Like many playing The Witcher 2, I had no real understanding of the previous events in the first game. This fundamentally undermined the entire experience for me. I constantly tried to remember names, races, groups, places, people, and, more importantly, what the different spells do (not pull or fire but “aard” and “igni”. Sigh, seriously?).
It is an incredibly unfriendly game to newcomers and even makes RPG vets like myself feel unwelcome.
This is not something that is in dispute, since even The Witcher 2’s most ardent fans will agree to this statement of fact. However, what matters is whether you see this as a good or bad thing. In terms of being a game for adults, CD Projekt certainly aren’t shy about no hand-holding – but they also deal realistically with nudity, sex, violence and mature themes arising in terms of politics and race.
I wish I could get into it, but due to the demand of reading and knowing its backstory, remembering characters and places and events from a game I did not (and do not plan on) playing, namely the first game, this left me feeling like I was in a lecture I didn’t study for. Again, you can put this down quite easily to just me being lazy, but the point is there is a line between engaging maturely with an entire game – from how it’s played to the lore in it – and easing a player into the game’s world.
CD Projekt, however, being the best in terms of customer service of nearly all gaming companies, did create a huge tutorial DLC later (which is included in the 360 version). This is excellent and introduces the player quite well to the entire game. However, this does little to undo the huge amount of knowledge you’re supposed to know when playing this game. Perhaps other gamers can ignore it, choosing to crush bugs and sleep with beautiful red-heads, but I cannot. And, furthermore, this is a compliment to how much effort CD Projekt gave to their country’s national treasure: The Witcher book franchise. There’s so much in it that I think Andrzej Sapkowski himself would be impressed.
It’s beautiful, visceral, well-acted, and plotted. It’s deep and action-packed. My computer couldn’t run it, no matter what I did, and my machine runs most games – including, for example, Mass Effect 3 – on high resolution and full. If I couldn’t run it even just for smoothness, I don’t know what beasts of machines people are playing on these days.
My major gripe then is that I am jealous. I am jealous of people who know the stories and lore; of people with better machines; because I really, really wanted to like this game. It’s perfect for me and I’ve read many of the books. However, speaking as a newcomer to the gaming franchise of The Witcher, it was unhelpful and unfriendly. I doubt I am the only one, but I have not seen this point put forward.
Now stop reading and, if you can, buy this gorgeous, amazing game – whether you’ve played the first or not.