The Witcher:
Presentation

By Shamus Posted Friday Aug 1, 2008

Filed under: Game Reviews 165 comments

When Oblivion came out, my poor little computer couldn’t handle it. With the help of Oldblivion I eventually managed to stagger through to the end of the game. I later upgraded, and went through the game again with acceptable framerates, although only if I had the visuals turned down to “eye-gouging ugly”. Now here I am with a brand new graphics card that can handle Oblivion with a nice framerate and all the fancy visuals turned up. But of course I’m done with Oblivion. Time to find another RPG.

Brace yourself, because I’m about to be very mean to the game everyone seems to love so much. Mellow out, listen to some new age music. Do whatever you have to do to keep from freaking out. If you just can’t bear seeing The Witcher take a few roundhouse kicks to its pasty wrinkled face then you’d best look away. Maybe go read my comic instead. It’s about World of Warcraft, and nobody cares when I abuse that thing.

So I fire up The Witcher and it’s the same damn nightmare from Oblivion all over again. This game does not look appreciably better than Oblivion. Okay, the character models look better, but the Oblivion models were notoriously ugly. You didn’t need technology to improve on those. You just needed decent art direction.

But The Witcher runs like an inebriated John Madden trying to run in the Boston marathon while pulling a busload of other John Maddens. The game is unplayable at the default settings. If I turn everything down I can get the game to look very terrible and still stutter quite a bit. Let me make this clear: At these settings the game looks far worse than Oblivion and yet still somehow runs slower. Considering that Oblivion was an appalling glutton when it came to GPU cycles, that’s really saying something. What is the game doing with my processor? Building fractals? Trying to find the last digit of Pi?

I know I just had a huge rant on this the other day, but this is such a perfect illustration of the problem that I can’t resist. I’m within the system requirements (on the low side, but I’m still in) and I have to make the game look horrible just to make it quasi-playable, and even then it chokes and pukes all over itself when I get into a fight. (You know, when frame rate is most crucial.) The phrase “Minimum System Requirements” has morphed from its original meaning and has come to denote the minimum system on which you can install the game without it killing anybody or starting a fire. But even if I had the hardware to run the game, it doesn’t look that much better than the last generation of games. Which means we’re now spending hundreds of dollars to upgrade our machines so just to run in place, visually.

(An even more appropriate comparison is against Jade Empire. The areas are about the same size, except Jade Empire looks far better, runs silky smooth, and its loading screens are brief and rare.)

This is on top of other inexplicable slowdowns, like that fact that the entire game locks up for two seconds when you hit the map button. It takes so long you might be forgiven for impatiently hitting the button again while you’re waiting. In which case when the map does finally get around to making an appearance it will instantly turn off again. And no matter how often you bring the sucker up, the game never gets the idea that maybe it would be a good idea to keep the thing in memory. No, the game slams into a brick wall every time you want a glimpse. A simple static map. A 2D map. It doesn’t even fill the screen. I know it’s my job to find funny ways to point out things are stupid, but they’ve really bested me this time. I’ve got nothing that can do this justice.

But even without these performance shortcomings, the game is plagued by presentation issues. Every door knocks you in the face with a tedious loading screen. No matter how small the interior space, the game needs ten seconds or so to get it ready for you. This is really annoying when you’ve got a quest to talk to a couple of different people in different houses, which happens all the time. Interacting with NPCs becomes a sort of punishment in a setup like this.

Which brings me to the sometimes off-kilter rhythm of the dialog, which I’m assuming is an unfortunate artifact of the translation from Polish. You click on someone. Then the screen fades out as it enters “dialog” mode. Then it fades in on the person you’re talking to. Then there’s this pause of a half second while they stare at you blankly. Then they speak, “Hi there.” Then there’s another pause. Then they wave. Then the view cuts to Geralt. Pause. “Hello to you as well.” Pause. Change view back to the NPC. Pause. “What can I do for you?” Pause. Back to Geralt. Then the dialog menu appears. It’s like seeing a power point presentation of the conversation. Lots of people complain about the voice acting in the game, but I think the voice acting is probably fine, it’s just that the delivery is sometimes borked. You could have Ian McKellen and Judy Dench doing the vocals and they would still sound like a couple of retarded androids with their voices coming out of these blank-faced people and with little pauses added in to make it sound like they forgot their lines. It doesn’t always do this, but it happens often enough to hurt the storytelling.

And finally we have the interface. I’ll admit: I picked up this game specifically because Yahtzee lambasted the thing for being too complicated. As someone who has railed against the stupification of RPGs to make them playable on a gamepad I was instantly sold. Finally! A game with some depth!

But complexity is not depth and The Witcher has too much of the former and not enough of the latter. I really feel bad for picking on the game for this, since they’re obviously going for depth, and I want to encourage game developers when they do good things like this. But the interface is just too cluttered. It’s far denser than (say) World of Warcraft, but all that complexity doesn’t really translate into more gameplay activities. The Hero screen has fifteen sub-panels. The Journal screen has eight. There are some screens that only appear when you’re resting at a fire. (As opposed to them simply being disabled, they just don’t appear, which is really confusing at first.) The alchemy is kind of cool, but it’s also more obtuse than it needs to be. Alchemy and milkmaid-screwing seem to be the only two non-questing activities in the game, which is pretty shallow given the fact that the interface is about as complicated as piloting the space shuttle.

Yet despite the complexity I never felt like I had access to the information I needed. What the heck is Toxicity? There is a bar for it right under the health meter. The tooltip explains that “Excessive Toxicity adversely affects Geralt”, which I managed to deduce all by myself. But how does it affect him? What makes Toxicity go up and how do I decrease it? Rest? A potion? A tryst with a bored housewife? More questions come to mind: Do I earn XP for killing monsters? How much damage am I doing? How can I tell if I’m using the right fighting style for the given monster? Despite all the screens and tutorial messages in the game I never felt like I knew how things worked.

People keep telling me to keep playing, that the game gets better. Apparently if I can suffer through enough of the dreary busywork at the start I’ll reach the part that’s all rainbows and chocolate bars. But the game is racking up some serious “not fun” deficit in the meantime, and at this point the game needs to come up with something really spectacular to counterbalance the slow start. After this much drudgery, the game would have to let me relive the alleyway scene from Spider-Man, where Toby Mcguire beats up the thugs and then hangs upside down with his mask halfway off so I can kiss him.

I’ve seen some flashes of inspiration along the way, and I’ll probably cover those in an upcoming post, but right now they seem too few and far between. Occasionally the game presents you with an interesting bit of dialog or a thought-provoking situation, but then the moment ends and I’m back to being a greaseball adventuring philanderer on an epic quest to catch some dude who stole our little box of witching knickknacks. Or something.

Luckily for The Witcher, RPGs are nearly extinct on the PC. This game can suck as much as it wants, because there aren’t really any alternatives out there right now.

In anticipating the approaching angry comments from Witcher fans, let me just say that “your computer sucks” is not an adequate defense. I can think of no better punishment for misleading minimum requirements than to simply review the game on one of those machines. If publishers don’t like the beating they get, maybe they’ll actually playtest the thing and give us some realistic requirements in the future. In addition, they could try designing games to be fun instead of designing games to produce sexy screenshots. Either way, they asked for this.

Especially with that map business. What the hell. That’s just shameful.

 


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165 thoughts on “The Witcher:
Presentation

  1. Wood says:

    So are you looking forward to Dragon Age by Bioware (hoping for no securom)? It reminds me a lot of Baldur’s Gate and will fill our PC RPG needs, hopefully.

  2. Matt K says:

    The only thing I can say is that this was a first time developer (unlike Bethesdasoft) and they are apparently in the works to release a patch to take care of some of the optimization problems (load for example). That said, I never got past the intro level in the demo because I couldn’t figure out what I was doing and the game crashed frequently when I loaded it (or took forever to get past the intro screens).

  3. Shamus says:

    Mass Effect had online activation, so I imagine DA will as well.

    I’ll probably check out those games once I acquire an XBox 360.

  4. Shamus says:

    If they take care of the optimization problems it will GREATLY reduce my ire towards this game. I can put up with clunky interfaces and stiff dialog, but the load times and lurching gameplay are the real joy killers.

    I hope they do that.

  5. Patrick says:

    I have yet to play this game but it is one I have had an eye on. I am dissapointed to hear your descriptions of the slow load times and bad visuals. However, there is hope. To echo what another poster has said, CD Projekt will be releasing an enhanced edition of the game to attempt to resolve many of these concerns. From Wikipedia:

    At GDC 2008, CDProjekt announced an enhanced version of the game which is to be released on September 16, 2008. The significant changes expected to be featured in the enhanced version are new animations, additional NPC models, expanded and corrected dialogues in translated versions, improved stability, and load times reduced by roughly 80%. This update will be available as a free download for owners of the current version.

    I plan to wait for the enhanced edition to come out and then maybe give it a shot.

  6. Factoid says:

    Wood: Good luck hoping for no SecuROM…if SecuROM and online activation are a dealbreaker for you…I wouldn’t hold out hope for playing a lot of BioWare games in the future.

  7. DosFreak says:

    You can play Mass Effect just fine without having to deal with DRM. Just have to download the Mass Effect executable without the DRM. :)

    Unfortunately I don’t know if I the DLC will work without DRM so I haven’t risked it yet.

    Mass Effect doesn’t do much for me anyway so I doubt I’ll bother.

  8. dadrox says:

    There used to be a time when “minimum requirements” actually meant that the would actually work well and led to some really great gaming.

    Nowadays it’s toeing the line of damn-near-false-advertising. Frankly, many games of today have been huge letdowns for me, so my favorite hobby had moved toward the back burner. *sigh*

  9. Blackbird71 says:

    Hey Shamus,

    A tip from someone else who has frequently had to stretch his system to get some games to run semi-smoothly: What is your page file size set to? This is one of those little things that a lot of people overlook, and in my experience a properly set page file can really help things move along.

    Of course, it could be that The Witcher is just that graphic intensive and unforgiving of lower systems. I wouldn’t know, I haven’t tried it. Either way, this would at least help with other games.

  10. Kevin says:

    As a non-player of The Witcher I don’t care if you kick it… though it does seem like maybe “new game with high-end tech specs=bad review from Shamus.” Of course you have a lot of other legitimate gripes in addition to the obviously screwed up “minimum specs.”

    I am wondering if there is any consideration that a game company might provide a high-end gaming computer in order to avoid an auto-lashing about it being unplayable on a lesser machine? It seems a bit incongruous to be considered a game reviewer and yet unable to play most games as they were intended. (Perhaps better to include playability at minimum specs as PART of a review.)

    Of course, in the larger issue, I completely agree that playing to the bleeding edge is a flawed strategy for game designers overall. Lesser graphics combined with greater ingenuity (WoW, for example) seems to be the winning combo. I am sure this is the overriding point.

  11. Eric says:

    It sucks that DA isn’t going to be on the ps3, it looks really cool, but I’m not going to buy an xbox just for that game. I’m not surprised by your follow up on the game, to me it didn’t sound interesting, but I might check out the books.

  12. Juha says:

    I never really understood why some people find the interface to be complicated, dunno if it’s just me, but imo it’s pretty simple. The journal for one is excellent, there’s all kinds of information about the world, the characters and just about anything. The quests also have a pretty detailed section, and you can customize what quests it shows and how pretty much how you want.

    Toxicity isn’t really explained well until it’s high enough, then you get some kind of a tutorial screen. You get toxicity from drinking potions and it goes away when you rest, or drink a potion that’s made to lower tox levels. When the tox level reaches 100, you die.

    “More questions come to mind: Do I earn XP for killing monsters? How much damage am I doing? How can I tell if I'm using the right fighting style for the given monster?”

    Now that’s easily fixed, enable combat texts from options and you’ll get floating text messages about how much dmg you do and how much you get xp from killing monsters. You can also see how much you need xp for the next lvl in the top left corner, there’s this blue ring around the medallion that fills up.

    Imo the interface is pretty simple if you just take your time and try to understand it, but maybe that’s just me.

    Oh, and about styles, check your journal’s monster section, you collect information there about monsters from books and from talking to people, the descriptions usually tell what what styles and signs are effective against each monster.

  13. qrter says:

    Well, the load- and save times were my biggest gripe with the game. They took FOREVER. Seeing as there’s a loadscreen whenever you enter a new building or area, it gets excruciatingly irritating. And when you can take a short vacation while your quicksaving, it moves you close to the point of crying.

    As I understand it, those load and savetimes have been improved slightly since I played it but are still pretty awful. Supposedly the Enhanced Edition will be a lot better.

    You’re right about the engine too – they’re using the NWN 2 engine, which was already an unruly beast in its earlier version.

    I also see where you’re coming from with the information management, although I managed to figure out most of it while playing (you know, the idea that everytime you inbibe a potion, doesn’t matter which, your toxity goes up, which effectively makes it a limiter to how many effects you can have going at the same time) – that’s no excuse, btw, it should be easily available to the player, it just didn’t bother me that much, personally.

    The halted dialogue thing is something I come across in most games, really. Strange bits of silence between sentences, as if someone’s waiting for the other to finish, then thinks up a response and says it.

  14. Sigma says:

    And yet sometimes minimum requirements can be misleading in the other way. I bought Crysis, and it plays fine on normal settings, even though if the minimum setting requirements thing was correct my PC would be exploding.

  15. khorboth says:

    There’s really no excuse for loading screens. You’d think that these people could manage to get ONE MMORPG programmer onboard. Somehow games like Vanguard are able to deliver a huge world including many enemies, NPCs, buildings, etc. with no loading screens. There is the occasional skip as you move from one “chunk” to another, but they are rarely more than 2 seconds and frequently nonexistent. And they manage to deliver this with most of the data being pulled through the intertubes. It seems pretty darn clear to me that loading screens are an unnecessary dinosaur of eras past, yet they keep cropping up. Between this and the DRM issues, I’m debating on weather I really want to re-install NWN2 on my new rig.

  16. Sitte says:

    it does seem like maybe “new game with high-end tech specs=bad review from Shamus.”

    I’m pretty sure that’s true only if they lie about the minimum system requirements. Games that are made and advertised with truly high-end requirements are not purchased in the Young household.

    People can debate whether or not these minimum system requirements are actual ‘lies’ or not. Personally, I think the minimum requirements listed for The Witcher fall into the “blatant and intentional deception” category.

