Editorial: A Tale of Two Games

For Western RPG fans, it is the best of times… or the worst of times, depending on which camp one finds oneself in.

A curious narrative has emerged with the first half of the year’s two biggest WRPG releases: BioWare’s Dragon Age II and Polish developer CD-Projekt’s The Witcher 2. That is, one may not survive while the other lives.

He just wanted a hug...
Geralt gets up close and personal with a BioWare developer.

This is rather disheartening; the games have literally no similarities except that they are big-name Western RPGs released in the first half of 2011. But from this one tenuous connection, gamers are lead to believe that unless The Witcher 2 is the reciprocal of Dragon Age II in every way that they personally find deficient, then The Witcher 2 shares in BioWare’s infamy.

Instead of judging each game on its own merits, gamers have divided themselves into two camps, girded themselves for e-battle, and descended into review comments sections to either defend the honor of the besmirched maiden of BioWare or champion the “AAA-RPG with an indie heart” found in CD-Projekt’s game.

I will not, however, be reviewing the latter, although my views on the former are well-known, and, I think, unimpeachable in their objectivity and correctness. I suspect that my fellow Lusipurr.com writer Julian “SiliconNoob” Taylor Wallaby Fosters Didgeridoo Boomerang New South Wales Mate will wish to review The Witcher 2, and that honor I shall leave to him. Instead, I wish merely to express my exasperation with gamers for allowing themselves to be duped into this binary holy war for no apparent purpose.

Hurr durr no isometric camera means it is a bad game.
In most societies, merely glimpsing BioWare artwork is enough to send fanboys into frothing rage.

As stated earlier, the games are almost entirely dissimilar. The complaints that many people have of Dragon Age II are… repeated… within The Witcher 2. There is no tactical view. Combat is fluid and action-oriented. The UI and control scheme of The Witcher is totally abandoned in favor of a new, faster system. Strange choices in dungeon design were made that reverse the feeling and soul of the first game (never mind that some of them actually improve the game).

But people are heralding the game as if it is somehow the answer to BioWare’s alleged failure, resorting into fanboyish factionalism that recalls the heady, early days of the PlayStation 3’s release. And I fear that, in the ensuing fracas that is sure to result, any sense of reviewing objectivity will be lost, and gamers will suffer. We will not be able to have an honest conversation about Nilfgaard and Temeria without also bringing up Qunari and Kirkwall, when in tone, technique, style, and aim the games could not be more divergent. Which is sad, because then two eminently worthy and respectable entries in the WRPG canon will be set at loggerheads, and those that enjoy one will be put off enjoying the other for fear of upsetting their respective factions.

14 comments

  1. If it is at all possible to pit one thing against another thing, no matter how much sense it doesn’t make, people will do just that.

    I have never played either game, but it’s obvious from the boxart and reviews that they are nearly nothing alike. People need to get their heads out of their asses and understand that not everything is a dichotomy.

  2. I don’t know that that’s really it. A lot of people were bitterly disappointed by DA2, and are using the relative quality of The Witcher 2 in order to sink the boot in once again. If it wasn’t The Witcher 2 than it would be Deus Ex: Human Revolution or Skyrim. People just want to speak ill of DA2 in much the same same way as I cannot mention FFXIII in passing without spitting.

    *spits*

  3. The lesson here is that DA III had better deliver a fuller experience than II did. That will help to mitigate such potential issues.

  4. I’m sure that most of these people will drop any pretense to animosity if DA3 delivers, in much the same fashion as I will once again adore Final Fantasy games if they ever stop sucking. I think these people are just trying to send a strong, unequivocal message to Bioware that their sloppy B-game is unacceptable.

  5. But it’s nonsensical to say TW2 is the answer to anger at BioWare. While I enjoy the game it is also guilty of the same things people complained about with DA2: the combat, the radical changes from the first game, complete with new issues like bad performance with some cards, terrible English voice acting and a lack of explanation of key features of the game.

    What it says to me is that people are irrational and criticized one game because it did not satisfy some abstract ideal, but give a free pass to another game just because they’re mad at the first developer. Or the opposite! They ignore another good game out of tribal loyalty.

  6. If you go to the Bioware forums you can see first hand people with Dragon Age and Mass Effect avatars saying exactly the same thing. This isn’t about TW2, it’s about showing their rejection for DA2 by comparing it unfavorably against the first decent WRPG to come along since its release.

    Also, TW1 was flawed enough that changing the formula isn’t anathema.

