Computer games reviews and ramblings on games and gaming, from a gamer, roleplayer and LARPer.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011


Recent events have got me thinking about character death.

Generally, in any computer game, CRPGs included, the player character losing a fight and dying doesn't really happen. Sure, the blood splattered corpse drops to rhe floor, everything fades to black and the game ends (unless, of course, another party memeber survived, in which case everyone's fine), but then, it's five minutes earlier and the fight goes differently, or the decision to get into the fight doesn't get made.

There are exceptions. One that springs immmediately to mind is the Mount and Blade series, in which named characters -including the player- never die at all, but, in a 'lucky characters from Game of Thrones' kind of way find themselves either imprisoned in a castle or dragged around the map by their captors until, by game engine randomiser fiat, they are either ransomed or manage to escape, at which point they find themselves stripped of their finest gear, most of their gold, and with no army at their backs but the memory of the pile of corpses they spent so long gathering and training up.

What I'm not aware of is any CRPG where death is permanent, as in, gen up a new character and start again. And I can see why, being forced to plough through the whole plot again from start to finish because of a miss-click or slightly off decision in the final boss fight would be a massively offputting experience, especially after a couple of runs through on a game with enough content to be worth buying.

I think I might be more interested in a well balanced MMO if it included such a mechanic (though I'm told that doesn't sell), but it would have to be a one with persistant world plot, as opposed to the general run of lazily built single player game with roughly the same sequence of quests for every character but you can only play online.

Another approach might be something along the lines of the standard party based get-out and the Mount and Blade approach that makes death final, but unlikely. It would certainly make more cautious play advisable, but it might add real intensity to the game, especially if the roleplaying experience is solid enough that you care about the character, not only their stats and kit, but who you're playing, and their relationships with NPCs. Loath as I am to quote metal all over this blog, perhaps Marilyn Manson has something to say about roleplaying when he sings "without the threat of death, there's no reason to live at all."

Guest Review: The Witcher 2. Courtesy of Draconas

Otherwise known as: CD Project Red need to play Dragon Age 2.

I've just finished Witcher 2, and have very mixed feelings about it:

On the plus side:
* Good story.
* I like the world
* Once again very few "right" decisions. Lots of picking the lesser of 2 evils.
* Geralt is cool.
* Less sex, this time every woman in the game is not despirate to screw geralt until his eyes pop out.
* They worked the returning memories and unfolding plot in very well, making me hopeful for number 3.

On the minus sides:
The user experience is dire.
Lets start with to of combat: there is massive lag in doing things in conversations or the shop screen. Going through a door frequently takes multiple attempts, trying to make potions when you have no idea of what ingredients you actually have and how many of a specific type, ending up accidently buying several copies of a craft recipe because there is no way of automatically telling, you have to manually find them in your inventory. The "storage locations" are not explained and poorly marked so are very easy to miss, leading to your carrying around all your crafting items on the off chance they will be useful.

Oh and lets come back to that: crafting recipies in chapter 3 which requires items from chapters 1 and 2, if you haven't collected them or sold them because they had no use, sucks to be you.

Numerous quests with no map markers or helpers, leading to large portions of time of frustrating searching and doubling back.

moving about to make the auto-focuser lock onto a specific item is also a pain, leading to 30 seconds back and forth to be able to collect a key item.

Oh and no real intro / tutorial, you get thrown in at the deep end and expected to learn fast. Or in my case die a lot, because i accidently went straight to dragon fighting, which is very unforgiving and has large amounts of "be 100% right or die instantly" moments.

There is a backstab mechanic: hit someone from behind and do double damage, including on you... combine this with an auto-targetting system that makes geralt leap through enemies and engage the one at the back and you go from winning to game over in half a second flat. Buying the talent that reduces this is mandatory just to overcomes the games own stupidity.

Several enemies can STRIKEDOWN lock geralt, leading to the same problem.

See control lag: makes using grenades very much not fun.

Don't get me startewd that the entire control itnerface has been designed for an Xbox 360... I am a PC user, I have 30 keys and 5 mouse buttons, let me fucking use them rather than having to use your quick menu that pauses my game every few seconds.

Oh an inconsistent key/mouse buttons for different sections frequently ends up with accessing the main menu when you want to go back.

Most of them would be individually small things and easy to overlook, but combined together they take the fun off a lot of the game. Don't get me wrong, I had a lot of enjoyment from it, but especially when I compare it to dragon age 2 - and specifically the refinements they made from dragon age 1 to cut out the less fun bits, Witcher 2 seems not to have learned any lessons, and takes what could have been a great game down to only an above average game.

I want to play through again to play the other main plot path, but I just can't take the pain a second time.