Am I the only one who really hated The Witcher?

Hey, I haven’t gone on a bitching rant in a while.

I realize this is a few years late, but with The Witcher 2 and Dragon Age 2 coming out, the Internet exploded into a fanboy war about them, and I see The Witcher being lauded a lot lately. I hear praise about how fun it was, combining a mature handling of morality with a casual and realistic vision of sex. And I frankly can’t possibly think why.

The ONLY version I played was the Enhanced Edition, with a machine overqualified to run it, so I never even had to put up with the crippling performance issues most of its fans had to deal with. I just thought the game was dreadfully misguided in what it pretended to do.

The game just overwhelmingly stunk of a pubescent teen’s power trip fantasies while he was going through his “no kiddie shit” phase. By which I mean that the game plays like a teen boy’s exaggerated and misguided attempt to be gritty, especially in the understanding of “Grey morality”. Grey means that people, like in real life, have good and bad things about them, and you might find it hard to decide who to side with. In The Witcher, you had a douchy side and a much more obviously douchier side, or two equally douchy sides. Either the choice of lesser evil was obvious as hell, or both sides failed spectacularly at getting you to give a shit about either. The all-important “Neutrality” would be difficult to maintain in the game if you actually gave a rat’s ass about someone, thus finding it difficult to not get involved. Yet the Order and the Squirrels do such an excellent job at failing to have any glimpse of a good side (besides informed causes that we never see them acting on), and everyone you know and actually like is so way outside their ranks, that telling them both to go fuck themselves was the easiest choice I ever took in the story.

Combat plays like a perpetual Quicktime event. The harder difficulty means you need to carry around the Swallow and Thunderbolt potions and nothing else. The latter makes it hard to see, but so long as you click at the right time you don’t actually NEED to be able to see what you are doing. In short, it’s bloody awful.

I thought the handling of sex was embarrassing as fuck. And I sat through Ar Tonelico. TWICE. You see, seeing James Bond have sex with a lot of women is one thing. Men want to be like James Bond: handsome, smooth, cool, and all Sean Connery-y in the first movies. Hell, I’d be fine with just being Sean Connery. Geralt though? He’s like a bad cross between John McClaine in his angrier, more slurring days and Jonny Bravo. I am presented with a guy who says things like “Your ass puts others to shame” and “Hrmmmhrhm” in lieu of seduction, and… then he gets laid. Like, right there. Once, in the middle of a civil war, as hundreds die around them. With two nurses that were supposed to be attending to the injured. This is presented with just the right amount of seriousness that you realize you aren’t supposed to laugh at it. I’m not usually uppity about these things (Like I said, I played and actually ENJOYED Ar Tonelico), but… MAN, this game is chauvinistic as fuck. That is literally the role of every single female in the game: bending over and letting Geralt pork her, with minimum effort. Even the deity. And hell, Leisure Suit Larry has better sex/gameplay integration. I did a boatload of fetch-quests that ended up serving no purpose but getting Geralt laid… which also has no other purpose or effect in the game whatsoever.

But the story, my GOD, the story. I know it’s a sequel to a large amount of books, and that seriously doesn’t help when the game tries to get you to care by bringing up things from Geralt’s past, but that’s not that important because Geralt doesn’t remember either, so it’s all a waste of time. I’m aware that there’s an element of satire of medieval stories in the writer’s tales, but that really reflects very, very badly in the game, which takes itself way too seriously while at the same time failing to actually be serious. “It’s satire” is not an all-purpose argument that somehow excuses the game, especially when the work is derivative and not actually making any point with the satire.

Geralt fails so spectacularly at pretending to give a shit about the revenge you are supposedly enacting (or anything else for that matter), and the game jumps through so many hoops and unrelated bullshit, that you can hardly seem to feel like you are actually there with a purpose. You spend most of the time killing unrelated monsters in between doing unrelated quests for other people and getting involved in the civil war, which as I said, is a hamfisted mess that fails equally as hard at getting you to care. By the time you actually GET to the all-important Azar Javed, you realize that he has literally no character besides resembling Irenicus a bit, which only makes him look worse in comparison. He growls a bit and then you kill him. As ADD-ridden as Baldur’s Gate was, at least it gave you certain excuse for WHY you were wandering around the countryside killing rouge druids and shit, and when you get to the plot parts, they paid off.

Then the climax reaches and the game actually gets sort of good. Which is funny, because one of the biggest praises this game gets is it’s “gritty realism”, yet the one part that seems to have some emotion behind it is when the story goes batshit apocalyptic in scope. But then it ends and that was it.

I just… was it just me? Because I honestly don’t get where the faith this development team gets is coming from. The story was handled like crap, the characters were either bland, or if they had promise, not on screen much and the “morality” was handled with as much or even more immaturity than the tropes that it is supposedly subverting. I haven’t gone into Geralt’s character itself because that’s take me like five pages, but the short version is: Again, a kid’s idea of a manly hero trying to deal with themes way higher brow than his character is written as and overall being “flat” in lieu of “stoic and intense”.

I’ll wait until you finish Dragon Age II because I’m curious as to what you think of it

You’ll have to wait. I’ll do the same I did for DA:O and wait out the first few rounds of bugfixing. What I’ve heard of the game itself… ain’t pretty. I’ll see for myself eventually.

Also, Shogun 2 just came out, so fuck everything else and LET TOTAL WAR BEGIN.