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@Myrmidon the problem was that tps wasn't developed by gearbox but rather 2k Australia that has since shutdown. I got my character to max got some legendaries but havent played since. I think the biggest issue was that it was just too similar to borderlands 2 in gameplay and even tblegendaries we straight from bl2. But the story lacked the depth where was our tiny Tina side mission where we have to get and torture the dude who killed her parents. While she pretends it a tea party. It was the smaller missions that helped to flesh out the world that tps really missed. Gearbox is doing borderlands 3 so I got faith that they will be the true successor to bl2 where tps was just a snack to keep our appetite somewhat satiated.
In which I find that the entirety of the video game community at large subscribes to the cult of the rose-colored glasses.
Spoiler, no screenshots this time - no F12 and I'm not going out of my way to alt-tab a game this crashy.
Judging by the love that the gaming community at large has for KOTOR, I was expecting a real treat. Knowing, of course, that the game was 13 years old, I lowered my expectations tremendously - though given the setting of 2003 and the quality video games that had preceded the year, perhaps I didn't need to drop the standard.
Doesn't matter. KOTOR still doesn't live up.
I grew up with Star Wars. I was into every stupid Star Wars thing you could find. Every extended universe book - yes, even that godawful yuuzhan vong series. Legos, video games, costumes, whatever. Somehow, though, somehow little Dan (it was 2003, I wasn't THAT little, I guess), little Dan who loved video games for the sake of loving them and could look past every flaw in a JRPG, little Dan who always put 'The Force' on top of his Christmas list, missed out on KOTOR.
I wonder what it'd have looked like in rose.
Alas, here I am today, completely underwhelmed.
Now, I can't fault the game for crashing left and right. It's 13 years old. It wasn't built to be run on computers with a resolution greater than 1024x768. Yes, I had to work my ass off just to get the game to play, and yes, more than one save-game was lost (LEAPFROG YOUR SAVES) to the random crash, but I just had to grin and bear it. You hear me complain all the time - just know that I try to complain only about preventable failures.
I can, however, fault KOTOR for some of the worst storytelling I've ever had the displeasure to hear. In a game where you can choose to be Jedi or Sith and where the nitty-gritty personal-ness of it is pushed into the foreground, shouldn't our choices be a little better than "accept this sidequest" vs "murder the quest giver?" Some of the questions about the dark side are presented - "you never think it could happen to you. How could someone become so insane? And yet it is so tempting, so tempting," but what disappointment when those questions - which KOTOR was poised to answer SO WELL - are never explored? Why was this not about using power for ambition, and the slow drip-drip-drip of morality that comes with the territory and must be ever guarded against? Why was it just about the choice between being a good guy, a kind of okay guy, or a fucking psychopath?
We could have seen a character's slow descent to the dark side. Instead, we're faced with such choices as "you meet a beggar on the street. You may either give him some money, or set him on fire and push him into an orphanage." Well, fuck. Or, better yet - "you meet a girl in a bar. You may either say hello, or break her drink glass and jam the shards into her eyes." I wonder which one is the good choice and which one isn't? So complex! Ugh.
"Oh, wait!" said Bioware. "We should definitely have someone go from light side to dark side! Damn, that's a GREAT idea! Now... how can we shoehorn this in?" I know. You can have a character captured and tortured by the bad guy for a week, and somehow that's enough for them to be completely overcome by stockholm syndrome and the dark side.
"Hmmm, damn. Maybe we can give the player a chance to see the Sith from the inside?" yeah, that's great. We go to a planet with a Sith academy where everyone there talks about murdering and being strong enough to murder people and how murdering your friends is encouraged and how the cycle is that you train someone and they try to murder you down the line, and I'm like "how is this supposed to be believable?" There was one very small note of brilliance in this whole cacaphony, and that was the moment where you studied the code of the Sith. Alas, Bioware paid lip service to that code - rather than try to explore any nuance of the dark side, they just say 'dark = bad' and let it go. So much easier to make a video game when the adversaries are all completely, facelessly evil, right?
I guarantee nobody EVER selected the 'dark' path because it felt natural. I've heard this from many players - "I decided to be a bad guy." It's a conscious decision. Nothing is complex. Nothing needs your guts - you just choose from the options 'bad' or 'good' in each dialogue. Fucking pathetic.
Just as we dumbed down what could have been a beautiful study on morality, we dumbed down our vision of antagonists, too. Once again, the bad guy is pure evil - killing his ass is never even a second thought. He fits legitimately every bad-guy trope I've ever seen - fucker has an EVIL LAUGH, for crying out loud. He even kills underlings who fail him, begging the age old question of why the fuck would you work for him? How is this believable?
