually read two of the Witcher books, the two I could grab in English anyway. I completely agree on the point that a lot isn’t explained, the game is more or less written plot-wise like a book that’s more or less somewhere in the middle of the series and it’s assumed you’ve read through it all. A large part of me wants to hate it for that as I don’t usually expect to have to go through a bunch of other media to have a clue about what’s going on in game, but the other part of me is also aware that if you play the original Witcher, you get a feel for all the important thing – the way Geralt is facing a crisis of deciding who or what the real monsters are in the world. It’s all the other things like Yennefer and the plots of the sorceresses that will throw people off.

    I suppose my biggest problem wasn’t the combat, which I kind of enjoyed truth be told even though once you learned that Quen was your only friend you were set for life, but that in comparison to the original, it had fewer of those “If you don’t pay close attention, you could fuck something seriously up” moments. The most popular example would be the autopsy in the original game – you could fuck up and nobody would tap you on the wrist to tell you otherwise. There were other examples and the effects didn’t even have to be particularly large, it’d be a random aside some time in the future and not just a note tacked in on the credits (my biggest problem with Dragon Age). The Witcher 2 kind of had that but it never felt as subtle, the options did seem to tend towards being more obvious with the exception of the poisoning scene if you went Ioverth’s path, which was great.

    I think what set the game for me as being above Dragon Age 2 was precisely that as much as I love Bioware’s games up to this point, they follow an almost annoyingly similar structure. The first guy character who joins your party will always be a huge bore, you’ll have a set of romance options with the option for some softcore romancing available a little bit down the way, and you always have an obvious good answer, a bad answer and a neutral answer. The fact this was absent from the Witcher 2 was a godsend, it meant I wasn’t trying to fit my character into a box. I chose the conversation options honestly rather than trying to earn points towards one alignment or the other. It’s not that Bioware’s formula is bad, it’s just getting stale at this point as those are the only huge RPG’s that we’ve really had to play as PC gamers over the past two years.

    We’ll see how Skyrim does; I’m hopeful, but I’m also aware that Bethesda games are almost never in a working state until they’ve been patched twice :p

    • Waltorious says:

      I agree with Symitri about the references to the books. On the one hand, I can see Richard’s point that most of us haven’t read them (they’re not even all translated into English) and therefore don’t know a lot of the background, but on the other hand, I feel that expecting the game to be tailored for us smacks a bit of entitlement. Why can’t these Polish developers make a game based on some Polish novels and expect people to have read them? Why does every game need to be tailored to our so-called “western audience?” I thought it was a bold move to not give tons of exposition. It actually felt more respectful towards the player in some ways, in that it assumed that I either read the books, or consciously decided to play the game without having read them. That was up to me, they weren’t going to explain it all again because if I wanted the background I would have read the books first.

      Also, to be fair, many things are explained a bit in the first game too, especially Redania. Richard responds that it’s hidden away in a book, but I also met King Radovid in person in the first game and got a sense of who he was (and also learned that Foltest didn’t trust him one bit). And while I agree that it’s a bit risky for the Witcher 2 to assume you’ve played the first game, I think that’s a much more reasonable expectation than assuming one has read the books.

      Perhaps most importantly, to me anyway, is that I never would have even heard of the books if it wasn’t for the Witcher games. And the games were great, and now I really want to read the books too. It’s hard to be mad at the games for not explaining everything to me when it did introduce me to such an interesting world.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      “Why can’t these Polish developers make a game based on some Polish novels and expect people to have read them?”

      They’re welcome to do exactly that, just as the guys who made the atrocious Hard To Be A God were welcome to do it with their license, or others have done before with other RPG worlds and licenses. Planescape: Torment for instance demands you meet it at least half-way.

      The thing is, doing so has a price. The Witcher’s international success may have surprised them, but they knew full well that The Witcher 2 would have a wider audience. Not having chapter and verse handed to you on a plate is one thing – for the most part, you can pick up the details easily enough. Henselt, for instance. You don’t need to know anything about who he is or his country, the game tells you everything you need to know. Your decisions around him are primarily moral ones based on things you’ve seen with your own eyes.

      At the same time, when you’re in a conversation or a situation and having to react to important things that not only the game hasn’t bothered telling you but that Geralt himself knows, it’s exposition failure, pure and simple.

      Oh, and I only used the book example as shorthand for the argument I know the developers would give – that the information is somewhere. True, probably, but still very, very much missing the point.

    • Laurentius says:

      CDP made a map of northern kingdoms, which is big in terms of exposition because that is something what Sapkowski deliberately avoided in all his Witcher books. Of course we eastern European peasants in Czech, Poland and Russia where Witcher’s Saga got quite popular are so backward that we don’t anything about “art of exposition”.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Nice attempt at getting pointlessly offended over something that nobody actually said, but no. Interesting fact about games and books: they are different, and so have different exposition requirements.

    • Laurentius says:

      Sure there are differences but thing is that I read the books and I played the game so I know that CDP failed at exposition but not where you are pointing it. Where you see failure I see just following books in moderately successful ways. You just don’t like the historical, political and geographical (CDP actually abandoned it creating the map) “deexposition” of created world, trait in books amusing both for Sapkowski and his readers.

      • Richard Cobbett says:

        I’ve read and enjoyed the English books that are available. I completely disagree. I see failure in this area because the games assume too much knowledge, not because the assumptions are in keeping with the original style. The books get away with, even do an excellent job at not explaining everything chapter and verse because the characters making the decisions have enough information to inform their choices, and the details aren’t typically core to the stories that he’s telling. Maps, for instance? Sure. Irrelevant, there.

        Playing The Witcher 2 especially, where Geralt’s amnesia can’t be used to cover the gaps as with the first game, you don’t have that unless you have either access to out-of-context information, or luck into finding the relevant scrap while playing. Expecting people to make big moral and political decisions without that information, particularly when the character they’re playing would at least have some of it, is bad interactive storytelling. Period. You may not have noticed the problem as much because you presumably went into the game already knowing the details, in much the same way that someone playing a Star Wars game doesn’t need to be told the difference between Jedi and Sith, but your experience is far, far, far from universal.

        I’d also reinforce that the complaint is that this is only a problem in parts of the game, not with the whole thing. It’s just that when it does crop up, it can be a major problem that badly affects a big part of the experience.

    • Laurentius says:

      Ok we have to agree to disagree; I already said that your Jedi analogy is spot on in this case. CDP failed at exposition because they tried eating the cake and having that cake. Sometimes they succeeded in following Sapkowski’s footsteps not giving full fledged exposition but bit of info here and there, making it jarring for players unfamiliar with books and sometimes they gave up on books style and lumped players with huge exposition completely stupid for novels fans and imo even unnecessary for those who don’t know them and haven’t played the first game. Having said that I agree with Waltorious as I can hardly blame CDP for trying to keep spirit of the books intact in their game, even in form of narrative exposition, rather opposite whether the price is that few Brits find it unappealing.

    • anonymousity says:

      I think it’s just as enjoyable making the decisions blind while geralt knows the story still unfolds in an interesting and entertaining way. Also as an aside you can have the party in the town and still go down iorveth’s path.

  11. Vague-rant says:

    By the way alchemy is also extremely powerful if you can mix it up with another tree. (Pre-1.3,) Throwing knives and bombs were pretty awesome and the mutagen multiplying could leave you with some super-boosted abilities.

  12. colinmarc says:

    no optimus prime?

    • Bret says:

      He died back in 2006. Then aliens stole the corpse, and the whole Weekend at Bernie’s thing fell apart.

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      Carra says:

      It’s gotten embarrassing to use after the last two transformer movies.

  13. MiniTrue says:

    At least this game felt like a PC game (despite the hoards of naysayers who claim it does not). If precedent (Oblivion) is anything to go by, Skyrim will feel like a console game, and Bioware’s games are hemorrhaging more and more RPG elements with each passing year.

  14. Phoenix says:

    I really wish this game didn’t run like utter shit on my computer. It’ll just have to sit in my Steam account till I get a better computer.

  15. Paul says:

    Three bitchers talk about The Witcher. Sigh :-).

  16. hardboiledgregg says:

    Epilogue, Kieron, EPILOGUE! Hehe. Nice to see you guys discussing this as it was a very interesting game. And I agree with pretty much everything you covered.

    One thing I thought was really cool was that following Roche’s path you never find out about the dragon and who it actually was (and who controlled it). I just had to fight a dragon and then I thought I was mercy-killing it because it was impaled on a tree (although, Geralt seemed to imply it would have survived but said, since it was being controlled, he was putting it out of a different misery).

    Hope I’m not overstepping my mark here, but I wrote an article on how the game actually had a very detective thriller/noir vibe to it. http://www.pressxordie.com/2011/07/06/darkest-fantasies/
    It might be an OK read?

  17. Premium User Badge

    Matt_W says:

    I am no gaming giant. When I play online FPS’es, I stop after about 10 minutes, having been fragged approximately 1000 times in that timespan. Games generally take me 15-20% longer than reviews suggest they should. I did not find the prologue to TW2 to be all that difficult, played on Normal difficulty. Some experimentation suggested the the Yrden sign served as adequate crowd control early on, and you were only in trouble ever when faced by more than one opponent. I actually think that this game was refreshing; rather than the Oblivion model — mobs level with the player so levelling becomes moot — or the model of nearly every other RPG — levelling allows one to gain access to areas with more difficult mobs — TW2 offers the most realistic model — levelling/experience makes you more effective. Shouldn’t an experienced swordfighter have an easier time fighting than a novice? Yes, this upends the gaming convention wherein games are supposed to ease the player into the experience of the game by having an upward-sloping difficulty curve, but I for one applaud the change. Not only is it more realistic, but it has another benefit: in the early stages of the game, when everything is fresh and new, I am far more willing to endure frustration and repetition than near the end of the game, when I’ve mostly wrung the game experience out and am just trying to finish so that I can move on to something else. Being powerful and breezing through those latter stages is a blessing; it keeps the game fun, so welcome after spending the 40 hours of Mass Effect 2 replaying the same cover-and-shoot sequence over and over and over and over and over and over and over again with absolutely no change in difficulty or tactics.

    Anyway, I’m clearly wrong because review after review after review kept saying how hard the game was initially and how difficult the interface was to get around. And somehow for Demon’s Souls, the difficulty (even though it is exactly the same type of difficulty) is a virtue, but for The Witcher 2, it’s a liability. It reminds of when the movie Seven Monkeys was released and every critic was scratching their heads saying the plot was impossible to follow and I was scratching my head wondering how they could all be such dolts and were critics just dumber than normal people.

    • MiniTrue says:

      Someone, give this person a job designing games! His opinions correspond closely with my own.

    • Soon says:

      The difficulty at the start really does have more to do with your own undeveloped skill than Geralt’s. I died a lot and found it frustrating at first. But everybody was dispatched elegantly and efficiently the next time I played. Not even any need for signs, just dodging and well-timed attacks. Wondered why I even had the slightest bit of trouble. The problem is the developers seem to think you start with that level of knowledge without even trying to explain it.

      Anyway. I loved the game despite its repeated attempts to make me hate it with some bizarre design decisions and several bugs.

    • Casimir Effect says:

      I also loved that I was able to easily progress through the story at the end of the game without constant death and reloading. The end is typically when everything picks up speed and the game really starts to carry you along, so having to replay a section over and over because some new badguy with a dickmove has appeared always kills the momentum for me.

      This felt perfect in the way it did in some of the older RPG games.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      I suggest the key difference is whether or not that power scaling is intentional.

    • Premium User Badge

      Matt_W says:

      Hope this response shows up in the right place. Anyway:

      I suggest the key difference is whether or not that power scaling is intentional.

      Good point. I have been noticing lately that the line between AAA developers and other developers comes down to the money and time they can spend on 1) Art and 2) Play-testing. It looks like CDPR decided to spend their zloty mostly on art, with commendable results, i.e. the best looking game ever made. It is true that balancing and usability seem to have been slightly more neglected.

      N.B. Re-reading my post, it could easily be construed that at the end, I was implying that the writers here at RPS are dumb. I wanted to clarify that I meant no such thing. Best. Gaming. Site. On. Teh. Webs. Bar none. The type and quality of coverage here are unmatched. Thanks much for the work you do.

    • Zenicetus says:

      I’m not sure the scaling is unintentional. It’s been a while since I played it, but I seem to remember similar difficulty scaling in the first Witcher. It had the tutorial prologue that Witcher 2 should have had, but the first boss fight was that demon dog sequence that frustrated a lot of people (those who hadn’t followed the in-game hints about how to deal with it, anyway). By the time I got out of the swamp chapter, I was feeling fairly invincible, and all the later fights were easy.

      Anyway, I agree with Matt_W about liking games that allow my character to feel appropriately skilled and powerful by late game, where I mainly want to focus on finishing the plot and tying up loose ends with any remaining quests. Once I get to the point where I’m not in much danger from most fights, I can still enjoy trying to see how efficiently and smoothly I dispatch my enemies. I get annoyed with myself when I screw up and it takes longer than it should, so that becomes the challenge instead of just making sure I’m not getting killed.

  18. Wizardry says:

    Jim: What about that dude in the RPS comments who says that anything that isn’t a turn-based RPG from 1987 isn’t an RPG?

    Kieron: That guy in the comments thread is basically a spam-bot from RPG codex. It’s not a real person.

    Jim: That makes sense.

    Say what you want about me but The Witcher 2 is as much an action game as a CRPG. Action RPG is a hybrid genre after all. It’s just that when everyone associates games like that with CRPGs and not action games I call people out on it. I mean, if you were to study my posting habits you’ll probably realise that I have no issues at all with those talking about these kind of games as the action RPGs that they are, acknowledging their action components.

    • MiniTrue says:

      It’s not even as if ARPG is that difficult to write. I for one would prefer it.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      I wasn’t altogether serious there, but I am mocking the predictability with which you turn up to point out that a Swords/Guns & Conversation game is an ARPG when they are discussed, or to contest what is or isn’t an RPG, or turn-based, or whatever other genre convention might be under the microscope.

    • Kadayi says:

      Yet on the forums here you are Wizardry railing against someone calling the The Witcher 1 an RPG: -

      “The Witcher 1 is more of an action adventure game, really”

      @Jim

      He’s like the Bill O’Reilly of posters. Nothing ever gets discussed meaningfully because he refuses to countenance any opinion but his own Ad Infinitum & Ad Nauseum.

    • Wizardry says:

      With the neglect my favourite genre gets from… well, just about everyone, someone has to step up and get a long lost point of view out there. Believe it or not I actually do enjoy lots of other genres of games. It’s just that those games have more than enough “champions”. All I try and do is get my point of view across, amidst the sea of pro-real time and pro-narrative driven sentiment. A lot of the ideas that CRPGs were once starting to explore back in the DOS/Amiga era have not made much of an appearance in this modern era, and with the direction the genre seems to be taking, it looks less and less likely that there will be a turn around.

    • BeamSplashX says:

      You make it sound as if RPS wouldn’t be extremely pleased to play the kind of game you describe. I just can’t imagine them slagging off a game just for being turn-based and/or stats-heavy.

      Look, I can tell that you’re passionate about this topic and are willing to put a lot of time into standing up for it; why not use that time learning tools to build these kinds of games yourself? Perhaps we just need a reminder as to what we’re missing.

      Good luck, soldier.

    • Big Daddy Dugger says:

      When you’re roleplaying as a guy who runs around swording things to death, how does it make it less of a roleplaying experience when you’re actually swinging the sword with each button press than if you press a button and watch a cutscene of your party swinging swords as in an old school turn based RPG? And how does micromanaging dexterity and charisma points have anything to do with roleplaying? Doesn’t that remove immersion? It’s not like stat counting makes you SUPER CUSTOMIZABLE anyways because you’re almost always going to end up as one of few choices: a roguey stabby or shooty character, a hulky tanky big weapon slammy character, a wimpy casty healy character, or something in between. it’s not like a character with 50 strength points is a completely different class than one with 51 strength.

    • Wizardry says:

      @BeamSplashX: Hold on a minute. I have no issues with RPS, nor do I have any issues with RPS readers. My posts are nothing to do with the work the guys at RPS do. That’s just a complete misunderstanding on your part, and one I hope the RPS guys don’t share. I don’t post what I do due to their journalism or their opinions. That’s just nothing to do with it at all.

