The Witcher

I know I missed Fate this week, but omg real life, so have me ranting incoherently about this nonsense game instead, which is a wRPG for the XBox and PC:

Everyone seemed to be going crazy over how this franchise is ~morally gray~, but we all know that just means grimdark. I was prepared for it to be machismo-fueled existential-pseudo-philosophy stuff, but I at least thought I’d get a compelling setting and cool story out of it. What I did not expect was misogyny, probably one of the worst control layouts/battle systems I’ve ever encountered, and most importantly, some of the most horrible plotting I’ve ever seen.

Guys, this game is hilarious.


First of all, the setting is apparently after some “Great War” that involved killing all women, because an hour into the game I’d met about 10 major male NPCs, 50 male bandits, and one woman. The main woman wears nothing but an open-to-the-navel parka and fishnets, and the detail they put into making sure her boobs jiggle every time she takes a step in the cutscenes is so overt it’s actually kind of funny. Also that image is titled “Triss in battle gear,” which is just sad. As a warning, if you google her name you get nothing but porn of her, which, yeah, that’s really all the commentary her role in the story needs.

Further exploration has revealed one more named woman, one unnamed women, one fridged woman, and an apparent redhead fetish.

Also, during the post-prologue recap (I’ll get to that), we have the pleasure of just staring at a screen containing nothing but this image until you click through, I guess so there’s enough time to fap. (And come on, the cat? See what I mean about this game being hilarious?)

The plotting is hilaribad, too. It’s just funny how bad it is, which is why I haven’t ragequit yet (that, and what information I’ve forcibly extracted about the setting is actually kind of interesting, if cliche). The best part is that the game can’t decide if the Player Character has amnesia or not. He’ll have completely normal, backstory-informed conversations with other characters, and then at the end of the conversation just go, “Oh yeah, who are you? I have amnesia.” It’s so bad the other characters are constantly lampshading it. They’ll be like, uh, dude, you were just
acting totally normal how do you not know who I am?

The writers clearly wanted to use his amnesia as a way to introduce players to game mechanics, but they obviously didn’t want to sacrifice their
TOTES EDGY characterization and him being a badass, so you get characters talking with him and him acting normal and volunteering to do things and then some token mention of him apparently not remembering anything he’s talking about.

There’s one point that’s supposed to be our introduction to the alchemy system where Grizzled Old Wise Man needs you to make a potion for Sex Object
Sorceress/Token Female, as she (obviously) got her ass kicked in battle, and the PC immediately goes, “I’ll make it.” And then there’s this beat
as the writers try to figure out how this makes any sense and then just decide, eh, fuck it, and so they have him say, “Oh, but I lost my
memory, I don’t know how,” and GOWM just kind of looks at him and then sighs and sends him off to delegate the bulk of the task to someone
else. Even the characters don’t know if he has amnesia or not.

My favorite, though, came at the end of the prologue. He and Sexy “this is the only female-approved fantasy class” Sorceress talk when he gives
her the potion, and it becomes clear they were in some kind of relationship. Apparently the PC died at some point? We’re not told (two
hours into the game, we still haven’t gotten any backstory about anything, so I actually have no idea what’s going on at all), and
everyone simultaneously talks about him dying and then isn’t surprised to see him alive, so I have no idea.

Anyway, she’s all, “When you died I missed you so much! I was so worried I’d never see you again!” And he responds, “Lo! But not as worried as when I saw your inferior womanly form on the ground injured during the battle just now!” and then they passionately make love, yes there is a sex scene in the prologue. So they finish and get up and she says to him, “With everything going on (whatever “everything” is), I don’t think we should
be in a relationship right now,” and, no joke, he stares at her and goes, “We’re in a relationship? I didn’t know, I lost my memory.” And
I’m sitting there like

The game takes cliche stock charcaters and dials them up to 11. The setting is Grimdark Shitsville, everyone is covered in scars, it’s apparently
never daytime, and yet one of the characters you meet at the beginning hops up to you like a puppy with a ball and just starts spewing
sunshine: “Oh boy oh boy! How I love being a new recruit! I am sure new and enthusiastic! I hope I get to do this for a very long time indeed!”