    …the same category that an unfaithful guy uses when his girl says “Are you sleeping with someone else?” and he says “No… (not at this very second. I’m talking with you).”

  17. James Pony says:

    It would seem to me that right after the link to the Zero Punctuation review, you got into Yahtzee mode. I heard his voice reading that text! And it reads almost exactly like the real thing! What the hell!

  18. Strangeite says:

    I love the idea that game reviewers should all start reviewing games that are played upon the minimum system requirements.

    If only handful of reviewers began doing this for every game, I think you would see a change very quickly.

  19. JKjoker says:

    i have a dual core2 duo and nvidia7600GT and i finished the game without any patch (the patch makes it run slightly better) running it at 1650×1080 with everything on except AA, and, with the exception of the opening, and 2 battles during the game that had some fog, the game is playable, and those bad parts became perfectly playable after i reduced just one option (sorry, i forgot which), the loading times were murder tho

    to qrter: they are using a heavily modified NWN1 engine (the script part) with a self made graphic engine

  20. Cthulhu says:

    Funny, my computer runs Witcher fine (except for the load times), yet I still have to run Oldblivion to get oblivion to not crash.
    Or I would, if I hadn’t ditched Oblivion and gone back to Morrowind, like a sensible person.
    I’m fine with you kicking the game for performance problems, even though I’m a fan. Whatever else may be good about it, they deserve a thrashing for not making it run properly.

  21. Derek K says:

    @Shamus:

    “It's about World of Warcraft, and nobody cares when I abuse that thing.”

    Um, I refer you to the WoW threads, which seem to have created Spicy Shamus. :p

    “After this much drudgery, the game would have to let me relive the alleyway scene from Spider-Man, where Toby Mcguire beats up the thugs and then hangs upside down with his mask halfway off so I can kiss him.”

    I *think* being on the Tobey Mcguire side might be better in this case. You get to beat stuff up, then still get the kiss, rather than just watching. Also, does anyone really want to kiss Tobey Mcguire? I’m not even sure Mrs. Tobey Mcguire wants to do that….

    Also, the very first thing imdb says about Tobey Mcguire is that his parents were unwed when he was born. Odd.

    @Kevin:

    “It seems a bit incongruous to be considered a game reviewer and yet unable to play most games as they were intended.”

    If you mean Shamus, he ain’t no reviewer. He’s a guy with a blog.

    If you mean in general, I think the fact that you have to consider sending a PC with your game indicates that UR DOIN IT RONG.

  22. qrter says:

    I love the idea that game reviewers should all start reviewing games that are played upon the minimum system requirements.

    If only handful of reviewers began doing this for every game, I think you would see a change very quickly.

    I really like that idea, too. If only if it would help stop the minimum requirements-scam as it’s operating today.

    to qrter: they are using a heavily modified NWN1 engine (the script part) with a self made graphic engine

    You’re right, my mistake. But that makes it even worse, really! ;)

    If you mean in general, I think the fact that you have to consider sending a PC with your game indicates that UR DOIN IT RONG.

    Yes, I think such a PC would be called a ‘console’, anyway.

  23. McNutcase says:

    I remember a time when “minimum requirements” were realistic. Heck, on my ancient Wintendo of a laptop (almost nine years old now, and never needed anything replaced – there have been replacements, but those have been upgrades of working parts, not replacements of broken parts), I have installed at least two games for which it is technically *below* minimum requirements, and both the ones I’m thinking of play perfectly happily. One of them, I’ve even got the “pretty” sliders turned up.

    Bah. Tabletop RPGs only specify numbers of faces on your dice, and players can surprise you a lot better than a computer can. Where’s that box lid, house rule is all dice get rolled in there, and any dice coming out means you re-roll the whole handful, no matter if the dice that stayed in were great…

  24. Duffy says:

    My biggest gripe with it was the horrible load times and occasionally buggy play. For some reason it would just arbitrarily crash for no reason that I could duplicate. Sometimes it would be fine, sometimes it would crash 5 mins in or 3 hours.

    The game was just not interesting enough to put up with it’s issues and I never finished it. Was kinda sad cause it was at least a novel approach to Hack/Slash RPGs.

  25. Danath says:

    That is why I made my suggestion for waiting for ENhanced edition, I kept having to put the game away and come back to it later because of the loading times and technical stutters… which were WORSE when I was playing it Shamus, theyve patched it some since then.

    I personally nver experienced the problems with the map and such on my old computer, but I think I was a bit above the min specs.

    Toxicity is explained in the manual, should always read the manual, lots dont because its “too thick” or “game should explain everything. If your toxicity goes too high you DIE.

    Also I dont think this is mentioned anywhere, Act 1 has a level cap… I dont remember the level, but after you kill enough baddies, youll just stop gaining xp.

    Comment sounds jolted, just woke up, groggy, but alot of your points are the same complaints most people had with the game.

  26. Fosse says:

    This game is the first time that I can’t even see where you’re coming from. Now, for the loading times and minimum requirements I’m entirely on board. I was lucky enough that my computer didn’t choke on the load times, but people with better than mine did. I experienced frequent crashes that plagued the Vista crowd before the patch.

    I had a system capable of running higher settings very smoothly, so our experience here differed. But my Oblivion experience was exactly like yours and I completely agree that it’s ridiculous that a “minimum specs” computer can’t run the game well enough to play.

    But then you went on to talk about the scarcity of information and the bad interface. Those would have been two features in the game I’d have praised if I were writing this.

    “The Hero screen has fifteen sub-panels. The Journal screen has eight.”

    I’m perplexed. I don’t have the game installed right now, as I’m waiting for the Enhanced Edition to give it another play through. But I’m looking at a shot of the Hero screen right now and, just as I recalled, there no sub panels.

    There are fifteen Attributes, arrayed down the left hand side of the screen. But they don’t lead to their own screens or anything. Surely you aren’t complaining that the interface includes the fifteen Attributes on the Hero Screen? I’d love if you could clarify that point for me.

    About the Journal:
    This is the best in-game journal I’ve ever used. Instead of just a place to list your quests, it gives detailed notes on all the players you meet that update throughout the game as you interact with and learn more about them. It keeps track of all the game lore you come upon, and provides a wealth of details about monsters.

    It has eight panels, yes, but I don’t see that as a problem since they are basically information filters. The panels are things like Quests, Characters, Locations, Glossary, etc. Each provides a wealth of information on its topic, and even keeps track of those entries you haven’t read yet since they were updated or added. The only thing it’s missing in my opinion is a Notes section so I can type my own notes into the thing.

    And the various questions you asked above (which fighting style against which monsters, where you get toxicity and how to beat it, etc) I recall being covered very well by the journal and tutorials. The effect of a high toxicity is not spelled out at any point, and I remember wanting it to be. But the first time I drank too many potions I saw the effects myself and that was that.

    This is also the first game I’ve played where I actually enjoyed Alchemy. It seems that at some point gamers and developers decided that if you can’t make your own potions it’s a substandard RPG. So everyone just throws a bunch of flowers and weeds at you and lets you make magic soft drinks, regardless of whether it makes sense to do so. And ignoring the fact that picking flowers really isn’t that much fun at all.

    In my experience it’s either boring (Oblivion) or painful (NWN2). And it never seems to add to gameplay.

    In The Witcher it makes sense according to the story and actually was compelling to me. So just by virtue of not sucking it’s the best system I have personally experienced. The fact that the potions are mostly unique and useful, and come with interesting pros and cons, made the system compelling to me. I spent a lot of time concocting various potions and oils (I never bothered with bombs too much). I also liked that you could get most of the benefits of Alchemy and not have to think about it too much by simply double clicking the potion recipe in the Alchemy screen and letting the game pick your ingredients. Or you could spend time adding secondary effects and considering your drinking orders and ingredient scarcity.

    All that aside, the interface was not — even in my opinion — perfect. The two things I can think of without installing the game are the Inventory screen and the Alchemy screen’s lack of a “Rebrew last potion” button. The second bit would be a huge hassle saver for people who are interested in secondary effects and so on. The first thing though is a big one.

    The Inventory screen though is pretty bad. The tooltips cover a large amount of the screen, which is fine, but they pop up in somewhat random locations according to where your mouse is. This means that if you’re trying to sort through your items a giant black box is constantly popping in and out and hiding whichever item you want to look at next. The tips are so big that they should all pop up in one place that doesn’t obscure your inventory. Also, you’ll be carrying lots of potions, ingredients, books, and doodads, and it would be extremely helpful to have either a filter to only see certain things at once, or a button to sort your items by category. Preferably both.

  27. Nick C says:

    Just to clarify some things, three patches have been released since the game came out last year, and many of the optimization issues have been greatly fixed. Also, the game does not run on the NWN2 engine. Both NWN2 and Witcher use the Aurora engine which is the NWN1 engine. Witcher was in the works since before NWN2 was announced.

    As far as toxicity, this is explained in the manual, though I can’t remember if the game exlained it tutorial-wise. Basically, the more potions you drink, the higher your toxicity and you need to camp to reduce it. There are certain ways to make potions that give you less toxicity, but that is getting deep into the alchemy system. It’s a way to prevent a person from drinking every potion in their inventory at one time, sort of like Oblivion’s arbitrary 4 potion at a time limit.

    As for the dialogue, I completely agree. I can sense that the game has a great story, but the stilted voice acting does leave something to be desired. Enhanced edition is supposed to fix this, and if you bought the original game, you get the upgrade for free.

    As for the system requirements thing, I have mixed feelings. I perfectly agree that minimum requirements should at least allow you to play the game with low graphics settings at a playable framerate; doesn’t seem too much to ask. On the other hand, I do have a nice system that I spent a decent amount of money on, and I prefer it when games push themselves so I am actually using my hardware.

  28. Danath says:

    Shamus misunderstands everyones disagreement with him on the first article, very few had anything to do with “fanboyishness”, although a few Shamus fanboys popped up (Can I call you Big S?).

    @Fosse
    I didnt agree with everything either, but admittedly once you figure out what it all DOES it makes sense, first time you see those pages its a bit overwhelming.

    Usually you can tell what fighting style to use just based on how the monsters move, or if they take very little damage or avoid your attacks. I have to reinstall the game, but I think you can see health bars as well, so it wasnt a problem to tell if you were using the wrong fighting style (Heres a tip, use the wind knockdown and stab them while they are on the ground).

  29. Luke Maciak says:

    I really do hope more people wills start reviewing under lowest minimum requirements possible.

    Then they would have to start putting realistic requirements on the box and watch their sales plummet because of that.

  30. TehShrike says:

    Shamus, are you going to be spending some time with Space Siege when it comes out? It does seem to tend towards the Diablo/Dungeon Siege idea of an RPG, but I’m looking forward to it.

  31. Doug Brown says:

    So you don’t want to kiss Matt Damon on the mouth, but kissing Toby Maguire is your idea of a reward?

    You’re not just spicy, you’re . . . in heat?

  32. Fenix says:

    I found that the 1.2 patch greatly reduced loading times and fixed lots of the lagg (stuttering if you prefer). Also I don’t know how many people mentioned this but the enhanced edition will be coming out soon which is supposed to improve the dialogue, animations, load times (to like nothing from what they are saying, 1 second or so.), stability, 2 new campaigns, better combat, umm… etc. etc. etc…

    Also for people who already own the game all the improvements will be released in an albeit large patch. (free of course)

    I remember I had a good deal of fun with this game when it first came out but I also see your points. What are your system specs if you don’t mind me asking.

    nvidia geforce 256mb 7600gt, 3.2ghz p4 ht, 2gig ram (1gig when I was first playing), 7200rpm hd.

    Oh and toxicity is gained when you drink alchemical potions with the exception of potions that decrease said stat. Adverse affects being things like stat reductions. Also just to get this out Geralt isn’t all that old really, the old look was his side effect of mutation during the process of becoming a witcher (better than death if you ask me) as well as the reason women are will to get screwed by him is because he is impotent and wont get any of them pregnant. Think of the story as a folk tale before it became watered down by…….. who watered them down?

  33. Huckleberry says:

    I’am eagerly anticipating a new single player RPG called “Drakensang”. The rules are based on the (German) pen-and-paper RPG system “The Dark Eye”, and it comes with a very detailed fantasy world wiht a rich history. Combat will be round-based, and you’re leading a party.

    It has been released in Germany today; they’ve started translation into English, it’ll be just a few more months, from what I’ve heard.

    More here:
    http://www.drakensang.com/

  34. Martin says:

    Thanks to this review I’ve made up my mind and am going out to pick up “Deadliest Catch: Alaskan Storm”.

    /am not

  35. Nevermind says:

    Re: slowness – well what did you expect from eastern european developers? Of course it would be slow as hell! OK, that was a joke, and seriousy the game is rather sluggish. And not that beatiful. Although my computer seem to handle it, and it’s not really top of the line.

    Re: Access to the information. I distincly recall seeing all the info you mention – on Toxicity, on monster XP, etc. It’s probably in the journal, there is a section there called “Learning” or somesuch.
    I heard recently that English translation of the game is really bad. And has things missing, that might explain the lack of information you describe. And I must agree that interface is really needlessly complicated. Or rather, the “informational” interface is complicated; the one that you see on screen most of the time is actually pretty decent.

    This game sure has a lot of issues. But I really can forgive ANYTHING for just one scene – the judgement scene just before you enter Vyzima. That’s probably the best example of moral choice in a game since Fallout. Screw that, it’s just the best ever.
    I hope there’s more of that later in the game – I’ve just started playing.

  36. Nillo says:

    It’s funny how you say that computer RPGs are extinct and that there’s no alternative, because I’m playing one right now and it came out just yesterday – The Spirit Engine 2. It doesn’t have fancy 3D, but it has incredible depth in gameplay, which is what you say you’re looking for. Do you keep an eye on the independent development scene?

  37. Arzar says:

    Shamus, I strongly recommend you to wait for the Enhanced Edition. Not really for the optimization or more diverse characters look, but for the updated English translation.

    Because, unfortunately CDProjekt screwed up somewhere in the translation process, and each script, except the polish one of course, were shortened by 30% ! They will correct the English translation and re-record about 5000 lines of dialog to address this issue in the Enhanced Edition.

    Source: An interview with Michal Medej, the game's Chief Designer.

    And: The Witcher Enhanced Edition ““ fact sheet

    From the interview :
    “What caused the significant, let's say “differences”, between the Polish and English dialogue in the original game?