    • MiniTrue says:

      “RPG” does not just literally mean “a game in which one plays a role”, because that could be logically expanded to include almost every single game ever made (by this definition, Super Meat Boy becomes an RPG, for example). It has come to stand for certain conventions pertaining to a particular genre. Since this genre has been deemed commercially unviable by the majority of developers, RPGs in the sense of what we used to know and love have been all but dropped, nowadays.

      Now, I don’t make any point about this happening at all. A lot of people enjoyed Oblivion very much, as an example, as did I (up to a point). However, why don’t we think up a new name for what is essentially a new genre? What does Oblivion share with Fallout and Baldur’s Gate? Since it is essentially a blend of hack-and-slash action (with very little by way of stat-based interactions) with some stats which have limited influence here and there, I would call it an Action RPG, to differentiate from an RPG proper. Similarly, I would call something like Deus Ex: Human Revolution an FPS with RPG elements (since the term “immersive sim” appears to have fallen out of use), and by the same token I would call Mass Effect a Third Person Shooter with RPG elements.

    • Kadayi says:

      “With the neglect my favourite genre gets from… well, just about everyone, someone has to step up and get a long lost point of view out there”.
      Repeatedly & aggressively posting variations on ‘all modern games are rubbish’ & ‘That’s not an RPG (by my anal and regressive standards)’ and constantly cock blocking any meaningful discussion on modern gaming is hardly ‘putting across a lost point of view’, it’s called Trolling.

      If you want to discuss old skool RPGs and wax lyrical about them there are plenty of websites that cater to that particular niche, and a ready audience for it (or just start a thread on the subject, nothings stopping you ). Here when there’s a thread about The Witcher, or Deus Ex or Alpha Protocol people want to discuss the Witcher, Deus Ex or Alpha Protocol, not listen to some guy tell them ad infinitum that Ultima VII is a better game because it has ‘stats coming out the wazoo’ or that ‘I can kill every homosexual in the village!!!’. Even the Hivemind are telling you buck up your ideas. My advice would be to take a hint and change your ways.

    • Wizardry says:

      Ultima VII is a better game because it has ‘stats coming out the wazoo’

      Oh how I laughed. Proof that Kadayi hasn’t actually played Ultima VII. It’s possibly the least stat-driven game that’s called a CRPG. In fact, no one knows what the stats really do in the game. And there are only a handful of them.

    • bwion says:

      Personally, I think that all RPGs are hybrid creations, they’re always going to be RPG Stuff + Something. (And don’t ask me to define quite what I mean by ‘RPG Stuff’ either). Whether that something is turn-based strategy, or real-time strategy, or action of various types, or a card game, or whatever. But then, I also don’t get why it’s important that games be classified into genres, and certainly not why they must be rigidly hammered into genres, with outliers being relegated to Outer Darkness Fit Only For Hybrid Games, unless you’re a marketing department.

      I am all for championing turn-based RPGs, by the way. I love them, and I suspect that the conventional wisdom that says they don’t sell has not really been tested, and certainly not recently. I just don’t see how trashing every game, either explicitly or implicitly (by declaring that only the games one likes are “True RPGs”, but really those lesser Action RPGs are just *fine* for them as likes them) helps that cause.

    • Nalano says:

      It’s just yet another No True Scotsman debate.

      “No True RPG would have me aim using my own skills.”

      If you ask me, what differentiates an RPG from a straight FPS is that in a straight FPS you’re thrust into a role, from start to finish. Your character may talk, but you don’t control what he talks about or the conclusions or decisions he makes. That’s it.

      After all, you can have a TBS where you have the character stats, turn-based play and class management of small groups, but none of the dialogue, right?

    • Pointless Puppies says:

      It’s OK, really. I, too, sometimes pretended to be the “last guardian” of a long lost set of ideals when I was a kid. The final warrior, against all odds, to convince my brainwashed brethren that the customs to which they prescribe are wrong. The lone wanderer, forever shunned by society not for being “wrong”, but for being the only one who was right. The unique mind of unique ideals. Everyone was wrong. Has always been wrong. Only I knew the real truth, but nobody would listen. Not the providers, not my peers. No one. Forever alone, I vowed to perpetuate my ancient knowledge, to educate the uneducated masses. If they thought I did little but perturb them, I was not to stop, for educating the masses required the forceful ejection of these brainwashed ideals. I was never going to stop, because I was the Last Guardian of this Ancient Knowledge.

      Then my parents took me to a psychiatrist because I apparently had some kind of a mental disorder.

    • Kadayi says:

      “Proof that Kadayi hasn’t actually played Ultima VII.”

      I never claimed I have, nor have I ever badmouthed it (I’ve seen enough of it to know, it’s simply not for me). Still whether I’ve played it or not is an irrelevance Vs your behaviour and conduct on this site. After all I’m not the guy who once said Chris Avellone didn’t know shit about RPGs.

    • MiniTrue says:

      You know, however Wizardry might have offended you guys in the past, I think you guys are being incredibly petulant in replying to him. The guy has an opinion, and is clearly not trolling. If you don’t agree, please stop with the ad hominems, or implying that he has a mental disorder. I don’t see why Wizardry’s opinion is less valid than the consensus. It’s not exactly uncommon, heck I agree with most of what Wizardry says. I just think that suggesting people have mental disorders really isn’t cool.

    • Wizardry says:

      @MiniTrue: It’s okay. While I’m pretty good at refraining from personal attacks, I understand that a lot of people aren’t. Perhaps it’s because real-time action games have brainwashed them into being internet bullies? Only a guess, mind.

    • Yosharian says:

      A lot of modern RPGs ARE rubbish though, in the gameplay sense. I mean when you analyse the gameplay going on, it’s just clicking one or two buttons most of the time.

      This isn’t to say turn-based RPGs have an innate superiority over them – there are plenty of crappy turn-based RPGs.

      But you have to admit that, generally, gameplay these days is a bit shite. Oblivion gets thrown around a lot, and in that game you literally click mouse1 until stuff dies. It’s hardly above Diablo II in complexity. (Don’t get me wrong, I love both of those games).

      I remember an article that was posted recently in an RPS sunday papers that detailed stuff that you should include in a battle system to make it good. ’7 things your RPG system needs to be good’ or something. Anyway, I read it and I was like ‘oh shit that’s what games used to be like before mainstream gaming arrived, I’d completely forgotten’.

      Oh well, just my opinion anyway. I actually think Witcher 2 gets a lot of things right about the combat (it’s very visceral), it’s just not as fluid as it should be. But it’s not chess, is it?

    • Kadayi says:

      @Minitrue

      ‘The guy has an opinion, and is clearly not trolling.’

      Have you actually read his forum posts? Or are you just blindly siding with him because you feel he’s getting ganged up on here?

      If ‘harDC0r3Fragg3r1O1′ signed up at retrogramer and proceeded to interject into pretty much every thread and at any opportunity that ‘all these games look like shit compared to Crysis’ do you think that would be a case of ‘offering an opinion’ or pointlessly trolling? An opinion doesn’t mean anything unless it has some relevance to the discussion ‘modern games are rubbish’ doesn’t make the cut in that respect.

      Also when the owners of a website start having digs at an individual for their dogged ‘opinions’. Maybe, just maybe there is an issue.

    • Wizardry says:

      I’d like to see actual evidence of these supposed troll posts of mine. Usually a topic springs up about a particular topic and I post in it, perhaps referencing an old game that the majority have not played. It’s not trolling. This site and its forum isn’t only for discussion about games that came out after the 90s. There’s nothing wrong about mentioning Phantasie III in a topic about health systems in games, for example. Just because no one who had previously posted in the topic has played the game doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be allowed to mention it. In other words, it’s not me trolling. It’s you not liking my opinions or you not being able to relate to the games and times I keep mentioning. I shouldn’t have to adapt to share your opinion. I am my own person.

    • Acorino says:

      Say what you will about Wizardry, but he at least explains his opinions, instead of merely stating what he thinks sucks.

      But the reason no one made up a new term for these modern games that so clearly aren’t RPGs is twofold:
      - They are descendants from “True RPGs”
      - “True RPGs” are rarely produced in this day and age.

      So, why make up a new term if the old one is just as useful? You can still call something a traditional RPG if you want to pronounce some old-fangled design virtues. And then there’s the clunky “Swords & Conversations” moniker that the hivemind made up for a certain kind of “non-RPGs”.

    • Acorino says:

      Say what you will about Wizardry, but he does explain his opinions, instead of merely stating them, so calling him a troll isn’t appropriate at all.

      Anyway, the reason no one made up a new term for these modern games that so clearly aren’t RPGs is twofold:
      - They are descendants from “True RPGs”
      - “True RPGs” are rarely produced in this day and age.

      So, why make up a new term if the old one is just as useful? You can still call something a traditional RPG if you want to pronounce some old-fangled design virtues. And then there’s the clunky “Swords & Conversations” moniker that the hivemind made up for a certain kind of “non-RPGs”.

    • MiniTrue says:

      Kadayi, you are talking nonsense. RPS is not a site that espouses one particular style of gaming, thus to say that being a fan of hardcore RPGs is somehow against the ethos of the site is a very irrational comment to make, since the site has no such ethos. Not only that, but sites like the RPGcodex and The Escapist that are fascist with what opinions they let be posted are not fun sites to be on. You don’t agree with what Wizardry says, and that seems to make him objectively wrong (and a mental patient to boot!) Frankly, the site’s owners may say as they please, I very rarely agree with 100% of what they say and I daresay that not one reader here does. We are all human. It just seems strange that Wizardry’s opinions aren’t tolerated by some members of the RPS “community”. If I called someone who liked CoD a newfag and told him to GTFO, the fact that most people would agree with me would not save me from being banned. By the same token, I don’t think the fact that most people like Mass Effect &c entitles posters to call someone who doesn’t like it a mental patient, in whatever oblique terms. I’m nowhere near as hardcore as Wizardry here, and indeed I am rather ambivalent to this whole affair, but I often find it grating that some people on RPS take their opinion to be some kind of gaming canon, untouchable by others after one of the site’s contributors has endorsed it. For pity’s sake, Wizardry is a regular on the site who has an opinion you don’t agree with. Just let it go.

    • Kadayi says:

      @MiniTrue

      It’s one thing to have an opinion, it’s another thing to express that opinion at every given opportunity, (regardless of how tenuous the associations) as well as invent opportunities in otherwise unrelated conversations. What part of ad infinitum, ad nauseum didn’t you quite get? I’m not saying anything any different from what Jims saying tbh, so why I’m apparently ‘talking nonsense’ in beyond me.

      Want to talk about how great old RPGs are on the RPS forums? Go here: -

      http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?2-PC-Gaming-Discussion

      and hit + Post New Thread title ‘ Modern games are Rubbish’ ‘Stats, lots of stats’ or ‘What makes a game an RPG?’ (always a favourite).

      Knock yourself out and have a ball. No one is stopping you or Wizardry from doing just that.

      @Acorino

      “Say what you will about Wizardry, but he does explain his opinions, instead of merely stating them, so calling him a troll isn’t appropriate at all.”

      You’ve clearly not seen enough of his posts.

    • Quirk says:

      Actually, I’ve played proper CRPGs. Let me explain.

      Years ago, when I was much geekier, and had a lot of time on my hands, I used to play on one or two RPI muds; RPI standing for Role Play Intensive.

      The game was to be a character, to inhabit a character on an alien world from an alien culture absolutely. You spent much more time describing what your character was doing or saying than on actual mechanical issues like buying things or eating or fighting. And in return you benefited from everyone else doing the same, so at its finest you were playing the best text adventure ever written, with real human brains instead of AI across from you. If you wanted to steal or fight or craft something, the mechanics were there to keep you in check. However there were no levels, no clumsy morality boxes. Most of the fumblings of the early tabletop RPG had been banished, the same fumblings that persist across a wide range of tactical squad-based computer games which lay claim to the title RPG. It had its downsides compared to tabletop RPGs, certainly; it was possible to end up in a fairly mundane job, doing enough to survive and get by, and keeping out of trouble, and spend hours in which only vaguely interesting things happened. This however meant that when something did happen, and the complex and shifting politics sucked in most people eventually, it had a weight and excitement that no other computer game has ever been able to match for me since.

      (Combat, incidentally, was in real time. You started a fight with someone, it was your job to finish it or escape alive, and confused typing could kill. But given conversations, moving about and everything else were in real time as well, that made sense. Fighting was in any case vastly more affected by character ability than player ability.)

      The attempt to claim the title of “computer RPG” exclusively for a bunch of games that generally spend most of their time simulating turn-based squad combat pretty badly (compared to XCOM or Jagged Alliance) leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Turn-based squad combat is not the defining feature of the RPG. It’s a defining feature of a subset of wargames. Inhabiting and shaping a character who is not you is the essence of the RPG. You aren’t playing the role of Gordon Freeman, because you get no say in shaping his character. You are playing the role of Geralt, because you very much get to define the character’s core beliefs, and vastly more subtly than the old Good/Neutral/Evil trilogy of conversation responses. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Geralt in the first Witcher (having yet to play the second) is at least as well defined as a person – by the decisions of the player – as the Vault Dweller of the original Fallout, though Fallout has more awesome lines. There’s a lot of The Witcher which is very explicitly about Geralt figuring out his belief system again in the wake of experiencing the world afresh having lost his memory. Sure, you’re playing a pregenerated character (as happens from time to time in tabletop) but you very much have room to make it your own.

      Anyway, the only final point to address I guess is that people who would totally be interested in rich character development are put off by the game requiring some physical skill. The turn-based games, though, dodge another version of this only by accident as the tactics are not deep enough to actually pose a barrier to entry. I am not convinced that this makes them better games or worthier to be called RPGs.

    • Wizardry says:

      @Quirk: I’m not sure why you are focusing so much on combat. I’ve said many times that I’m not that big a fan of combat. I only think that combat is the only part in CRPGs that has been modelled at least well enough in the history of the genre. Look at the number of classes, skills and attributes related to combat ability in games. You can fine tune a character to play whatever role you want them to be able to play in combat situations by selecting the appropriate class combinations (in games that have multi-classing), skills, weapon proficiencies, fighting styles etc. You can define a character who is stealthy and dexterous, who is good at sneaking up on enemies and then unleashing a flurry of attacks on them. You can also define fragile wizards who stand at the back and control the battlefield through spells. In non-fantasy games you can often define snipers who excel at stealth, speed and long range shooting. This isn’t that difficult. It’s well explored. Sure, modern games may have simplified all this slightly, and even older games weren’t perfect, but the technology and theory is there to implement such combat systems.

      It’s when you move away from combat and into other territories that you bump into problems and lack of development. The terms “guns and conversations” and now “swords and conversations” have become popular around here as of late. I know very well that those terms are an attempt to dodge the RPG label, but let’s forget about that for now. They basically sum up the possible actions your characters have in those games. You fight and you talk. That’s it. Nothing more. You fight battles against enemies when combat starts, and then you talk to NPCs when dialogue starts. That’s why we see the terms “combat system” and “dialogue system” spring up everywhere. You see all that pretty environment around you? Shame you can’t actually do anything with it, because the only thing the developers have bothered to expand on is the fighting and conversations. The games lack interactivity in so many other areas of gameplay. You often get lots and lots of combat skills, attributes and abilities to fine tune your character’s combat prowess, and occasionally a couple of statistics that judge your conversational ability (paragon and renegade scores in Mass Effect, charisma, intelligence and wisdom attributes in D&D games), but more often than not games don’t let you define your characters in much more detail.

      What would be great is a character system that allows you to specify as many non-combat things as combat things. And then perhaps there can be rules calculating derived statistics from these in much the same way AC and THAC0 are calculated from dexterity, your level, your class and your equipment in AD&D. Having the ability to create a character in a character creation instead of a “combat role” in a “combat role creator” would be great. It would also allow the game to use and test those statistics, traits, perks, skills, attributes (whatever your character is made up of) during non-combat gameplay in a way that combat statistics are used and tested during combat.

      What is the difference between the use of charisma statistics and the use of strength statistics in many CRPGs? Strength is used in a damage formula, an equation that helps make up the mechanical layer of the game. It is often used in a formula relating to your character’s ability to smash locks on doors and chests. It is often used in a formula relating to maximum carry capacity of your character’s equipment. It is often used in a formula relating to your character’s ability to intimidate a group of enemies (okay, it’s not, but it could be and would be a pretty cool mechanic to avoid battle).