We have to take a moment to talk about the portrayal (and, of course, believability) of the actual structure of the Sith in this game. So let's go on a journey: you're a Sith lord, fresh from murdering your master. No sirree, no more training for you! Sure, any wisdom, power, or teachings your master might have not yet shared with you are gone, which... sucks. I mean, you could have just left him and come back later for some more ideas or something. It's a big universe. But, hey, maybe you two wanted to occupy the same rock, and he needed a good killing. Cool, whatever, he's gone - you proved you were stronger. So what's your first step? Give you a hint, there, Darth, it ain't getting an apprentice and teaching him that killing his master is a good way to show power. No, no, it's gotta be bigger than that... I know - we'll start an ACADEMY of students and tell them that mastercide is their final test! Yeah! And also, we'll coax them to kill one another for sport!
So, uh... what kind of student signs up for that?
"But it's the only way to learn the Force!" You sure? You don't think someone, somewhere, was in the academy and was like "fuck this shit, I'm-a get out," and went on to be a force-user after he learned to teach himself? Crude, sure, but without all that 'murder everybody' stuff? You don't think maybe THAT person might say 'hey, here's a novel idea, I'll take on an apprentice because teaching is a great way to learn, only I'll teach him to NOT kill his buddies?'
End result - how can you have an order of the Sith without an order of the Neutral Guys Who Still Want To Use The Force For Personal Gain But Really, Do We Have To Go Around Lopping Everyone's Head Off For No Reason? Sign me up for the NGWSWTUTFFPGBR,DWHTGALEHOFNR academy, class of 2020!
The whole light-side dark-side dichotomy is forced. It's forced, and it's stupid, and it's poorly executed, and I can't believe I haven't run across a lampooning of it yet on the internet. I'm sure one's out there, but I'm surprised it isn't as well publicized as the good reviews.
Ugh. So let's set aside the brutal simplicity masquerading as complexity and talk about the actual gameplay - surely if they botched the premise so badly, it must be because the gameplay was their focus - so riveting, right? ...No, come on, you know the answer to that. It's built off of D&D style turn-based action, which is just the dumbest idea for a live-action game. Locked in close quarters combat with your opponent? I know, let's queue up the 'idle' animation for a second out of every two-second turn. Very disjointing. At least JRPGs make it very clear that it isn't a live-action dance-of-swords sort of deal. At least the focus of an RTS is on the movement of units, not the individual second-to-second fighting of each unit.
And just like every other old-style D&D type game, there are way too many stats for way too many things, most of which are useless... but find the useful one, and hooooooo doggy. That's unfortunate, isn't it? Is this a multiple-choice test, or a role-playing game? For me, I maxed out number-of-attacks-per-turn, so that every other damaging stat would be multiplied. At the cost of droid repair (next to useless) and demolitions (completely useless).
Sorry. Hit the max character limit discussing the portrayal of the Sith, had to split it into two. Feel free to 'Real Talk' this twice, right?
The overall story sucks, the gameplay sucks... dialogue? Was the tactical-level writing at least good?
Every single person talks like what they're saying is the gravest goddamn thing in the world. Here's an example - this little gem is said by a street urchin asking you to pay a 'toll' for using his elevator: "We are the Outcasts, banished and reviled by those who dwell above! Here in the filth and darkness we claw out a wretched existence, scavenging and begging just to survive long enough to see another wretched day." No, jerk, that's the NARRATOR'S line. I can't suspend my disbelief when the characters all talk like this.
Nobody bothered to do any QA on the dialogue. "Something is bothering Carth. He wants you to talk to him about it." "DIDN'T I JUST SAY I DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT?" Mixed signals, there, buddy. It's also clear that the dialogue was brainstormed before it was scripted. You'll talk to a character and the objective of the conversation will be to 'show the character being angry with the player.' It will become very clear right when that section of the dialogue starts - it is very forced; the conversation is not fluid at all. Suddenly, bitch mad.
Even worse - most of the dialogue isn't in English. Expect to hear 'da chuba nuba nalya duobaba dun gookga, do cheena bargle bargle bargle who gives a fuck' while you watch a lifeless six-polygon model's mouth flap open and closed for an entire conversation. The protagonist is generally silent, too, so yeah, more talk time for the alien speaking space-mandarin through a synthesizer. There's no actual language behind it for you to pick up on, either, in case you were bored enough to start learning Rodian. There are only probably twenty different alien phrases for each alien, and I guarantee there are more than twenty lines of dialogue in this game. Someone pitched better than they delivered.
Even the testing phase must have been rushed. Quality of life is practically unheard of - there are a myriad number of stupid, useless little bric-a-brac items (NINE different types of grenades? Really?) in huge quantities, and your character has infinite inventory space - meaning you are going to be sifting through a LOT of SHIT. Furthermore, you can only see five or six inventory slots at a time. Have fun scrolling through eighty-odd unique inventory entries (including ten labeled "Datapad") just to find that new lightsaber. Enjoy scrolling through the three paragraphs of flavor text on the box that only shows ten lines at about three words a line, too.
