Saturday, May 5, 2012

Howl of the White Wolf

Science fiction gaming, with the often poor knowledge of the writers regarding their topic, sometimes cannot avoid the pitfalls of countless clichés. The analogy of gaming as filmmaking is suitable, as many game developers often find themselves relying on proven formulas. In hindsight, Mass Effect 3 was not remarkable in and of itself, but perhaps because it was connected to the first two. Sci-fi, in gaming at least, perhaps in general, may have become a trite arena where new ideas are scarce.

There's arguably more inventiveness in the medieval fantasy genre, in the gaming world, than in the cyberpunk of science fiction. You need look no further than The Witcher 2: Enhanced Edition, for some strong evidence. In TW2 EE, we get two additional quests in the once-anemic third act, as well as new animated cinematics and additional cut-scenes. It all comes together to create a more thorough and polished TW2 experience, including new music tracks by Adam Skorupa & Krzysztof Wierzynkiewicz.
The fantasy genre is seen by many as a response to modernism; there's a microcosm of books, series, movies and games centered around medieval fantasy, which may well tell the same story, but do so from cleverly diverse angles. The Witcher series is comprised by more than simple games; it is folklore packed in a game disc, with its visually and thematically arresting Polish vistas. The racial tensions and political back-stabbings echo the books faithfully, the consequences of allegiances are depicted, and gender roles as well as socioeconomic factors are also explored.
As far as additions go, the Arena offers a nice change of pace, by providing battles against humans and creatures in a small coliseum. The companion characters are well developed and even the voice acting for such small endeavor is quite good. Were I still the owner of an Xbox, I'd buy this game twice, one for playing and another for it to sit on the shelf, likely being the best rpg on the system.
The new quests in the third act are of interest; Lilies and Vipers, from Roche's path, introduces some aristocratic characters and intrigues from King Foltest's court, and stands out for me, as good voice performances are always welcome. There is a new forest area as well. The Secrets of Loc Muinne, in Iorveth's path, takes place under the city, and feels a bit claustrophobic, too dark for my taste. The fact that the content is situated near the end, does make a new play-through more desirable.
Technically, however, CDPR floundered, as updating to the EE is utterly clunky. The much-loved developer surely can make remarkable games, but when it comes to glitches they may rank number one as well; the update is larger than the game itself. The Witcher 3 will be interesting for the developer, as this second entry was designed with consoles in mind, if we are to be honest. A worthy sequel to the PC masterpiece.