The Witcher 2 and the modern age of RPG’s on Rails

I’m a huge fan of RPGs, both MMOs and single players and I’ve been playing RPGs since around the time when 486 computers were popular. Needless to say back then there wasn’t a great deal of computing power and graphics were software rendered.

Now without sounding like a reminiscent old bat, I do remember a few titles that were good. Good in the sense that the game could really capture your imagination and be a pleasure to play, not a chore. Titles such as Betrayal at Crondor and Ultima Underworld.

The Witcher 2, is yet another modern RPG title I’ve tried to get into but somehow fail to enjoy, and I’ll tell you exactly why. But first I will say the game is very pretty.

I’ve nailed down my frustrations to a few key points with Modern RPGs and the Witcher 2 has every single flaw I’ll discuss in a bit.

1. Cutscenes : For the most part you can skip them, but most of the game seems to be made up of cut scenes, at least the parts I’ve played so far. The start has so  many I lost count. I was almost dying of boredom by the time the controls were finally handed over to me. This didn’t last long before it was back to more cut scenes. I kept asking myself, am I watching a movie or playing a PC game? A movie is a non interactive piece of entertainment, you sit down and you’re there for the ride, while a game is supposed to be fully interactive, you should definitely not be there just for the ride. Cut scenes should be rare, so that when you do see one, you’re compelled to watch it. I really don’t like playing cut scenes.

2. Length Dialogs : Mass effect type games have turned story driven RPGs into a genre. The Witcher 2 has an extreme amount of lengthy cut scenes, boring and long winded.

3. Its an RPG on rails. “Oh no look here comes a dragon”, “How do you kill that thing?”, “You don’t, run!!!” – followed by a guided cut scene across a bridge. Press W now… Jump now…. Pause now… The whole game just feels guided.

4. Not intuitive enough for the most basic of things. It took me about 4 hours to figure out how to drink a potion. Finally I accidently discovered you have to sit and meditate to actually drink the potion. The game flashes help messages at you, but they don’t stay on screen long enough for you to read. No easy way to retrieve previous messages – Aargh! For example you have about 7 spells to begin with, and no easy way to determine what each spell does, because they’re ruins with a legend on them.

5. Looting or selecting an action can be awkward. You need to be standing in exactly the right place to climb up something or loot, if you’re not you need to position yourself, this feels like a console game not a PC based RPG.

6. No jump! The last game I played where I felt so rooted to the ground was Dragon Age, and the Witcher 2 feels A LOT like Dragon Age, better graphics but less polished game dynamics.

7. Same old quest lines, deliver x to y, find z, kill b, blah blah blah.

8. You’re just flung into the story, and don’t really feel in control. In contrast to the Fallout series where you feel in total control of what you do.

Having said that, there is one good thing about the game, the graphics. But sorry to say this isn’t enough for me to want to play the game. I had huge gripes with Witcher 1, and Witcher 2 does improve on the game somewhat, but it still feels like work. And I don’t want to work too hard when I play a game. I want to adventure and explore and enjoy myself.

Modern RPGs are all making the same fundamental mistakes, they’re noobed up and really staple the player to these invisible rails, not allowing true freedom of movement, and this in my opinion negates the reason why I play RPGs. The real problem is this business model is selling well and players who don’t know any better buy into it, infact are already sold on this type of game.

This month I have yet to Drakensang, hopefully that will be better. Till then!

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Portal 2 debunked

If you have an interest in gaming it’s likely you’ve heard of Portal 2. I was a bit unsure about this game, so decided to pick it up and test it out. After playing it from start to finish, these are my thoughts on the game. Portal 2 is a game made by Valve, and has a distinct Valve feel about it. If you’re familiar with the Half Life Series, then Portal 2 definitely feels related, but its not the same game.

Plot and gameplay

The game consists of a series of linear puzzles. Each puzzle is an arena consisting of obstacles, objects, and other futuristic stuff you interact with. The objective of each arena is to find the exit and escape to the next arena. In this game you do not have weapons that can do any damage, instead you have a portal gun so you can create portals, and move through them.

This isn’t your grandmas gravity gun

The gravity gun, making its first appearance later in the Half life series could be considered the parent of the portal gun, but while the gravity gun can attract objects from a distance and be used as a weapon, the portal gun can only be used to fire portals into walls. I think Valve realized they were onto something with the gravity gun, and around the time it was showcased, Valve were exploring more realistic game physics, hence the Portal series was born.