      Statistics like charisma in D&D, your paragon/renegade score (Mass Effect) , light side/dark side score (Knights of the Old Republic) affect the game too. But they tend to affect the game on scripted if statements. If character’s renegade score is less than 40 then grey out this option. If the player’s charisma is above 16 then double the monetary reward for the quest. What exactly is the problem with all this? Well, the use of those statistics become related directly to game content. Often dialogue or quest solutions. It means that you have a series of well thought out combat statistics that fit in well with a combat system, and a series of other statistics that are only ever used during scripted conversations. These aren’t mechanics. These severely limit the ability of the game to actually let you role-play your character because the game itself becomes restricted by game content. It’s this limitation that means that narrative heavy and heavily scripted CRPGs like we get today are very shallow in the department of game mechanics.

      It’s not that I go on constantly about turn-based combat because that’s all I want in my CRPGs. It’s just that I want non-combat gameplay to be just as strong if not stronger. I would love to play a true non-combat CRPG using lots of skills to govern how your character can survive in the game world through non-combat means. By tying up these skills to game mechanics the fun comes from playing the actual game and role-playing the character you want instead of following scripted sequences and choosing dialogue options you feel like choosing. You get an immersive experience, one that can hold its own without having big set pieces and branching narratives. You get a game that is mechanically deep enough to complete the game using the advantages of your character to the maximum.

    • Pointless Puppies says:

      @Wizardry:

      Yeah, sure. You don’t have a problem with personal attacks. I suppose when you called me a “butthurt LARPer” that one time it was totally about that strapping young man called But Thurt, from Larp, Minnesota. And when you’re calling everyone who disagrees with you “brainwashed by action games” I’m sure you’re simply referring to the intellectual cleansing for a better future.

      Glass house. You live in one.

      @MiniTrue:

      You must be new here. We do not prescribe to the “INSULT EVERYONE WHO DISAGREES WITH YOU” attitude. The fact that a single person can muster this much infamy around the RPS community doesn’t speak for the RPS community. It speaks for that single person who manages to make quite a scene in each topic he posts in.

      I would agree with you if other people were this obnoxious, or if the RPS community actively “picked on” other people for no real reason. You know, the editors don’t USUALLY call out on random users all the time, unless you want to somehow establish that they’re “in on this too”.

      That is what I mean by “delusional”. Is it really the ENTIRE SITE that is “after” this one person, or could it just POSSIBLY be that said person might be argumentative and obsessively antagonistic about a particular subject? Most of the time crazy people are absolutely certain they’re perfectly sane and everyone else is “out to get them”. That’s what makes them crazy.

    • Wizardry says:

      @Pointless Puppies: I said that I’m pretty good at refraining. Not perfect. And all I do is post my views about topics. I may be experienced enough to break my views down into rather low level opinions and reasonings so that each post may sound the same, but that doesn’t mean I should only ever post once and never return. My posts are always relevant to the subject at hand and this is a simple case of the person going against mainstream opinion taking a beating. Well, I’ve got pretty thick skin. So you can shout and complain about my opinion as much as you want but you won’t change it. On the other hand, you can post as much as you want about why you like game X and why you like game Y. I’ll just go about my business de-constructing what I like about the CRPG genre in general and using that as a more effective template for discussion.

      @Quirk: I wrote up a very large reply to your post but it keeps failing to post. If recent complaints are anything to go by, 5 of them should appear sometime tomorrow. Sorry in advance.

    • BeamSplashX says:

      @Wizardry:
      What I’m really saying is your arguments aren’t convincing because your Charisma isn’t high enough.

      Roll a new character, I guess.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Nah, convincing someone of something when they’d rather just argue and not actually think is, like, a DC 40 diplomacy check. Need to gain a few levels and find some magic gear.

    • Consumatopia says:

      The attempt to claim the title of “computer RPG” exclusively for a bunch of games that generally spend most of their time simulating turn-based squad combat pretty badly (compared to XCOM or Jagged Alliance) leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

      I haven’t made my mind up on the larger argument, but I’ll stick up for the stat-games on this point. You may have been using a computer to connect to your RPI mud, but you weren’t really using computation–you were using your computer to facilitate communication–to send and receive typed messages from the other players. From what you describe, it sounds like what simulation and calculation there was to be done was done in human brains, not computer silicon. Contrast this with the stat-driven rpgs, in which the computer is doing the simulation and calculation.

    • Kadayi says:

      @Quirk

      “The attempt to claim the title of “computer RPG” exclusively for a bunch of games that generally spend most of their time simulating turn-based squad combat pretty badly (compared to XCOM or Jagged Alliance) leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Turn-based squad combat is not the defining feature of the RPG. It’s a defining feature of a subset of wargames. Inhabiting and shaping a character who is not you is the essence of the RPG. You aren’t playing the role of Gordon Freeman, because you get no say in shaping his character. You are playing the role of Geralt, because you very much get to define the character’s core beliefs, and vastly more subtly than the old Good/Neutral/Evil trilogy of conversation responses.”

      Well said. For me the phrase RPG is a broad umbrella that covers a multitude of sins, but the underlying theme is that an ‘RPG experience’ is one where in you shape both the character and the game world through actions and narrative decisions and that it’s entirely possible to play through the game again and have an entirely different experience. Combat mechanics and associated minutiae are the least of it. I’m not against stats, but the whole ‘strength 10′ ‘Dexterity 11′ stik are ‘event resolution’ hangovers from the P&P days (where everything had to be simulated overtly), and it’s entirely possible to bake a lot of that sort of thing into the game world by contextualizing differentials. For example I don’t need to see the exact damage stats on a Mark IV Revenger sniper rifle to know it’s likely a better weapon than the Mark II . You can put across a lot of that sort of distinctness through visual design/cues as well, meaning you’ve more time in the game space and less time in the interface.

      @Pointlesspuppies

      “You must be new here.”
      A quick check on the forum member list shows he isn’t even registered on them, which makes his comments regarding them even more absurb tbh.

      ‘The fact that a single person can muster this much infamy around the RPS community doesn’t speak for the RPS community. It speaks for that single person who manages to make quite a scene in each topic he posts in.

      I would agree with you if other people were this obnoxious, or if the RPS community actively “picked on” other people for no real reason. You know, the editors don’t USUALLY call out on random users all the time, unless you want to somehow establish that they’re “in on this too”.’
      Agreed, You’d think that given the Hivemind have specifically called him out in an actual article you’d think he might pause for thought and reflect upon the wisdom of proceeding with his one man crusade to destroy all meaningful RPG discussion at the site, but given his apparent inability to recognise that call out as some form of warning, I suspect he’ll be heading to the same place as WASD (He of the endless anti-valve tirades) eventually.

      @Consumatopia

      “I haven’t made my mind up on the larger argument, but I’ll stick up for the stat-games on this point. You may have been using a computer to connect to your RPI mud, but you weren’t really using computation–you were using your computer to facilitate communication–to send and receive typed messages from the other players. From what you describe, it sounds like what simulation and calculation there was to be done was done in human brains, not computer silicon. Contrast this with the stat-driven rpgs, in which the computer is doing the simulation and calculation.”

      I think his point is more that it’s the interaction that made it an RPG experience, Vs the stats, though it does seem that stats played a part.

    • Quirk says:

      @Consumatopia:

      Sorry if I didn’t make this clear: when I said “the mechanics were there to keep you in check”, the game in question actually had a very extensive simulation of all kinds of things: starvation, drunkenness, fighting, theft, stealth, magic, player-made traps, a massive amount of crafting, even the ability to overhear people at another table. It was very heavily simulated under the hood, and indeed was simulating a great deal more player options in its text-based fashion than, say, a game like Baldur’s Gate did. Nonetheless the meat of the game was in the actual roleplay; the “content” was player-driven with some support from DM-equivalents. As a multiplayer experience, it was functionally very close to an RPG, excepting only that all simulation was handled by the engine.

      Also, I’m not sure why turn-based games are any more worthy of getting the credit for their simulation than real-time ones are.

    • Wizardry says:

      Hey Quirk, it looks like that large post I promised you did appear in the end, and in the right time slot too, so you’ll need to scroll up again to see it. Here’s a direct link to the post:

      http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/07/22/the-rps-verdict-the-witcher-2/#comment-748378

      Though perhaps you’ve already read it and decided not to comment on it. I can’t really tell. All I know is that it failed to appear for ages after posting it.

    • Quirk says:

      @Wizardry:

      I focus on combat because one of your commonest complaints about games is that they include real-time combat rather than turn-based combat. I felt that this was, in fact, the chief basis of your complaint against calling The Witcher an RPG. Please enlighten me if this is not so.

      From there you criticise the gap between “guns and conversation” and having a full array of non-combat abilities. Which abilities, precisely, are you feeling the lack of? There was very little to do in Fallout (which I would assume is a game that suitably represents the genre you speak of) except talk to people and fight with people. You could make the case for stealth and theft, perhaps, but beyond that? In tabletop RPGs, having excluded combat, most options come down to conversation. There’s knowledge gained from background perhaps; but The Witcher lets you play the studious bookish sort quite well by giving you a vast array of tomes with background information that may or may not come in useful at later points.

      And charisma or banal moral good/evil classifications being used to disable chunks of dialog is something I personally dislike. Setting anything so complex and vital to the game on a one-dimensional scale is desperate crudeness (again we come back to the many, many flaws that keep the original versions of D&D from being a system that’s any good for roleplaying under). I would suggest that these things are better not handled at all than handled so badly.

    • Consumatopia says:

      @Quirk, yes, I did misunderstand what you were describing. I was imagining a bunch of people just telling a really detailed story, heavily interacting story. That was my fault–I don’t have much experience with MUDs and held bad assumptions.

      Yes, real-time games are definitely simulations. The game I was imagining you to be describing would be an RPG, but wouldn’t be a Computer RPG. Conversely, an FPS would be a Computer Game, but not a Computer RPG.

      Thinking again, maybe better terminology would be Digital vs. Analog RPGs. The state of a stats-driven game is digital–a set of numbers represents the condition of the characters and their possible moves. The state of a Guns and Conversation RPG (or your sophisticated Fast Typing and Conversation RPG) is analog–rather than representing your fighting capability with numbers, an analogy is formed between the actions of your character and your real-world ability to manipulate the input devices sitting on your desk.

    • Wizardry says:

      @Quirk: You can have lots of possible skills outside of combat ones. Fallout had an array of skills, but didn’t make enough use of them to warrant investing much in. So you are right in that it was very much a “guns and conversation” CRPG, even though skills like barter and outdoorsman had some sort of non-dialogue and non-combat benefits.

      What else could you have? Languages. A skill for each language spoken in the game. The game can then obfuscate words based on your skill in the language. This would mean that you could create characters proficient in vastly different languages. This could branch the game on the level of The Witcher 2′s chapter 2, but mechanically rather than scripted. The developers need only create a world, assigning language skills in addition to dialogue to each NPC. The player then just plays the game and the developer need not do any scripting to make languages work.

      You could also have skills relevant for exploration. For example, tracking, scouting, foraging, navigating, survival, hunting, swimming, mountaineering. All sorts. How about skills relating to the use of vehicles? A driving skill, a piloting skill, a sailing skill, even a horse riding skill. Academic skills such as biology, chemistry, physics, computing. So many possibilities. Many of which are in plenty of pen and paper RPGs, but not in many CRPGs.

      And the reason turn-based is almost always vital is so that you can rely purely on the skill of the player’s character to perform a player issued action rather than the skill of the player. Swinging a sword should be based on the character’s sword swinging ability. Shooting a target should be based on your character’s shooting ability. Climbing up a cliff face should be based on your character’s rock climbing ability. When you introduce real-time then you often end up being the one performing all these actions and it becomes your own skill instead of the player’s skill (or at best a combination of both) that determines how good you are. You can’t really role-play someone better than you without any abstraction, and to play a character worse than you you’ll have to impose limits on how well you play the game. By delegating everything to stats and skills while giving the player control over what actions to perform instead of how to perform them, you’ll get something closer to pen and paper RPGs and something that frees you from the constraints of player limitation.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      You can go pretty far with the variety even staying in the “small group of adventurers” box. You could make a full CRPG based on nothing but thievery or courtly intrigue or Lovecraftian mystery investigation or exploring Neuromancer-esque cyberspace. With zero combat and minimal scripted conversation.

      Think a little bigger to Mount&Blade scale where you might control hundreds of characters, and why not have a broad array of crafting skills and other sorts of mundane expertise to manage?

    • Chris D says:

      “Why not have a broad array of crafting skills and other sorts of mundane expertise to manage?”

      Why not? I’ll tell you why not. It’s because once you start scaling up beyond a few people we have to start calling them strategy games. Why’s that? Well, I’m not sure exactly but I’m sure it must be very important.

    • Quirk says:

      @Wizardry:

      Heh, actually the RPI Mud I was describing had most of these things. Different languages existed, and if someone spoke to you in a language you didn’t understand, you got gibberish. Over time as you learned the language more and more of the words made sense. Also tracking, foraging, riding, even literacy.

      In most CRPGs though skills like these are actually better off not included. Let me explain: by providing branches dependent on whether your character can track, or is literate, etc, you increase the amount of work that needs to be put in considerably, and it becomes much harder to test all the possibilities. You need alternative ways of getting the information these skills provide to characters who didn’t start the game with them, or well, the game’s just broken without it. And all this work doesn’t result in visible player choice – rather an arbitrary choice made at character creation affects a path here or a path there without enriching the experience for the player who actually arrives at a crossroads and either can or can’t read the tracks. In any case, whether your character was historically a hunter or a blacksmith or a wagon driver has vastly less impact on actual roleplay than their personality does, and spending time on game branches to placate people who picked different backgrounds rather than on giving players more options to demonstrate their character’s personality is not actually helpful to the roleplayer.

      And, frankly, the player’s skill with a combat engine always counts for something, even if it’s at the most basic level. You may not be playing a character who’s a tactical mastermind, but if the combat is actually challenging you will have to direct them as though they were one. This is not a bad thing – if a game is combat-heavy, I would rather have it rely heavily on player skill than only on random dice rolls. If combat is essentially randomised and tactic-light, your losses are not things you can do anything about except reload and try again and pray the random number generator is kind. If combat is skill-challenging then at least when you fail you can learn from the experience. What about noncombat alternatives? The huge problem for any computer RPG that offers heavy character customisation is that with a vast array of possible characters trying to get through the plot, there is always the chance of there being an encounter important to the plot that a given character cannot get past. Your character, backed up against the river by the assassins intent on his life, may be an excellent climber, a great scholar and a fine rider, but it’s an encounter where he has to talk, fight or swim his way out. With such encounters, either you end up with a trivial way to bypass it that robs it of all challenge, or you end up with characters whom the odds are stacked against retrying over and over until the random numbers are kind. With an actual GM, some unthought of possibility may be negotiated into reality, but there’s no prospect of bringing in something the GM hasn’t thought of in a computer game. At that point simulation has to give something up for gameplay. And so we end up with games which make you actually fight for the character, and have your character’s performance depend on how well you do; and games which make you responsible for the character’s tactics, and have your character’s success depend partially on how well you do and partially on some random numbers. The first I would argue if anything has a prospect of producing deeper immersion and closer identification with the character you’re roleplaying as, but apart from that I would say that the approach is merely a matter of choice.

    • Wizardry says:

      In most CRPGs though skills like these are actually better off not included.

      No. You’re thinking way too much in terms of modern CRPGs where developers have to cater for every single character type manually by adding scripted encounters to make use of. That’s the wrong way of going about creating a game around a complex character system. The way you should tackle it is to create a world that balances the RPG system being used. The world itself should provide the opportunities to make use of skills. The role-playing within the world should come as a result of using the world. Talking to the NPCs that populate the world, using the mountains to stay away from bandits patrolling the roads, swimming across rivers to avoid capture, fighting when you have to, these are all ways of playing that should come naturally to the game. The only things that should really be scripted as such are the story bits, but even those should ideally be done in a way similar to open world/sandbox games. Information should be obtainable in multiple ways, but that doesn’t necessarily mean more work for the developers, especially as role-playing itself need not be scripted to offset it.