    It was hard lesson to be learned for us ““ the localization process. At beginning of the development we had to make production estimates for the amount of English text to be recorded, and we based it on our experiences with Polish localizations. The assumption we made was that, as Polish text after translation from English is usually about 20% longer, the reverse translation would be shorter by a similar amount. We just didn't realize that we were using different measures ““ number of pages and number of words. Because of how the English language works out, the resulting translation was way too much for recording, which came into play at the very last stage of development. We had a really short time to edit all of the English dialogues, shortening them by 30%. So basically, the original translation was really good; it was just trimmed due to production.”

    I gave a quick sample of how bad these cuts are, sometimes, here.

  38. Duffy says:

    I’ve noticed a minor trend in the comments (here and in other articles) with people forgiving the bugs because they were patched later. One of Shamus’ major points in all his critiques is that this should be considered shoddy programming, and as a SoftE myself, I agree with him in this regard.

    These issues should not exist, not in the quantity that they currently do. There are no valid reasons; often the excuse is that the publisher is trying to push a product out on an arbitrary deadline.

    The problem is not that it happens, the problem is that it is accepted.

  39. Danath says:

    @Duffy

    Yes, but his big complaint about Oblivion was they DID NOT finish patching it.

    These guys are relatively new, and are STILL fixing and patching this game, even so long after its released, fixing bugs, dialogue… and its all for free, you do not have to rebuy this game to get the better version. It is shoddy programming, but at least they are fixing it, and not just foisting it on us for a quick buck (Fable is really the best example I can think of). It isnt accepted, thus the fall of PC game sales, the people who SELL the games cant accept that DRM, bleeding edge graphics, and shoddy work are whats doing it, and making us overall more wary about purchasing garbage.

    I agree that it was shoddy program, I applaud that they are going the extra mile to get it all fixed.

    This is why people are saying “wait for the Enhanced Edition”, you dont have to, but youll run into a few technical problems, and the games #1 issue… loading screens.

  40. Gahaz says:

    Sup Danath,

    Thanks for mentioning me. I know, I must be a Shamus fanboy for making a joke(Big S indeed).

    Lord forbid I agree with him and say don’t let the Witcher fanboys get you down. That must instantly mean I’m a complete mindless person that follows everything Shamus says…

  41. Danath says:

    Yep, youll notice despite the last article nobody is lambasting Shamus for this part of his review, this does not point to fanboyism.

  42. Joerg Mosthaf says:

    Re. Drakensang:
    I installed Drakensang yesterday and played a bit with it – it looks very nice on my machine (c2d 2.6 GHz, Ati 4870). The art direction is nice – I don’t know how to describe it – it’s like if WoW is a cartoon and LotRO is a graphic novel then Drakensang looks to me like a watercolor. Very fairielike forests and outdoors and german “Altstadt” towns.
    The system is quite nice, but also very complex. I am not very familiar with the 4. ed DSA (Das schwarze Auge = the black eye) ruleset so it takes some getting used to. Alchemy, smithing, crafting … looks good – complex but simple to use. Magic is a bit strange – spells are just skills and the names of the spells are (typical for DSA) a bit heavy on the pseudo-latin(eg. “Fulminictus Donnerkeil (=thunderbolt)” as a lightning spell)
    Hope you’ll get a good translation, the german voice acting is quite good which is very refreshing after all those atrocious localizations (which I usually skip in favor of the original version).

  43. Dhruin says:

    There are *no* sub-panels on the Hero screen. None. Can you clarify, please?

    There is a section in the manual that clearly explains Toxicity. It’s a major heading under the Alchemy chapter, titled “Potion Side Effects”.

  44. Shamus says:

    Hero screen: Each and every attribute has its own screen (Str, Dex, Stam, etc)

    All the magic spells get a screen.

    Then you get a list of screens for your sword.

    Then the same list again, for the silver sword.

    If you’re trying to compare two skill trees to figure out which is the best one to sink points into, then you’ve gotta flip back and forth, reading tooltips.

    Spending points is needlessly counter-intuitive. At my first level up I kept clicking on the little circles and nothing was happening. Turns out there was only one skill I could but at that point, and it was at the very bottom and only a slightly different shade so it barely stood out from the others.

    The division of the sword into two different upgrade paths seems needless. Or at least, it doesn’t lead to INTERESTING decisions. It’s a coin-flip: Do I want to be better at fighting humans of monsters? Can I switch easily between the two at need? How many of each will I be facing? How much “better” is the silver over the steel at damaging monsters? 5% more damage? Double damage?

    The player doesn’t have the knowledge they need to spend the points wisely. When you DO spend points, it’s not “Oh boy! More power!” It’s “How am I supposed to tell if that’s even making any difference?”

    And level cap in act 1: Boo. :(

  45. Sharpie says:

    Good lord, the graphics slowdown. I can’t imagine why I needed to run at minimum settings to even get a decent frame rate. I had Oblivion at medium settings and it ran well, but the Witcher was just ridiculous.

    The loading screens were irritating as well, though I wasn’t bothered as much by the multiple sub-panels.

  46. Shamus says:

    And to people who keep saying “read the manual”:

    I played Galactic Civilizations without ever needing the manual. Is Geralt more complex that a Galactic Empire? Should he be?

    Which brings me back to my main point: For all this complexity I never feel like I’m making meaningful choices.

  47. Licaon_Kter says:

    why would you expect a complex interface to define complex choices?

    anyway, consequences will not be visible soon

    too bad that your system barely meets the Minimum spec, it ruins your gameplay :(

  48. Dhruin says:

    So, by “sub-panels” you mean the tool-tip -type displays?

  49. Licaon_Kter says:

    he means that each skill has a level tree when you click on the skill

  50. Danath says:

    My only comment on that point was about toxicity, but yeah Shamus, was a surprise for me too to hit the level cap. Ultimately these decisions actually arent as important as you might think, you can play the game with only one spec filled and the rest poorly maintained and still beat the game.

    Best just sink points based on your playstyle, one method is rarely any better than any others for any fight, this removes “meaningful” choices, but at the same time means theres no min-maxing.. you can play however you want and sink points into whatever you like. I personally took the “being drunk makes you immune to certain effects!” and carried booze around with me to drink anytime I encountered something I didnt recognize. This isnt required, but its how I played.

    And you never HAVE to refer to the manual… but the game doesnt tell you anything, how much this bugs you depends on the person, not me specifically, but it does for others.

    Silver wont matter much till later, but there is a noticable difference once you get it, by that point switching styles/weapons should come second nature anyways and you most likely wont notice… but right NOW, yes, its awkward.

    I really have nothing to do today.

  51. Anachronista says:

    A bad map can totally ruin a game for me, too.

  52. Gildan Bladeborn says:

    Ironically, considering the rant I just read about character customization being confusing, lots of people knocked the game for not really letting you design a unique character build. No really, at first it looks like you’re making these crucial decisions about which skill upgrades to buy, but as you keep leveling up you’ll find that you’ve exhausted all the bronze level skills you wanted and they keep giving you more bronze points.

    It works out that while individual players might very well have quite different selections in the higher tiers, pretty much all players will have the exact same selection of lower tier skills (pretty much all of them in other words).

    I always read manuals anyways, but I’d contend The Witcher gives you so many tutorial hints that you probably don’t need to. Also I can’t understand how having “too much information” that is also optional and interesting could possibly be something worth complaining about. Huzzah for information!

    My computer is only “decent” (Athlon 64 X2 4200 (which cost like 60 dollars), Ati x1950 pro, 3 gigs of PC 4200 DDR, first generation SATA hard drives), and I ran the game at 1152×864 with the textures on high and it didn’t stutter at all, and this was back before the 1.2 patch which massively improved the loading times and whatnot (I did scale back ansitropic filtering to 8x and turned off anti-aliasing though). I’m not going to argue that the whole “Minimum Requirements” thing can be deceptive (though I will point out that pretty much everyone just skips past that and reads the “Recommended Requirements” for a more realistic figure, not that this is justified or anything), but I am going to point out your computer apparently sucks. My condolences.

  53. Shamus says:

    Oh yeah – the Matt Damon vs. Toby McGuire joke: Wrote those weeks apart. (Today’s comic was done ages ago.) So it felt like it was a good time to use another “kissing boys” joke, only to have them both appear on the same day.

    This multi-threaded publishing is trickier than I thought. I keep wanting my reviews here to line up with my comics there, but the different paces makes this hard to pull off. And it exposes my penchant for recycling jokes.

    Ah well.

  54. Heph says:

    Hmmm…
    I’ll start off by saying I beat the entire game, without any patches, on a computer hat didn’t meet the recommended specs and was, in fact, below the minimum specs as far as CPU is concerned (but with a graphics card that’s better than recommended, I admit). I ran it easily at medium-to-high settings and it hardly ever stuttered or slowed (only at moment with lots happening at a time…). It looked a whole lot better than Oblivion imho.
    A. Loading screens: yes, these were a pest. One would think it’d be possible to at least keep the outside loaded into memory when you enter a house or something. Christ.

    B. Journal: lots of screens, yes…But also an incredible amount of story and background information. Do we need information about “the city folk” and “people of the village”? Of course not. Is it nice filler? Sure, at least as useful as all those books with stories in Oblivion (I’m a fan of Oblivion, but it’s an easy comparison). Having several tabs allows you to sift through information more readily and allows for quicker access to specific things. Imagine everything in just one big lump – it’d be confusing, hard to navigate, hard to read. It may be a bit clumsy, but it allows you to go to check up what weapon or sign will be most effective against each and every enemy, at the moment you encounter them, if you so wish. (as “A ghoul! Oh no! What will I use, silver or steel? Hmm, seems they’re particularly vulnerable to fire, I’ll use that”). It depends on personal preference, I guess ,but I found the tabs easy to navigate and easy to find what I was looking for, while still giving lots of information

    C. Levelling, map usage (it’s not just a flat 2D map!), experience earning: it’s in the manual. If you choose to paly a game without reading the manual, that’s your personal choice, but it’s there for a reason. You may be missing out on a bit here or there if you don’t read it. This game actually explains much/most in the prologue and Act I (which amount to one huge tutorial, pretty much), but hey.

    D. Inventory and hero screen: yup, the interface isn’t great. I got the hang of it after a while, but, yeah, it could’ve been handled better. It goes in the same style as the journal though: there’s a LOT of information there, and they wanted it easy to find by giving everything specific its own screen…And went overboard with that idea.

    E. (from your previous Witcher post, but since there’s this one now I’ll put it here): the personality. Gerald’s exactly the same amount of a blank character as the Nameless One in KotORII or Revan in KotOR. Yes, amnesia is a cheap trick, but it’s just a cliche way of having a “reknowned warrior” have to relearn silly skills and having to be re-introduced to old friends and allies. It’s either this, have a lot of exposition hammed into the dialogue, or have your character be a random peasant who “suddenly” becomes the greatest hero the world has ever known. There’s no good way to do it, just slightly better or worse. They chose this version for its compatibility with the books, so…Oh well.
    Still, it’s not quite true your character’s fixed. Much like KotOR, you can choose good/bad (with mostly shades of grey here), swords or magic, diplomatic or more hack’n’slashy. Your actions have consequences, and a LOT more than in the KotOR or NWN series. When they say your action have far-reaching consequences on the box, they mean it – one of the four main possible endings can be ruled out by the end of Act I.

    F. Though they’re not exactly incredibly interesting or time-filling, there’s barroom brawling, drinking contests and a cide game as sidegames, along with the milkmaid screwing and alchemy. It may not be the greatest selection, but it beats the options in both the KotOR games and Oblivion. (there’s also weapon upgrading and such, but that’s there in most games and isn’t all that big, anyway)

    G. The voice acting and translation isn’t too hot, agreed. Neither is it in a lot of Japanese games and anime, and it’s always incredibly annoying. let’s hope that gets fixed in the enhanced version.

    H. Sorry for the incredibly long post.

    Short version: I liked it, it wasn’t the greatest game ever, it certainly had flaws (and plenty of them), but it *was* a pretty solid game, and, in its category, I’m hard-pressed to find another game that didn’t have at least as many other flaws KotOR? NWN, Baldur’s Gate, Oblivion, Morrowind, they all came with heaps of bugs and flaws and inbalances). It’s one of the better RPGs to have come out since 2005, as far as I’m concerned.

  55. qrter says:

    I played Galactic Civilizations without ever needing the manual. Is Geralt more complex that a Galactic Empire? Should he be?

    Which brings me back to my main point: For all this complexity I never feel like I'm making meaningful choices.

    Sorry, Shamus, you lose me there.

    Saying you didn’t need to read the manual of another game won’t do it, even if you feel the other game is more “meaningful” in its complexity (I haven’t played Galactic Civilizations, so I might be completely in the wrong here, but from what I know you are comparing a 4X-like RTS to an RPG, which doesn’t seem fair – again, I might be wrong, if so, I apologise).

    If a game has a manual, you don’t read it and then you complain you don’t know what X does in a game – you are in the wrong, you should’ve read the manual. It really is as simple as that. It has nothing to do with complexity, there was a guide right there, you chose not to read it.

    You ask whether Geralt should be more complex than Galactic Civilizations.. well.. I figured the specific problem you point out on my own and I’m no genius! ;)

  56. Shamus says:

    No Qrter, the center of my point was that while the game was busy bulldozing metric tons of irrelevant nonsense and busywork into my face it couldn’t find the time to tell me what I really want to know.

    The gameplay here does NOT justify a manual the size of Microsoft Flight Simulator, and to dump the user into a morass of obscure buttons and unhelpful tootips and then tell them to read the manual is a joykiller. I’m here for a game, not a damn reading assignment.

    My point was that a properly designed interface would clearly communicate everything I needed to know. I got through KOTOR, Oblivion, and even FFX without needing to read a book.

    This game does not have more depth than those other games. It just has a horrible interface.

  57. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Heph:

    “I'm hard-pressed to find another game that didn't have at least as many other flaws KotOR? NWN, Baldur's Gate, Oblivion, Morrowind, they all came with heaps of bugs and flaws and inbalances).”

    Ok,thats laughable,to say the least.True,BG had its flaws and bugs,but as much as oblivion?Thats like saying youll get just as drunk from a glass of wine as from a barrel of beer.

    Also,I dont remember having bad optimisation(incredebly long loading times and scetchy system requirments)in:Fallout,baldurs gate,planescape torment,knights of the old republic,or even neverwinter nights(which Ive managed to play with all but memory below system requirments).Yet both oblivion and witcher seem to suffer from this.