And speaking of quality of life, maybe if you're going to make me run at a glacial pace, you can at least give me independent control of the camera and character, a la WoW? If I have to run, at least let me spin my view around and see all the cool shit you've put in the skybox.
There's one redeeming quality. It's Carth's voice acting, because he sounds like @Ryder . If Jolee could be @primesuspect , we'd have been set.
^ he mad
I thought I had some legitimate points
It sounds like you do have some points. I don't remember being so disappointed by the game, but it was a long time ago, man. Only thing I remember was that it was more interesting, but less fun to play when compared to the Jedi Knight games, and that I was not surprised by the final plot twist. Everything else is just too long ago.
You did have totally valid points. I'm in the same camp as CB. Maybe I was a different gamer 13 years ago, maybe collectively our expectations were different/lower, but I only have fond and positive memories of the game. I remember thinking it was excellent and I remember thinking KOTOR II didn't live up to the first.
It sounds like you have valid points but you're also approaching the game with a very critical eye as a writer. Maybe back then games as a medium didn't really reach a certain quality point yet. Might be interesting to go back in history and mark games that notably moved the art form and the needle forward.
I remember thinking KOTOR II didn't live up to the first.
I remember thinking KOTOR II didn't live up to the first.
why would you tell me this.
Also, just so you guys don't think I'm a grouchy old curmudgeon for no reason, I _do _always check out wikipedia's 'year in video gaming' article for the year that my subject matter came out - and then sometimes a couple years prior - to see just how much slack I need to give older games. I swear I'm not so short-sighted as to try and review these games against the modern scene. That's why I spent so much time on KOTOR's treatment of the Sith, for instance - we had plenty of deeper, more complex themes in games that came before KOTOR did - but had no real complaints against things like graphics or whatever.
Just, y'know, so you don't think I'm shortsighted!
While you jerks are having all the fun at Expo 2016, SOMEBODY has to do some work!
Writing a mini (lol) review for a sequel is always a pleasant experience - you get a chance to reflect on what's better and what's worse, without having to go through all that tedious groundwork-laying all over again - just link to the old review!
KOTOR2 felt very much to me like an extension of KOTOR1. No major writing advancements or mechanics or gameplay changes... just the same damn thing, done again to a new set of characters. Trouble was, I think they got LAZIER with their writing.
KOTOR2, or "everyone hates me but my droid" is so full of one-dimensional characters that they didn't even bother to give one of the villains a backstory. "He's evil hunger, personified," they say. THAT'S IT. THAT'S ALL HE IS. This is like the deus-ex-machina of character building. "He's evil because, uh... let's see... uh... well, see, he goes on a rampage because, uh... he's... oh, I know! He's 'bad stuff incarnate!' Damn, why didn't we think of this trick sooner?"
They laid off on the whole 'sith are pure evil' thing, and simply refused to address it any further. Not sure whether this means sith are still pure evil, or they didn't see a nice, rational way to make sith a viable alternative, so they just sat down and shut up.
Voice acting improved somewhat, cinematics did not. Action scenes are still more 'representations' of action scenes than actual actions - played the game and don't agree? Pay attention to the 'saving the queen' bit on Ondoron. Characters move damn near separately, the bad guys are closer to you than to the queen (but they're still crowing about being 'too late! we've reached her!'), and there are MASSIVE pauses between each interaction. It's very clear that you're actually playing a board game. Which is a shame, because it looks like the engine could have handled some smoother cinematics.
Oh, and that plot. Everyone's a traitor, nobody has a motive. Big surprise, in a game where major themes seem to be good vs evil - 'evil guys are just naturally evil. We don't have to explain it.' One of the few exceptions to this rule MIGHT be Kreia, but I have a feeling her character was just mysterious for the sake of being mysterious. None of her development seemed organic.
What's worse, though, is that the writers seem to have wound up in a time crunch... much like the game was ALMOST done, but some exec said 'hurry it up, guys, launch is in a week.' We're left at the last planet wondering what happened between a droid standoff, how the fuck an academy with all sorts of dark jedi survived a planet's destruction, how your crewmembers got back on the ship (or even why they got off the ship in the first place), how the ship got free of a set of cliffs, why the second of three bad guys didn't continue his hatred of the third of three bad guys, where the fuck a giant storm lizard came from in the first place and why it controls the massive doors nearby, why the third bad guy finally died (I played light side and bitch had a damn near full health bar when the fight ended).
...and this was all just in the last hour of the game. There's so much lack-of-polish in the story that sometimes I half expected to see character dialogue with "to do" labels in it.
Thankfully, the quality of life increased dramatically. the inventory system lost much of its tedium with the ability to SORT SHIT withmultiple buttons rather than one button attached to a singly-linked list. There were still a bajillion fucking grenades and mines, but most of the useless items seem to have been removed (with the exception of antidote kits... who doesn't just use jedi healing?). The game natively runs in more resolutions (whew) and doesn't crash left-and-fucking-right.