      You gave an example of a character who may be an excellent scholar and an excellent mountain climber, but is stuck in a situation in which he can’t use his skills to get out of. But are you imagining this to be a developer placed encounter that is forced on the player in the name of narrative? If so, that’s not what I’m thinking. I’m thinking of a situation that arises from the simulation of the game world. The player’s character pissed off some people, ran to a river, got himself cornered and couldn’t fight his way out of it. What the player could have done instead is to run his character towards a mountain and climb it, or to avoid pissing the guys off in the first place knowing his character’s vulnerabilities, or perhaps ally with a faction that favours academic pursuits. None of that really needs to be scripted as part of “quests” or “story”. The developers only need to concentrate on creating a world that allows all skills in the game to be used in a relatively balanced manner so that all characters and therefore all play styles can be rewarded.

      The game shouldn’t need to “branch” in the traditional sense. There should be infinite branches based on the state of the game world. Does a grand strategy game branch? Yes. It branches every single second depending on what is happening. There are infinite branches. This is what CRPGs could very well do given enough development in that direction. The limitation of developer created content need not exist as it does right now. CRPGs would be far more reactive and closer to a virtual GM. Branches themselves indicate a massive split in developer investment. If a developer starts two completely different branches then they need to put in twice the amount of work to pad out each one. When creating a world focusing on emergent gameplay, using simple rules to allow a multitude of possibilities, you jump around that problem straight away.

      On the topic of combat, you seem to think that there are only two ways of doing it, player skill based or heavily randomised stat based that requires reloads when things don’t go your way. That’s a lie. An accumulation of randomisation creates averages. A battle in D&D uses lots of dice rolls, but usually the randomisation averages out. Yes, large battle changing spells can get resisted by key opponents and change the course of the battle, but that’s actually the point of having randomness in the first place, to prevent outcomes of individual actions within a battle becoming predictable. Randomness creates dynamism and creates fun.

      And on the topic of battle tactics being player skill based, that was originally the “game” part in “role-playing game” if you go back to 1974 and were playing D&D. You need player interaction to have a game, and any sort of player interaction means that you are overriding the skill of the character. Battle tactics could very well be based on the skill of your characters, but that would make combat automatic and more of a cutscene/video than a game element. It’s a question of where the abstraction is. RPGs tend to break everything up into actions, and the ability to perform those actions are based on statistics/numbers/randomness. The “game” becomes telling your character what actions to perform. The character then performs those actions by way of dice rolls and statistic comparisons. You decide what your character does and your character does it. Aiming for your character in a first/third person perspective in real-time, though? That was successfully abstracted into a “chance to hit” score before RPGs even existed, so the only excuse for switching to player skill based aiming is to introduce action game elements.

    • Kadayi says:

      “The developers only need to concentrate on creating a world that allows all skills in the game to be used in a relatively balanced manner so that all characters and therefore all play styles can be rewarded.”
      And to simulate the actions of every NPC in the entire game world to the nth degree, because effectively what you are after is a sandbox game.

      Bethesda are at least moving in that direction with their evolving radiant AI, but Bethesda titles generally blow at the storytelling aspect. If you want a reactive sandbox game play my advice (and I mean this sincerely) is to pick up a copy of Sims 3. What you want largely (save the combat aspect) is to be found there in abundance (I personally love a bit of Simming now and then, it makes for a nice change of pace). I haven’t entirely checked out Sims Medieval, but that might well be up your street entirely.

      “The game shouldn’t need to “branch” in the traditional sense. There should be infinite branches based on the state of the game world. Does a grand strategy game branch? Yes. It branches every single second depending on what is happening. There are infinite branches. This is what CRPGs could very well do given enough development in that direction. The limitation of developer created content need not exist as it does right now.”

      CRPGs would be far more reactive and closer to a virtual GM. Branches themselves indicate a massive split in developer investment. If a developer starts two completely different branches then they need to put in twice the amount of work to pad out each one. When creating a world focusing on emergent gameplay, using simple rules to allow a multitude of possibilities, you jump around that problem straight away.”

      One word: Dialogue. Sims 3 gets past this by employing Simish so it’s able to abstract conversations, but that approach isn’t going to disguise the sort of generic ‘go kill me ten ‘insert monster’ quests the sort of impersonal randomized mission generator your dream game would have to operate with.

      Another word; Resonance: Mount and Blade kind of does a bit of what you are on about, but regardless of how much an NPC might like or dislike you there is no real resonance to it, because they are all generic ciphers. Sure they have names, and loyalties, but what they don’t have is actual personalities. A game can have 1000 towns and 100000 NPCs, but unless there is any substance to them (some actual craft) they might as well not exist at all.

      “Randomness creates dynamism and creates fun.”

      Says who? You know what’s interesting is that entire D&D magic system was half inched by Gary Gygax from Jack Vances ‘Dying Earth’ novels (well worth reading btw). This whole idea that mages would memorize spells daily and the words of power would sit like in the mages head like bullets in a gun was entirely a Vance creation. However the big difference between ‘Excellent Prismatic spray’ in the Dying Earth Vs D&D is that there’s no saving throw or 2D6 of damage…there’s just a smouldering corpse. In the dying Earth there’s no randomness to magic, and the fact that there’s no randomness is what made magic such a powerful thing (a truly powerful mage might be able to carry 5 spells at best). Gygax took a great idea (limited certainty of ultimate success) and completely ruined it by adding randomness.

      Randomness is an illusionary term anyway, because all it really translates to is critical hit or critical success the vast majority of the time, and all players do is shave the odds off in terms of achieving that through better equipment and skill gains.

      “And on the topic of battle tactics being player skill based, that was originally the “game” part in “role-playing game” if you go back to 1974 and were playing D&D. You need player interaction to have a game, and any sort of player interaction means that you are overriding the skill of the character.”

      P&P RPGs have always been about you as the player directing the character. The character might well have limitations in terms of what they can achieve when it comes to event resolution (Fighters can’t lockpick, whereas thieves/rogues can), but the player is always dictating the action they undertake. Regardless of what the character premise is the player can only act according to their own natural abilities. A smart player might be able to ‘role play’; a thick barbarian convincingly, but an unimaginative player isn’t going to be ‘role play’ a super intelligent magician convincingly. This notion of there being some sacrosanct separation between the player Vs the character is a fallacy.

      “Aiming for your character in a first/third person perspective in real-time, though? That was successfully abstracted into a “chance to hit” score before RPGs even existed, so the only excuse for switching to player skill based aiming is to introduce action game elements.”

      Again what’s so great about randomness? Why is it necessary? When you’re playing P&P D&D dice rolls are a great means to arrive at event resolution, but as any good GM will tell you, you only reach for the dice when it’s absolutely necessary because the chance of failure is a compelling factor.

      Also games like MW2, there operate on a simple system of hit boxes. That’s it. I hit you, you’re dead. Game over man, game over. With an RPG even if I hit a target, that doesn’t necessarily automatically translate into a kill because there’s normally a bunch of other factors (Damage, Armour, resistances, Health) all factoring in as well. That games might share the same perspective, doesn’t automatically translate that their mechanics are the same.

    • Wizardry says:

      I blocked you on Nick’s advice, so I’m sorry if you typed out a lengthy response. I’m telling you this once so that you don’t waste time replying to me in the future.

      Comments by Kadayi blocked by you.

    • Kadayi says:

      “I blocked you on Nick’s advice, so I’m sorry if you typed out a lengthy response. I’m telling you this once so that you don’t waste time replying to me in the future.”

      Whether you block me or not, doesn’t invalidate they questions raised. Even if you can’t see them, or don’t response to them, they exist for others to ponder. In fact I’m actually more interested in what people like Quirk have to say tbh, as based on past form you tend to disregard uncomfortable truths.

      Anyway It occurred to me last night that this obsession of your regarding aiming Vs the randomness of hit dice rolls is kind of flawed though.

      With old Skool D&D the ‘to hit’ roll is not a ‘to hit to determine when physical contact is made’, it’s a ‘to hit to determine whether damage has been inflicted’ which is actually an entirely different thing (damage being calculated after the fact). Armour doesn’t reduce damage to a character in D&D, it just makes it that much harder to inflict damage to a character. For all intents and purposes the D&D system pretty much assumes that a character hits a target every time (‘you missed’ is in fact a misnomer), it’s whether you hit the target hard enough to have an impact is what the system counts though. Whether they players sword truly missed the goblin, glanced off his shield, was parried etc is an unknown (though an imaginative GM will paint in those unknowns in the telling). A player influences a characters chance of inflicting a damaging hit through their tactical decision making.

      However with say a game like The Witcher 2, armour doesn’t make a character harder to hit, but instead it reduces the damage the target suffers as a result of a hit (damage which again is randomized). What makes a target harder to hit in the Witcher has nothing to do with character statistics and everything to do with situation (location, proximity etc, etc), which are all random factors to a greater or lesser extend and all influenced by player tactical decision making.

      These are asynchronous systems of resolution. Yet both do heavily feature randomness in their own ways, as well as allowing the player to influence the outcome through tactical play.

    • Quirk says:

      @Wizardry:
      Shame you blocked Kadayi, he pretty much covered it with a couple of long thoughtful posts.

      Kadayi mentioned dialogue, and it’s huge. You can’t roleplay a character without dialogue in a game except on the most primitive level. What you’re looking for is not a roleplaying game, but a sandbox game. Dialogue will have to be written specifically by developers until we have AI that passes the Turing Test; and even then you wouldn’t be getting interesting well-written dialogue. As it stands, your game would have dialogue of the order of something like Mount and Blade’s: small segments of canned NPC dialogue which repeat over and over again. Emergent gameplay does not sit well with actual roleplay, because you cannot simulate human interactions emergently on a meaningful level.

      You mentioned also that many rolls average out, but you don’t seem to perceive what that actually means. It means that if you turn up for a combat encounter, and you are a little under the level of the people you’re fighting, it may still be possible for you to win but a little disparity in level can result in you losing 75% of the time, say. Rolls averaging out across the combat makes for a sort of bell curve of combat success, and if you end up falling to the lower end of that, you need to reload until you get through.

      And sure, let’s pretend it matters a little where the abstraction is. However, in most of the RPGs you’re complaining about, the abstraction is not at the level you think it is at. When you click on someone to attack them in The Witcher, the dice are rolled and you may succeed or fail. The “to hit” is still out of your hands; who to attack when is within your control.

      In any case, you seem not to actually be interested in roleplay. You have said very little about character and personality in all this. You’re looking for something in the sandbox/immersive sim line, and that’s fine, I very much enjoy some of these games myself (and I’d suggest that you check out Unreal World). However, you have to understand that world simulations and RPGs, which are an exercise in collaborative storytelling, are different. A game can be great at letting you interact with the world and do a wide variety of things and yet still offer very little actual ability to roleplay. Focusing on the former and missing the subtleties that enable the latter does not make for a good RPG; that we call such a game an RPG at all is largely down to the historical accident of RPGs being spawned from wargames. If there is a game which mimics the turn-based wargames of RPG’s roots, but is banal and cursory in its exploration of the human element, we’ll shrug and call it an RPG because custom has made it so. Claiming however that it is more of an RPG than a game that actually focuses heavily on shaping your character’s personality, whatever its combat engine, is perverse, and would suggest the claimant was very much out of touch with the modern RPG.

    • Wizardry says:

      Kadayi mentioned dialogue, and it’s huge. You can’t roleplay a character without dialogue in a game except on the most primitive level. What you’re looking for is not a roleplaying game, but a sandbox game. Dialogue will have to be written specifically by developers until we have AI that passes the Turing Test; and even then you wouldn’t be getting interesting well-written dialogue. As it stands, your game would have dialogue of the order of something like Mount and Blade’s: small segments of canned NPC dialogue which repeat over and over again. Emergent gameplay does not sit well with actual roleplay, because you cannot simulate human interactions emergently on a meaningful level.

      Well you can easily get away with hardly any dialogue. Check out Darklands. One of the best CRPGs and one with some of the least dialogue (for a non-dungeon crawler). Alternatively, if you want dialogue, just do it normally like they do today. Check out the Ultima series for great examples. You create a world, fill it with NPCs, and then go through them writing dialogue for each one individually. No one in the Ultima games have canned responses. Everyone is unique. That’s not hard to do in a mechanics heavy CRPG.

      You mentioned also that many rolls average out, but you don’t seem to perceive what that actually means. It means that if you turn up for a combat encounter, and you are a little under the level of the people you’re fighting, it may still be possible for you to win but a little disparity in level can result in you losing 75% of the time, say. Rolls averaging out across the combat makes for a sort of bell curve of combat success, and if you end up falling to the lower end of that, you need to reload until you get through.

      It’s not a problem. Try playing a Gold Box game like Pool of Radiance and you’ll see. Combat tactics (which should actually equal role-playing your characters efficiently in a perfect game) makes the luck nearly irrelevant. Decent tactics balance risk and reward. Even the hardest of encounters can often be beaten with superior tactics. Superior tactics equals both preparation and what you actually do in the fight. Winning tough fights in the Gold Box games is never luck. Don’t RTSs like Warcraft III have ranged values for damage? Would that mean Warcraft III matches are down to the luck of the random number generator? No, it wouldn’t, because that would be ridiculous. Same for CRPG combat. Mountain climbing in Ultima V gives each character a chance of slipping and taking damage based on their dexterity score (I believe). When climbing across a large mountain range each character took roughly the same amount of damage each time. Slips are random, and the damage taken from slips are also random, but it averages out in the end and thus makes the randomness irrelevant. However, without randomness, you’ll know that each character would slip every 3 tiles and take 10 damage, so mountain climbing with low HP wouldn’t be risky at all as you can do a quick calculation to work out if any of your characters would die. No risk versus reward balancing. Highly boring gameplay.

      And sure, let’s pretend it matters a little where the abstraction is. However, in most of the RPGs you’re complaining about, the abstraction is not at the level you think it is at. When you click on someone to attack them in The Witcher, the dice are rolled and you may succeed or fail. The “to hit” is still out of your hands; who to attack when is within your control.

      The Witcher? The first one? Well, then the timing of the three clicks to do the combo is in the player’s hands, even though that should really be down to how good Geralt is at sword fighting. Why make the player perform triple timed clicks to do combat? What does it add to a CRPG? It adds nothing. It means that Geralt is only as good at sword fighting as you are at timing a series of clicks. Sure, by the end of the game the vast majority of players would have perfected it, but nothing is gained by doing it when old CRPGs merely made you press the attack button and choose a target, all during a single game turn without any pressure or “player skill”.

      In any case, you seem not to actually be interested in roleplay. You have said very little about character and personality in all this. You’re looking for something in the sandbox/immersive sim line, and that’s fine, I very much enjoy some of these games myself (and I’d suggest that you check out Unreal World). However, you have to understand that world simulations and RPGs, which are an exercise in collaborative storytelling, are different. A game can be great at letting you interact with the world and do a wide variety of things and yet still offer very little actual ability to roleplay. Focusing on the former and missing the subtleties that enable the latter does not make for a good RPG; that we call such a game an RPG at all is largely down to the historical accident of RPGs being spawned from wargames. If there is a game which mimics the turn-based wargames of RPG’s roots, but is banal and cursory in its exploration of the human element, we’ll shrug and call it an RPG because custom has made it so. Claiming however that it is more of an RPG than a game that actually focuses heavily on shaping your character’s personality, whatever its combat engine, is perverse, and would suggest the claimant was very much out of touch with the modern RPG

      Personality? Dialogue? Don’t actions speak louder than words? CRPGs shouldn’t be about role-playing through dialogue exclusively. They should be about role-playing. Doing stuff and talking to people, both. Choosing to sneak into a town instead of confronting the guards is a role-playing choice, just as saying “yes I’ll help you assassinate the king” or “no I won’t help you and I’m turning you into the guards” is also role-playing. Why is one better than the other? Plus, most D&D sessions I played involved a whole lot of combat and exploration, among other things. They weren’t free-form story telling through conversation. To label role-playing through dialogue as the only true form of role-playing is a little bit silly if you ask me. My whole stance on the matter is that CRPGs should try to emulate pen and paper RPGs. Wizardry was an emulation of pen and paper combat and dungeon exploration. Ultima was also a result of Garriott’s attempts at a single character D&D-inspired role-playing game. Wizard’s Crown’s manual basically demonstrates how close the game is to actual D&D, with tables for statistics and items. You could probably play pen and paper Wizard’s Crown with the detail in the game manual. The Gold Box engine was the first true AD&D game engine, and the 13 games that used the Gold Box engine were all pen and paper adaptations. Realms of Arkania was a computer adaptation of The Dark Eye role-playing system. The MegaTraveller games, Space 1889 and Twilight: 2000 CRPGs were straight up adaptations of those respective pen and paper systems. Fallout was originally a GURPS game before it lost its license at the last minute. Then you have the Infinity Engine etc.