  58. Daemian Lucifer says:

    @qrter

    Actually,you are in the wrong here.Fallout,heroes of might and magic(not number 5,but the ones before it),planescape and galactic civilizations all have excelent manuals,all of which Ive read AFTER getting some skill with those games.Sure,those manuals did offer some new and usefull information,and they wouldve saved me some time if Ive read them first,but that didnt stop me from enjoying the games,nor from learning how to play them,and well.

    Manuals are there for people that want to play well from the very begining,and dont want to waste time on experimenting with the game for a first few couple of times,but they are not a replacement for in game tutorials.Manuals are helpful,but shouldnt be a necessity.Thats what intuitive and easy to learn gameplay is all about.

  59. Danath says:

    The manual isnt REQUIRED, the games tutorials teach you most of what you need to know, im not really sure what the problem is, the “gameplay” and interface arent that complicated unless your getting into alchemy, you assign spells ala hotkey, then go out and play the click based combat.

    Im reinstalling the game, but I dont remember having problems with the different interface windows for stats like str and dex and such.

    Im honestly feeling Shamus is more playin Devil’s advocate atm more than a real review as some of this lambasting seems a little off the wall compared to other games, even Hellgate didnt get this level of vitriol.

    And sorry, rtfm, its there for a reason, much like some of the kings quest games, where reading it was required, witcher does not, but if you wanna know some of the more random details of the game that arent explained to you… well thats what its there for, or the in game journal covers most of it as well.

    For the most part I agree with the article, just a couple things seem overboard.

  60. Shamus says:

    There it is. “Not a real review”. I’ve been waiting for that one and I’m kind of impressed that it took this long.

    Look, you can flail away at your keyboard as much as you like, there is no force in your employ that can MAKE me enjoy the game. I wish there was, because I’d love to see what everyone else is so excited about. I’m just not having fun and I’ve pointed out why.

    You can say RTFM all you like but it will never hide the bad game design the REQUIRES you to say RTFM, as I covered above.

  61. Danath says:

    wow did you read 2 words of what I said for that comment?

    Im saying with how much vitriol youve put into this it feels more like your taking on a devils advocate role as opposed to your usual style of reviewing.

    Im not even disagreeing with most of what you said in the article, yeesh, im not even the first to make the comment about the manual.

    I was making a comparison to your other reviews, other than toxicity and the “rtfm” comment which was referring to one a few behind mine, I havnt really disagreed with anything in this article about why you hate this game.

  62. Blurr says:

    If one graphed your recent hostility level on this blog, at this point they’d be off the charts by a long shot. I understand that you’re not in very good health, but I’m just pointing out that you seem to be becoming exponentially more irate.

  63. Shamus says:

    When people argue with subjective opinions it really does rub me raw. I do seem to be worse at taking it in stride though, which is exacerbated by all the extra traffic lately. Sorry for the testyness then. Being sick isn’t really a good reason for being mean.

    Grrr.

  64. Gahaz says:

    Danath:

    I think more than anything the ire that is rising is due to you continuing to keep saying the same thing after he has said “I disagree, this is why.” but you then come back to reply and say the same thing and then comment on his personal writing.

    Did you forget this is his blog? Perhaps you forgot that there is no magic set of requirements a game can achieve and that means everyone will and should love it?

    Millions of people dribbled at the mouth about Halo, and I found it very meh. A metric ton of PC RPG folks loved this game to death, but that does not equal everyone loving every part, or any part of it.

    Oops, sorry, I’m a Shamus fanboy. My thoughts must be completely passed over.

  65. Danath says:

    @Gahaz
    Im actually more responding to other peoples comments. And yes ive already stated that I dont actually disagree with most of the article.

  66. Shamus says:

    And now that I’m thinking more about it, maybe I need to get away from this blog for a few days before I have one of those embarrassing angsty emo meltdowns / drama bombs that internet people seem to have from time to time.

    Yeech.

  67. Droniac says:

    Wow! That’s certainly the most one-sided negative review I’ve ever read of The Witcher. You do make a few sound points, albeit not anything I’d call a major issue, but some of it seems to reflect more on your experience of the game rather than the game itself.

    Now The Witcher sold incredibly well and has left many hundreds of thousands of satisfied customers. As evidenced by very high user ratings on sites such as gamerankings and metacritic (respectively 9.1 and 9.3). Obviously many people love the game and that would seem strange if everyone had the same experience you did. So, clearly, some of the negative experiences you’ve had with this game were not experienced by a majority of players. Of course the whole “everyone says this – you say that – so everyone is right” argument is nonsense. I never liked Halo, CS or WoW either… but in this case I think it does indicate many gamers having quite a different experience playing The Witcher than you did. So many people reading your review might not have entirely the same (negative) experience if they themselves played the game.

    I’ve played The Witcher as well (not finished it mind you, I’ll do that after the September patch for the best experience possible) and my experiences don’t really line up with yours either.

    For example: toxicity is actually explained in-game, by means of a tool-tip I believe (when you first drink a potion). Not that you’d really need a tool-tip for it… toxicity is caused by drinking potions, so obviously the cure is: not drinking potions (and resting – and anti-toxicity potions). I guess you just accidentally missed this, but it’s something most gamers probably did notice immediately. In fact I think it’s explained again when they explain resting in the tutorial and talk about its’ uses.

    Some cutscenes are a bit quirky, most notably so in the beginning of the game. But even then it’s quite rare and as of chapter 2 barely even happens anymore. Of course cutscenes are being altered in the September patch, so these rare occurrences should be dealt with soon anyway.

    To me the interface was never that complex. Maybe because I played NWN2 first, heh. They did a good job of explaining what everything was used for in the tutorial. Some parts of the interface could use serious improvement however, namely inventory management and alchemy. Again, both are touched on in the September patch.

    As for graphics… this is obviously extremely subjective. To me The Witcher is one of the most beautiful RPGs ever, certainly miles beyond Oblivion. Why? Because it has stellar art direction. Jade Empire obviously doesn’t even come close in terms of visual quality, that’s just being ridiculous. I think you’re more annoyed by the performance than the graphics here.

    And performance is of course also going to be very different for everyone. I’ve never played The Witcher on a low end system, but in-game performance is pretty decent here. Which game you played prior makes a big difference here. In comparison to Oblivion it’s about the same performance-wise. If you’ve played NWN2 however, then The Witcher will be a blessing: looking twice as good, while performing (at least) twice as good. NWN2 is much harder on my system than The Witcher.

    Loading times are going to be variable as well. You load 10 seconds for even small areas, whereas I don’t even get to see the loading screen when going into small areas (just a black screen for less than a second). Hell, it doesn’t even take 10 seconds to load the biggest area in the game as of the latest patch: 8 seconds first time, 5-6 seconds thereafter. The September patch is going to reduce that 8 seconds by 80-90% (according to the developers), so that’s going to be pretty impressive.

    If you want to compare: my system is probably still ranked high-end nowadays, although the technology is nearly 2 years old. Specs are as follows: Core 2 Duo E6750, 2GB RAM (at the time, now 3GB) and a Geforce 8800GTX. Nowadays that’s a $600 PC and a fair few gamers are going to have systems like these that run The Witcher maxed out without any real difficulties. This might be the best explanation as to why The Witcher scores so well with many gamers, but not so well with you.

    Yes, it really should run well on the minimum system requirements as stated by the publisher – but how many modern games do you know that can do that? I can’t name a single one. It sucks, but that’s life as a PC gamer. And at least it’s better than getting a game like Oblivion for your Xbox360, finding out that it chugs up every now and then because the system can’t handle it all the time, and then not being able to do anything about it. A PC you can upgrade – and it’s continually becoming less expensive to do so. I do hope publishers get their act straight and start publishing real minimum system requirements, but realistically I don’t see that happening. They haven’t done so for nearly a decade now.

  68. Shamus says:

    Droniac: Since I have nothing but contempt for the hype-crazy idiots that pass for games “journalists”, I’m very happy my views depart from theirs. I wouldn’t trust them to tell me it was raining if we were standing on the deck of Noah’s Ark.

    The game runs like ass, end of story. I’m glad you can compensate by just throwing $400 graphics cards at it, but that’s no excuse for why this thing runs the way it does.

    And I don’t care if “everyone” lies about minimum system specs. I’m going to call them as I see them, doing the job the gutless professional fanboys at IGN and Gamespot SHOULD have been doing for a decade.

    EDIT: You know, this sounds a lot angrier than I meant it to. I really need to stop doing that.

  69. Zaxares says:

    There’s a level cap in Act 1? *blinks* Or you managed to REACH the maximum level cap (50) in Act 1? That’s… crazy. How many monsters did you have to kill to get that?

    Despite being a candidate for a ‘rabid Witcher fanboy’, I actually agree with you on a number of these issues, Shamus. The way the voice acting is delivered is atrocious in some conversations, although thankfully once you get past the initial “Hello” you can click the mouse to fast-track conversations.

    The loading times (for areas and the map) are pretty offputting as well, although I hear that CDProjekt is working on a patch that will cut loading times by up to 80%. With any luck, that will make the game much more responsive and less time-consuming. (You do get used to the load times after a while though.)

    With regards to the complicated interface… Hmm, I didn’t particularly find it that hard to navigate through, but that’s just me.

    On Toxicity. The manual does explain the risks of excessive toxicity, but even so, I would have figured the red, ‘bleeding’ spots on your screen and the loud heartbeat sound in your speakers would have clued you in to the fact that high toxicity is dangerous. If your Toxicity passes 60 or 70%, you actually lose half your health, so again, that’s a major warning sign.

    It may be that my positive experience of the Witcher is coloured by the fact that I have a pretty beefy video card (Geforce 8800 GT) and I could play the Witcher with all the settings turned to max and still get decent framerates. If I was suffering through bad framerates and chunky graphics while still having to deal with the initial learning curve… I can see how it might turn one off into sticking it out with the game.

  70. Shamus says:

    I should clarify: When I say the Witcher doesn’t look “better” I’m not talking about art direction. I’m talking about what it’s trying to do from a technical standpoint. Judging by poly count and fill rate, this game is just nowhere near as busy enough to justify the load it’s putting on the GPU. When running around town, I’m looking at a small section of very blocky buildings with little in the way of clutter, detail, and alpha-blended polygons. Yet even with all the shaders turned off the game is punishingly slow.

    You can try it yourself by turning all the visuals to minimum. With the gloss stripped away you can pretty clearly see how simple the environment is. (Which is good. It’s to the credit of the “level designer”.) I’m not just saying my framerate should be faster, I’m saying that my framerate should be close to maxed out. That’s how bad the problem is.

  71. Luvian says:

    It’s true The Witcher has some horrible performance issues. I could play Oblivion at high resolution with bloom and all the eye candy activated, I could play Neverwinter Nights 2 with high graphics, and yet I could barely make The Witcher Run.

    The point is, The Witcher has some optimization problems and that’s certainly worth mentioning.

    You know; a game can have problems and still be good. Admitting so doesn’t make you some king of traitor. I’ve been to official game forums where the devs plain stated the issues with the game. And yet when a new player showed up claiming to have one of these issues, the fanboys would argue with him until they were blue in the face that there was in fact no issues and that the user was an idiot. The devs themselves admit to the issues, but the fanboys can’t. Someone could probably write a thesis on this.

  72. coffee says:

    I think Shamus’ view is much less a matter of not wanting to admit a game is good.

    Frankly, having read his reviews before, it’s much more a matter of not letting anybody else dictate what he experiences. If he doesn’t find it good, then he won’t tell you that he found it good.

  73. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I need to adress a thing here:
    Many people are saying “Yeah,it is bad,but the extended version will fix a lot of things”.Since when has it become acceptable for a game to be wonky for a full year and still people are forgiving it?I remember the glorious days of no internet when the developers actually finished and playtested their games so that they would be perfectly playable and as bug free as possible straight from the box.Now,we are littered with games that have memory leaks,horrible crashes,lousy coding,unfinished parts,…and people are buying them like mindless sheep,exusing their mindless behaviour with “It will be better in a year or two when they release the expansion”.And witcher at least doesnt charge you double like other games(for example,in order to play heroes of might and magic 5 without horrible bugs you have to buy TWO expansions).When has it become acceptable to pay full price for an unfinished version of a game,and then pay even extra for fixes to its issues?

  74. Luvian says:

    I wasn’t talking about Shamus but about all the game apologists who refuse to admit the products they like could be imperfect.

  75. lebkin says:

    Not that there is much more to add at this point, but I would be curious to know the ratio of free time to the enjoyment of the Witcher. My brother’s only a high school student, with no extra activities this past spring when he played it. I work full-time with a long commute. He worked through all the problems and really enjoyed the Witcher. I got frustrated with similar things that Shamus did and eventually gave up. My life is far too busy to waste time pushing my way through a troublesome game. I don’t know if it is universally true, but it is possible there’s a connection.

  76. Fenix says:

    From what you are saying Shamus, it seems like it might not be a graphics card issue in this case. I could be wrong of course but it may be that the cpu is being bogged down or too much ram is in usage. I know you know your computer better than I do of course, however I have a wide variety of friends who use their computers very differently and have different habits. One such habit is letting everything start on startup. On my desktop I have 18 processes and no more when everything’s shut off and know what all of them are (saved me from a few viruses in the past.). Now I have seen people with upward of 80 processes and they wondered why their computers were behaving slow. Now I know that you probably know quite a few things about computers seeing as you program for them, and have quite a few more years of experience on me (only started really learning about computers 3 years ago.). However if you have some extra processes that are just idling and you rarely if ever use disable them from your startup list. I guarantee that your computer will run smoother and will startup faster (my computer takes 10 seconds to start from pushing on to being at desktop and doing stuff.).

    Once again I don’t know if you do this already or what type of habits you have with your computer. I’m just diagnosing your problem the same way I would a friends computer. Sorry if this post is just wasting space.

  77. Fosse says:

    I installed the game last night and downloaded the Patch to play the new scenario CD Projekt released, The Price of Neutrality. I have been holding off replaying the game for months now for the new edition to be released, but all of this Witcher talk made me want to play again. So I figured the new episode was the way to go.

    The Hero screen does indeed have 15 subscreens. I had forgotten that each attribute and skill has its own skill tree for you to navigate (and it’s not obvious in screenshots). I never really found this cumbersome during my playthrough, but I can’t argue with the fact.