In all, I'm disappointed in this whole franchise. KOTOR didn't improve storytelling in video games - storytelling and character choice were not new concepts. You might say 'well, it was the company's first foray into this type of game,' but then... I extend the same disappointment to KOTOR2, where the 'first attempt' excuse definitely doesn't fly!
Such disappoint. I expected much better, given all the hype.
This was worth going through all the garbage in my library. Easily.
"Ho. Lee. Crap."
These three words (and yes, they must be pronounced as three) comprised the only thought I could process as I started Tomb Raider.
Ho. Lee. Crap. That is some pretty rendering. Oh, wait, that's a cinematic...
...Ho. Lee. Crap. The game is still gorgeous outside of cinematics.
These three words rattled around in my brain for long enough during the beginning that I stopped paying attention. "I'll come back later," I said to my brain, "and see if you've got any other opinions." An hour or two (or three... or who knows, I sure don't) later, I checked in.
"Ho. Lee. Crap," my brain replied.
...Ho. Lee. Crap. I don't know where I want to look - the action or the backdrops.
Huh. Well, alright. I guess we'll try again later, brain.
You might not be able to tell, but this tooltip is not just painted onto the viewport - it's an object in the game that moves (with parallax and everything) as the camera moves. Squaresoft used to be famous for this sort of thing - programmatic events that only ever happened once throughout the game. Think the submarine mission from Final Fantasy VII, or the swordfight from the beginning of Final Fantasy IX.
Ho. Lee. Crap.
As you can probably surmise, the story goes on like this for some time - I very quickly lost the ability to consciously process anything (including remembering to take more screenshots), due to my absorption into the story behind Tomb Raider... and the graphics behind Tomb Raider... and the character development behind Tomb Raider... and... and...
See, I'm doing it again.
Let's take a step back.
Tomb Raider bears the Square-Enix name - both as a publisher, and as the owner of the developer, Crystal Dynamics. Now, "Square-Enix" is a name that conjures up mixed feelings in my heart - before they were Square, the better part of Square-Enix was known as Squaresoft. Squaresoft was responsible for some of the best story-based video games to grace my childhood. However, after a massive loss of money due to an entirely-CGI movie made well before its time, Squaresoft merged with another "RPG titan" and the resulting partnership immediately began cranking out some of the biggest letdowns of my gaming career (wtf was Final Fantasy Tactics Advance? How DARE you sully that name with a spiritual sequel so poor!).
S-E's hallmark, however, is the story-based game. My favorite kind. And so, with a sort of optimistic fear in my heart, I loaded up Tomb Raider.
You're introduced to Lara Croft through a cinematic. Hmm, I thought. Sam's voice acting is a little forced. This marks what might have been the last negative thought I had throughout the game (okay, some of Matthias's lines were a little sketchy, too, and yeah, you gotta do a little suspension of disbelief for things like the 'rope arrow,' but these are pretty minor). Okay, seems good. We're meeting Lara Croft. We're watching Lara Croft interact with people. The thing is... this isn't Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, this is Lara Croft: Green Adventurer. This is Lara Croft before she was Lara Croft... and you are about to witness the transformation.
...Ho. Lee. Crap. That is some dark shit.
You play and watch Lara as she goes from "oh my god oh my god completely fucking terrified" to "mildly terrified but mostly just angry and vengeful," and the whole thing plays out like a symphony. Thing is, you're not the conductor of this symphony - you are a player. In the beginning, you're as scared of everything as Lara is - the game starts you off by forcing you to set yourself on fire, pull out a rusty spike from your abdomen, and limp-and-scramble your way out of a collapsing cave. Everything - EVERYTHING seems like it's about to kill you, and you only barely escape. Not once does Lara feel like she's overqualified for the job - for the first few hours, every single event is a harrowing, petrifying ordeal. You, as the player, feel a massive empathy in every situation - and let's talk about one of the major reasons why:
The voice acting.
Her voice acting is perfectly executed - PERFECTLY. Camilla Luddington hit the nail on the head SO HARD with this one. The various screams and cries Lara makes throughout the game mimic the intensity of the scene and events so well that I COMPLETELY forgot that I was listening to an actor - and this is usually one of the major, major, MAJOR complaints I have of most voice acting. Bravo, Camilla. What an incredible performance.
Lara talks to herself, but it never feels forced - her monologues are the most natural thoughts you'd imagine. Her voice quakes in fear when faced with an awful surprise. She nearly has a meltdown after killing her first opponent. Expletives and exclamations are used when you would naturally use them - a huge triumph of writing. Even her breathing changes when she's scared. No line is ever extreme for the sake of being extreme (except maybe "Guard her with your life." Real cliche, Matthias).