      All I’m saying is that the Dragon Age method isn’t really the right way to go. In Dragon Age you see some villagers up ahead standing there, placed there by the developer. You walk up to them and suddenly a cut-scene takes place. The villagers move around and talk and shout and then dialogue options appear at the bottom of the screen. You pick one (and your conversation skills are not tested) and the villagers respond. After a while either a fight breaks out, you get a quest or you move on. All hand created by developers without being able to effectively use your character’s skills at all. That’s the basic gameplay of modern “CRPGs”. It’s extraordinarily shallow and highly limited by the amount of content the developers can pump out. You can’t ever reach a virtual DM that way. A virtual DM needs to run an actual game world simulation. Zones, factions, reputation systems, encounter creation, NPC scheduling, day/night cycles, some sort of economy. Modelling that stuff means you have choices and you have consequences without the developer having to add a custom made encounter. The day will turn into night, the villagers will go to bed, the number of guards guarding the city gates will lower, you therefore have a better chance to enter town and to steal stuff from shops. None of that needs to be “thought up” by the developers. It comes naturally to the game. Emergent gameplay, and one much, much, much closer to a virtual DM, and one that also allows a far greater amount of character skill checks to reward and punish you for specialising your characters in certain ways.

    • Quirk says:

      @Wizardry:
      Your “you can easily get away with hardly any dialogue” again gets us back to the root of the problem: what you’re describing are not games centred around role-playing. They’re games which mirror the undeveloped origins of the RPG, and which provide scant resource for actually investigating a character.

      On the topic of combat, you seem to think that there are only two ways of doing it, player skill based or heavily randomised stat based that requires reloads when things don’t go your way.

      Combat tactics (which should actually equal role-playing your characters efficiently in a perfect game) makes the luck nearly irrelevant.

      Until you’ve actually worked out what you’re arguing here, I’m not going to bother responding to it. You can’t just swing back and forth from “oh, actually, randomness is fun and player skill is outweighed by character” to “but the randomness makes almost no difference really and it’s very skillful” and make any coherent point.

      Personality? Dialogue? Don’t actions speak louder than words? CRPGs shouldn’t be about role-playing through dialogue exclusively. They should be about role-playing. Doing stuff and talking to people, both. Choosing to sneak into a town instead of confronting the guards is a role-playing choice.

      No, and I’m surprised how badly you don’t get it here. A character who hates confrontation is worth playing, perhaps. The interest largely develops from exploring where the line is crossed that brings him to confrontation. Deciding whether to sneak into a city or fight the guards is not a meaningful exploration of this. You need dialogue to explore anything remotely subtle in any reasonable way. Things like prejudice, belief in duty vs personal independence, any of a million things that are important to people simply aren’t touchable in the crude interface you’re talking about.

      Plus, most D&D sessions I played involved a whole lot of combat and exploration, among other things. They weren’t free-form story telling through conversation.

      Yes. D&D is a primitive, terrible ancestor of RPGs. RPGs moved on. D&D fails at simulation hard, and positively undermines collaborative storytelling. It’s a wargame that made the first faltering flailing grabs at the kind of collaborative storytelling RPGs became. Just because something is in D&D doesn’t mean it’s even vaguely a good idea to carry it across to PC RPGs. In fact, PC RPGs have been held back for years by trying to represent D&D’s crude, awkward system directly.

      It sounds like you like D&D, and well, it is what it is and if you like that kind of thing, that’s fine. But it’s played by many people more as a wargame with a story-driven campaign than an actual roleplaying game. It’s the target for any number of RPG nerds’ scorn. It’s certainly no model for us to compare computer RPGs to; that would be hopelessly underambitious.

      Again, I reiterate: what you’re looking for is a world simulation, not an RPG. You don’t want to explore your characters’ psyches in any but the loosest of fashions. Whether you can “steal stuff from shops” comes first. You’d be happy with an exhaustive reinterpretation of D&D. D&D has not been synonymous with RPGs for a very long time. I am, in fact, a little appalled by your gall: as someone whose RPG experience seems to have stopped at D&D, to pretend you have any right to say who can and can’t use the term RPG in the computer sense is breathtakingly arrogant and wrong-headed.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      D&D has not been synonymous with RPGs for a very long time.

      No. A few terms worth learning: story games, crunch, sandbox, railroad.

      Are you familiar with these? Then let’s talk about modern RPGs. Hell, let’s talk about the various ways you could play Mouse Guard. “Explore your characters’ psyches” is a pretty unusual goal in the vast majority of RPGs. Maybe the horror ones.

    • Wizardry says:

      Your “you can easily get away with hardly any dialogue” again gets us back to the root of the problem: what you’re describing are not games centred around role-playing. They’re games which mirror the undeveloped origins of the RPG, and which provide scant resource for actually investigating a character.

      Investigating what character? The reason you expose the personality of your character in pen and paper RPGs is to share it with other players. In a CRPG the computer doesn’t give a shit about the nuances of your character’s personality, and you aren’t usually playing multi-player either. Therefore the only reason to think up a detailed personality for your character is to use that personality to dictate your character’s actions in the game world. Multiple quest solutions, different ways of tackling particular encounters, deciding which factions in the game world to ally your character with, that’s all the CRPGs need to really care about. Your own motivations for doing things are your own. You have no one to share your character’s personality with other than yourself. Your character’s personality can affect the decisions you make for your character, for sure, but they won’t influence any other player because you aren’t playing with anyone else.

      Should your character’s personality affect other NPCs though? Other “virtual” characters that populate the game world? Yes, of course. That would be the ideal way of doing things. But NPCs in games such as The Witcher and Dragon Age are affected either through scripts (if player did quest in this particular way change their dialogue to this) or through stupid linear measures (the friendship bars in Dragon Age). Why is this? Because the game can only change the game world based on data. It can’t pull thoughts out of your very own head. It can’t pull a personality out of your head. You need to input it into the game. That’s why I fully support an advanced character creator in which you can specify more than just combat attributes. Being able to give the game hints as to your character’s personality in a numerical way allows the game simulation to take these things into account in a perfectly scalable way.

      Until you’ve actually worked out what you’re arguing here, I’m not going to bother responding to it. You can’t just swing back and forth from “oh, actually, randomness is fun and player skill is outweighed by character” to “but the randomness makes almost no difference really and it’s very skillful” and make any coherent point.

      That’s very rude. Especially as it’s clearly you that is failing to grasp the discussion. It seems to me that you believe battles are won due to a single random dice roll. They are not. Battles are made up of many constituent actions. Moving a character, attacking an enemy, casting a spell, using an item, guarding a door, throwing a knife, these are all things that can happen many times over in a single battle. Therefore randomisation is averaged out over each one of these. Did you do poor damage throwing a knife? Don’t worry, you’ve made up for it by doing maximum damage with your sword on your next turn. Therefore randomisation doesn’t have that much of an affect on the result of a battle, but what is does is bring an element of risk versus reward to tactics. It’s no longer a game a chess but a simulation that can take into account character statistics in a way chess can’t.

      Think of it this way. You have a character with 50 dexterity and you are swinging your sword at a character with 51 dexterity. In a system with no randomness, how do you work out whether you hit the enemy or not? Compare the dexterity statistics? If so then you’ll always miss. The other way of doing it is to make the character hit every single time, but use the relative dexterity scores to change the amount of damage taken (or something equivalent). That way you have no randomness, no chance to hit, and constant damage between each character. If you know you’ll do 23 damage each time to an enemy, but they have 47 health, you know that you can’t ever kill him in 2 hits. It’ll take 3 hits. There is no element of risk versus reward. You no longer have to balance the attempt to kill someone in two hits (before they may pull off a devastating spell) and wasting a spell/mana disabling the unit just in case.

      It seems to me that elements of randomness add unpredictability to individual actions. When lots and lots of those individual actions make up an overall large scale action (an entire battle), the randomness within them is overridden by the tactics you apply.

      Yes. D&D is a primitive, terrible ancestor of RPGs. RPGs moved on. D&D fails at simulation hard, and positively undermines collaborative storytelling. It’s a wargame that made the first faltering flailing grabs at the kind of collaborative storytelling RPGs became. Just because something is in D&D doesn’t mean it’s even vaguely a good idea to carry it across to PC RPGs. In fact, PC RPGs have been held back for years by trying to represent D&D’s crude, awkward system directly.

      It sounds like you like D&D, and well, it is what it is and if you like that kind of thing, that’s fine. But it’s played by many people more as a wargame with a story-driven campaign than an actual roleplaying game. It’s the target for any number of RPG nerds’ scorn. It’s certainly no model for us to compare computer RPGs to; that would be hopelessly underambitious.

      Again, I reiterate: what you’re looking for is a world simulation, not an RPG. You don’t want to explore your characters’ psyches in any but the loosest of fashions. Whether you can “steal stuff from shops” comes first. You’d be happy with an exhaustive reinterpretation of D&D. D&D has not been synonymous with RPGs for a very long time. I am, in fact, a little appalled by your gall: as someone whose RPG experience seems to have stopped at D&D, to pretend you have any right to say who can and can’t use the term RPG in the computer sense is breathtakingly arrogant and wrong-headed.

      I don’t know what to say. You’ve basically just said that D&D shouldn’t be used as a basis for what RPGs are because other games have sprung up that went in another direction entirely. Perhaps those games are the ones that shouldn’t be used as a basis for what RPGs are? Ever considered that? You are incredibly narrow minded, while at the same time calling me the narrow minded one. I might want to role-play an assassin that only assassinates those targets whose deaths will benefit society from the point of view of the assassin. But because a big chunk of the game will involve role-playing as an assassin type character, it’s no longer an RPG because it’s not entirely devoted to conversations and revealing every single personal detail of a fictitious character? Role-playing is so much more than “dialogue” just as it’s so much more than “combat”. It’s about doing things your character would do. It would be about getting your character to act in a way they should act. It’s about solving missions, exploring the game world, and ultimately reaching the game’s goal in a way suitable for the character you have created. Combat and dialogue are two tiny possibilities among an entire sea of possibilities. You could come up with a fantastic RPG (and CRPG) that involves absolutely no combat and no conversations. No dialogue, no enemies. Just your character, a world, a goal and possibilities.

    • Kadayi says:

      @Quirk

      I like the cut of your jib sir. I fear that now you’ve been accused of being ‘rude’ that further meaningful discussion here will be off the cards (no doubt wizardry will block you also), However you should definitely stop by the forums if you haven’t already, you’ll find a more receptive audience for discussion on such matters.

  19. Derk_Henderson says:

    I think the game’s biggest failure for me was in the exposition (well, that and the fucking doors). I actually read into the journal entries and some of the books in the game, I played Witcher 1 (though I didn’t remember it all that well), but I could never quite shake the nagging “wait, I’m missing something here” feeling. It wasn’t a totally bad thing – as a result, I basically played Geralt as more driven by which characters he liked, which was interesting (I let Henselt die because he was a fucking asshole to Ves) – but it lowered my drive to come back and see what was next.

    That’s a big issue for me and RPGs. I don’t have very much time to play games, so the ones I finish are generally the ones that make me want to rush home and boot them up and stay up too late because I have to know what’s next. This is why I’ve never finished a Bethesda game and likely never will – the open world entertains me for a while, but my total lack of interest in the main plot eventually leads to me stepping away one day and never coming back. I did finish Witcher 2, and I think in a lot of ways it really is a brilliant game (and even as an avowed Bioware fanboy, it’s better than DA2), but I haven’t dragged myself back to complete the Iorveth path, and I don’t think I’ll get around to it. Ultimately, I think that’s because I didn’t feel as connected to the world as I should have been.

    I love their ambition, though. And I really look forward to seeing what they come up with in Witcher 3.

    • Yosharian says:

      Why does everyone hate the freaking doors? I never once had a problem with a door… I don’t get it. It’s obviously a cell system they have running the environment… The doors are needed. Better an interactive door than a fucking load screen every two seconds a la Oblivion.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      That’s a problem of their own making. Resident Evil had technical reasons for incredibly annoying doors as well, but that didn’t stop them being a pain in the face either.

    • Yosharian says:

      I just don’t see what the problem is with the doors, I never once got blocked, stuck, unable to move through one for any reason, or anything. You’re all talking about this as if it’s a problem everyone had.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      And you’re talking about it like a problem that nobody had. The difference is that we’re saying ‘this annoyed us’, while you’re telling us we’re wrong to have been annoyed by something you don’t think exists.

    • Yosharian says:

      I didn’t mean it like that, I am curious as to what problem you have with the doors because everyone is being vague with them and I just don’t see what the problem is.

      Maybe it’s because I played it after the first major patch…

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Christ, Yos! Someone else opens the door, I try to follow them and half the time I have to stop and wait for the door to shut so I can open it to go through it. The doors are shit!

      It’s not rocket science. The doors are shit! At the absolute best, it shatters the atmosphere. At the worst, I find the occasional colleagues I’m with incapable of getting through the door and/or blocking me getting back through and/or THIS IS THE BEST ONE!!! me opening a door and it somehow rendering my invisible to opponents until I reload.

      EDIT: And I finished the game the day before last, so it was the recent patch. Just as a FYI.

      KG

    • Abundant_Suede says:

      The doors were a pain in specific situations. All told, it amounted to maybe a couple minutes of frustration out of my entire game experience. The lack of a save point prior to one of the game’s more challenging set pieces culminating in a challenging boss fight easily made me forget about whatever paltry amount of time I was ever annoyed by a door, as I played that entire sequence over and over again.

      The problem is, the doors weren’t really doors, but a sort of interactive zone transition that looked like it should behave more naturally, but what you’re essentially looking at is a loading screen. If they had just loaded up a static loading screen, nobody would be complaining about the doors. Obviously, they’d be complaining about the loading screens instead.

    • Radiant says:

      I thought they were very atmospheric.

      “I’m gonna kick in this door and loot the shit out of this dwarf fucks house”
      *scene fades to black*

      “I’m gonna kick in this door and rob this blind syphilitic prostitute even blinder… oh you’re going in first? Cool cool”
      *waits a bit…scene fades to black*

    • Yosharian says:

      Ok, well I never had any of those problems ^_^

      Guess I’m lucky.

  20. Premium User Badge

    shoptroll says:

    So is Richard the new new Kieron?

  21. matrices says:

    I seem to be the rare player who has an utterly bifurcated response to this game.

    The Witcher 2, through the end of Act I, is the best part-game I have ever played in my life. Yes, the absence of a proper tutorial was annoying, but once I had a controller in my hand and RTFM, I was honestly pumped about vanquishing my enemies because it required some skill and timing. The setting and characters were beyond magnificent, and my allegiances shifted in my own mind as the story unfolded.

    After Act I, though? Most disappointing transition ever. The game pulls you out of this intense and personal narrative and tosses you into this meta-level political squabble (I played Iorveth’s side but I suspect this happens either way). Who is Henselt, or that dragon-killing lady, or these here dwarves, and moreover, why the hell should I give a damn? You dedicate 50% of the game to this shit and yet you don’t even show me English labels for who is who on the game map? Meanwhile, every single main character you were with is relegated to lowly sideshow status or just disappears (Dandy, Triss, Iorveth).

    Maybe it gets better, but I don’t know when I’ll find out, because I just stopped playing the game. Actually, correction: the game stopped playing and switched to something much more boring and completely out of sync with what I had been playing. It’s not an Act II so much as Act I of a different game in the same world but with a terribly explained plot.

    Even then I might be convinced to play through had the combat not devolved so gracelessly into a click-fest. The enemies don’t develop new tactics and you become ridiculously overpowered. I had acclimated to the demanding difficulty and then the game snatched it away from me: how insulting.