    There are an enormous number of skills to purchase in this game, and I can’t picture them all on one screen without a serious information overload. But I’ll bet the Hero screen could have been divided into, say, just three. Attributes, Sword skills, and Signs. That would have cut down on the clicking around.

    I’ve barely gotten into the new episode (only had an hour or so to play), but I’m already having a great time.

    Shamus, are you using the 1.3 patch? The load times are still there on most systems, but it could make a big difference to you. I don’t recall it being mentioned before.

    Daemian, what is in fact acceptable in this day and age is for a company to release a buggy or incomplete game, let out a handful of patches to fix a few game stoppers, and then never touch the thing again for the rest of time. What CD Projekt is doing is different and laudable, in my opinion. They released the standard patches that every company releases, and now they’ve chosen to go the extra mile by generating a patch that is (purportedly) going to go a long way to optimize the game under the hood while fixing a huge number of the the fans’ biggest complaints. And they’re throwing in a couple of new episodes, to boot. For free.

    I also want games to be perfect on release, and I’m happy to bitch about flaws that are an obvious effect of rushing. But if a company is going to say, “You know what, we rushed this thing. It could have been a lot better. And now it’s going to be,” then I am glad their owning up to the mistake and rectifying it.

    Shamus, I’m surprised at your stance on reading manuals. I kind of understand you to be a bit of a design and system wonk when it comes to RPGs.

    I can understand if you prefer to not do so, and figure things out as you go along. But I think it’s silly to sat a game that “requires” you to read the manual it comes with is suffering from bad design. The information is there, and you want the information, but you’re complaining that you don’t have the information and you don’t think you should be getting it from the source provided. It just sounds stubborn.

  78. Licaon_Kter says:

    video card: nVidia 8600GT ~ 80$
    ram: 1Gb DDR2 ~ 30$

    far from that 400$ sum that you said, and you’ll be running the game on HIGH at 1280×1024, but hey you can continue to rant as you wish

    hopefully a good night sleep and some pills will get you back on your feet, and you can enjoy the game as we did

    and regarding the manual, weren’t you lamenting on how stupid Hellgate London did implement it’s interface and how it was never explained what did what? now that you have a manual you want everything on screen? if it’s everything on screen it’s too complex and bloated? come on, play the game, not the interface!!!

    :)

  79. m2 says:

    Let’s just say that I’ve gotten used to publishers lying about minimum reqs. But I would say that its a lesser evil than DRM.

  80. Gahaz says:

    The problem with the manual issue is that the manual we are talking about is a small novel. So right off the bat its not an enjoyable experience. I bought a game to play it not study it first.

    The meat of the issue is that in almost any game you can bumble along with previous game knowledge (i.e. all those other clicker RPGs you played) to succeed enough. If the game also has a clean and friendly interface then even as you bumble you will slowly figure out what everything is for.

    Its not a simple fact of being stubborn or lazy, its the fact that the fun of a game starts when you play it.

    And for those that where saying it was cheap to get this to run…

    Intel Core 2 Duo 2.13 GHz : $239.99

    Kingston Value RAM 1GB 667MHz ECC DDR2 : $39.99×2= $79.98

    NVIDIA GeForce 7900 GTX : $450.00

    That comes to $769.97 for nothing but the guts of a PC that this game is made to run on. Please forebear me your price quotations on your offbrand equipment. In most peoples eyes in the world of Tech Shopping the phrase “You get what you pay for” applies.

    I could care less if you know where to get an under two hundred dollar nDigia card ;P

    P.S. The final spelling of nVidia is supposed to represent some made up off-brand. I rethought my leaving it in due to someone trying to discredit me by pointing to my poor spelling. These are the internets we live on.

  81. Sitte says:

    but some of it seems to reflect more on your experience of the game rather than the game itself.

    I stopped reading there. Isn’t that what EVERY review does?

  82. MONKEEYYY says:

    This is the most idiotic review of TW I've seen to date.

    Half of the complaints you made here are totally nonsense…

    On the topic of sweeping subjective statements: Blue is the BEST primary colour that exists. I won’t justify that statement, because apparently no one needs to these days. If you’re going to call someones “review” idiotic, the least you could do is say why.

    Also, on the matter of patches. NWN2 has become a much better game through patches and an expansion, but I still bitch about how the game should have been half-decent on day one of release and how the game is still plagued with bugs.

  83. Xinem says:

    Wow. I mean, WOW. I expected comments like this when Shamus said he was going to review some MMORPGs, but I didn’t expect The Witcher to inspire this level of vitriol.

    For what it’s worth, the comments tend to verify the review:

    The Witcher has an interesting story that get’s shoehorned a bit in order to fit into a PCRPG. The art direction is pretty good, what comes out on the screen is highly subjective. The mechanics are fairly simple, but apparently ramp up later in the game (possibly to the point that having a low-spec system is a problem for some people). The depth of the world was acceptable for most people, but some found it to be a little shallow. The sexual content puts some players off. Some players don’t like the “backend”; the inventory and character control and tracking screens are detailed and exhaustive. Some players say it’s too complex, most say you get used to it. Gameplay apparently is not very intuitive; in-game tutorials and tooltips help some, but may not show up at the most useful times. The manual is recommended reading, and it’s big.

    Most importantly to me, apparently the original code is a bit buggy. While some people claim they have had no trouble playing the game, most players complain of long load times, lag in conversations, lag when changing screens, and low frame rates even with visual goodies turned way down or off. The game apparently doesn’t crash or freeze very often, but the slowness seems to be very frustrating. For the most part, the game seems to run fine on computers built for the last several years, as long as you have a pretty good (not necessarily cutting-edge current) video card. Having a mediocre video card can be offset a bit by having a newer computer. People with newer computers and video cards seemed to have fewer problems, or where able to deal with them easily. Most, but not all, players with older computers had many problems with performance, even at low settings. Update patches have fixed some problems and marginally improved performance.

    Many players are looking forward to an “Enhanced” Edition, which is coming out soon, that will supposedly fix most if not all mechanical problems with the game, as well as redo a lot of the spoken dialogue.

    After reading Shamus’s reviews and the comments, what I have to say is:

    When will I buy the game?

    After I build a new computer, when I have $10 – $15 that I don’t need elsewhere. The Witcher sounds like a mess. A complicated, entertaining mess. This opinion is based on the reviews Shamus has posted and every opinion posted in the comments.

    P.S. Shamus, you don’t need to take a vacation, per se….just stop reading the comments. Or, you can do what I do: five minutes of meditation before reading comments or replies to anything I ever type. “Words cannot harm me…Words cannot harm me…You have no power over me…you have no power over me…I am at peace on my blog and confident in my opinions.” Repeat.

  84. Silver says:

    I’m actually surprised you seemed to have so much trouble with it if your computer actually is “middle of the road” as you say. The computer I’ve been playing Witcher on is pretty much exactly the minimum specs, maybe even slightly below them, and it works fine. Yes, it was slow during the beginning scene and it slows down during fight scenes with 8+ characters, but I feel that is sort of to be expected, given that I’m running it on slightly below the minimum specs. That said, I used this very same computer to run Oblivion, and it worked just fine for me.

  85. Mari says:

    @Gahaz (80) You hit a core issue for me, right there buddy. I’ve been avoiding saying it lest I appear to be whining, but since I’m in the middle of building a new system I’m quite well aware of the cost of hardware. I’ve just spend around a grand on this system that’s not quite as awesometastic as many commentors’ “meh” systems. A thousand dollars for a system (granted, this includes a new monitor, case, et al) that meets The Witcher’s MINIMUM requirements, but doesn’t quite meet the “recommended requirements.” I know that NewEgg isn’t the cheapest place on the ‘net for hardware, but they’re far from “overpriced” and they’ve proved reliable enough that I pay a smidgen more for the assurance of a known source.

    Granted, with my new current-gen system, next time around I should only have to spend the $800 you quoted to get up to the newest specs…for the next year and a half (or less). Then I get to buy a whole new mobo, etc. all over again if I plan to stay on the treadmill. Wow, I wish I had the spare dosh to only invest such small sums of money into making a $60 game work, but my kids seem to think college might be a plan and my husband has this funny desire to eat occasionally and so forth.

    And sadly, if previous experience with “recommended requirements” is any guide, there’s only a 50/50 chance that huge investment will actually be enough.

  86. Inwards says:

    Just thought that I’d point out that The Witcher’s performance is mostly CPU-bound rather than GPU. You can stick three $1000 video cards in your old machine and still not see much appreciable performance improvement. It’s inherited this limitation from the NWN engine and there doesn’t seem to be much that the developers can do about it without a ditching it and starting over.

    For me, the game was pretty horrible on my p4 3.2g machine, but ran fine on my qx6800 (2.9ghz). Even then, I had to OC the latter to 3.7ghz to get 60fps in some areas. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I had exactly the same performance problems with NWN2, too.

    Shamus, what are the specs of the machine that you were trying to run it on?

  87. Shamus says:

    This should be obvious, but I’m not going to address the same questions over and over. I’ve already fielded the RTFM questions twice now. If you can’t be bothered to read what I’ve said then you’re not trying to have a conversation.

    If I wanted to waste my time I’d play some more Witcher.

  88. Fosse says:

    Are you kidding me? I know that I don’t see eye to eye with you on this, but I thought that fleshing out my perspective a little bit in response to yours and other people’s position on manuals was reasonable. In my attempt to further the conversation on this tangent you saw a refusal on my part to have a conversation?

    I posted that because I find this position interesting (which I’ve clearly stated). And I want to know more. How does it compare to the examples I provided, in your (or others’) opinion? I’m not telling you your wrong, I’m trying to explain myself and elicit more info.

    Here I thought that avoiding your ire and the nuke button simply required not being a jerk. I didn’t think it meant not dropping a topic wholesale on which we aren’t in lockstep.

  89. Shamus says:

    Fosse: Calling me “immature” was what set me off. Really – Yes, I could have read the manual and have my questions answered. The point was that with a better interface I would have known the answers to those questions before I even asked them. A better presentation, more helpful tooltips, and a streamlined interface would have fixed this right up.

    This is what I’ve always done: I point out flaws in game design. People keep reacting to this like this is a thumbs up / down review, which is what is leading to such confusion for people.

    Really, I’ve been nearly this harsh with games I love. The point isn’t to tell people to buy the game, its to look at how games are made and what makes them fun.

  90. ShadowDragon8685 says:

    Shamus, I hate to say it…

    If you want a good RPG on the computer, you might have to resort to drastic measures, such as reinstalling Arcanum, Fallout, or Deus Ex. (In my opinion an RPG, since it has all the classic RPG hallmarks, despite – or perhaps even better for – having a first-person, crosshairs-and-weapon action interface).

  91. Steven B. says:

    Yeah…I…Um.
    I’ve got nothing. The game’s not that great.

  92. Fosse says:

    I’m not big on ad hominem attacks, and did not call you immature.

    The word was in there, to be sure. I don’t recall the exact phrases I went with, but I do remember re-reading it and making sure to put it so that it was clear I was talking about my reaction to the view put forward (by others, as well) and that in the context of my post it’d be clear I wasn’t attacking anybody or calling them names.

    What’s frustrating, is that I thought about this little word longer than I typically would have, specifically because you’ve let us know you’re in a bad mood and I didn’t want anyone to think I was calling people names.

    Incidentally, I saw that the post was gone so quickly because I had just finished the Price of Neutrality and I had comments that seemed relevant to the original discussion about presentation, now that I’ve taken another look without the hazy lens of months-old memory in front of me.

  93. Colin Lacey says:

    Licaon_Kter, could you please direct me to where you found a 8800 GT in the vincinity of $80? I did a quick search for said card and found it new for about $250. Adjusted for a used card that’s still over $150.

    Still, the price of the hardware is totally beside Shamus’ point. If he has hardware that the box explicitly states will adequately run the game, then he wants the game to adequately run on that hardware dammit! Even if you could provide Shamus with a link to a free high end video card, your point is nullified by the fact that the publishers have in essence, lied to a paying customer.

    Your condescending attitude that Shamus is somehow incapable of enjoying a game because of his illness comes off as rude and pretentious. From what I got from your post, you seem to think that if someone has not enjoyed a game to the extent you did they must have been somehow incapacitated in their experience of it. If I had to I’d guess that you’re quite insecure over the faults in a game you enjoyed being pointed out, likely from a fear that you yourself might not be so enlightened as you thought yourself over us plebs.

  94. Matt K says:

    To digress slightly on Colin Lacey’s tangent, I think miss representing system requirements is a huge problem that needs to be fixed asap. I think this is as bad as DRM (maybe worse) since you purchase the game and when it either barely works or doesn’t work at all your out of luck. I would forgive it more if you could return games (at least for store credit). At that point the publisher has literally cheated you out of your money. And they wonder why people pirate (which, side tangent, once someone pirates a game, either to bypass DRM or demo a game, I would imagine the impetus to buy a copy drops significantly. Sadly it wouldn’t take much to fix this, at least Witcher had a demo so I could find out the game play for crap on my system. I give them tons of credit for that.)

  95. beno says:

    Mmmm.. I’m thinking that Shamus’ ire isn’t just a bad patch, I think it’s connected to something bigger. I’ve been having similar patches of irateness recently with the new upgrade of Lotus Notes 8 in my workplace. It does essentially the same job plus a graphics facelift, at the cost of long “hanging” pauses after you click _anything_. Like literally waiting 40 seconds for my email reply screen to appear. Now I’m _hoping_ that this is just some interstate office network glitch that they’ll fix, but given recent experience with other software upgrades and the apparent lack of expertise in our organisation with respect to IT, I’m not holding my breath. And it really does raise you blood pressure when you have to wait for a computer to respond so long that you’ve forgotten what you were even trying to do. “Hang on I’ll just send a quick email” … 10 minutes later you’re still hanging, and your coleagues have left for lunch without you…

    Generally though, the descriptions I’ve seen people write in with regarding software developer efficiency squeeze isn’t confined to the software industry. It’s happening everywhere. Economic rationalism basically says that we have to keep improving productivity and finding “efficiencies” until our company is reduced to just one guy pressing a button to deliver the entire “perfect”, multifaceted, option-laden product. Common sense says that you can’t continue making efficiency gains indefinitely, and eventually the quality of the product will suffer. The problem is that the business machine is so big and clunky now that it has too much momentum to really respond to customer complaints in the way required to solve the problem. PR washes are much more cost effective. I’m seriously starting to think that the push for “productivity” isn’t going to stop until the bottom falls out of the information economy. Is that next year or the one after? Or ten or twenty? I’m not sure. Part of the problem is that nobody has a better idea … of how to make even more money. (Maybe making the same amount of money is okay? No, that answer isn’t sexy…)

    So, Shamus maybe it isn’t just you…

  96. Carra says:

    Slow load times are horrible. Drags you out of the game, slaps you a bit and then puts you back in it. 10 seconds of waiting to enter a building of 5×5? I’m talking about Neverwinter Nights 2 here ;) Or age of conan… Yep, upgrading to a new pc lowered it to a few seconds but on older pc’s, it’s just downright horrible to wait 2x 10s to just deliver a quest in a building.