The best part though is that the game doesn’t even wait to kill him off! He dies less than a half hour into gameplay, during the first battle! And
everyone does their best Darth Vader NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO and it’s just funny because how stupid are they? Were we actually supposed to feel something about this (besides amusement)? The guy might as well have been named Redshirt for
all the death markers he had.

I haven’t had a game be awful in such a hilarious way in such a long time.

This is all compounded by the fact that two+ hours in, I have no idea what’s going on. The amnesia device should have been a vehicle for a backstory recap, but we never actually get it, because he’s too busy acting like he doesn’t have amnesia to bother needing to be filled in as to the story. So it’s just all these people acting insane in this nonsense setting and I have no idea why!

I mean, holy shit, the best part is after you get to the first town. We get a cutscene of a half-naked woman and some kid running from the Hound of the Baskervilles (not joking, it’s not even subtle). She dies dramatically because that’s what women are for, and the kid passes out on the ground inside the town gate. Player Character is there and starts talking to the only clothed woman we’ve met so far, just kind of chatting as the maybe-dead kid lays there.

And then, all of a sudden, the kid starts glowing, floats in the air, and starts chanting some kind of doomsday cult thing about the world burning
in a demonic voice, and then falls to the ground. And everyone just keeps doing what the were doing. The women you were talking to goes, “Oh, don’t worry, that was just the Prophecy of Ithlinne (WHATEVER THE FUCK THAT IS).” And they just forget about it and go on with their conversation! And I’m there like

Here’s what of the setting I’ve been able to glean: There was some kind of war (the “Great War”) between the country of our setting and some other
country. They used genetically modified humans called Witchers to magic their way to victory, but the place went to shit afterwards for some reason and then everyone blamed the Witchers for some reason. And now some evil guy wants the secrets of the Witchers for some reason. Power, I guess, that’s pretty standard.

It’s really engaging; you can tell.

Anyway, after the nonsense prologue, they mourn the death of Redshirt and decide to get back whatever Mysterious Secret the Bad Guy stole from
them. We don’t know what those secrets were, just that they were apparently kept in a conspicuous wooden box in the wide open for easy
stealing. Despite the fact that they’re like the last five Witchers in existence or something and this is presumably Not Good, they decide to
literally go to opposite corners of the planet instead of investigating the obvious leads together. Also, they decide to go on foot despite the
fact that Sexy Sorceress can teleport anywhere.

Okay, none of this makes sense, but whatever, at least I’ll get to run around the map now.

NOPE.

We cut to a Tolkien Map and watch a little red line do the journey instead, all while the voiceover literally recaps the prologue for us, but somehow does so without filling us in on any relevant backstory info. Just straight recap of what we already know.

Getting teleported from one mob battle to another wouldn’t necessarily even be a bad thing except that the combat system is freaking awful.

First of all, in order to do damage, you have to press and hold the attack button and wait for your character to do this whole dramatic sword-swining maneuver. But if the buildup gets interrupted, the attack is cancelled and you have to start over. Since you’re routinely dealing with mobs, this gets very frustrating very quickly, and often as your character is going through this elaborate sword display, he’s getting pummelled from behind by four different enemies, so as you’re trying to land just one attack your health bar is constantly depleting.

On top of this, there’s no auto-targeting. If you don’t hold your cursor steady on an enemy, the attack motion won’t start. And since enemies are constantly moving (obviously) this also gets frustrating fast.

There’s three attack “modes,” each of which you use for certain enemies, which have to be manually toggled during battle, so if while you’re toggling the enemy moves and another one gets in the way of your cursor, the attack might not do anything even if it lands and then you have to toggle again.

The only way to chain attacks is to let go off the attack button and then quickly press it again at a precise moment at the end of the attack motion just before you do damage, and if you let go at the wrong moment it cancels your attack. This means that it’s often better to not chain just so you don’t have to worry about cancelling the attack you were finally able to land.