    Bottom line: this game sorely needed an editor, for both the story and combat development. With another 6 to 12 months, it could have been one the top three or five games ever made. As it stands, it’s just an excellent half-game with much disappointment after that.

  22. Radiant says:

    You’re right in that, like Crysis and Warhead, framerate is a huge part of peoples experience.
    Just because it /runs/ doesn’t mean you should have it at ridic resolutions.

    I’m actually curious to see how it is received on the 360 as that should uniformly level peoples playing experience.

    But fuck me do I enjoy playing this game, it is acres ahead of Dragons Age 2.

    Also ? +1 for the random tittays. Thank you HBO.

    [although once I found the Inn-Brothel special place I did lose a lot of money...er... down the the back of the sofa.]

    • Radiant says:

      Also Jim you can stop using bifurcated now.
      WE GET IT SMARTY PANTS.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      I shall never expurgate my sesquipedalianist propensities!

    • Radiant says:

      Your tone of vocabularity strikes me as both discombobulatory and inflambationable.
      Renounce your malodorous words in a repudiationally adjusted manner or there will be hell to pay.

      Uncuff me from this escritoire! I have killed men before.

    • Yosharian says:

      That’s quite enough of that. We don’t want another resonance cascade scenario

  23. Tim James says:

    Hearing you guys complain makes me feel even more blessed and lucky I escaped the game without any frustrations and annoyances. I must have been wired like the developers at CD Projekt. I’m thrilled to be among the lucky ones who got to cherish this without any personal reservation.

    I’ve been on the other side before, when people adore a game I like that doesn’t quite cast a spell on me. It sucks. Sorry. I hope CD Projekt learns from this because I want everyone to enjoy the game as much as I did.

  24. Eight Rooks says:

    “I love that it was an RPG that made me actually *think* about my choices, and feel like it gave a shit what I chose, unlike DA2′s even worse epilogue sections.”

    Oh, well, why not – couldn’t disagree more. Never cared a whit for either of the plot branches, thought the attempts to muddy the waters in either one were laughable (i.e. Iorveth is clearly not the murdering psychopath he wants to appear, so why throw in ridiculous bits like the march through town? And if the game is playing this for irony it’s doing a terrible job of it). My God, I adored the end of Dragon Age 2, and how I was forced to make a choice that was clearly no choice at all. It was obviously the point, and it was handled beautifully. I loathed Anders, the smug, sanctimonious prick, and yet I couldn’t deny he had a point – there is no-one in The Witcher 2 who approaches even that level of moral ambiguity.

    And it’s a console RPG. It is a bloody console RPG. I cannot understand how anyone can’t see it was clearly designed from word one with an eye on that sweet, sweet 360 money. I don’t say this solely to mock, I hate PC elitism, but the combat was piss-easy even with a juddering framerate, and by the second act it was pretty much a formality. Dragon Age 2 is Dwarf Fortress in comparison – I never had to craft a thing, almost never used sub-weapons, almost never used any sign except Ard other than the points I was forced to.

    It is a good game, but its importance is the product of fans and critics desperate for something to prove high-end PC gaming has a reason to exist and precious little else. Other than the visuals, there is nothing here that hasn’t been done better elsewhere multiple times over in the past five years, to say nothing of going back to the dawn of CRPGs. (And the visuals aren’t all that, either. The final act is terrible, the kind of thing anyone who criticised DA2 should be all over.) Like the first, a second-rate attempt to measure up to Sapkowski’s writing, feted only by people who think Baldur’s Gate 2 was the second coming and we shall never see its like again. Never thought I’d sympathise with mister Wizardry, but at least he can see the game for what it is, in his own special way.

    Okay, I’m done. Back to reading comments on DA2′s DLC, and feeling comforted Bioware actually seem quite happy to ignore the people plotting to burn down their offices, for the most part.

    • Velvetmeds says:

      Bravo, well written.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      “Other than the visuals, there is nothing here that hasn’t been done better elsewhere multiple times over in the past five years”

      That simply isn’t true.

    • Velvetmeds says:

      You’re right, it’s not true. Because the visuals have been done a lot better before too.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      “I loathed Anders, the smug, sanctimonious prick, and yet I couldn’t deny he had a point – there is no-one in The Witcher 2 who approaches even that level of moral ambiguity.”

      I’m thinking more of things like the end fights, where Anders will always blow up the Chantry and you will always have to fight Orsino, regardless of your actions or how much sense it makes. (I exclude Meredith since she’s got the excuse of being hopped up on relic dust by that point.) The Witcher 2 wraps itself around your decisions. Dragon Age 2 doesn’t, except with a few very minor elements like whose pants you get into during the romance options.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      “You’re right, it’s not true. Because the visuals have been done a lot better before too.”

      Great! Point us at these games, we’re all dying to play them.

    • Nick says:

      Huh.. this is a troll right? If not.. wow. I guess you are one of those guys with the creepy “I support Anders” character sigs from the Bioboards or something.

    • Jeremy says:

      I really enjoyed DA2 until the point I realized that in spite of all these different decisions being made, the end played out the same. I also really don’t believe that could possibly be the point… giving a player the illusion of free agency only to tear it away from them at the end. I actually really like the idea of taking choice away from the player, because a hero, in reality, wouldn’t be able to dictate everything that happens in a world… but, to give them a choice and then negate all of those choices by giving every player the same ending, seems kind of like a kick to the crotch, and a step backwards.

    • Yosharian says:

      I don’t know how a person could compare DA2 and TW2 in the same breath, much less think that DA2 was superior. TW2 is on such a different league as to make the comparison utterly pointless. The visuals, combat, character depth, plot, skill trees, everything… It makes Bioware look like a little kid trying to play with adults.

    • meatshit says:

      Yes, it’s a troll. He really tipped his hand with this section:

      ” I cannot understand how anyone can’t see it was clearly designed from word one with an eye on that sweet, sweet 360 money. I don’t say this solely to mock, I hate PC elitism, but the combat was piss-easy even with a juddering framerate, and by the second act it was pretty much a formality. Dragon Age 2 is Dwarf Fortress in comparison”

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Cutting to the chase: If you don’t name a game with your statements, you’re full of shit.

      KG

    • Kadayi says:

      @ Eight rooks

      Albeit I personally didn’t have a problem with the railroaded denouement of DA2, as it’s made abundantly clear during the opening narrative between Varric & the Chantry Seeker that some cataclysm has occurred which the ‘Hero of Kirkwall’ is simply a participant in (and thus setting up the storyline of DA3). However I do agree with Mr Cobbett that the whole necessity to fight Orsino made little to no sense narratively. There was no rationality to Orsino suddenly embracing blood magic and then attacking the very people who were defending his corner. It would have made more sense if he’d teamed up with the player to defeat Meredith and then turned heel afterwards or simply died in the process. That whole sequence was a real immersion breaker tbh.

  25. Maxheadroom says:

    I really want to like it, but I just loath the main character so much. All brooding and huskey voiced.
    Reminds me of all those WoW players that give themselves hard names like Deathstalker or Demonslayer when in reality you know they’re just 13 year old boys with no friends

    • Jake says:

      Yeah I felt the same unfortunately. I may go back to it at some point but I just don’t like Geralt. My character in Dragon Age Origins was far better, and that’s because I made her myself instead of being forced to play someone I just didn’t like. In DA:O I loved that I had an important mission, my character was pragmatic to the point of ruthlessness because that was how I felt she ought to act – the world needed saving and I liked that I was allowed this freedom to define my character. In The Witcher 2 you get Geralt’s story, take it or leave it.

      Also I played it in the same way I played Batman:AA, on an Xbox pad using constant dodging and battering one guy before his mates caught up then darting off. I found it very easy and very bugged – nearly every fight people’s pathing would go wrong and they would wander off if I just walked down some steps or whatever. I decided to give up and see if it would get patched.

    • Premium User Badge

      Tom De Roeck says:

      The german voice was fantastic, but they replaced the voice actor from witcher 1 to 2.. (I only heard the second one, I never bothered with the first voice actor. So now there are three voice actors that have voiced Geralt)

    • TariqOne says:

      Bingo. For a game hailed for presenting the player with so much “choice,” you get to choose to be Emo Albino Fabio, Spellsword Cocksman.

      Hobson’s Choice.

  26. Premium User Badge

    Lambchops says:

    All hail the 57th greatest game of all time.

    ===

    That aside I just finished The Witcher 2 last week, taking the path of the elf and focusing on magic. I’m definitely inclined to play it again at some point to experience the other branch. I’ve been eager for a game to be brave enough to diverge its plot in such a way for ages and I’m glad someone has done it.

    That said I agree with the RPS guys that the ending section is rather disappointing; so much unresolved, like DA2 it left all the political intrigue hanging to set up a sequel. It would have been fine if there had been a more satisfying closure to the main Kingslayer plot or even if they’d done a bit more with the Wild Hunt stuff that bubbled throught the game (though I concede that this is an entirely natural thing to save for a sequel – I’d expect it to be the main driving force behind events of any eventual sequel).

    Gameplay wise it was solid if not spectacular. Some cool moments during combat but it didn’t quite live up to the “Arkham Asylum-esque” combat hinted at in the early previews. Also this had me once again crying out for a game that didn’t have fights with large monsters which relied on the hackneyed old dodge charge, hit a couple of times, run away from one hit kill attack, rinse and repeat war of attrition until dead shtick.

    Anyway, niggles aside I thoroughly enjoyed it. Geralt is a great character, the world is well realised and there were plenty of moments which made me think or put a big fat smile on my face. Definitely trumped Dragon Age 2, that’s for sure.

  27. Zyrusticae says:

    Anyone else think traditional turn-based RPGs don’t really work as video games?

    Me, I prefer having a human GM, myself.

    Hence, why I think games like the Witcher 2 are the way forward – if we can’t really define our own stories, playing through the incredibly well-rendered story of a pre-defined character is the next best thing.

    • Wizardry says:

      Okay. Go on then. List the turn-based CRPGs you’ve played. You have an opportunity to surprise me. Oh and by the way, you do know that “playing through the incredibly well-rendered story of a pre-defined character” is the area of other genres too? Like adventure games, for instance. Why should that be the sole focus of the CRPG genre while adventure games get all that too plus puzzles? Game genres are defined by more than just telling a story.

    • Nick says:

      Don’t be silly Wizardry, real time is the natural evolution of turn based and clearly came afterwards as everyone wanted to do RT but couldn’t with the old computer tech at the time. And.. well, you know the rest, no doubt the same tired, incorrect rubbish will follow as it always does, but I’ve at least saved a few people some time there.

    • Gonefornow says:

      People Nick Somebody please. Let’s not try to deny a way of presenting time in a (video)game as a result of personal preference.
      It’s quite clear, at least to me you can be as vague you want, that real-time and turn-based gaming both have their advantages and disadvantages.
      Real-time makes the game about reflexes and quick thinking.
      Turn-based, and pausable games to some extend, allow the use of complicated strategies and .. and uh, slow thinking?
      RT -advantages: it’s kewl, like RL, fast-paced ACTION. -disadvantages: It’s not for everyone.
      TB -advantages: Hey! I have time to think, move soldier to h3 check, mate. -disadvantages: It’s not for everyone.
      See now, SEE! Especially a Role_Playing_Game, which is an obscure definition anyways, can benefit from both techniques.
      Personal preference: RT isn’t my thing in most cases, butterfingers.

    • Zyrusticae says:

      Way to miss the point, really.

      Do turn-based CRPGs exist? Sure do. Are they tons of fun? Most definitely!

      The big question is, and it’s rather semantic, but it is what it is: Are they good rpgs?

      See, my problem with any CRPG that takes after the tabletop games is simply that they’re inevitably inferior due to the lack of the human element. Quite frankly, they’re more war games than RPGs. Your choices are constrained by what the developers implemented, and nothing more. On the tabletop, I can fully define my own character; on the tabletop, I can describe what is going on in combat outside the rather bland game rules. Indeed, the abstraction of combat is merely there as a means to an end – to be able to measure the vessel of your character versus that of what opposes them. Rather, isn’t that what the rules exist for in the first place? Otherwise we wouldn’t bother with rules at all, and just freeform it instead.

      Making the game *about* the combat defeats the point. I don’t play RPGs just to fight, I play them to roleplay, and particularly, to roleplay characters *I’ve* created, with a personality and a history that *I’ve* created. The combat is an accessory. The mode of combat does NOT define the game.

      In other words, if I wanted to play a turn-based game with elements of progression I’d play Age of Wonders, Disgaea, or, most especially, X-Com (still no replacement for it to this day – such a shame). If I want to experience a story with pre-defined characters and make choices that change the story along the way, I look at visual novels (which are, essentially, what CRPGs become when you strip out the combat). If I want to create a character (or characters) and define them and take them on an adventure, I either go freeform or play a tabletop RPG. CRPGs have always been poor imitations of the real thing. The human element cannot be replaced, and the computer can only cover what the developers made it to cover.

      In essence, my preference has absolutely fuck-all to do with the “real-time vs. turn-based” conundrum, and everything to do with the fact that the computer is nowhere near as able as a human GM. If the RPG part of the game has to be inferior, if it has to function more like a “choose your own adventure” novel, the rest of the game better be superior to make up for it.

    • Nalano says:

      Human GMs can react to things games designers didn’t anticipate, Wizardry. That was the original point.

      CRPGs can have legions of writers thinking of every contingency, but one of them doesn’t come home with you when you buy a CRPG.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      and everything to do with the fact that the computer is nowhere near as able as a human GM.

      Play Darklands.

      You’re totally right, but there’s no reason we can’t do better. We can always offer more choices in a CRPG, even if it isn’t the effectively infinite choice of a tabletop RPG. Darklands was a really good stab at that for 1992; shame there hasn’t been anything like it since.

    • bwion says:

      CRPGs, turn-based or otherwise, are never going to deliver the same experience that tabletop gaming does. (Unless we’re going to include clients for managing online tabletop games as CRPGs. Which, you know, why not?) But then, I don’t really think they were ever seriously trying to, whatever anyone says.

    • Wizardry says:

      @Zyrusticae: And if we spent the last 20 years developing proper CRPGs I’m sure we would have reached the goal of a decent enough virtual DM. I’m not even that big a fan of combat myself. I’ve said it many times before that combat is basically the only thing that has been done reasonably well in CRPGs. It was the first thing that was adapted from pen and paper all those years ago because it was so easy to convert. Everything else? Not so much. But as TillEulenspiegel said, Darklands did a pretty good job in 1992. Now imagine if we had developed that from 1992 to today? That’s 19 years of development. But instead all the CRPG developers gave up entirely to focus on scripted stories with a few scripted branches here and there to give an illusion of depth. Just look at the complexity behind some of the grand strategy games coming out nowadays. If CRPGs had developped that much depth then we would be well on the way, in my opinion. Compared to The Witcher 2 and the like, CRPGs could have been in a very different place right now. One much closer to the roots of the genre, too.

    • Gonefornow says:

      And a wise person once said:
      “But then, I don’t really think they were ever seriously trying to, whatever anyone says.”.

      @Zyrusticae
      Now that you have made your real point clear (the OP has three possible points afterall:turn-based RPGs don’t work as video games, man>machine,no freedom? have sum canned stories),
      which is the man>computer thing, I have to relate to the above quote. They can’t do the same things as of yet.

      If you want to have your/GM’s imagination as the limit don’t play virtual games.
      If you don’t want to go through all that hassle of planning, inviting people over, breaking friendships and stuff, stick with the second (or third or whatever) best option.

      So in a way I agree.

    • Zyrusticae says:

      That is certainly an interesting tack.

      It’s very complicated, however, and I don’t think it’s something as simple as simply plugging away at the problem until a solution is reached. I mean, to really replace the human element, you would need an AI that is rather frighteningly close to reaching AI-complete status. You would need a fully realized world, one with, at the very least, hundreds of unique characters all doing their part (the Elder Scrolls game being the closest thing I can think of to reaching this, except the characters aren’t actually unique but rather simplistic simulacrums). All the dialogue, all the art, all that stuff that would have to be generated is simply mind-boggling. We would need tools specifically to speed up the content generation (even more than we already have).

      That being said, it is indeed rather sad that it wasn’t at least pursued with any great level of fervor for the past couple of decades. But I don’t like dealing too much in “what-ifs”. They tend to be depressing.