The supporting dialogue is another shining beacon in this already shiny masterpiece - guards talk back and forth to one another, shout at Lara, and do it all without succumbing to the usual 'GET BEHIND COVER' 'SHE'S OVER THERE' monotony of most modern voice writing. My favorite: after finding a rifle - a tremendous upgrade in weaponry - you feel like you MIGHT be strong enough to handle more than one bad guy at once without the frantic heart-racing terror that comes with facing armed bad guys down with a bow. Sure enough, you get a chance to do so... and when you gleefully whip out and unload with that lovely rifle in the middle of combat, you hear the most natural and outraged response: "WHERE THE FUCK DID SHE GET A FUCKING MACHINE GUN?!" You the real MVP, supporting voice actor.
By the end of the game, Lara DOES become the Tomb Raider (or, to use the title the devs would prefer, a Survivor). As the game progresses, you become more and more a 'survivor.' Your clothes get tattered. You acquire more slices and bandages. You get covered in mud, blood, and rainwater. Lara stops relying on you for quick-time events for the more mundane mechanics (which is wonderful, because at some point you want to watch the action and not the buttons appearing on-screen). Screams and whimpers of fright fade, to make room for the silence of a hardened adventurer, or vengeful trash talk (oh man, when she found the grenade launcher - what a scene! "THAT'S RIGHT! RUN, YOU BASTARDS! I'M COMING FOR YOU ALL!").
One thing I was afraid of was the hide-and-seek aspect that many adventure games seem to have - you know the one. Assassin's Creed's 'collect all this useless bullshit for imaginary internet points.' Tomb Raider, however, does not disappoint. Other than the GPS caches, all the 'collection' stuff has a carrot to make you want to find it - content. Each random thing you find helps to paint a picture of the island that is now your prison. Lost diaries from Matthias or WWII soldiers, relics from 100AD, priceless fans and daggers or cheap knockoffs with "Made In China" stamped on the back - all of it gives you a reason to periodically pause the storyline and go in for a quick bout of sidequesting. This is one of the very, very few games where I pushed myself to collect damn near 100% of everything... which is really saying something, coming from a story addict.
The thing that gets me is that somehow, Crystal Dynamics did a sequel. But... I mean... how? The major draw of this game for me was the character development - I've never SEEN development done this well, but... I mean, once Lara is the Tomb Raider, where do you take her from there? How do they build on that? The last quarter of the game was great and all - fair puzzles, beautiful landscapes, enjoyable firefights - but it didn't have the major development that the first three quarters did. How do you make a sequel based on the Lara from the last quarter of the game? A Lara who is already the absolute baddest of asses? What could she possibly grow into?
One thing is certain - I will DEFINITELY be getting ahold of that sequel to see the attempt. With a first entry this good, Crystal Dynamics deserves my money for their second shot.
Cause, I mean... Tomb Raider. Ho. Lee. Crap.
"We have worked our hardest to bring you the best game we could possibly make." It absolutely shows, and you should be proud.
I put this game on hold for FOUR YEARS to get the backlog done. FOUR YEARS.
The Witcher 2 follows Geralt of Rivia through his, like, eighty-second adventure or some shit.
No, really. There are six or seven books that precede the FIRST Witcher game, and then there's this one.
If you haven't looked at universe surrounding this game even a little bit, you're missing out. The whole thing takes place in a fantasy-style world inhabited by some of the most frightening of eastern European folklore: harpies, bruxae, vodniks, golems, dragons and - easily the most disgusting, despicable monster of them all - humans. Geralt is a witcher, a man made into a mutant with a combination of toxic potions and herbs, trained to slay the aforementioned beasts for the good of all mankind - a racist, sexist, violent, petty mankind straight out of Donald Trump's most depraved fantasies. What conundrums he must face - a nonhuman abomination, created by a deplorable race of humans, sent to prey on creatures whose only crime is to be the lost descendents of extra-worldly planes after a chance meeting between dimensions.
Ech! Eurgh! Blech! You'll need a bath after fighting THIS monster, Geralt!
You might imagine that the Witcher is simply full of monster-slaying hullabaloo. You'd be wrong. For you see, dear readers, Geralt must brave not only deep dungeons and ancient forests, but also the most fearful battlefield known to all of The Continent - the political arena. Struggle as he might, Geralt cannot help but be drawn into the plots of petulant kings and arrogant sorceresses.
It's okay. There are still SOME monsters.
This is the world of the Witcher. Rich and detailed, more nuanced than a Hideo Kojima project. This could have been our Lord of the Rings, were it originally written in English (and perhaps a bit less gritty).
As you might guess, I'm a tremendous fan of the series. However, I'm going to start with my disappointment before moving on to the bits I loved.