    Since playing World of Warcraft I thought load times were a partof the past. You can walk from one part of the continent to the other side without seeing a single load times. Or you can enter an underground city and their buildings and yes, no load times.

  97. Rasputin says:

    fingers crossed for the enhanced edition!
    minimum requirements used to be quite liberal only a few years ago.
    i played doom 3 on lowest settings with 512mb ram, 1ghz cpu and a 32mb geforce 2 mx! decent framerate too.
    i played many games that required a ‘minimum’ of 64mb GFX card on this system, just had to tolerate some strange colours

  98. Seraphina says:

    @Shamus
    *hands over some hot chocolate, cookies and a punching bag* Take some time out, you seem to be worn pretty thin.

    @Everyone (else)
    Go out, enjoy the sun, shoo!

  99. illiterate says:

    @Seraphina

    The yellow face, it burns us! We must stay here, with the pentium.. Myy pennnnttiiiiiummmmmm…

  100. Heph says:

    @Shamus: “Being sick isn't really a good reason for being mean.” – are you kidding? Everybody’s mean and irritable when they’re sick or feeling under the weather. There’s a reason celebrities tend to stay out of sight when they don’t feel good – their lesser social skills would be bad for their reputation.

    @Zaxares: there are – or were in the original, they may have been removed or changed in patches, I’ve only played 1.0 – level caps in each act seperately. I think Act I was level 9 or so, rather low, anyway. It was impossible to get to a level with silver skills before killing the mad hound demon at the end of Act I (I forgot his name, sorry, long time no play), who gives a silver as a reward.

    @Shamus: “Really, I've been nearly this harsh with games I love.”…Hmm, no, not quite. You’ve stated yourself a few times that you’re being more aggressive of late, and perhaps this is just an example of it, but, really, the wording in both articles about the Witcher pretty much makes it out to be the very worst game you’ve ever played, with an interface worse than Hellgate’s, a story worse than Doom 3D, glitches worse than Oblivion and no content that isn’t somewhere between infuriating and gut-wrenching.
    Like I’ve said before, I agree with most problems you have (though some I haven’t personally experienced) and there are some you haven’t even mentioned. however, other games have goten off with less demolishing posts for worse offenses.

    I mean, compare your list of articles on Hellgate: London and The Witcher. You were negative about both, but more so for the Witcher…And I think I’m not alone if I say that, as far as RPGs go, an das far as your expectations/hopes go (as far as I can judge by previous articles of yours), the Witcher should come out on top of that comparison. After the breaking down of Hellgate, you also noted the good aspects of the game, few and far between as they were. I realize you’re not finished with reviewing the Witcher yet, but it seems you’ve left little room for *any* saving graces it might have.

  101. Eric says:

    There are level caps in the game? That’s crap, now I’m no munchkinist, but I do like the freedom of leveling up as much as I feel is prudent. Just because it’s really the only rpg out right now doesn’t mean it’s the best of the best by default. I applaud that programming team for going the extra mile and releasing the enhanced edition to fix all the problems, but that doesn’t mean that what was released is excused. It is shoddy programming at best, there’s no reason this should have been released, it seems the “finished” product needed three or four months before it should have been shipped out. I might check the game out when the “enhanced” version(but really, it’s the finished product we should have gotten months ago.)comes out, but untill then I’ll pass.

  102. Adam says:

    I hate to be the naysayer here, but…

    Just switch over to the Dark Side, so to speak, and buy yourself a console! It’s $500-$600 that will play every game coming out in the next five years. I can’t understand why you seem so angry at the PC game developer community and yet refuse to “jump ship” over to consoles, where that kind of thing never enters the equation.

  103. Eric says:

    He is actually going to get old crap box from microsoft here pretty soon, and be converted to the all mighty HALO clique who don’t know [email protected]# about FPS.

  104. Tim G. says:

    It seems to me like another situation of differing underlying assumptions/expectations.

    Assumption 1. Games should run smoothly at release without game stopping bugs. Patches should be reserved for minor bugs, and unpredictable problems.

    The old terminology for games that hadn’t fixed the major bugs was alpha or beta releases. I’m all for pushing back against the publishers who try to release games before they are ready. By purchasing buggy software again and again, you encourage the horrible release schedule pushes on developers.

    Assumption 2. System specs should provide accurate information for purchasing decisions.

    I hate buying games in a store because I don’t trust the information provided on the box.

    Assumption 3. Reading a large user manual should not be required if you have played similar games before. A tutorial should be enough to teach the basics of gameplay.

    I think this expectation varies by genre. It’s more realistic for a detailed flight simulator to need manual study than a simple arcade game. Obviously most games should fall somewhere in between.

    Great design means the interface behaves exactly how you expect it to. Good design means it behaves mostly as expected and points you in the right direction when it doesn’t. Bad design doesn’t act like expected and gives you no clue why. Given how long this problem has been worked on and how many examples there are for good interfaces, there is not excuse for bad design.

    Assumption 4. Games that require better hardware should look better.

    For this, I think it depends on why the hardware requirements are higher. I can see much higher CPU requirements for non-graphics related issues in RTS like ai improvements, fuzzy logic problem solving, etc, or for better physics simulations in racing or FPS games.

    ——

    A good way to kill a market segment is to drive off new players with steep learning curves before they can have fun, and lose existing players who get tired of constant upgrades to play something that doesn’t look or play any better.

    Less new players and less existing players means shrinking market size means less money for development of new games means developers switch targets or go out of business. The pc rpg market will end up like the Mac gaming community in the 90’s, waiting for months or years for ports of games on other platforms. Everyone loses.

    Tim G.

  105. Heph says:

    @Eric

    Not entirely true. The Witcher had problems on release, but less so than many games. Yes, I know, most games get released too early these days, so that’s not saying much.
    Anyway, I played through the game twice (with different endings) and never encountered a game-stopping or crashing bug. There were a lot of issues, yes, but not as serious as some other games I could name (especially in the RPG genre, which seems especially problematic for this…Probably because, the more open the game is, the more things players can do that developers didn’t anticipate. Anyway.).
    It wasn’t unplayable out of the box, just a bit unbalanced and horribly optimized. It should’ve been able to run on lower-end systems than it did, in other words.

  106. Eric says:

    The “mainstream” actually think this game is awesome dipshit. Shamus is actually on the outset for not liking this game douche. Also shamus hated oblivion.

  107. Xinem says:

    @Burton Finch:

    Whoah. You win a prize, man. I *THINK* you’re being serious, but you might be illustrating absurdity by being absurd. You know, the whole “The only way Shamus could dislike this game is if he was PAID to dislike it.”

    I feel sorry for Shamus, but these comments have been amazing. My absolute favorite anime reviewer can’t watch one of my favorite series past the third episode. I never once considered e-mailing him a nastygram to tell him “UR DOING IT RONG!” Not even in a polite way like “If you watch it like THIS, then you’ll like it.” Even if I thought it was true. He didn’t like it. That’s fine; his loss.

    I bet 10 people will tell me watching a dvd isn’t the same thing as playing a game. When it comes to opinions, they’re exactly the same. You either like it or you don’t. Thankfully, I can still watch that anime series whether my favorite reviewer likes it or not. I’m not interested in The Witcher myself, but you guys out there that like the game can go right back to playing it whether Shamus likes it or not.

    It’s not worth getting upset.

    Really.

  108. Danath says:

    Shamus actually liked oblivion overall, he said so himself, he just said it was buggy and had several stupid things that required user-made patches to make the game work, and some bad design choices (monsters that level with you), stuff like that.

    I was looking foreward to an analysis of Witcher, but from the bashing going on in the last 2 articles I cant see Shamus saying ANYTHING positive in future articles, which just strikes me as a bit over the top, compared to other games at least, but well see.

  109. Furnok says:

    I must admit I was looking forward to the Witcher – it looked different, got very good reviews. I therefore picked it up at first opportunity. And I found it unplayable – nothing to do with the system specs (running with an 8800 gtx with 4gig ram) but with the sheer … IDIOCY of the game design.

    Yes, graphics are important to a point, but if the thing just doesn’t make logical sense, and the engine/interface gets in the way to boot, it’s off my list. I wholeheartedly agree with Shamus’s points on the interface (easily the worst I can recall in a game of this ilk), the protagonist’s monotonic delivery/personality, and the irritating as buggery loading and fade every time you open a cupboard or encounter an unusual lizard on the roadway. I won’t even start on the camera angles/control and so forth.

    The nail in the coffin for me was the combat. The game design rationale behind the idea of “if a second foe shows up, your fine steel sword instantly morphs into a giant marshmallow stick” simply left me slack-jawed. I’m all for tactical complexity and combat styles, but the implementation just left me cold.

  110. Danath says:

    @Furnok
    huh? morphs into a giant marshmallow stick? And im confused about “worst interface ever”, I found it to be very simple and left my screen relatively free of clutter while playing, group combat styles when fighting multiple enemies was fun to watch I thought, and the departure from click happy combat was a welcome relief to someone like me who broke a few mouses back in the D2 days.

    load/fade when you open a CUPboard? Encounter a lizard? Unless its relavant to story or a speaking scene it doesnt “fade” at all.

    Funny enough the game uses the NWN engine and does some marvelous things considering how old it is, people always complain about using bleeding edge, then the witcher pulls out something old and pushes it as far as it can go (much like consoles do), and all you can do is bash it?

    I agree with alot of Shamus’ points here, but some of the issues you point out as far as I know dont even exist.

    (Whole comment directed at Furnok)

  111. Kevin says:

    Reading more comments, I’ve decided that my original position is flawed in a couple of respects. One, you’re right, Shamus isn’t a “game reviewer,” per se, he’s a guy with a blog who likes to talk about games. (Further, I appreciate his opinions and feel like he’s steered me clear of a few dogs.)

    Two, one commenter mentioned that if some game company had to provide a new computer along with their game in order to play it right… that could be an indication of a problem. This made me laugh, and it’s right on the money.

    Three, and my favorite, was “I love the idea that game reviewers should all start reviewing games that are played upon the minimum system requirements. If only handful of reviewers began doing this for every game, I think you would see a change very quickly.”

    I didn’t think about it from that direction, but you are of course correct.

    And BTW Shamus, I’d pay money to get a fifth the response you get on your blog on mine. You have a good, thinking, and active crowd here. Be happy for them, and happy with yourself.

  112. Zukhramm says:

    “I bet 10 people will tell me watching a dvd isn't the same thing as playing a game.”

    Well if they do, I’ll say this. Shamus didn’t like Guild Wars, but I don’t hate him for it and I didn’t complain (ver much…).

  113. Mistwraithe says:

    I’m tempted to write a post simultaneously insulting Shamus and the Witcher fans… just because I’m curious to see what the top tag line with the comment count says when the number of comments goes past 200!

    ;-)

  114. Fenix says:

    If you want to complain about a buggy game complain about NWN2. I remember I would play through the main campaign for 3 hours, hit a game breaking bug, head to the forums on how to fix it, continue playing hit another game breaking bug, repeat 7 times, hit another game breaking bug and find out that my most recent save point was after the point of troubleshooting returns, and that the file I had invested 20+ hours on had just died.

    Never did try to go through it again, and I will never know the end. Now I’ve become an insecure save monkey because I never want anything like that to happen again. In comparison the witcher never had me going to the forums once. Sure I hate a bug ridden game as much as the next guy, however at least they ARE and HAVE BEEN doing something about it. Besides the DRM is well….. I can’t even remeber if there was any, mabye a cd key?

    My point is IT CAN ALWAYS BE WORSE!

  115. FriendlyFred says:

    Adam,
    I’m putting off the jump to console because my favorite genres are badly underrepresented, because gamepads are horribly inferior next to the keyboard/mouse setup, and because the games themselves are of lower median quality and are dumbed down. I have yet to hear of a project like Desert Combat or G-Mod coming out on a console, so it would seem the mod communities are missing as well.
    Unfortunately the recent tendency to release games across both platforms has led to a dumbing-down of PC games as well (such as Far Cry, Oblivion, Medal of Honor 2) so this bit will eventually become a non-issue.

  116. Eric says:

    I’ ll agree that controllers are inferior to the mice and keyboard only in FPS. You should look up MAG, I believe it’s pretty impressive for a console.

  117. Danath says:

    There was NO DRM for this game… CD Key was ONLY to register on forums, which was not required to play the game. I loved that, since Canada got copies without CD keys.

  118. Furnok says:

    [for Danath]

    I was exaggerating to make a point with a few of the more colourful comments :). In “easy to read” point form:

    – I found the journal and associated information screens (eg alchemy) difficult to navigate, hard to extract information from, and they took up too much space. Plus (correct me if i am wrong) you couldn’t do anything worthwhile with those screens up

    – the inanity of the chopping/changing the fighting style drove me well, insane. Why does my sword swing suddenly do one-third the damage simply because a second foe is standing behind the first? I could see what they were trying to do – introduce more decision making into an essentially “clickfest” system – but the implementation was far too clumsy and heavy handed. It felt like a truly pointless game of rock/paper/scissors. Choosing the right/wrong style (on normal difficulty, IIRC) rendered the combat either trival or near/impossible for the most part.

    – there is too much loading of even minor areas or locations that interrupt the flow of the game. A fade out to load on just about every minor NPC encounter or dialog just doesn’t work for me

    I could go on, but I won’t. Suffice to say I just didn’t like the game mechanics enough to play it very long. And I cannot recall too many other games where I was irritated to that level (and I’ve been CRPGing for over 20 years! Maybe I’m just getting grumpy in my old age :p )

  119. Daemian Lucifer says:

    @Fenix

    “It can always be worse” is not a very good argument.Cutting your hand of is worse than stabbing it,but that doesnt mean the stabbing wont hurt.

