Weekly Roundup 05/06/2012

I finished The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings yesterday. That game is great. After playing one too many overly long and grindy RPGs, it’s nice to play one that actually knows how to pace itself and cover ground in a timely manner. The game wisely uses its narrative to propel the action, rather than the promise of more loot and/or experience, making it a lot more engaging to me. I expanded on why I like The Witcher 2’s narrative aspects a lot last week, but I do want to add one last thought to that. A handful of the late game choices I had to make were expertly done. It did a great job at presenting two equally dire choices, and forcing me to choose between them. They left me seriously debating their consequences, and even once I had committed to one choice I was never convinced that it was the “right” or the “wrong” one. The Witcher 2 effectively lives in that realm of pure grey that so many games fail to reach.

There are a lot of abilities you can use in combat.

Anyway, the gameplay side of things is the focus for today, as I didn’t cover that much last week. As I already mentioned, the game paces itself really well, which I appreciate. The rest of it is kind of up and down, beginning with the combat. On the surface combat is very action heavy, but in practice it’s more methodical than that. You have a lot of tools at your disposal, and success comes from making the most of as many of them as you can. Potions, bombs, traps, spells and your general sword fighting abilities are all necessary, and I like that the game demands more than pure button mashing. What does bug me though is that some of your abilities, mainly potions, have to be prepared before battle. And since they come with a timer, you ideally want to use them pretty soon before a big battle, which requires some knowledge of what’s coming up. This led to a handful of moments where a tough encounter snuck up on me without warning, and after failing I had to reload a few saves back to prepare. That kind of sucks.

Geralt's got skills.

Still, I appreciated the demanding nature of the combat, but that surprisingly became less of a factor as the game went on. It didn’t feel like the enemies were keeping up with me as I kept leveling and putting points in my various abilities. The game got substantially easier as it went, and I feel like it could have been much better balanced in that regard. It could also use more enemy variety, as I felt like I only fought about half a dozen or so different kinds of enemies (excluding bosses) during my entire 25 hour playthrough. Perhaps part of that is due to the fact that the vast majority of that time is spent in dialogue, which doesn’t leave as much time for combat as you would expect. I’d actually be curious to see a breakdown of exactly how those 25 hours were spent between dialogue, combat, roaming towns and fields, etc. The dialogue was engaging and all, especially since you get to interact with it, but I probably could have done with a little less of it at times. There were a few moments where I was ready to just get on with it.

Otherwise, The Witcher 2’s remaining gameplay systems, such as item and weapon crafting, were fine. Collecting crafting materials and managing inventory was somewhat of an annoyance, but otherwise I didn’t really feel like that stuff had a huge impact on the game one way or the other. It was just kind of there, something to occasionally dabble in if I wanted to try and make a powerful potion or a better sword. The game wasn’t very focused on gear in general though, and I found that what I got from completing quests was more than good enough to get me through the game. And that’s about it for The Witcher 2. It may have had a few bumps here and there, but overall I really enjoyed it, and think anyone who likes getting absorbed in a rich fictional universe would appreciate what the game has to offer. That’s definitely the highlight, and the gameplay backs it up well enough.

Magicka thrives on creating chaos.

Moving on, some friends and I played a little bit of Magicka this week. I’ll just come out and say it: that game is completely insane. For the most part it’s a pretty straightforward action RPG, but it removes the focus on loot, leveling up and skill trees, and replaces them with a surprisingly robust system that allows you to mix and match different elements to create spells. It’s pretty fun to just experiment with stuff and see what you can conjure up, though it remains to be seen how long that will remain interesting. What makes the game crazy, however, is that friendly fire is always on. And given the loose nature of casting spells, you’re constantly hitting your allies with random shit all the time; it’s just going to happen. It’s kind of like New Super Mario Bros. Wii in that regard, as the more players you have in the game the crazier it gets. Sometimes it can get a little frustrating, but it’s also kind of the main charm of the game so far.

The other hilarious part of the game is the voice acting, which is described as some weird mix of Swedish, English and gibberish. Whatever it is, it cracks me up. I have no idea how far we are in that, but we’ll keep going. Otherwise, the next game I’m looking at playing is Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. That’s something I was always interested in but never got around to, and this recent lull in interesting releases has been a boon for making some (small) progress on my backlog. Anyway, that’s all for now, until next time!

