PART 1: YOU CAN’T SPELL MASOCHISM WITHOUT MACHISMO
If gaming tastes could be anthropomorphized into human form, mine would probably be a half-mad beady-eyed Slavic cave hobo right about now. What happened to me? I used to be cool. I used to have moxie. I used to have pizzazz. I used to bang Kelly and all the xeno-vaginic aliens on the Normandy with my armor still on because that’s how Shepherd rolls, bitches and now look at me. A flimsy shell of a gaming man, giggling with deranged glee because I actually didn’t die for 15 minutes in PATHOLOGIC and killed a diseased hobo in one shot. WHO’S MISTER BIG TITS NOW, BUMSLICE. My tastes are all eclectic and obscure and painfully divergent from the mainstream. I have a tumor on my face in the shape of hipster glasses. Yeahhhhh brosef I was into Ice-Pick Lodge before THE VOID. Back when they were UNDERGROUND. Back when it was about the DIGITAL BDSM, man. Maaaaaan.
But you know, a guy doesn’t emerge from the digital gulag after months in cold isolation and just gambol down the lane, shrugging off the varied and sundry mental and physical tortures he has endured. It stays with him, perhaps forever. Ex-prisoners of war have been known to prefer to sleep on cold hard floors or otherwise emulate their former prison lifestyle despite being long freed from it. Why, I once knew a guy who insisted on being humiliated physically, verbally, and sexually as if he were in still in that Turkish prison just to feel normal in modern day society. BUT ENOUGH ABOUT SCOTT JONES.
My point is, I just can’t get into a game unless it’s weird, difficult and European. At least for the time being. But a man has his needs, as they say. Actually I would be OK if nobody ever said that again. That’s the sort of thing that gets said and then repeated months later into a courthouse microphone by a corroborating witness. WOULD THE WITNESS PLEASE POINT TO THE KNOBBY VIBRATING CLOWN DILDO IN QUESTION. Moving on.
THE WICHAR! Yes. This is what I needed. Gore, profanity, obtuse design, dubious morality and giant bouncing Polish tits. It’s like I’m in a night club in downtown Bydgoszcz after it is beset by LARPers pretending to be serial killers pretending to be LARPers, and I have all the ketamine.
Y’know, after playing so many RPGs where I didn’t play a real character, just a collection of stats and loot dressed up and clumsily staggered through bland plotlines and dialogues with the usual three options of Easy Mode (Good), I’m Afraid of Commitment (Neutral) and Me Step on Bugs and Pretend Hear Little Screams Hurr (Bad), it’s nice to finally reach the end of this run-on sentence. Wait I meant it’s nice to play an actual character, one taken from Poland’s version of The Lord of Rings as I understand it, no less. Geralt is crusty and scarred and pissed off most of the time, and isn’t altogether too interested in doing anything unless it furthers his interests. I like that. That’s my kind of shit, despite the fact that I almost always play the good guy in RPGs (if only because the evil route is retarded and tacked on, the MASS EFFECT games excepted).
Perhaps my favorite oddity about THE WITCHER is that it starts with a goddamned 20 minute long intro cinematic. Granted it’s pretty awesome (although misleading OOH NEAT GRAPPLING HOOK oh well fuck you then), but boy does it take its time. It’s meant to show you a lot of how the game works in a stylized fashion and I think it does a pretty good job of it. I can think of lots of times while playing THE WITCHER where I stared at the goddamned screen waiting for an interminable cinematic to end (even though a lot of what I was shown was kinda cool) only to be dumped right into a battle before I could get my bearings and by get my bearings I mean save the game like a sniveling little wimplicker.
Yeah, the first time you get control of Geralt he is in combat. I think you might get an autosave but the autosave feature is much like Geralt, it’s kind of flaky and pissed off and really doesn’t care how bad you might need it. Maybe it works better if you look like a chesty serving wench or need someone to collect exactly ten beaver pelts.
OR WHATEVER THE FUCK THIS GAME CALLS BEAVERS. Easily my second favorite obtuse part of the game is the menagerie of beasties Geralt fights. His journal (a very detailed and well-laid-out affair with subsections for quests, monsters, people, places, and so forth) reads like an over-imaginative seven year old wrote it in places. YOU WERE ATTACKED BY A BARGHEST. No wait I think that was just a dog. NO THAT WAS A BARGHEST. Bar guest? Well OK but OH SHIT a vampire- NO THAT IS A FLEDER. THERE ARE NO VAMPIRES IN WITCHER, THERE ARE FLEDERS. SERIOUSLY YOU MIGHT BE THE WORST GERALT EVER. You know I was going to reference whatever realm THE WITCHER takes place in just now, but I have no idea what it’s called.