The games (thus far) trade a fair amount of nuance for graphics, adventure, and physical worldbuilding. Characters feel less dynamic yet still highly fleshed out, sounding more like encyclopedia articles of themselves than actual humans (or nonhumans). Roche is defined by his love of Temeria and man-of-the-sword-ity, Iorveth by his hatred of humans and elven heritage. The characters are introduced with perfectly built backstories and seemingly no room to grow - you can always predict that Iorveth will speak disdainfully and will not bend on matters of the Scoia'tael, while Dandelion will somehow always bring up whores and reveling. This became enough of a problem that it sometimes felt like Geralt was really only in the story as an observer - You might help a character along for quite a while, and when it comes time for your paths to change, the character no longer likes you because you're no longer part of their retinue.
No mystery here. Just an elf who's all about his race, 'bout his race, (and has) no stubble.
The voice acting is also rather hit-or-miss. I played the English version, and many of the actors appear to have been directed to speak in subdued tones. This really only worked out for Geralt, whose deep, rough voice sounds out-of-place making a joke (further increasing the humor in his comedic relief), and who can sound enormously menacing without raising his timbre or tempo at all. For many other characters, this direction sapped a lot of the joy out of the vocal performances - Triss Merigold sounds at all times like she's giving a first-year lecture, even when battered and bloody, or filled with rage. Sure, they all have some solid lines, but really, the actors weren't pushed for reality.
Voice direction also led us into 'actors aren't in the same room' territory. Granted, it's hard to PUT the actors in the same room when there are SO many lines, but... I really would have liked to feel the animosity between Roche and Iorveth, or sense the irritation between Sile and Triss in more than just their words.
Voice editing also wasn't 100% here. Silences in dialogue between characters got to be very noticeable. Remember that old high school play you did, where Susie had a line that ended with a "-", indicating she was to be cut off by George? Remember how Susie read every single word up to that little "-", then waited patiently for George (who would ALWAYS come in a second too late) to start speaking? Remember how that wasn't realistic at ALL?
These were the major flaws that I had to deal with as I played The Witcher 2. However...
...it was pretty easy to look past them.
And that's kind of saying something, because normally it's REALLY hard for me to look past flaws in voice acting.
The story itself, while missing the grittiness and nuance of Andrzej Sapkowski's books, is still gripping and curious. The situations that Geralt finds himself in are not from the same near-miss style providence that causes things like Romeo and Juliet's last (FUCKING IRRITATING) scene, but they're well crafted nonetheless. At all times, I was curious to see what was coming next.
Except this time. When faced with a giant, toothed monster anus, I was not curious about what's coming next.
The 'sidequests' didn't feel nearly as much like simple 'go get me sixteen racks of lamb' quests, and instead felt more like actual situations and problems that townsfolk had... and that needed to be handled carefully. Nekkers hanging out in the mists? Geralt will need to first buy a book on nekkers and their habitats, then get some small hint about how to complete the quest (in this case, destroy the entrances to their lairs), and it's up to the player to put together the rest (this particular quest requires you to craft some bombs to drop into the entrances, something I had a hell of a time guessing at). A significant number of quests can be completed cross-chapter, so you never really know if you've completed all your quests or not - you just explore until you're no longer interested in an area, then move ahead.
Some sidequests just involve you getting a haircut.
Additionally, each quest has tremendous amounts of consequences throughout the game - people live, die, like you, hate you, or simply disappear based on your actions. Some of these only change inconsequential situations, some of them completely change the game.
COMPLETELY CHANGE THE GAME.
The Witcher 2 is actually two games in one. Toward the end of the first chapter, you make a decision that will cause you to play a different half of the game and hear a different half of a story. That, to me, is particularly interesting. Replay value, ho!
Speaking of interesting, CD Projekt Red have a couple innovative tricks up their sleeves. There are only a few fights in the game that can truly be considered 'boss' fights, but they're very impressive. I played the game on 'dark' difficulty (the hardest difficulty EXCEPT that it didn't feature permadeath), so one or two hits from piddly monsters could put me in a very frightening place. Imagine my terror when I'm walking through the swamp and I'm faced with THIS big fucker:
This tentacle elephant is just FILLED with one-hit kills.
Yup. Instagib city. Geralt isn't invincible when he dodges or parries. Geralt isn't overpowered. Geralt will get eaten in one bite by a dragon. The fight with the Draug was one of the hardest fights of the game - simply because his size, reach, and speed meant that unless you gave him more than a passing kiss with your sword and then got out of dodge, you were going to find yourself cloven in half.
Boss fights were quite dynamic, as well. Against a kayran, you'd eventually realize that you could cast a spell that would trap the tentacles in place so that you could hack at them. At some point, you'd be lifted into the air to finish the kayran off with a quicktime event - and none of those sissy quicktime events where you have a couple chances: you press the wrong button and you are toast. It feels really good to nail a QT event the first time.
In which I continue to enjoy this game.
Moving on - I mentioned the graphics and the worldbuilding in passing, as though it were a small token received for trading away nuance.