As for the cursor, it’s autoheld in the middle of the screen, so you can’t look at what other characters are doing while you attack someone else; in order to attack your camera must be centered on that enemy. This means that most of the time I had no idea how many enemies I was dealing with, and often I’d have guys run up behind me and start wailing the second I thought I’d finally finished off the last enemy.

Speaking of the cursor autohold, there are clickable menus and icons all over the screen… but you can’t access the menus with your mouse unless you’re already in a menu, because unless you pause your cursor is stuck smack-dab in the center.

The result is that mid-battle I’d realize I needed a potion or something and attempt to click on my items, only to have the camera start swinging around wildly while I internally went OH SHIT PRESS A MENU BUTTON ANY MENU BUTTON AHHHHH. It does not help that even on the lowest setting, the camera is ridiculously sensitive to mouse motion.

So that’s a complete shitshow.

There are other weird mechanics, too. Like, you can’t get harvestables from dead monsters unless you’ve read a monster book describing that monster’s harvestables, but I already have quests asking for specific parts of the monsters. So what happens, my character kills a Baskerville, goes to get its skull, and then just thinks, “Oh shit, skull, where is the skull?! Hey– hey you! Can you help me? Where is a dog’s skull?! He– no, I’m not on drugs, you ass. DON’T YOU WALK AWAY FROM ME. Crap! I’ll just have to go find a book to explain this. I hope I know how to read.”

The skill tree system is a complete nightmare as well. I think I might as well mention here: That dog-statue-thing in the upper-left-hand corner? No idea what it is or why it’s there. It goes batshit when an enemy is near, because reasons, which is nice, I guess. Anyway:

You may think this is your skill tree. You would be wrong. Well, kind of.

First of all, on the left, there? Each of those words with random red dots? Has a tree just like this. There are fifteen massive skill trees, all with very discrete differences.

Secondly, there are not trees. It looks like you start at the middle green ones and then move into the colors out to the edge of the circle for each skill, right? Wrong. Each individual skill progresses along the circle, so the green dots are all the levels for one skill. Visually it’s a complete mess.

I still haven’t been able to figure out the levelling system. Your level doesn’t display anywhere, you don’t seem to get experience points for killing monsters, and… I don’t know. Every now and then I just get a “level up” message and am told to apply skill points, but I haven’t been able to figure out why I’m getting them yet. Best I can figure, you’re awarded them as you progress per quest, but I can’t figure out how experience is doled out or what exactly it means to level. Whether you get skill points for just levelling or for quest completion or both I’m not sure. No one bothered to explain this to Sir Not-Amnesia.

Speaking of skill points! Instead of a normal tree system where you need progressively more SP to unlock higher levels of a skill, SP is color-coded and skills have to be unlocked with an appropriate color “level” of SP. You can unlock the first three levels of the green strength skill above using one bronze-colored SP each. There’s no progression to it; it’s not like one bronze, two bronze, three bronze, one silver, etc. I assume the skills on the outside of the circle need higher colors to be unlocked, which blocks them out until certain points in the game if SP is quest-based, but that means you can’t grind, which means that if you get stuck you can’t overpower yourself to compensate, you have to suicide through.

I honestly haven’t even gone through at 15 trees and figured out which ones I want yet, because they’re different in such small ways and I care so little about doing this game “right” that I can’t bring myself to devote the time to (if each tree has the same amount of options as this one) 345 different unlockables.What is the different between adding +5 to my damage and +5%? Why do I have duplicate skill sets for “steel” and “silver” even though the only difference is in material and this would make more sense as a general “Swordsmanship” skill?

Weirdly, despite not even having some “signs” (magic spells) and weapons yet, I seem to be able to apply SP to those skills.

I’m kind of running out of steam here, though God knows there’s more WTF to this game, and I have another few days til Fable III comes in the mail so I’m going to keep at it just because it’s fucking hilariously bad and I’m getting some kind of twisted amusement from it. I may make some followup posts depending on how much further I get or if things go even further off the rails and I’m bursting with the need to talk about this to someone because it’s so ridiculous.