EH WHO CARES LET’S TALK ABOUT PUSSY CARDS FOR A MINUTE. As an aside, “pussy” is a rather vulgar word (even for me!) for the aesthetically hideous yet indescribably pleasur-you know what, never mind that aside. I don’t like where it’s going. STOP MASTURBATING TO MY BLOG POSTS, FREAKS. My point is, pussy is kind of like nigger in that the word only works well when used by the respective demographic. MUCH BETTER, THANKS. But really, I don’t know what else to call the “sex cards” THE WITCHER awards you when Geralt gets laid, which is ludicrously often by CRPG standards. THE WITCHER’s Geralt is Hugh Hefner whereas any given Bioware RPG protagonist is a Gregorian monk who is socially awkward even by Gregorian monk standards. This is no lie, you have more sex as Geralt than you can in any single playthrough of any other RPG series in existence, before you even get to Chapter 2. POLAND WINS THE PUSSY WAR. I’d go with Sex Cards but I find that moniker is not up to the task of appropriately explaining a virtual card set that includes a nude witch covered in blood, squatting over a grinning skull inside a damp cave. That reminds me, I’m a little put off by Geralt’s profession being termed “Witcher” when there are also witches. They both witch, right? THAT SHIT’S CONFUSING, POLAND. COME ON.
After the comically long opening cinematic and comically long nearly-nonstop fighting sequence, the game lets Geralt stop and take a goddamned breath for a few minutes. This provides an opportunity to have a look at Geralt’s stats sheet. Despite some of the things that are truly annoying about THE WITCHER one of the things CDProjekt got right is Geralt’s character building. The true RPG appeal of Geralt is that as a Witcher, his potential skill set ranges from different types of swordplay as well as magic, both spell and potion based. What you get is essentially the Jedi archetype, which I love in single-player or party-size limited (KOTOR or MASS EFFECT) RPGs. Fuck replaying a game to find out how the mage character build varies from the fighter or thief character builds. I don’t have time for that shit. Put a sword in my hand and a spell in my book at the same time and I’m good. I GOT DIS.
To that end, character customization is deep enough without being a complete quagmire. I AM LOOKING AT YOU THIRD AND FOURTH EDITION DUNGEONS & DRAGONS RULES SETS. JERKS. The character screen could be better designed, however. It’s not so complex that you couldn’t fit the entire character sheet on one page, fellas. LOOKY HERE I DOOD IT MYSELF:
As you can see, not quite as complicated at KOTOR 2 but much more to diddle with than either of the MASS EFFECT games. Skill points come at a pitiful rate of 3 per level, but leveling comes at a decent clip, faster than most solo RPGs. Hell, more than a few times I didn’t see that I leveled and wondered why I had 6 points to distribute. I am still stuck on the glacial level pacing of Bioware RPGs, I guess. PLEASE MISTA SCROOGE, JUST ONE LUMP OF COAL. I’M TERRIBLE CHILLY.
What are long are the chapters. Holy penis! Chapter 1 takes friggin’ hours and hours to finish. I thought Chapter 1’s were supposed to be short, so you could bang them out and then be all YAY I AM IN CHAPTER 2 IT’S LIKE I’M HALFWAY THROUGH THE GAME ALREADY OR WHATEVER. Not so with THE WITCHER. It’s still Chapter 1 and you are fighting a plethora of boss fights against all sorts of beasties NO I CAN’T REMEMBER ANY OF THEIR NAMES, ONE RHYMES WITH ‘GRAVE EAR’ THOUGH. The good news is that although there are plenty of cliché RPG quests, many of them have oddball facets to them that make them fun to experience. A fairly simple quest involving defending some riverside merchant’s wares against monsters culminates in a group of pissed-off elves emerging from the woods and the only way to satisfy them is to sell them the stuff I was guarding. I like that kind of quirkiness. If I tried that in a Bioware game I’d be hit with 5 Dark Side Renegade Orphan Puncher Points. Also I get the impression Chapter 1 can end in at least two very different ways, both skulking about in their own respective shades of grey. NATURALLY, I CHOSE THE SHADE THAT HAD MORE GENOCIDE IN IT.
Man this is a straight gas and I haven’t even found my goddamned silver sword yet! Wheee! I might even make it past Chapter 2 without getting really pissed off!