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!

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

  1. All you said here is truh. The stupidest is that you cant jump, i mean what the fuck? its 21 century.

    No jump no buy.

    • Totally agree. Bought it and spent the last hour and a half playing. I’m done. I have Netflix for watching movies. This game is stupid. I’d rather play something that requires neurons.

  2. Believe it or not, you don’t speak for every gamer, and not every game needs to be tailored to your personal preferences.

    I like sprawling sandbox RPGs… sometimes. I like on-rails RPGs… sometimes. They’re effectively different genres — you might as well complain that Street Fighter isn’t Soul Calibur. Enjoy the sandbox RPGs when they come out and either give the on-rails RPGs a miss or accept them for what they are, but don’t whine that you don’t like apples because they aren’t enough like oranges.

    What you find empowering others find disjointed and shallow. The sandbox RPGs by necessity have lots of unrelated quests scattered around and a scant handful of longer quests lines that are just as firmly on rails as the games you’re frothing about here. As I said, I sometimes like this style of game too, but when I’m not in the mood for it, I know better than to play something that I won’t enjoy.

    And jumping? Really? Who cares? You, obviously, but that sounds like a personal problem.

  3. I agree with you. I was pretty psyched to try out Witcher 2 but its been a dreadfully chore to play. Mass Effect 2 had rail rpg too but not so in your face as witcher 2, its just to much. Making it a clastrophic tunnel view experience. Too much cutscenes, too much narrow lineair gameplay. And overall extremely boring.

  4. Im pretty sorry I wasted my money on this game. Ive given it a good shot but I seriously can’t see what all the hype is about. Total borefest.

  5. I totally agree with you. This game is a step backwards in my opinion and quite frankly it’s boring me to tears. I don’t want to sit and watch cut scenes for what seems like 80 percent of my playing time! It’s not fun just sitting around “watching” a story unfold. Tis a sad day when the most hyped new RPG turns out to be nothing more than a cut-scene gab-fest! I enjoyed the first Witcher but this second one is just awful. Great graphics and production values don’t equal a good hands on gaming experience.

  6. i found this article because i googled “the witcher 2 is boring” because i’m 14 hours in, and frankly i’m hating almost every minute of it, too much dialogue (pointless, boring dialogue too) way too many cutscenese, the story is doing nothing for me, and the combat is basic as hell, i don’t care what anyone says, all you do is spam left click and quen whenever you feel you might be in danger, not to mention all the graphical glitches (i have an extreme gaming pc, with a gtx 590 the latest drivers and i have everything on max, and it doesn’t lag, but wow the glitches) things like flickering textures that you have to reload the game to stop, huge amounts of clipping, even geralts hair constantly clips through his shoulders, his foot clipped through his boot at the start of the game when he put it on and the quests, wow are the quests boring and pointless, don’t believe me? do the “hung over” quest, that’s the worst quest i’ve ever played in any game ever, period.

    wasted £17 on this, i haven’t felt this robbed since i bought final fantasy 13.

  7. I can honestly say that the whole time I was playing the witcher 2 I felt like I was waiting for more to experience.
    The combat is okay, but limited and dumbed down. I dont really understand how people say it has nice graphics coz I was running on max details and still saw filtering lines and poor textures etc.
    The game just felt more like a demo than a full version, I mean there was about a dozen different enemy types (if you dont include the 2 or 3 human-like races), and there was nothing to explore. Absolutely nothing.
    I found myself wishing to get out of each “town” as quickly as possible as it became claustrophobic to be in them. It took me only a few casual days of gaming to complete and I will never play it again.
    All in all its a highly over-rated and disappointing title.
    Where is my adventure? Where is my freedom? Oh yeah, its over there with Skyrim!