    @Eric

    Actually,they are more inferior in RTSs.And its not really that hard to make gamepads almost as good:Add a trackball to a gamepad,and you will improve it vastly.The only problem you have then is the closness of the trackball and its limited range,since youd be controling it with just with a thumb.

  120. Danath says:

    @Furnok
    Yes, alchemy is the most confusing part of TW, I tried to avoid playing around with it as much as possible.

    Loading, also a HUGE issue, I had to play the game over the course of several patches stopping/starting due to frustration at loading screens.

    I dont understand the combat thing… 2 enemies standing close to each other doesnt lower your damage? Unless you mean changing to group style, but that isnt usually needed unless you are fighting 3 or more enemies, which the drop in damage usually justifies.

  121. Shamus says:

    I’m now deleting about 1 in 15 comments. Keep at it fanboys. You’ll either figure out what “subjective” means or you’ll piss off and find a website that tells you what you want to hear. Insulting ME because I don’t like your videogame is a waste of effort.

    I’ve got one more post on TW coming. You either need to disconnect this game from your self esteem or cowboy up, because I’m going to finish what I started and I’m not going to let the comments thread turn into a puddle of angry bile directed at me.

  122. ArchU says:

    Shamus, there’s a high probability that you need to update your drivers to the latest version to resolve the sluggishness. Could also be load times from the disc that is causing the problem, which could be caused by bad reads. Fixing that usually means getting a new DVD drive or playing with the settings.

    It’s worth trying the former, anyhow.

  123. Simplex says:

    Shamus probably already did this, but just in case he didn’t – defragmenting the hardrive can help, especially with long loading times.

  124. Shamus says:

    For personal insults, for saying RTFM after I’ve fielded that question TWICE, and for being a hooting fanboy that attacks the reviewer instead of saying what was GOOD about the game, zangree gets the new deleted stamp. (Also for accusing me of some irrational anti-Witcher… AGENDA or something. Whatever.)

    I’ll be using this from now on instead of just removing the comments. This might make it more obvious why I seem so agitated when comment threads go south. It will also let them serve as a warning to others.

    I really liked the mature and polite disagreements we had in the comments when the site was smaller, and I’m not letting that go easily.

  125. Shamus says:

    On the performance issues: I just recovered from a hard drive failure a couple of weeks ago, so my drivers are all fresh downloads and my drive is nicely defragged. (I started over with a brand-new drive, which always feels good.)

    I should also point out that in some places in the game the framerate is just fine. It’s great when I’m just running along the road. It’s a pretty choppy in the first village. It’s very choppy in a fight, and in the first major city.

  126. Scourge says:

    Wait until you get to the second major city, oh boy..

    At first it all run smoothly.. there.. it was lag from hell and I could do nothing. Fighting was impossible.

    But seriously, I’m glad you didn’t play Sacred 1.0 Shamus.. because everyone said it felt like a beta or even an alpha version instead of a good solid product..

  127. mephane says:

    But The Witcher runs like an inebriated John Madden trying to run in the Boston marathon while pulling a busload of other John Maddens. The game is unplayable at the default settings. If I turn everything down I can get the game to look very terrible and still stutter quite a bit. Let me make this clear: At these settings the game looks far worse than Oblivion and yet still somehow runs slower. Considering that Oblivion was an appalling glutton when it came to GPU cycles, that's really saying something. What is the game doing with my processor? Building fractals? Trying to find the last digit of Pi?

    I know I just had a huge rant on this the other day, but this is such a perfect illustration of the problem that I can't resist. I'm within the system requirements (on the low side, but I'm still in) and I have to make the game look horrible just to make it quasi-playable, and even then it chokes and pukes all over itself when I get into a fight. (You know, when frame rate is most crucial.) The phrase “Minimum System Requirements” has morphed from its original meaning and has come to denote the minimum system on which you can install the game without it killing anybody or starting a fire. But even if I had the hardware to run the game, it doesn't look that much better than the last generation of games. Which means we're now spending hundreds of dollars to upgrade our machines so just to run in place, visually.

    That is exactly what I am annoyed about for so long. Not only do you need a better machine for JUST THE SAME VISUAL QUALITY than you needed for the previous game, not only are the “recommended” requirements every time again WHAT YOU SHOULD NOT TRY TO PLAY BELOW OF THIS, but then if you turn everything on minimum, the damn thing runs so slow you can still count individual frames while STILL LOOKING WORSE THAN WORLD OF WARCRAFT AT MINIMUM SETTINGS.

    This is not annoying, actually. It is OUTRAGEOUS. There is no viable excuse for this utter bullshit. I don’t care how much the drive their visual quality for the newest new highest high-end machines, but on my same old pile of plastic and copper, I would expect the new game to run as smoothly and to look as good as the previous game that I can play without any trouble.

    They don’t even try. Lowering the settings turns whole textures in a wall of huge washed-out pixels, bathes the now-ugly scenery in dense fog so you can see only 10 metres into the “distance”. Lowering animation quality makes character animation happen at 1 fps even if the game around runs at 10.

    Current generation games at lowest settings sometimes look as bad as SIM COPTER at maximum. And, man, that game was ugly.

  128. Mistwraithe says:

    So what comes after “2^7 comments. Sweet.”

    Fairly clearly it has to change at 129… show me, show me!

    Oh, and to be on topic, I’m keen to play The Witcher sometime. It has got high points for originality and gritty story… but I just don’t have the time to persevere with a game that suffers long loading times.

    Fortunately it sounds like the upcoming special release may solve all that – I do so like it when a plan comes together!

  129. Shamus says:

    Fosse: I can’t rescue deleted comments, so if I misread what you wrote I apologize.

  130. qrter says:

    Sorry, bit late with a reply..

    @ Shamus:

    The gameplay here does NOT justify a manual the size of Microsoft Flight Simulator, and to dump the user into a morass of obscure buttons and unhelpful tootips and then tell them to read the manual is a joykiller. I'm here for a game, not a damn reading assignment.

    My point was that a properly designed interface would clearly communicate everything I needed to know. I got through KOTOR, Oblivion, and even FFX without needing to read a book.

    I do see your point and I also see this is where the subjectivity hits hard! I have never read the manual for The Witcher, I didn’t spend lots of time searching through journal entries, I wasn’t getting frustrated, but I figured it out. Obviously this has nothing to do with intelligence (I’d say we’re both pretty intelligent guys ;) ), for me something just clicked, apparently.

    Then again, I do know if I would’ve bumped into something I really couldn’t figure out on my own, I would have looked in the manual. I certainly have done so with other games.

    I do feel you’re being more aggressive with this game, I have read most of your blog posts about other games and right from the start there seemed to be a lot of vitriol in this case, written in a more than usually harsh style, if you will. This doesn’t excuse people being dicks, ofcourse.

    @ Daemian Lucifer:

    Actually,you are in the wrong here.Fallout,heroes of might and magic(not number 5,but the ones before it),planescape and galactic civilizations all have excelent manuals,all of which Ive read AFTER getting some skill with those games.Sure,those manuals did offer some new and usefull information,and they wouldve saved me some time if Ive read them first,but that didnt stop me from enjoying the games,nor from learning how to play them,and well.

    Actually, I don’t think this is about being “wrong” or “right”. What’s funny is that Fallout and Planescape are two of the games that I needed the manual for, to look up something while playing – I didn’t read them beforehand, mind, I used them when I noticed I needed them. I didn’t feel the game design failed me, I didn’t enjoy the game any less. Sometimes you need a manual.

    I’m certainly not saying The Witcher couldn’t have had a more intuitive UI, it absolutely could. It just wasn’t a problem for me, just like using a manual when needed isn’t a problem for me.

  131. Shamus says:

    qrter: It’s possible that I’m being more brutal with this game, but if so it’s because the game just isn’t entertaining me. Fallout had a terrible interface, but I tolerated it because I was having tremendous fun.

    Here, there’s nothing really appealing to me and so every single annoyance jumps out and grabs on. The flaws don’t have advantages to hide behind:

    “Oh sure, the interface is clunky, but there are so many activities packed in there!”

    “Yeah, the voice acting is stiff, but the main character is so compelling I don’t mind.”

    “The framerate sucks, but the combat is so rewarding I don’t mind.”

    These flaws need a fig leaf of fun to cover them up.

  132. Divra says:

    Shamus: On a completely unrelated note, could you save some of the more verbose fanboy rants somewhere, so that the rest of us have something to point and laugh at? It would cheer me up, at least.

  133. folo4 says:

    @ Divra

    That would be…uncivilized.

    best if Shamus just remove the comments and hope that the commentators put up better arguments.

  134. Fosse says:

    Shamus,
    I’m not that worried about it, with a few days gone by. It is just the internet, after all. Apology appreciated, though.

    I’m actually sorry to hear there’s only one more Witcher post, since as I said before I was looking forward to them all. I guess if I’m going to lose my mind over this I’ll only have one more shot at it.

  135. Derek K says:

    I find it helps to think of Shamus as one of your friends.

    Cause sometimes, your friends come up with the most insane arguments you’ve ever heard. And you say “Dude, glad that works for you. You’re an idiot, but whatever. Let’s grab a beer.”

    And I’m 99% sure that every one of us that’s read the blog for a length of time has had a set of comments where we just went “Dude, really? *That’s* what you think? Man…” *head shaking*

    But don’t let it get to you personally. Don’t worry about changing his mind. If you feel that his arguments aren’t valid, refute them with evidence, for the other readers. Despite Shamus’ beatdown of the game (I will agree that it seems like The Witcher is getting a pretty serious roughing up, even compared to some of the negative reviews in the archives, but eh), the original comments actually convinced me I wanted to play the game. The stuff he complains about (mostly) doesn’t matter to me, and the stuff people put up as counter-arguments convinced me.

    It also sounds like The Witcher might be one of those games that runs much better on certain types of hardware – remember back in the day when it mattered if you had a GeForce or an nVidia card, because one was awesome at your particular game, and the other sucked? I think even City of Heroes had that as an issue. The Witcher might prefer one type of card to another, or dual core processors to single, or some such….

    And I personally lament the demise of the manual. I always read the manual first. And *rarely* do I get anything beyond “Here’s how to launch. Bye!” I liked Oblivion’s style of putting a huge lorebook in with the game manual, which had actual information in it.

    But then I think of WoW’s manuals, which were good, but are so amusingly outdated, you can’t help but laugh reading them….

  136. Heph says:

    @Derek K.: I think that’s what some people are doing. See: Fosse, Danath, me. On the other hand, if you have a friend with some outlandish opinion, you’ll try to sway his mind and come up with arguements to win him over, won’t you?
    Mind you, I’m talking about (some) of the comments that are up. Even in those left on line, there are plenty I consider rude and/or moronic; I’ve seen plenty of fanboiism (for anything, no the Witcher in particular) so I can imagine what it is we’re not seeing.

    Thing is, say your friend tastes a certain beer and says he really doesn’t like it. Fine. But if it happens to be a beer you really enjoy, you might try to find out why he didn’t like it, and find out if somethign else was off. Say, it wasn’t cold, or the glass still had dishwasher in it, or something. You obviously can’t force him to like it, but you can try to find out what it was he didn’t like about it. If it really is just the taste he didn’t like, well, get him a glass of water and have the two beers yourself :-P

  137. Danath says:

    All my arguments were put up how I discuss with friends really when I think they have a different opinion, I tend to agree with almost all of Shamus’s reviews/rants, so I was rather surprised to see this game get fried worse than any other review ive ever read on this blog.

    I dont really mind, I dont tend to comment much, but I brought up my viewpoint anyways, im just curious WHY Shamus seems to hate this game so much… at its worst I wouldnt figure itd be less enjoyable than Oblivion, at least to me, but obviously something didnt click with Shamus, so im just curious why that is.

  138. Noumenon says:

    That’s weird. I had the problem with this page I typically have when reading long comment threads on Shamus’ blog. After about eighty, 9 of 10 comments are blank and there are occasional solid black boxes hanging over the comments.

    But this time, I decided to post and let Shamus know I was having a problem. So I left the page open for about two hours — no refreshing. Now I can read the whole thing! That’s weird.

  139. Krey says:

    Less video game articles, more comics. You’re funny. Make use of the skills you have.

  140. Anonymous says:

    @krey: Less critiquing, more sucking [email protected]#$. m’kay.

  141. Will says:

    Well, now that you have Oblivion looking somewhat respectable, how about going back for a little trip to Morrowind via the Oblivion engine? (I just discovered this project from a link in another forum. I must say I’m very impressed, and I haven’t even downloaded any of it yet.)

  142. qrter says:

    Shamus:

    qrter: It's possible that I'm being more brutal with this game, but if so it's because the game just isn't entertaining me. Fallout had a terrible interface, but I tolerated it because I was having tremendous fun.

    I think you’re right, that’s what it boils down to. You just don’t like the whole premise the game is built on. If you liked Geralt, if you liked the gameworld, you’d probably be more forgiving of the technical shortcomings (both technical-technical and gameplay-technical).

    After I made the post about how I got the feeling you’re being more agressive towards The Witcher, I forgot to say that I didn’t mean to say you should or shouldn’t do that – I wouldn’t dare, it’s your blog, my point was more to get at why people (apart from the few more obvious assholes) might seem more agressive in their comments. You know, to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, something like that.

    I’ve always enjoyed your writing, I think you’re very insightful, don’t change a thing. :)

  143. kosse says:


    Reason: Yet another person calling me “stupid” for trusting the stated system specs. We’ve covered that already. – Shamus

  144. Avilan the Grey says:

    Derek and Kosse:
    Since NWN2 was never even playtested on any ATI cards, according to the official tech forums for that game, it is not surprising that the witcher, which runs with a modified NWN2 engine, is having small or big problems with certain hardware.
    (The statement surprised me at first until I realized the game (NWN2) has the official NVIDIA logo in it’s start screen).

  145. Simplex says:

    Noumenon I am having identical issue – blank comment boxes and black bars. I am using firefox. Perhaps something is wrong with CSS? (or ff reads them incorrectly).

  146. kosse says:

    Geez, nice moderating there Shamus. Will you remove this reply too?

    In any case, if you would have read my whole reply you’d propably had realised that I wasn’t calling you stupid but the idea of expecting something to run well on hardware that is close to minimum requirements because that is if not stupid at least an ignorant thought. It’s a well known fact that minimum requirements have been mostly a joke throughout the history of PC gaming so bashing a game so much for something that is perfectly normal is not very productive.

