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The Witcher 2, first impressions

I’m starting in on The Witcher 2, despite giving up on the original The Witcher game in Chapter 2 (buggy in Ch.1, then it got slow and I lost interest late in Ch.2). I wasn’t going to play W2, after having had enough fantasy RPG gaming with the excellent Risen to last me until Skyrim in November. But the raving reviews for W2 have pulled me in.

After an hour of cleaning 150Gb off my stuffed HD to make some space and speed, then a flawless 50 minute install, the game was selectively modded. Getting the graphics and audio settings right is a bit tricky (there’s almost no in-game graphics options, that’s all done in the loader). But the game is now starting to ‘feel right’, and the opening 30 minutes are obviously incredibly polished. W2 is running very well for me at 1920 x 1200px on a basic Nvidia 9600 GT card, quad-core CPU, and the latest Windows 7 Nvidia beta drivers. I’m slowly increasing the level of eye-candy without seeing noticeable slow-down, but even without the top settings it’s a beautiful opening to a PC videogame. I’ve turned off the immersion-breaking ‘blur-when-turning’ screen effect, and I dislike the bloom effect in games so that’s also off and staying off. The game’s in-built anti-aliasing is tolerable, and I’ve seen no hideous jaggies so far.

The audio mix and voice-talent accents seem excellent. Geralt and Triss are apparently American, while everyone else is British. That’s about right, and for the Brits it means we can identify with Geralt without subconsciously bringing in a load of class prejudices due to his accent. I was dreading the tutorial section, expecting a frustrating chore like the hideously consolised one in Assassin’s Creed. But so far it’s been very subtle and without obvious hand-holding, with the player staying in control and also in-story. One flaw in the tutorial section was the repetition of some NPC ‘passing comments’. In the vital opening sections, I would have though that the developers would have striven to make every single NPC ‘overheard comment’ unique.

Sadly there’s no immersive HUD mod yet, or a first-person mod for W2. I really want to get the HUD elements off the screen when they’re not needed, and having first-person would be excellent for machinima capture if not for combat. It’s a great pity that Elder Scrolls is basically the only RPG that uses first-person now, since that’s what I always expect of PC RPG games. I was hoping that Risen‘s old-school approach would stretch to that too, but sadly not. Maybe for Risen 2?

More soon.

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