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!