  147. Shamus says:

    kosse: I did read the whole thing. I’m going to let that one stand, even though you you’re just making the same useless argument. This issue was already covered twice in the comments. I do this not out of ignorance, or stupidity, but a firm belief that if a publisher does this sort of thing they deserve whatever they get. This is exactly what should happen: They should get negative attention.

    This is exactly why this thread is so infuriating to me. Why would you even try to excuse this sort of behavior? Why do you care if I (rightfully) point out the game doesn’t run right?

    Seriously, what’s it to you?

    Also: I have no idea how old you are, but for me “PC Gaming” is 20 years old. And for most of that time system specs were reliable. It’s only in the last 6 years or so that the whole thing has gone sideways.

  148. Dhruin says:

    @Avilan the Grey – The Witcher uses Aurora (original NWN, not NWN2) with a completely new renderer written by CD Projekt Red. NWN2 uses a renderer created by Obsidian. There is no direct line between The Witcher and whatever the NWN2 forums says about hardware for that game.

  149. Derek K says:

    @Kosse: So, effectively, your argument is “They lie, but we know they’re lying, so it’s a kind of truth”?

    I think we should just pick the right door, and hope the hands help us up.

  150. Gildan Bladeborn says:

    Shamus,
    This is just idle curiosity mind you, but reading through the various comments and your responses got me thinking about other European RPGs, and whether you’ve played any of the ones I have. Hearing people complain about the voice acting in The Witcher in particular strikes me as odd, because it actually has extremely good voice acting – compared to some of the other European RPGs I’ve played.

    Having played the Gothic series, all the complaints I’d make about The Witcher seem petty. The first Gothic was a very interesting game with a world that actually felt like a real place, thanks to heavy scripting and a (mostly) seamless gameworld. The downsides were the usual mixed bag of voice actors, wonky mechanics, and an absolutely retarded control scheme and inventory system. I am not exaggerating when I say that Gothic’s control scheme makes The Witcher’s look like a flawless utopia where everything is wonderful, but despite the flaws the game was very fun.

    The sequel managed to do away with a lot of the control issues while simultaneously making you long for the horrible inventory system from the original, because this one was somehow worse. Instead of navigating a multi-tabbed single column inventory where you couldn’t use the mouse to select anything and had to remember the control keys to actually interact with stuff, now you get an interface where you can use the mouse – But now everything is in one giant pile. The game was still huge and immersive though, and I still go back and replay it every so often. Voice acting was often unintentionally hilarious too.

    The 3rd Gothic didn’t really overcome the flaws, which oddly enough weren’t in the interface or controls this time around for a change.

    Then there’s the excellent but quirky FPS style RPG Arx Fatalis, which let you bake pies (pie is awesome), and had the whole “Black and White” style spellcasting system where you would draw the various runes to cast spells – in realtime. Voice acting was atrocious, your character got hungry at a ridiculous interval, and there was a huge spread of attributes and skills that weren’t all even particularly useful so building a dud character was a very real problem. It was a blast, thanks mostly to the art design and setting, plus all the nifty little things you could waste your time on (and the goblins with the stereotypical exaggerated french accents were hilarious). Definitely clunky though.

    My last example is the Spellforce series, which are really quite interesting for their mechanics alone: They were RTS/RPG hybrids. You might argue that games like Warcraft 3 fit that category, but that was just slapping some RPG elements onto a dedicated RTS. These games really were both genres. The best way I can describe them would be to say…..mix the inventory system and party aspect from Dungeon Siege with the attribute system from Diablo II, toss in MMO style “cooldown” abilities for the non-caster classes, and then add ridiculously elaborate base building and decent but not revolutionary army control to the mix. Building the various bases and watching your worker units going about their jobs reminded me a lot of say….Age of Empires, only much prettier.

    Not all the various armies you’d eventually get to use (depending on the island really, there was this whole “crystal” mechanic too that would gradually level the factions up) had the same sort of excess that the humans seemed to, and the sequel wisely cut down on some of the variety in favor of a more approachable system. In the original Spellforce, you’d build the usual quarries, refineries, lumbermills and farm type structures, plus the individual barracks or upgrade buildings we’ve come to expect from an RTS, but the sheer variety was almost ridiculous sometimes.

    The starting farm was some sort of hunters lodge, and the little peasants assigned to it would pick up crossbows and head out to hunt the various wild game wandering around the islands. But then you also had the fishing lodge which let your peasants harvest fish from local lakes, the pig farm (which didn’t rely on the non-renewable wandering beasts), a grain farm (it was highly amusing watching the workers sowing the fields, then heading out with scythes when the wheat was ready), the specialized storehouse that made food gathering more efficient, the new and improved hunter’s lodge and fishing lodge, etc. While I applaud variety (and it makes the base more interesting to watch in action), it did seem a wee bit excessive to have 7+ buildings that all do the same thing (mostly).

    And the voice acting was pretty awful. I highly enjoyed it even with the flaws.

    Incidentally all of those games had essentially pre-defined protagonists, with a variable range of player defined motivation (from a bunch to almost none), so I guess I’ve been inoculated against the whole “vital need to be a female gnomish sorceress (or have the option to anyways)” that other people seem to have.

    So I’m curious if you’ve ever played any of those games, since it seems the bulk of the 3d RPGs I’ve played were European imports, with Kotor (I’m including Jade Empire under this umbrella), Diablo clones (I’m looking at you Dungeon Siege), or the sandbox style Elder Scrolls games coming in second, so I’m probably used to expecting diamonds in the rough. The Witcher was quite a bit better then I expected it to be, given bar for European RPGs that came before it.

    (I’m only mentioning comparatively modern 3d RPGs mind you, the first RPG I played was Fallout, and then Planescape: Torment, so it’s not that I’ve just never played the classics and don’t know any better. I love Shadows of Amn as much as the next guy, thank you very much.)

  151. Heph says:

    Gildan Bladeborn has a point, perhaps. I’vep layed every game he’s listed (though only the third Gothic), and enjoyed them as well…Though I never knew Spellforce (and the sequel) were European. Oops!
    Another game to throw in would be Divine Divinity (Belgian). It’s being viewed as a Diablo clone by many, but it has storytelling and character variation about on par with Oblivion – except that, again, your character is “pre-defined” in that he’s, this guy, you know. Much like in the Witcher, where the character is defined as “this guy, you know”, with a name added.

  152. zangree says:

    Well, Shamus fails to inform us what system he was playing Witcher on. He tells us that he installed it on a new HD but that’s all. The also doesn’t say if his game was patched or not. Kinda important since patch 1.3 fixed a lot of bugs and made loading and saving times much shorter than unpatched game.

    Gildan Bladeborn, I agree with what you have said about voice acting. It isn’t bad at all IMO. There is one major translation problem but I don’t think that Shamus ever played that far into the game.

  153. Derek K says:

    @Zangree:

    “I'm within the system requirements (on the low side, but I'm still in)”

    I believe the general point is “If you say your game will run acceptably within a window, and I am in that window, the game should run acceptably.” The details of his hardware are really irrelevant, beyond “Good enough.”

    If the game requires optimization and config file changes to run on a system, to me, that’s not running acceptably.

    Also, this argument has kinda been done in this thread. ;)

    @Heph: I tried so hard to play Spellforce, but every demo I installed was corrupted somehow. I suspect it is the nirvana of gaming for me, if I could just get it running. I got Divine Divinity for $10 at a used game store. Excellent $10 spent there, even if my friends made fun of me. “Oh, are you going to start at the Begin Beginnig and play until the End Ending?”

  154. zangree says:

    The point is that I know somebody who have run Witcher on P4M 1.7 notebook with x600 video (which is below system requirements) and thought the game was “clunky but playable”.

  155. Eric says:

    @zangree *Irish accent* And the leprechauns come with their pot o’ gold, and take ye into the land of Tir Na Nog to live happily ever after.

  156. Avilan the Grey says:

    Dhruin: Sorry, my bad. Although it might still explain some things; the NWN engine was non-optimized piece of crap; I remember countless arguments in the official forums where the the official explanations “But the graphics are so advanced, and out model for handling lightsources is fantastic” was shot down with the comments that

    A) If I have to turn graphics down when having a recommended system so that I can’t have the lightsource effects, and it’s still lagging, what good does that do me?

    B) Funny, I see at least 5 games that looks so much better to the naked eye, even if your argument that your code can handle more advanced stuff… (meaning what actually LOOKS good is not always the same thing as What is Advanced or New and Improved and you wasted resources implementing advanced functions that are barely visible to the player even at highest settings but eats tons of resources).

    Oh and now when I think about it, wasn’t NWN the opposite of NWN2? I seem to recall an ATI logo in the intro there, and real problems getting it to run on NVIDIA based systems…?

  157. Heph says:

    @Derek K.: word of warning, though: Beyond Divinity (the sequel) was a pretty big let-down, to me at least.
    As for Spellforce, I had it illegally (I quit, Iswear! This is from the time I was in high school! Mea culpa!) , and the disc doesn’t work anymore. If I ever see it somewhere in a bargain bin or special edition, I’m picking it up though.

    @Zangree: I ran it without problems myself, on two pcs, one just under recommended, one just under required. On the one under required it wasn’t exactly beautiful, but it ran. Still, it may be that the Witcher just doesn’t like Shamus’ specific type of graphics card (brand, type of firmware, drivers that are too new, whatever) or something, but that it runs ok on some pcs with similar stats doesn’t mean it’ll run on any of them.
    I’ve seen games run on my brother’s laptop that won’t run on my desktop – despite having a newer graphics card, a newer motherboard, more memory, a bigger and less cluttered hard drive, and a faster DVD drive. Don’t ask me why some games are peculiar about their hardware, there are plenty of examples of it and Shamus is right in saying that it should run on pretty much *anything* that meets required specs. Admittedly, the fact that it runs badly on his is bad luck for the game, but hey, that’s the way it is.

  158. Daemian Lucifer says:

    @kosse

    Games that Ive played without meeting one,or many of the system requirments:
    Diablo 2,baldurs gate 2,neverwinter nights,half life 2(and both episodes),morrowind,dark mesiah(although,this one I had to stop because it got funky in battles).So,no dice.

    @Gildan Bladeborn

    On the defence of spellforce 1:
    It has the best intro Ive ever seen.Even now,I preffer that animation than any other.
    It has a nice story(if you like such weird loops like I do).
    It has a great AI(very few RTSs have made me sweat that much).
    Innovative gameplay.
    As for the humans,their diversity is their biggest flaw:You need many resources for a decent army,and if you spread too much,youll exhaust them all.

  159. kingnoobe says:

    Well I don’t know what to tell you… I play this game on my crappy computer as good as anyone could expect since I don’t meet the min. requirements. Amd 3200+, 1gig ram, 128mb ati 9500pro *the real killer here*.

    I don’t get load times through doors.. While it does get a little sluggish at times its nothing like you mention except the map/journal delay. Maybe you need to tweak/maintain your system a little better.

  160. Leoric says:

    For: It’s a game, not your mom. Go away fanboy.

  161. DonKingResurrected says:

    I too had the same frame rate problems with the witcher enahnced edition. I systematically worked through the lots with the options as i know i can get some great looking results. What i discovered was that my graphics card (9600M GT 512 mb) couldn’t power my display.
    So at 1920×1080 with all graphics settings minimised i still had a laggy mess. But at 1024×768 with all graphics settings maximised it ran smooth and looked quite great (lighting effects + AA smoothes out some of the edges of the models).
    Go figure. Some games are weird. This is one of them. So much for native display resolution being faster – i guess you hit a point where there’s just too much detail and it grinds to a messy halt (maybe the resolution just below 1920×1080 would be worse but i can’t be bothered trying).

    DKR

  162. someboringguy says:

    I have played The Witcher last months and after searching on this site for it (curiosity) I have found this review.I agree with all the things that Shamus says about the technical aspect of the game, but my experience was essentially different.
    I don’t know whether it depends on the version or not, but the health of the enemies and the exp appeared for me every time I attacked/killed one.
    The dialogue is great, as in well written and spoken and I have passed the “pause between each line issue” by pressing the mouse button after every spoken line.
    The main thing I don’t get, Shamus, is what is so complex about the jurnal?There are many tabs, that’s true but they have labels, which are very sugestive, like “monsters” or “ingredients”.It’s easy to find whatever you search for and the description of all of those things brings some culour to the game world.
    Also, the hero screen.Same thing.All the skill trees are separated into stat depending skills (stenght, dexterity, endurance), magic depending skills and combat depending skills.What’s so complicate?Do you imagine all of them appearing on a single window, all of the skill trees, and scrolling through all of that?

  163. Galad says:

    Kind of necro posting here, but I have enough good memories from the Witcher’s world to wish to chime in.

    First, disclaimers/memories:

    I never owned the game, I never even had a computer that can cover the min specs for it, I played it a local internet/games club place thingie..thus I had no manual to count on..

    At the time I played the EE was out, and the computer I played on certainly covered the minimum requirements, probably the recommended ones too.

    The loading times were still well, longer than we gamers are usually used to, like Shamus describes. They only got unbearably long to me after say, over 4 hours of gameplay, when the PC was just begging to be restarted.

    Now, there may have been significant changes between EE and pre-EE interface, in fact, one portion of Shamus’ article leads me to believe pre-EE interface has been a lot more cluttered. If the in-game tutorials however were however, the same, I’m bewildered at some of Shamus’ confusion. For example, addressing the gameplay “use strong style attacks on heavy and slow opponents, use fast style on agile opponents”. It was explained in the in-game tutorials, and even if you skip reading those, you’d find out while fighting that trying to use strong style on an agile opponent results in you missing him, and if you use fast attacks, well, you’ll hit everything except for two or three special, invulnerable monsters, but you’ll deal less damage than with strong. About toxicity – part of the tutorial level, at least iirc, was Geralt drinking a potion, getting to about half toxicity and then a tutorial popping up about toxicity. I was fine with gameplay for the most part thanks to just the in game tutorials. I managed to get to halfway or so in act II before I had to resort to a walkthrough since there was an obscure part of the main quest..

    Of course, none of the above paragraph would be relevant if I had to struggle to barely run the game..or the tutorials were missing or messed up..

    Think of it as part RPG, part fantasy-novel-turned-to-video game(which it is, since “the Witcher” is first a series of novels by A.Sapkowski, and then a PC game), and it would make sense why its gameplay isn’t as complex or its replay value as high as, say, the best Bioware RPGs.

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