  8. It was more of an Adventure playing Witcher!
    The combat system was new and intriguing.
    The Cut-scene’s where there, but i cant remember them bothering me as much,
    as they do in Witcher 2.
    I agree that the whole Witcher 2 experience has become to controlled.
    Cut-scene 5 min Play, Cut-scene 5 min Play
    and then only in a very limited environment.
    The Game said on the Box that it was Non linear. I assumed incorrectly
    that it was more like Skyrim. Even though i played the first Witcher.
    All in all I’m very disappointed.

  9. The combat was dull with QTE (when you fought the octopus you’ll need to do qte & run to certain locations to trigger “killing events”), the folklore feel of the first game was lost, no more neutral path, weapons all have the same animations (first game using different weapons like axe may have its own set of action).

    And cutscene that show you LOST which you receive AFTER you BEAT someone. Why even bother fighting if I’m railroaded to losing? Why do I “lose” the game if I press the wrong QTE and still lose if I press it right? Not to mention situations where skills like selecting alchemy would be punished, despite it already being weaker than the other trees.

    I got to third chapter then lost all will to play it (Roche path). Skyrim wasn’t good either with all those essential npcs but at least I could finish it. How I miss gothic 2 where I could run around climbing to weird place, jumping around roofs and explore weird place. Geralt was supposed to be super-human yet he runs as slow as some random dude in full-plate armor. The game’s just sad.

  10. I’m really glad to have found your blog post on this. It’s been the third time I try to get into this game because I know it has potential. And that’s all it has. I feel that it really lacks consistency and maturity. Consistency:apart the fact that the game is made out of cut scenes, from an artistic pov, you have too many styles! They are not working together towards visual unity. Second, you don’t have story consistency. Example: in the prologue, based on your answers, you get to play certain parts of the siege (a “siege” fought between only 25 guys, apparently) . So i ended up playing the end of the beginning. Very confusing. Characters lack consistency: the game doesn’t make me care for anyone. They have great visual design, but very little character. And the witcher guy, totally unconvincing, I cannot relate to him because he’s already predefined in a way I don’t feel appealed. I remember Deus Ex 1, you start as predefined JC, but he’s a rookie and you get to turn him into yourself based on points allocation, augs AND decisions. Here, I really don’t care at all about this Christopher Lambert in disguise.
    About maturity: including sex talk, nude scenes, love interests and “moral system” is not mature, but just a gimmick. I’m talking about gameplay: please, enough with the “Difficult QTEs”, one-click-frenzy fight system (combat system is designed to be played by a one finger money!) and minigames. Come on, you’re branding yourself as a serious game and you break all my immersion with a silly “avoid the dragon” minigame? I’m playing Witcher 2, not Mario. And of course, you see a great environment and you cannot explore it. Can’t jump, can’t swim, can’t free roam in the beautiful forest. All that work from the art department..wasted. And finally, the overall artificial feeling of the interaction between your character and the enviro. The way you move, the way the games handles collisions with the enviro etc. It just feels very beta.
    I think I should stop. I covered my main complaints. Unfortunately, they are game barkers for me. I enjoyed the graphics and the visual direction, as an artist myslef I’m biased to that, but the game makes it so fake…

    I hope they will do a better job with Witcher 3. As I said, this franchise has potential, not because of the story, but because of the talented team behind it.

  11. I don’t care about open world, I don’t care about jumping, but I do agree about not wanting a story that is on rails, or a mini game about avoiding a dragon, or about winding up a ballast, and so on.

    Half the time in this game, it feels like a broken DVD. Like, hey, this is a great movie but why does it keep pausing and forcing me to press Resume? Seriously, if the game devs just want to tell me the story of Witcher 2 then they should just do that. If they want me to PLAY the story of Witcher 2 then they should clear out of my way and let me play the damn thing.

  12. I agree on every word.

    I enjoyed the Witcher 1 far more than Witcher 2. When the Interrogation triggered the 2nd cutscene I had already spent 1,5 hours on the tutorial and cutscenes and decided to give the game a rest until the next weekend and I think I finally shelved the game somewhere during act 2.

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