Currently playing: Magicka, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

1 Comments
1 Comments
Posted by MajorMitch

I finished The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings yesterday. That game is great. After playing one too many overly long and grindy RPGs, it’s nice to play one that actually knows how to pace itself and cover ground in a timely manner. The game wisely uses its narrative to propel the action, rather than the promise of more loot and/or experience, making it a lot more engaging to me. I expanded on why I like The Witcher 2’s narrative aspects a lot last week, but I do want to add one last thought to that. A handful of the late game choices I had to make were expertly done. It did a great job at presenting two equally dire choices, and forcing me to choose between them. They left me seriously debating their consequences, and even once I had committed to one choice I was never convinced that it was the “right” or the “wrong” one. The Witcher 2 effectively lives in that realm of pure grey that so many games fail to reach.

There are a lot of abilities you can use in combat.

Anyway, the gameplay side of things is the focus for today, as I didn’t cover that much last week. As I already mentioned, the game paces itself really well, which I appreciate. The rest of it is kind of up and down, beginning with the combat. On the surface combat is very action heavy, but in practice it’s more methodical than that. You have a lot of tools at your disposal, and success comes from making the most of as many of them as you can. Potions, bombs, traps, spells and your general sword fighting abilities are all necessary, and I like that the game demands more than pure button mashing. What does bug me though is that some of your abilities, mainly potions, have to be prepared before battle. And since they come with a timer, you ideally want to use them pretty soon before a big battle, which requires some knowledge of what’s coming up. This led to a handful of moments where a tough encounter snuck up on me without warning, and after failing I had to reload a few saves back to prepare. That kind of sucks.

Geralt's got skills.

Still, I appreciated the demanding nature of the combat, but that surprisingly became less of a factor as the game went on. It didn’t feel like the enemies were keeping up with me as I kept leveling and putting points in my various abilities. The game got substantially easier as it went, and I feel like it could have been much better balanced in that regard. It could also use more enemy variety, as I felt like I only fought about half a dozen or so different kinds of enemies (excluding bosses) during my entire 25 hour playthrough. Perhaps part of that is due to the fact that the vast majority of that time is spent in dialogue, which doesn’t leave as much time for combat as you would expect. I’d actually be curious to see a breakdown of exactly how those 25 hours were spent between dialogue, combat, roaming towns and fields, etc. The dialogue was engaging and all, especially since you get to interact with it, but I probably could have done with a little less of it at times. There were a few moments where I was ready to just get on with it.

Otherwise, The Witcher 2’s remaining gameplay systems, such as item and weapon crafting, were fine. Collecting crafting materials and managing inventory was somewhat of an annoyance, but otherwise I didn’t really feel like that stuff had a huge impact on the game one way or the other. It was just kind of there, something to occasionally dabble in if I wanted to try and make a powerful potion or a better sword. The game wasn’t very focused on gear in general though, and I found that what I got from completing quests was more than good enough to get me through the game. And that’s about it for The Witcher 2. It may have had a few bumps here and there, but overall I really enjoyed it, and think anyone who likes getting absorbed in a rich fictional universe would appreciate what the game has to offer. That’s definitely the highlight, and the gameplay backs it up well enough.

Magicka thrives on creating chaos.

Moving on, some friends and I played a little bit of Magicka this week. I’ll just come out and say it: that game is completely insane. For the most part it’s a pretty straightforward action RPG, but it removes the focus on loot, leveling up and skill trees, and replaces them with a surprisingly robust system that allows you to mix and match different elements to create spells. It’s pretty fun to just experiment with stuff and see what you can conjure up, though it remains to be seen how long that will remain interesting. What makes the game crazy, however, is that friendly fire is always on. And given the loose nature of casting spells, you’re constantly hitting your allies with random shit all the time; it’s just going to happen. It’s kind of like New Super Mario Bros. Wii in that regard, as the more players you have in the game the crazier it gets. Sometimes it can get a little frustrating, but it’s also kind of the main charm of the game so far.

The other hilarious part of the game is the voice acting, which is described as some weird mix of Swedish, English and gibberish. Whatever it is, it cracks me up. I have no idea how far we are in that, but we’ll keep going. Otherwise, the next game I’m looking at playing is Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. That’s something I was always interested in but never got around to, and this recent lull in interesting releases has been a boon for making some (small) progress on my backlog. Anyway, that’s all for now, until next time!

Currently playing: Magicka, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West