This game is graphically very impressive. Locations might feel a bit more static than in games like Skyrim, but they also feel more vibrant and part of a larger whole. You never find yourself looking at the skybox going 'boy, that's nice ornamentation.' Instead, you find yourself looking at the skybox going 'I wonder when I get to go there?'
Locations also feel like part of a larger whole because of the amount of lore. There are so many books in this game that you can easily spend all of chapter 1 broke from having simply bought them all. Side quests and easter eggs provide tons and tons of tidbits and stories that you'll find yourself hunting for more and more - not completion for completionism's sake, but completion for story's sake.
Meanwhile, some of the easter eggs are just funny.
Some of the events are absolutely mindblowing. At one point, I found myself rescuing a king by safeguarding him as we crossed a battlefield whose ghosts were cursed to continue their bloody battle, day and night. Later, in an attempt to LIFT the curse, I found myself reliving pieces of that past battle as the poor sods in the trenches - only to find that the commander, the heart of the curse, was a massive demon in his own right. In fact, getting around this cursed battlefield was the major meat of chapter 2 - not trying to find some asshole mage, or simply fighting off a monster - curing the LAND ITSELF of a massive malady.
Wraiths. It had to be wraiths.
In all, I was very happy with The Witcher 2. Some of the more glaring flaws were compensated for by the lore, story, and general nostalgic feeling I get from going back to a franchise I love (okay, I MIGHT be a bit biased). Not to mention, finishing this game represents a culmination of my original backlog, and an unlocking of two new pieces of content for me: an art book that I won at Detroit in 2012 (which I promised myself I wouldn't read until finishing The Witcher 2), and (dun dun duuuuuun) The Witcher 3!
...except that I still have the second half of The Witcher 2 to do... welp! Back in we go!
Finishing this game gave me 'first day of the rest of your life' syndrome.
You know, that feeling you get when you finish a really good book series, or a really solid television series. The one you've been using to supplement your life, that you don't realize you were really enchanted with until it's gone. Long enough to feel like it'll never end, long enough to form a dependency, and then, suddenly... credits. That's it.
The universe behind The Witcher is one I've been a really big fan of for quite a while. I read through all the books I could find - including one sort of Christmas special sort of short story - back after I finished the first game. I sought out fan translations of the books when the English versions gave up - at the time, the English versions quit after the first entry in the series (excluding the set of short stories)... which meant I got to deal with all SORTS of absurd translational issues.
It was SO worth it. Makes that prolactin hug from finishing the story that much more bittersweet.
I won't talk too much more about The Witcher's universe - I mentioned it in the previous posts, and reviews and explanations are all over the internet.
The thing is... it's hard for me to talk much about The Witcher 3 as a game. I didn't really play it as a game. It felt more like reading a book, or watching a movie - I wasn't distracted by the controls, or by any bugs, or by any weird voice acting - I was just completely, 100% enthralled in the story, the world, the characters. Seeing Yennefer and (my favorite character FINALLY showing up in a game) Ciri come to life was everything I wanted. They matched exactly the picture I had in my head of them - okay, maybe Yennefer was a LITTLE less unpleasant.
The combat was stellar. The game's come a VERY long way from its roots - the signs, potions, and combat moves all feel more viable; not a single trick in Geralt's arsenal feels gimmicky (okay... MAYBE the crossbow and the bombs, with their long wind-up and low effect, but requirement for certain fights). I will confess to being a LITTLE disappointed once I'd figured out that dodging/fast-attacking was a surefire way to survive every fight, but I made up for it by mixing decoctions and trying to fight in different styles.
That's a big deal, right? Trying the different forms of combat for flavor's sake? The fact that each form of combat IS viable, even on the hardest difficulty setting (yup) and with low-level enemies upscaled (YUP) is a real triumph.
The alchemy system was incredible. Are you the kind of person to collect EVERY DAMN HERB YOU WALK ACROSS? No problem, they all weigh nothing. Find yourself not using potions so you can hoard them, a la '99 elixirs in final fantasy and I've never used one once' style? No problem - you only need to craft a potion once, they automatically refresh while you rest. Go nuts! Mix and match! The quality of life was nothing to sneer at, either - flag a recipe and the ingredients are highlighted in shops, eliminating the need to swap back and forth between the shopkeeper and the crafting menu. And if you still need to swap? The alchemy menu is pre-loaded and is a SINGLE CLICK AWAY FROM THE SHOP. Super convenient!
The crafting system was a little bit sillier - you very quickly discover Witcher gear, making the forty thousand crafting recipes obsolete before you find them. It's great that there are so many weapons, but I managed to play through the game while only upgrading my gear a handful of times.
Oh, god, the in-game card game. Starts out stupid - too simple, too unintersting - and then it becomes a BLAST once you discover there are special cards. You start to think about the optimal way to play around the Scorch card, or consider trying out a spy-heavy deck... I'm super jazzed for the standalone Gwent game that's coming out.
