This is my first post on The Witcher 2.
1. First impressions
I picked up The Witcher 2 when it went on sale a couple of weekends ago, and so far, I’m a little way through the game – I’ve finished the prologue and I can’t be far off from the end of Act 1. My first impressions: “Everything you’ve heard about this game contains a grain of truth.” Specifically:
Not needing to play the first game: I’ve barely touched the original game, but I’m managing well. There is a huge qualification here, though – I’ve read the stories on which the games are based, so I already know the major characters and a bit about the world.
Storytelling: So far, I like it, starting with the prologue, which captured a “cinematic” feel through a combination of cutscenes, QTEs and gameplay. It dragged a bit through Chapter 1 when I had to do more running around the map with fewer cutscenes to reward me, but now it seems to have picked up again. I also like TW2’s characters, starting with protagonist Geralt, who shows how to pull off the “lethal-but-principled deadpan badass” archetype. This extends to the NPCs: the king feels like a leader should, larger-than-life, sometimes generous, sometimes ruthless. As for the world, the obvious comparison is Dragon Age (disclaimer: I never got that far into DA), another brutal take on the traditional elves-and-dwarves high fantasy world. There seem to be precious few heroes in TW2; corrupt lawmen grow fat from shaking down merchants, while elves and dwarves repay human oppression with nasty insurgency. I think if you’re interested in that kind of setting, you’ll like its depiction in TW2.
An imposing learning curve/difficulty level: I agree with the reviewer (Todd Brakke at Gameshark) who commented that this game could do with a difficulty setting in between Easy and Normal. As a general rule, outside of boss fights, Easy feels like god mode while Normal feels like God Hand. Enemies hit hard, especially when they attack from behind! Sure, Geralt is tough enough to take any trash mob one-on-one in a fair fight – but three, or four, or five trash mobs are a completely different story. (I was completely unsurprised to learn that Demon’s Souls was one of the inspirations for the combat.) So the trick is using the tools at your disposal – stun bombs, throwing knives, buffs, crowd-control magic, and more – to ensure that 1 vs many fights aren’t fair. This is why the game’s prologue has such a steep learning curve – it hurls the player into the deep end without properly explaining those tools. Eventually I did get the hang of things, and combat is starting to become more enjoyable. On the other hand, I find boss fights perilously close to being frustrating* rather than fun, so hopefully this will improve later on.
Hefty system requirements: This game is indeed a beast. I have a reasonably powerful machine (i7 7200M processor, Mobility Radeon HD 5730, 4GB RAM) and I still had to turn down the settings to Low.
Dialogue: Yes, the characters say “ploughing” and “witcha” a lot…
So far, early impressions are promising, hair-pulling boss fights aside, and I look forward to uncovering more of the game’s story. I’ll keep you posted on The Witcher 2!
* Days later, I can still recall, “Trap it with the Yrden!” and, “Why are you hounding me?!”