BLOG Swords Withdrawal & Witchery

Can’t get enough swords and mud? John Cooper overdoses on Ned, Geralt and mature fantasy

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After realising I was suffering Game Of Thrones withdrawal, and with only SFX ’s coverage of Merlin to keep me sated with some sword-based eye candy, I decided I’d allow myself to fork out for the Witcher 2 , after a reasonably chaste spring of trying-not-to-play-games-all-the-time. Not an easy decision to make as the the first Witcher game took me a years to complete due to its rock hard monsters and very little explanation on what your character, Geralt of Rivia, was supposed to do with all the herbs, oils, tongues and guts he cut out and picked up went along. As role-playing games go, I was killed horribly and very often trying to work out what to do and yet kept going back for more. Why? Because it was beautiful.

Similar to Game Of Thrones , The Witcher is based on a series of successful novels and centres on one of the few remaining “Witchers”, a freelance fighter of evil wielding magic, potions two different swords – one for men, one for monsters – which adds a mild obsessive compulsive overtone to the killing as you try to remember which is the right one to pull out and rub diamond dust on. With the second game adding stuff like “persuasion” into the gameplay conversations, in another universe he’s the coolest Jedi Knight you’ll never see.

Like the first game, The Witcher 2 does a great job of world building and you can smell the love that’s been poured into to it, adding detail to the smallest and simplest things, offering a credible fantasy world of dice poker, politics, magic and sex…but it’s still rock hard, with the opening tutorial levels showing how the fighting works by pitting you against some guards while being chased by a large dragon. It’s hard to see what you’re doing when you’re on fire…and I’m dead again.
Bugger, I really should leave this game alone, but it looks so gorgeous and was programmed in direct X9 which is really old but gives me that warm fuzzy feeling from when games were all about clever programming and squeezing whole games into 48k of ram.

I’m not easily put off. I thought I’d run off into the Flotsam forest and kill some spiders, a bit of grind, that usually make you a bit harder and levels you up a bit. I see a spider, but am killed outright by a trap on the ground before it even gets to me. Stick to the town where its safe? Oh no, there’s a big fat bloke wants to kill me and chases the length of the town. Go to the tavern and have a drink with some guards. That’s a safe mission right? Oh, I’ve woken up next to the river with no clothes or weapons.

There’s a refreshing harshness to The Witcher 2 . It clearly requires a bit of hardcore devotion. On telly I did try Camelot , but I’m such a fan of Merlin it felt like a dirty affair. Now I’m now worried when Merlin returns I’ll be so sullied by the dirt and tears of Geralt, the sheer over eighteenness of Game Of Thrones and making the missus watch the bad man chop the horses head off at the joust in King’s Landing, I’ll need something a bit more wholesome.

Come on Merlin , Saturday teatime awaits.

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