The voice acting was sublime. I heard some folks complaining about Ciri being too 'breathy' (not me, nothing is going to dull Ciri in my eyes) and my least favorite voice belongs to Triss (too monotone for my tastes), but otherwise I can't think of a single complaint I've thought or heard. Geralt is just the right amount of gruff and introverted and his actor's subtle vocal shifts serve to showcase the writing on a level rivaling (or exceeding!) femshep, the female version of Mass Effect's main character. This guy doesn't steal the stage, doesn't ham it up, doesn't telecast the dialogue before it's spoken - he just turns words into real, honest-to-god conversation, undertone, and emotion. It's impossible to even conceive of a human having that voice - this can't be a voice actor. It's just Geralt's voice. That's just his. That's it. Someone found Geralt in an alternate dimension and filmed him.
It's that good.
And he's not the only one.
The Baron, Yennefer, Crach an Craite, Vernon Roche, fuckin' Zoltan - all of em. Phenomenal voice acting.
Ohhhh maaaaan, and the directing - these guys must have worked their asses off. No matter what dialogue choice you make, you sound like you're having a conversation. Dialogue flows naturally, everything segues into the next bit, nobody is angrier or happier than the conversation should allow - and everyone remains in character the whole time. This goes a LONG WAY to creating a believable universe. It feels like the characters get angry because of what is going on around them, or what is being said to them - not just because they had the word 'angrily' in parentheses near the script. Very seldom do you do an about-face on a dialogue tree and think 'huh, that's funny, they were just screaming... but now they're being polite?'
A lot of the segue-ability is by virtue of the phrase 'you mentioned x... what's that mean/he up to/that about?' Thing is, you don't notice that particular trick until about halfway through the game - and it's not even an irritant. It's only really used when it's called for - and, as Geralt is a monster hunter interviewing victims and witnesses, it's never out of place.
The music is something else, too. Polish folk music might be my new favorite thing (okay, maybe not that badly-tuned flute). Here. Here's a song for staring at a hungry wolf as you circle one another, slowly; a song for sending your own mortality creeping up your spine in shivers. Listen to it.
So good. That bassy bit in the background drifting around sets an atmosphere of slow things that drift and creep in the dark, juxtaposed against the anger and ferocity of frantically chanting voices - perfect for slow fights where you size an opponent up and wait to see who lunges first, or frantic dodging and swordplay.
The level design is out-of-this-world. Architecture feels real, cities reflect squalor, bustle, or peaceful high-class living. Villages show their poverty and distrust, the sewers of Novigrad feel sufficiently maze-like. Great manors in the swamps feel secluded and far away, yet vulnerable to the denizens of the environment - like they exist but for the grace of those that simply aren't hungry yet.
And... oh, that story. I can't describe it. I can't tell you a single thing about it - I would feel terrible spoiling even the minutest detail. This story deserves to be told in completion or not at all. Characters from the books come to life, or are referenced in tomes hidden about the world, or are mentioned in conversation. Geralt and Yennefer's story FINALLY comes to some sort of closure without that stupid 'well, what ACTUALLY happened to them?' complication from the end of the books, Ciri AT LAST has a place in the world that doesn't involve constantly outrunning what she is.
The setting even does everything justice. This game happens in the middle of A WAR. But you know what? You never SEE the war. It's discussed a little in this piece: http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2016-08-28-the-witcher-3-is-one-of-the-best-war-games-theres-ever-been
It's there, like a future dinner companion, or a disease. War is just someone coming to visit you, or war is just something that is happening to someone else. You see war's effects - battlefields, wounded men, orphans, poverty - but you never really see the war. You barely know about Emhyr or Radovid on a political scale, their policies, their strategies - and it was true of the previous Witcher stories, too. Statements like 'who controls the Pontar controls the north' mean almost nothing to you - the Pontar is just a place, isn't it? Who cares that this duke should die? What consequences can your actions have on something to big and odd as WAR?
It doesn't seem fair that any of this should end. It always, ALWAYS feels like there's more. What about Zerrikania? The battle of Sodden? I desperately want to give Geralt, Yennefer, and Ciri a break, let their story end... but I also desperately want to see it continue. It's a strange feeling. A strange juxtaposition.
11/10, would play again. Probably one of the best games I've ever played. I'll be coming back every couple years to revisit the series, for damn sure.
There you go, guys. I did it.
My backlog is complete.
I put off a game I was hyped out of my mind for FOUR YEARS, just so I could do this backlog. I'm not sure who I did this for. I don't think it was originally for me - why would I subject myself to Gravitron 2 willingly? - but I feel pretty damn accomplished.
...and not really sure what to do next. :/
I.... I'm not sure what to do here. We're in unprecedented territory...
I have a celebration song for you
Pam Pa Ram Pam Pam Pa Ram!
Now time to hit up a Humble Bundle!
Icrontic — Home of the Big Beef Burrito since 8-8-2000, fool.
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