Lots of cool physics

I wouldn’t call the physics mind blowing or cutting edge. What the game does do is a lot of basic physics very well, and knits the basics nicely together to achieve a truly playable title. The presentation is solid and exudes quality. So what you end up with is a very tightly wrapped high quality end result.

Storyline

You’re trapped in a huge abandoned scientific research station with no humans in sight. As surreal as it sounds you only ever meet 2 robotic entities in the entire game but at least one of them is with you for most of the game play. The voice acting is not bad, and can be amusing at times, however the dialogs are slightly noobed up to cater for a younger audience.

Graphics

Don’t expect DX11 tessellation, the graphics are dx9 based. Crisp and run smooth, and extremely pleasing on the eye. The graphics do suit the environment you’re in, so no complaints there.

What I didn’t like

1. You always feel lost in the game, and don’t know where you are exactly. You know you’re in a research station, but you have no reference to its total size, or a birds eye view of the place, or a map. The game just pushes you from one arena to the next until you reach the end.

2. No guns, and nothing to shoot. I know the game isn’t a FPS, and I don’t expect it to be, but it would have been cool to be able to shoot a few more things or experience more real unrehearsed danger.

3. Not enough lure of the research center, not enough unfolding stories into the mysteries or origin of the place.

What I liked

1. Very good clean arena design. The puzzles are challenging and creative.

2. The feeling of accomplishment when you finish a puzzle.

3. The quality of the production.

Conclusion

Good game overall, certainly a classic, but because it is so linear, and without any enemies to shoot at. Once you’ve completed it, I think it has very little replay quality. Overall score 8/10

Why Reddit sucks

If you’ve ever visited Reddit, then you’ll already know it is one of those sites that pull you right in and gets you hooked quickly. Unfortunately it is also one of those sites which tends to give you a distorted view point of the world.

The main problem with Reddit is that right at the core, you’ll find a rotten community, if you can call it that. To put it another way, most of the community on Reddit are made up of some of the biggest assholes on the internet. This is the fundamental problem with the site.

6 months ago I discovered Reddit, I really had no idea just what kind of rat infested hell hole it was. But the more I used the site the more things started making sense to me.

Here are a few things that have put me off about Reddit:

The users are primarily teenagers.

As one ex Redditor put it:  Whiny teenagers, stupid memes, [FIXED], rage comics, the best (video game, tv show, book, toy) from my childhood, internet vigilanteism, terrible grammar, grammar nazis, pictures of cats, conde nast, etc. etc.

This is what makes up the most of the content.  Because the users are mostly teenagers, you can expect teenage related content.
Who do you think is writing the content and those nasty comments? This guy?
I would be way more inclined to suggest one of these kids:

Everything is ok, except having any real morals

I’ve noticed this on Reddit, you can be Pro ANYTHING and no one has a problem with that, except if the thing you are Pro for, questions the morals of Reddit. You can be pro drugs, pro gay, pro stealing, pro terrorism, this is taken lightly by the teenagers on Reddit, but if you happen to be pro God, whoa to you, Reddit will hate you.

This is because Reddit has become the garbage bin of the internet where bored American kids hang out and discuss things that can only really amuse teenagers or people of questionable intellect.

At the time of writing here are some of the top questions sitting in /r/askReddit

Tell me if you think these are really mature things to be talking about, or merely teenage topics?

  1. Why don’t more people live underground? (324 upvotes)
  2. Do platonic guy friends exist? (154 upvotes)
  3. My brother pulled a hair out of his balls and what appears to be red string is coming out. It’s sticking out and hurts if he pulls on it. What is it? Should he be worried? Picture inside, NSFW. (154 upvotes)
  4. Why does gasoline smell so damn good? (28 upvotes and rising)
You can always head over to Reddit at any time to get a fresh dose of teenage fun.

There is some adult content

It is true, not all of Reddit is just for teenagers, but there is no Reddit Senior version, its all or nothing, piled in one giant mess. There are some categories which are better than others, but the rule is the more general the category, usually the more likely you’re to find yourself in “just another teenage thread”.

Now this is where I have respect for Jeff Atwood and the Stack-exchange group. What Jeff has created is nothing short of a miracle, focused niche sites with strong communities who are completely against trolling and do not tolerate impolite behavior. Simply put, Reddit is a cesspit, while stack exchange sites are akin to class and quality.

To put it another way the Reddit community think they’re smart, but I think its time they took a step back and just had a think what they’re participating in. Smart people build quality structures, not mud huts.