    • Nick says:

      Gonefornow.. those were not my views, so please don’t direct that at me, its just this ground has been trodden very well before. I’ve even provided examples of stuff proving the opposite of what I said, before.

      To clarify, my position is pretty much the same as yours, with emphasis on the fact those who like turn based games are woefully under served in recent times, outside of console games, somewhat ironically.

      And I like both, but I still want to be able to play new examples of both, just like I want to play (good) space combat games like TIE Fighter or Freespace 2, but can’t because there isn’t much in that genre anymore beyond X and its ilk, which sadly I don’t enjoy much.

    • Pointless Puppies says:

      Making the game *about* the combat defeats the point. I don’t play RPGs just to fight, I play them to roleplay, and particularly, to roleplay characters *I’ve* created, with a personality and a history that *I’ve* created. The combat is an accessory. The mode of combat does NOT define the game.

      Though, to be fair, The Witcher 2′s protagonist’s appearance, background, and personality are all more or less very well established. In fact, the protagonist is far more established than your average RPG (aside from JRPGs, but…yeah. Let’s not talk about JRPGs), which was a source of criticism for some who really love to role-play as the characters they make up.

  28. Premium User Badge

    Lars Westergren says:


    Jim: I was the least sexed Witcher ever. Nil sex.
    Richard: I’ll actually defend the sexy-time stuff in The Witcher 2.
    Kieron: Yeah, i’ll defend it in the witcher 2
    Jim: Oh I am not criticising it, I just didn’t get any.
    Kieron: And in the game?

    Jim takes 34 burn damage.
    Kieron recieves 8 xp.

  29. Tally says:

    Quickly, I loved the Witcher 2 possibly more than any other RPG I’ve ever played but will not argue with any flaws you raised about it.

    My difference is that I love it as a realization of an artistic vision. Playing through, you can feel love poured into every detail of the game and I found it impossible not to love it back. Furthermore, it felt very much unlike a game to me. This was largely to the role of player choice making the most rewarding way to play, for me, be to role play authentically and not to try to win. My choices and their ramifications therefore had much greater force than in any other RPG I’ve played. For example, in Act 3, which though unfortunately short didn’t seem inappropriately so, SPOILER after seeing the treatment of Phillippa in the Nilfgaardian dungeon I abandoned all my idealistic tendencies in supporting Iorveth and left him to deal with her while I rushed to find Triss. On the way there the ambassador taunted me about the futility of my actions and I thought, “Perhaps, but at least I can save someone who loves me.” Then, my most authentic and heartfelt choice in the whole story led to me mercy killing Saskia, the only admirable leader I’d met, and finding Iorveth, my friend, burned and beaten nearly to death in the street.END SPOILER

    Also, though it sounds like many of you did it, I think a second playthrough at least is absolutely essential to appreciating the game and for me it was vastly better because I understood the combat and enjoyed it much more on hard. And besides that I had another significantly different story to play.

    Anyway, my point is only that I love the game unqualifiedly but I feel that it is because I approached it differently from most people and I think most complaints against it are products of not playing on its terms, while approaching the Witcher 2 and playing on its terms, knowing that any difficult fight requires preparation and not even a witcher can fight off six men surrounding him by waving his sword around until they all run into it, lets it shine fully.

  30. Warlokk says:

    Great write-up, I absolutely agree with what you guys said here, and I really loved playing through the game. Once I got a handle on the combat in the Prologue (and that took many, many tries) and the story got rolling, I was totally and completely hooked. My first play-through I chose the Roche path, and it was awesome… but then I read that the Iorveth path was totally different (without reading any spoilers), so I started a new game, bumped up the difficulty, and tried going that route. The gameplay on the Hard difficulty level, once you have the systems and techniques down, was really very satisfying.

    More explanation on the backstory, and a real tutorial/learning curve on the combat, and it would have been just about perfect. Either way, I got 2 good, lengthy playthroughs out of it, so I am very satisfied with my investment.

  31. SanguineLobster says:

    ” Richard: In Dragon Age, if I died, the world is gone. In The Witcher 2… I could walk away whenever I like.

    Kieron: Richard – I don’t think that’s a problem. Sorry – I’m sort of thinking what I actually meant by that. But I’m going to leave it hanging.

    Richard: It’s not necessarily a problem, but it reminded me of an issue I had with Far Cry 2. The intro is the Jackal saying “You’ve failed, go home.” To which my response was “You make a good point.” ”

    Personally, I preferred The Witcher 2′s practice, here. It led you through the events as perhaps Geralt would do (you’re certainly not creating him from the ground up in the least), but let you choose the reason for it. I’ve been realizing how tired I get of being told why I am doing something, and how many games let you choose the What, thinking it’s less important than the Why.

    I have a theory (that might not be any good, but here it is) that the physical events and actions of a game matter (in terms of feeling as though you understand or relate to your character) far less than the mental choices that surround them. Allowing those mental choices to be chosen by the player is something that very few games afford. The Witcher 2 never assumed that you sided with Iorveth because you loved non-humans, because you agreed with Iorveth, or because you were against Henselt, and even provided the choices to reflect that, even in subtle ways. The trouble arises in other choice-based games whenever I choose to kill someone and my journal tells me that “I decided couldn’t bear his evil ways”. Suddenly, I’m no longer playing that character.

    That’s also why I liked the final meeting with Letho. It affected nothing, physically, but it asked you whether Letho’s actions were justifiable, whether there was any point in killing him now. In some ways, a much bigger decision than a more common “Destroy Evil Thing vs Use Evil Thing”.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Yeah, and I did like that – including the optional final boss that really means nothing except personal satisfaction. But at the same time, much of his speech did strike me as stuff I should probably have been uncovering during the actual game instead of just told because it was credits time.

      (Same goes for some of the stuff with the Lodge of Sorceresses)

    • Tim James says:

      The optional final boss meant more to me than personal satisfaction or your typical RPG moral decision. That’s because in a book or movie or videogame, you kill him and the credits roll, or he escapes to the sequel (where they promptly forget him). You don’t get a choice. Here there’s a very basic choice, but it made me realize I wouldn’t want it any other way. It was completely natural. I loved the distilled finality.

      But I can also see how silly it would feel if you’re still steaming about how the game is already over. Oh well.

  32. Demiath says:

    I’ve finished every Bioware RPG ever released and have also played through the first Witcher and quite enjoyed it. Even so, Witcher 2 doesn’t do it for me. I stopped playing halfway through Act 2, and I found the game to be a consistently less engaging experience than, say, Dragon Age 2 was.

    Witcher 2′s hub areas feel even more sterile and restrictive than in Bioware’s game, and TW2′s dungeons in particular are almost offensively boring with all its long empty corridors separated by silly doors. Despite DA2′s repetitive aspects, at least that game’s dungeons were interestingly designed to begin with and well worth exploring at least a few times each.

    And for all its story-related flaws, DA2 had emotionally relatable characters with motivations that made sense and didn’t involve some incomprehensible lore babble which puts even the tediously self-absorbed Dragon Age: Origins to shame. Also, for all its supposed console-ification, DA2 at least didn’t try to be the Ninja Gaiden (Xbox) of action RPGs…

    • Nalano says:

      Despite DA2′s repetitive aspects, at least that game’s dungeons were interestingly designed to begin with and well worth exploring at least a few times each.

      That’s good, because considering how often they reused the same cave map over and over, you would be exploring them more than a few times.

    • Nick says:

      “Despite DA2′s repetitive aspects, at least that game’s dungeons were interestingly designed”

      Uh. Sure, why not.

    • TariqOne says:

      Agreed 100%.

    • Perkel says:

      Umm it’s my first post on this site (long fan of this site) and i don’t want to be teh “hater” but:

      All you have just said about DA2 is otherwise.

      you forgot your /s there..

    • Perkel says:

      edited

  33. Premium User Badge

    sonofsanta says:

    What I love is that I really took my time over this game, did every quest I could, read all the books, understood the politics… and yet there were still spoilers in there for me, because of that whole other fucking path. That’s just incredible.

    What excites me even more is that I know I can play that as a completely different character as well. Not just mechanically, and by mechanically I’m including Bioware style replays wher you pick red instead of blue in conversations, but different as in, instead of trying to be fair to everyone and forge a better world, I will look out solely for me and mine and fuck the rest of ‘em. Can’t wait to get into it.

    Key part of the enjoyment is in the detail of the world as well, which is why Act 1 is the best bit – you can tell it was done first, and they was no divided attention as with Act 2, and no encroaching deadline as with the almost-barren-by-comparison Act 3. It’s the same reason the Disney parks are so brilliant – it’s the tiny, almost subconscious touches that make it complete.

  34. Laurentius says:

    Richard: I think they’re connected. You’re not just playing some guy, you’re a Witcher. To them, that’s as obvious as being, say, a Jedi. But it’s not. And there’s that instant disconnect with the game where you don’t really know what you’re meant to be doing. A Jedi for instance is a melee fighter with some magic. But is Geralt? The game doesn’t tell you properly.

    Kieron: I mean… I was actually watching the Game of Thrones when I was playing through this and that does a lot of work to try and create the relationship between the places. And coming to the Witcher, I found myself thinking “I wish they had tried even a few of the basic set-ups there to create the idea”. I actually did try with the Journal – reading all the kings, trying to map the relationship. But it’s just not *there*.

    So very true and to the point and yet CDP is Polish developer and really Witcher and Sapkowski’s books are big in Poland, definitely, cult status really among video games, fantasy and rpg fans. They were in tight spot to both make game accessible to the world and not to alienate fans in their own country. It was probably tough choice, have they done it more to your liking I see dismayed and enraged fans in Poland with “WTF they were thinking, etc.”

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Honestly? Doing an Indiana Jones/Dads Army map with arrows on would have done an infinite amount to explain the situation without offending anyone.

      I mean, look at the WW2 games going around. *They* don’t assume you know where countries are in Europe. They show maps with big fucking arrows on. And they’re the real world.

      Artful exposition *is the job*.

      KG

    • Laurentius says:

      @Kieron
      I already agree with you on this, I only added that CDP tried to find compromise with polish fan base and general accessibly, failed at this but they already sacrificed some of Sapkowski’s book fans really. Witcher’s saga one of most defining trait is actually very little or sometimes none exposition, there are all these political scheming going on, a lot of countries, places, towns, rivers, provinces, battles etc, that are pretty important to the story and Sapkowski very deliberately didn’t provide a single map, it’s take it or leave it of these books. So fact that CDP actually provided the map is pretty big all things considered ;)

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Just to a note on this: the thing being, doing it in a game is different from doing it in a novel. In a novel you don’t stop reading every paragraph to run off and do something else. This really does change stuff.

      Not least – as Rich says upthread – because in a game you have to make the decisions that Geralt does in the books. Geralt understands the world, so can lead you through it in the books by his actions. In the game, this simply isn’t true.

      KG

  35. Terr says:

    I have a feeling that I’ll be bashed for saying this, but I think that it would be awesome to have conversations like this one in podcast form.

  36. Premium User Badge

    jaheira says:

    What is the point of having two Act 2s? I very rarely play a game more than once, even one as good as this. Knowing that I have to play it again to see Roche’s path is genuinely irritating.

    • Zenicetus says:

      Added replay value? In most CRPG’s, the main incentive for replay is to try a different class or weapon specialization, but Geralt isn’t very customizable. You can’t change his gender, or his “class,” which determines his basic fighting techniques, like you can with a replay of Mass Effect, or the first Dragon Age.

      The branching in Act 2 provides an incentive to take your character through a new experience where the surroundings and plot lines change, instead of your character changing for the replay..

    • Premium User Badge

      jaheira says:

      @Zenicetus

      That doesn’t make sense. You only want to replay it to see the new stuff right? Well, why not make all the stuff available first time through?

    • 0mer says:

      The whole point of TW2 is to show that your actions have consequences. This ain’t your granddaddy’s RPG.

    • Premium User Badge

      Cinek says:

      two Acts 2 is what I liked most in TW2.

      What’s the point of RPG, like: role playing, a game about decisions and characters, if no matter what you do – you’ll see the same areas, places, people every time and again. It’s B-O-R-I-N-G, Bioware-boring.

  37. Laurentius says:

    PS. SPOILER And while I agree on 3 Act, one thing was absolutely satisfying, I didn’t have to fight Letho in the end, yes I didn’t have to fight Geralt nemesis in cliché final duel, for me only this choice fits Geralt personality but no matter, thing is the moment when Geralt face Kingslayer and everything is said and you ponder at how many things happened since when you’ve started pursuing Kingslayer, how again you were caught with all the shit that’s going on and how once again world turning to chaos, to realize that killing Kingslayer isn’t actually your goal now, that this isn’t your revenge any more, that your motivation is on different path and just walk away was…was most brilliant moment in gaming in long time and totally made up for game’s others shortcomings.

    • Zyrusticae says:

      Yessss, I loved that choice. It was definitely one of the highlights of the game for me.

      At that point, I’d seen so much terrible shit from the kings, the sorceresses, and hell, even the common folk, that I just didn’t give a damn about the fate of the Northern Kingdoms anymore. Foltest was certainly a Cool Guy, and didn’t really deserve what he got, but was that really enough reason to off Letho? After all, he saved Triss (though granted, after using her to save his own skin), shared a drink, and had a nice chat with Geralt, and didn’t even hold a grudge against him. They also had quite a bit of shared history together.

      In the end, I couldn’t help but decide that I liked Letho more than I did anyone else in the Northern Kingdoms except Saskia. Phillipa’s a steely witch, Iorveth’s a terrorist, and none of the kings had any redeeming values, especially next to Foltest’s shadow. And the side characters were just that – and they would probably be following Geralt anyways.

      Wish more games would give choices like that, and actually respect them. Dragon Age 2, I’m lookin’ at you!

  38. Hug_dealer says:

    You guys came down kinda hard on such a great game.

    The pacing was great. It flowed as a book, not as a movie, like so many games do. No other game in recent history has put so much work into its story, and the characters within it. The fact that you dont get the entire story, or learn things about certain characters in a single play through. The fact that so many things ride on your shoulders. 16 different endings, with lots of people dying and living based on your actions, which you have no way simply hitting quickload because you didnt choose the one you wanted.

    I think to many people focused on the chapters part, the third was short, yes. But, if they would have simply divided the 3 chapters into 5, no one would have complained at all. I felt the ending was fantastic, and the fact that you got to talk with the man you were chasing before you faught, if you faught at all was an amazing choice that deserved recognition for trying to be more than a michael bay film. It also fills in alot of things left unexplained, and sets up the witcher 3, and the expansions. Definately not the let down that was mass effect 2, a human reaper is probably the stupidest thing in gaming history.

    I personally felt that the fact that the world was crafted perfectly. It is bigger than the witcher, Everyone you meet has their own plans, and views. And you dont simply change them like you see other RPGS. They created real people, not people that are blank molds waiting to be told how to feel and what to do. They have their views and if you disagree, they dont say, oh you are right. They tell you that you were wrong, not them. You are simply a part of it, it will go on without you.

    Unlike so many RPGs we see now that are simply meant to be the equivalent of a michael bay film, or that everything is always spelled for them, and the obvious good, bad, and i dont care choice. The witcher leaves you to decide those things. Its not boiled down to i wanna be a good guy, or i wanna be a badass choices which seem to be the only thing bioware does anymore. I Dont think anyone else there can create as deep of a game through story and character development than these guys. The only other people capable would be Obsidian.

    Some of the complaints seemed silly, others seem legit.

    The doors are annoying, but would you rather have loading screens at every door? Now how do you feel about doors, remember entering rooms in the original witcher, it became not worth it quite quickly.

    Combat difficulty could have been handled better, but the difficulty also stems from the fact that it takes skill to play. After you beat the game the first time and go back, you utterly destroy the prologue. Think about ninja gaiden. It was an extremely tough game, but as you play, you get better, and better. To the point where when you go back to the start, you realize that beginning was not tough anymore. If it gets to tough, put it on easy, and if its to easy, up the difficulty. I personally completed it on hard on my first playthrough. I enjoyed learning the game.

    The difficulty also helps to make your character believeable. If everything was just easy, then you dont realize how badass your guy really is. Notice when you fight your first witcher, just how badass he is. Thats why overwhelming odds are thrown at you, and they added and easy difficulty. People wanting a simply hack and slash got it. people who wanted a challenging game that require a bit of thought got it, and people that wanted their ass handed to them got it. All through the difficulty setting. When did the last game actually pull that off well.