    But let’s be frank here, people didn’t criticize DA2 because of some abstract ideal, they criticize it because it only has three dungeons and a city to its name. Was it to much effort to create a random dungeon generator? Is it a baseless position to assert that you dislike games which constantly recycle their assets?

    Lazy game is lazy.

  7. Log in to play “The Witcher 2” tonight.

    9GB patch.

    FFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUU

    That said, I actually liked the combat AND targeting better in TW1. I have to use my Xbox PC controller to play it. MY XBOX PC CONTROLLER TO PLAY AN RPG! OMG I PLAY GAMES ON PC TO FEEL SUPERIOR TO CONSOLE-BOUND PEOPLE! THIS IS LIKE, PART OF MY IDENTITY. Hardware cursors for the win.

  8. 9GB patch LOL. That’s not a patch, it’s a NEW GAME.

    What SN said: it’s not about abstract ideals at all. It’s about the do-the-minimum approach to game design.

    I happen to agree with him about his opinion that if DAIII delivers, this will all be forgotten. I think people are much less sophisticated than you think they are. And, historically, I’ve been proven right about this. Whatever people say, what they really want are some very basic things.

    Remember, Diablo I came out in 1996. It had a random dungeon generator. That was fifteen years ago and designed for a computer that is massively outclassed by my current, several-years-old phone.

  9. I have not encountered this 9gb patch of which you speak. I have been enjoying the game immensely, but as you say it would be unplayable without a game pad.

    As for all the people denouncing DA2, I would wager that all the greater part of their number really want is for Dragon Age to be good again, and to stop sucking. DA2 was the game that confirmed for them all their worst fears about the EA buyout. If Dragon Age 3 proves decent then DA2 will be so much water under the bridge.

  10. Actually, it’s probably lucky/cunning for CD Projeckt that they released TW2 PC before confirming a console version, otherwise they would have worn the accusation of dumbing the controls down for console.

    It’s a pity that they couldn’t have made the controls work on mouse and keyboard, but using a gamepad the combat is visceral and satisfying with plenty of depth, and I love how some of the boss fights require you to familiarize yourself with the boss’ attack pattern and formulate a strategy to win, rather than just beating on it and healing until it is dead.

  11. The controls aren’t “dumbed down.” No one dumb could play the game; they need a better tutorial. I was expecting the rapid style switching, hardware-cursor targeting of the first one. Instead I feel like I’m playing “God of the Witcher” without animation cancel.

    I hope AMD releases driver updates soon; occasionally I get a grainy overlay on the “in-focus” characters that’s rather distracting. I’m also looking for a way to turn the Polish voice acting on because holy hell the English voice actors suck. Pulls me right out of the game any time Triss speaks.

    The 9GB patch was apparently a Steam fuck-up; a number of people’s systems told Steam’s servers we didn’t have the game downloaded or installed, so we got the whole game again, this time including the 1.1 patch.

    All in all, it has its really spectacular moments, but there are too many rough edges right now for me to say it’s transcendent, which is exactly the same thing that happened with TW1. I bought it at launch to put on my newly built PC gaming system, and uninstalled it after a month. I put it on again late last year with the enhanced edition fixes, and it was like playing a totally different game. I think that’s what will happen here. As it is, I feel like too much is put in the journal (backstory, quest objectives, etc.), and feel like the English localization needs to be better, particularly in quest descriptions and objectives. The main story quests are all pretty clear, but what about side missions? It’s a little annoying to grab something off a notice board and then have to go to my game guide to figure out what to do because there’s just no in-game clue.

    A hardware cursor and better inventory system would go a long way, too.

    These are all things that patches can and will fix, I’m sure.

  12. Many of the minor characters sound like Fable extras, but among the main cast are some of the best voice performances I have ever experienced. The King, Roche and Iorveth are sublime, while the rest of the main cast turning in solid performances.

    All in all I find this game to be much more impressive than Dragon Age Origins (PS3), never mind its lazy sequel.

    On the other hand, like you I find that many of the quests do not provide the player with enough info to finish them. CD Projeckt attempted to ameliorate this by providing a walkthrough with physical copies of the game, yet sadly much of the info therein is either too vague to be useful, or flat out incorrect; telling players to find one of the Nekker nests in the caves beneath flotsam! Also, the game enjoys dumping players into mini-games without first explaining how they are played!

    I no longer have any troubles with my inventory since molding the game to make items weightless, and the controls feel great with a gamepad.

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