    Every Game has its failings, Even the witcher 2. But without a doubt, those failings are merely bread crumbs from the worlds largest piece of baked bread.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      “The doors are annoying, but would you rather have loading screens at every door? ”

      I don’t believe the door issues are about loading.

    • Paul says:

      Then you believe wrong, Jim. Doors serves as loading points of the streaming technology, it is clear.

      Which is why their critique by every other reviewer seems so fucking stupid.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Everyone knows they’re for loading. That doesn’t diminish the annoyance of things like having to stand around while an NPC hogs the door and won’t let you interact with it until they’re in the clearly/apparently loaded room or area right behind it.

    • Maykael says:

      I finished the game recently and, much to my surprise as well, I found myself criticizing the game continuously in discussions, while forcing it down their throats… I think this is because it does so many things perfectly, so the bad things really come out. And it’s fucking buggy and the combat is non-responsive. And I played it as it was meant, potions, knives, traps, signs, dodges. But it’s inexcusable not to be able to link a dodge with a block or hit. That is fucking amateur game design and it has nothing to do with this great game, that’s why it annoys me so much.

      And the doors are immersion breaking: Say I’m running around with Dandelion to find Triss (and I fucking like Triss a lot, I was emotionally involved in that quest) and there’s quite a sense of urgency about this. Then I have to use a door… I go before Dandelion, but he manages to get to the door right before I click on the thing and suddenly the door opens, he passes right through me and instead of an inn I see an empty room… aand the door closes in my face. aah fuck! I’m doing it again. I love the game, but these little niggles really shine because of the other great aspects of it.. :(

  39. Nick says:

    I have a question.. what did Alec think of the combat?

    ¬_____________¬

  40. Skusey says:

    But what does Optimus think?!

  41. Lukasz says:

    did anyone try to attempt the iron mode playthrough?

  42. kament says:

    To clarify—the map names aren’t cyrillic. These are plain fictional symbols that don’t make any sense in any cyrillic language. Besides, Polish based on the latin alphabet.

  43. Dominic White says:

    Like Kieron, I really must question Richard’s sanity here. You do NOT complain about the whole Chapter 2 split. That’s probably the coolest defining moment of the game, and one you might not even realise at first. It’s the single biggest branch-point I’ve ever seen in an RPG, and while the game may be shorter than the original, it probably comes up to that length when you factor in that you’ll be wanting to play through it at LEAST twice, because unless you see both sides of that branch, you’ve only seen about half the game.

    The two plots do converge again near the end, but they still have a lot of differences even in the final act.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      I didn’t complain about the Chapter 2 split. I like it as a concept and I have no issue with it in theory. I would however have traded it in a heartbeat for another act to continue the story past the ending that we had.

    • kament says:

      This. I don’t understand the complaints about plot split either. Though in my experience there’s more than enough people complaining about it. Though I do suspect that this massive split is at least one of the reasons of the bad ending.

    • Wizardry says:

      I agree with Richard, actually, though most likely for different reasons. While I don’t actually mind plots that branch out significantly, and I would welcome them in my “perfect game”, I don’t feel that they are at all vital for a good, solid RPG. Having multiple ways to solve problems based on the character you are playing is vital to a good RPG, but choosing one of two options to branch an entire act is only nice on the story level. So basically, the time spent creating another second act would have been better placed either fleshing out other parts of the game by adding more options for solving quests in them, or by extending the game by another chapter.

    • Hug_dealer says:

      Thats the problem with great games. You never want them to end. They plan to support the game with expansions, not DLC, which means we are going to get lengthy plot building expansions, instead of tiny 1 off stories through DLC. The wait wont be that long for more Witcher.
      CDPR created the game they wanted, one where your actions change the shape of the game. Whats the point of pretending you have choices to make like in games such as Dragon age 1 and 2, and mass effect. In those games, its pretty much the exact same game every play through, only you select be an ass instead of save the person.

      I love the fact that my actions caused (in act 3) the king of redania to refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of verdens indepencence because it is not supported by legitimate royalty. I want to play through it again with some else alive and see the difference. 16 different endings!

    • Zenicetus says:

      (Repeating a point I made earlier) — I wouldn’t have traded the split for another Act, because this type of game with a pre-defined and (essentially) non-customizable character doesn’t give you the replay options of other CRPG’s that have highly customizable player characters.

      I can’t make Geralt into a pure Mage or pure Tank for my second play-though, and I can’t do anything significant about his appearance. I can tilt his fighting style a little one way or the other with different choices in the skill tree, but I can’t really change his essential “class” as a Witcher. Having the environment and plot change around him in a second play-through, is therefore a major incentive for replaying the game.

    • Soon says:

      The split demonstrates one of the greatest strengths of the medium: you can actually affect the story. It’s important.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      I’d argue the split in Chapter 1 is more important. With that one, you know for a fact you’re seeing something different. With Chapter 2, the scale of it only becomes apparent second time round.

  44. Premium User Badge

    jaheira says:

    @ Dominic
    But what if you don’t want to play it through twice? It’s insane you have to do that in order to see such a large (apparently) chunk of stuff.

    • kament says:

      I think it’s an odd question for an RPG player.

    • meatshit says:

      Replays are an essential part of playing RPGs that emphasize choice.

      In order for your choices to be meaningful, they have to have some kind of effect on the story. If you only play through once, you have no frame of reference and for all you know things could have played out identically no matter what you did. With replays, you can chart a different path and see just how much of a difference your choices actually made.

    • Premium User Badge

      jaheira says:

      If I have to play a game twice to feel like it’s taking player choice into account that’s bad design, or, more accurately, bad writing. RPGs don’t need to give you real choices, they just need to fake it adequately so that it feels like they are.

    • Acorino says:

      But if they’re faking, then it becomes apparent at the latest when you’re replaying. So…

    • meatshit says:

      Faking it only works if the player doesn’t find out they’ve been deceived, which pretty much never happens. The second someone hits the load button to replay a section that didn’t turn out the way they liked or talks with a friend about the game, it all falls apart. Never mind that the vast majority of games that fake it don’t even try to hide the fact.

      V: I was quite clearly talking about the illusion of choice falling apart. Please read, comprehend then post. It ends up being a much better experience for all if you do.

    • Premium User Badge

      jaheira says:

      @ acorino
      I don’t replay games. Too many I haven’t played once yet. Hence my initial whinge, and the point of my original comment.

      @ meatshit (nice name there friend)
      I couldn’t care less if a game “falls apart” if I talk about it with someone. I would pretty much only do that after I’ve finished it anyway for the sake of spoileroonys. If you want to play games constantly re-loading then you’re obviously gonna lose the sense of immersion. Which is why I hate quicksaves, but that’s another story….

    • Paul says:

      So because YOU do not replay games and do not like choices and consequences and everything should be faked, EVERY RPG should be like that? You do know that there is DAO2 for that, right?

      Fortunately CDP devs do not make a game for you, they made it for people like me, who appreciate it.

    • Lukasz says:

      Oh god Jakeira. I fear your point of view.

      Half Life fakes giving you a choice when there is none. So did DN3d, Diablo one and two.

      A proper rpg should not fake the importance of choice. sure. you might fall for it first time. but second time? shame on you. Additionally, just knowing the choice is fake breaks the immersion without actually replaying the game.

      and hating quick saves is stupid. hate yourself for being weak willed. i have not met a game which actually forced you to use quicksaves.

    • Dominic White says:

      I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen anyone actually say they don’t want real choice, they want it faked so it just feels like they’re making a difference.

      And in this game, it’s an enormous choice. For you, it’s just whether you turn left or right, but it spirals out into deciding the fate of nations and thousands of lives.

    • Wizardry says:

      And in this game, it’s an enormous choice. For you, it’s just whether you turn left or right, but it spirals out into deciding the fate of nations and thousands of lives.

      Yeah, exactly. I agree with this but it’s also worth pointing out that to the player it’s merely a single decision, whether to turn left or right. It spirals out of control by changing the entirety of chapter 2, but it’s still a single decision and a single situation to role-play with. At the point of reaching that decision you can’t really comprehend just how much of an impact it would have on the game itself. It’s a decision, just like a decision with relatively small consequences, only the consequences are much bigger. By the end of chapter 2 you’ll be well past the actual “split point”, but only a single real decision got you there in the first place, and thus only one decision separates you from being at the end of the other chapter 2.

      Is it a good thing? It’s certainly not a bad thing. But it doesn’t really make that decision a better role-playing decision. It’s a single choice with a huge consequence. Switching your decision would change the game wildly, but it’s just a single switch.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen anyone actually say they don’t want real choice, they want it faked so it just feels like they’re making a difference.

      But that can work! When you read a good fantasy novel with a rich world, you get the sense that this world really exists, that there are millions of people living their lives outside of the view of the protagonists. But none of that exists, not even in the author’s head. Good authors know how to inspire the reader’s imagination to create a bigger world than they could ever detail in a lifetime of writing.

      If you’re making a game that doesn’t actually let you explore the whole world and do whatever you want, you have to do exactly the same thing. The illusion of depth can be more important than actual depth, especially if most players won’t actually attempt to explore the whole thing.

    • TariqOne says:

      I don’t mind playing games through multiple times. And it’s cool when there are choices you can make that significantly alter the experience.

      I don’t get the fawning here, though. Yeah, you can help this guy and not that guy and the story is totally different. But you’re still Geralt, you’re still a Witcher, you still approach problems in fundamentally the same way. Kinda boring.

      If you could go through once as a macho humorless Paladin malleting everyone over the head while accompanied by his lizardman mage valet and slinky darkelf acrobat girlfriend, and then again as a fast-talking, light-fingered lady corsair flanked by a fire-belching demon dog and a wisecracking floating skull then — hellz yes. I’m there.

      It’s as though by dropping a few big choices in the game, the devs have totally distracted everyone from all the traditional RPG choices they AREN’T giving us.

      It’s a fair criticism that they make you play through the game twice as the same dude doing the same shit but just hitting a few switches differently along the way to see the other outcomes.

  45. x15360 says:

    Oddly enough, I actually loved the overarching story and lack of a huge world destroying threat. I feel like I’ve saved the world too many times in games, when the world is almost never in true danger in real life. On the other hand political scheming and the like occur all the time. In other words, it was a plot that I could actually connect to.
    Also, I enjoyed the combat being easy towards the end. It made it feel like I had actually gotten substantially more powerful. Not a bit realistic, but still fun.

  46. Poet says:

    I hated it for the following reasons.

    Cutscenes, jesus fucking christ half the game is nothing but cutscenes. Immersion is ruined when you take me out of a cool looking 3d world to watch a fucking movie. If I wanted to watch a movie I would load up netflix.

    The mini games…..press 2,3,4,2,1 you win, yay! Fuck off, what a waste of my time. Seriously, cutscene boxing?!?! Risen did tournament right.

    As much as I liked the way W2 looked (at least until the dwarf mines) what was behind the looks was extremely un-immersive. Flotsam felt like I was in a little box that had octopus like tendrils I could go explore for short claustrophobic distances. Nothing I hate more then feeling like a rat with a 200 IQ trapped in a maze build by retarded chimpanzees.

    The fighting really? The only game I know of that needed less of my attention during a fight was Dungeon Siege. Sure the beginning is real hard but that is just poor design, once I got advanced enough it really was just a click fest with my dude rolling from once victim to the next with little more then a mouse click from me.

    I liked the magic to a certain extent but fuck me if it didn’t get ruined by that stupid fucking quicktime battle at the end of the first chapter.

    There’s more that annoyed me but life is too short to spend too much time slagging shit ya don’t like.

    I did LOVE Dragon Age, Morrowind, Oblivion and the Ultima’s so I’m pretty sure I’m not too retarded.

  47. Jimbo says:

    “Richard: Anyone who says that clearly used Intelligence as their dump stat. Yeah. You just got +2 burned…”

    Haha.

    I gotta say, I loved The Witcher 2. I didn’t have any of that trouble at the start (pretty sure I didn’t die at all during the prologue) or with figuring out who was who and what was going on where. Here’s the thing though: I had some good equipment at the start from my save import and I had a version of the game which came with an english copy of the map. I suspect both of these things helped me to enjoy the game a fair bit more than I otherwise would have.

    I thought the ending was alright too. It does end as a setup for the next game, but you still find out all you want to know about who is behind the assassinations and why they’re doing it, which was the main thread. I was satisfied with that and didn’t feel shortchanged when the credits rolled (the credits were also awesome). Roche going all Munich by the end was pretty badass too.

  48. Wizlah says:

    Best comments thread I’ve read in a while. Richard Cobbett a valuable addition to RPS land. Although it would have been cool if Quinns was all up in this as well.

  49. Vinraith says:

    On a quasi-related note, I’ve decided to finally give this one a try (preordered on GOG and bought the game there on release, but haven’t played it yet). I can’t seem to find a version number anywhere, however. How do I know if I’ve got the 1.3 patch?

    • Maykael says:

      I’ve got the GoG version as well, and when 1.3 launched my version did not auto-update like it did for 1.2. I’d suggest a clean install and then you should download the 1.3 vanilla patch from The Witcher 2 site. I warn you it’s still buggy (as in you throw a number of bombs and suddenly you can only run and move the camera and have to reload the save).

    • Vinraith says:

      Hmm, maybe I should wait a bit longer then. I’m really in no hurry, and I’d rather they had the kinks worked out when I get around to it.

    • Zenicetus says:

      If you click “View Readme File” on the launcher window, it shows the current installed patch version and the patch notes. It should auto-update if you have a live Internet connection with a fresh install. Here’s the relevant section from the 1.3 Readme (and by the way, I’m not noticing any serious bugs, so my advice would be to go ahead and play the game):

      ————————————
      PLEASE NOTE: Patch 1.3 may be installed differently depending on circumstances.

      If an active Internet connection is present:
      - any new installation of the game will be automatically updated to include Patch 1.3.

      If you previously installed Patch 1.2:
      - Patch 1.3 should be manually downloaded from our website at http://thewitcher.com/patch/. To update your installed game copy, run the downloaded .exe file(s), making sure to update to version 1.2 before installing Patch 1.3.
      —————————————————-

    • Vinraith says:

      Hmm, a fresh install of the game still reads as 1.2. Attempts to install the 1.2->1.3 patch cause an error.

      That’s sufficiently discouraging that I think I’ll wait a bit longer.

    • Vinraith says:

      OK, finally figured this out, so I might as well document it in case any other GOG owners happen to come along wondering the same thing. To get the GOG version to 1.3:

      1. Download and install the game.

      2. Download the 1.1 patcher from GOG. Run it. When it’s done, it will automatically download and apply the 1.2 patch as well. It will NOT automatically download the 1.3 patch.

      3. Go to http://www.thewitcher.com and download the 1.2->1.3 patch. Install that, and you’re finally done. You can verify, as stated above, by checking the readme off of the launcher.

      May I just say, this was ridiculous, poor show CDPR. Releasing the game on GOG implies supporting it on GOG, either put an updated version on the site or at least provide the patches through GOG rather than require this Frankenstein approach.

  50. Duckpoop says:

    *SLIGHTLY SPOILERLISH?*

    I see a lot of people talking about the combat being really easy towards the end… I would agree, with the exception of fighting the Operator if you choose to do so. That asshole was pretty tough. Also, branching chapter 2 is amazing, and I’ll hear nothing of any of your complaints (I’m looking at you, Jaheira :P). After a legit normal-bumped-to-hard-difficulty playthrough first time around (going the Roche path), I really enjoyed a second playthrough nearly as much as the first (using a few mods and with weapons I found you don’t get to use nearly enough at the end). Much more so than I would’ve if my only option was to play through the Roche storyline again. Defending Vergen with the Forgotten Vran’s Sword was amazing fun.

    • Premium User Badge

      jaheira says:

      “I’m looking at you too Duckpoop” typed jaheira, narrowing her eyes.

      This “Operator” of which you speak sounds interesting. I’ll never know for sure though, ‘cos in order to find out I’d have to sit through all the samey bits of a game I’ve just finished. Yawn.

    • Soon says:

      The Operator’s on both paths, you know. And is easily the most difficult fight in the game, meaning actually difficult.