This game is just complete crack.

43 Comments

  1. SpoonyViking says:
    Huh. I’m reading the “The Witcher” novels as they’re being translated into Portuguese, and they’re actually quite enjoyable. It’s a shame the game seems to be such a mess.

    There’s certainly an element of male fantasy with Geralt, the series’ (and, if I’m not mistaken, the game’s) main character, in that he’s a badass monster-killing machine, all stoic and laconic, who is still handsome and eye-catching despite the prejudice suffered by Witchers; but he’s also a well-rounded character, with actual flaws to boot, and so are the two main female characters, Triss and Yennefer – that is, they’re not there just to be bedded by Geralt, they’re characters on their own with believable interactions with the world around them. And they certainly dress a lot more appropriately than their counterparts in the game!

    …I guess what I’m saying is that if you like fantasy with some grimdarkness (but not on “Warhammer 40k”‘s level), the books are a good read. :-)

    1. actonthat says:
      This actually got me pretty interested in reading the books, because the few world details I got did seem pretty inventive, and as we know The Book Is Always Better. So many of the problems are from the gameplay and the way they decided to “tell” the story that it’s easy to believe the original version was normal. I may pick them up if I have the time; I still haven’t finished Dance with Dragons.
    2. illhousen says:
      As far as I remember, the books drop in quality the farther you go. The first… three, I think, are enjoyable, but after that the author takes them into a strange direction.
      At one point the protagonist changes, so we follow a teenage girl hunted down by some vaguely pedophile villain. Not to worry, though, after a few months of training she can kick ass and take names with the best of them.
      1. actonthat says:
        That would explain why the third game is the “final installment” but there’s way more books than that. Weird, I wonder how they’ll handle it. “Random angry mob murder” doesn’t seem like a particularly satisfying ending.
        1. illhousen says:
          The game takes place after the end of the books, retconning the ending.

          EDIT: And I should clarify. The girl (I have no idea how her name should be spelled in English. Ciri, I think) is not a new protagonist, she is a deuteragonist. We just follow her while Geralt dicks around with some knights.

          1. actonthat says:
            Well, that certainly explains the weird, “Oh hey, you’re not dead anymore!” thing that no one bothered elaborating on.

            What a terrible idea.

      2. SpoonyViking says:
        Huh. Well, we currently have the first three books here, so I guess I’ll soon have the opportunity to check that out for myself. :-)
        But yeah, Ciri is already being set up as the best at everything: combat lessons from Geralt and the other Witchers, spellcasting training from Yennefer, all the signs that she has Great Untapped Power…
  2. illhousen says:
    To address a few points:
    Witchers traditionally use steel swords to fight humans and silver swords to fight monsters. I guess the developers wanted to put an emphasis on this aspect.
    The dog statue is actually a wolf medallion which, as I recall, warns witchers about monsters nearby.

    SPOILERS FOR THE ENDING OF THE BOOKS
    The protagonist did die at the end of the books, slain by some random angry mob. Just like you will be if you let enemies to surround you. See what they did there?
    And yeah, there were a lot of sex in the books, as I recall, so I guess the developers wanted to recreate this aspect.

    1. SpoonyViking says:
      …Dude! Spoilers! :-(
      Aw, that’s a shame; I could see the focus would change to Ciri, but I hoped Geralt would have a better ending than something like that.
      1. illhousen says:
        It is a discussion of a game set after the books, which, as far as I remember, spoils the ending, though apparently not decisively.

        I do apologize if I spoiled you, though.
        I put a warning here for potential future readers.

        Continue discussing the ending…

        Eh, it was very random. Geralt survived everything, then died at the hands of some literally random mob. Like, they don’t have much connection to anything that came before, no foreshadowing, no nothing.

        1. actonthat says:
          Maybe the author got sick of him?
          1. illhousen says:
            I am pretty sure the author was Making A Point about mortality and how even the best can meet an inglorious end and such.
    2. illhousen says:
      Oh, and one more thing.
      The first book was a collection of short stories which were basically gritty reboots of various fairy tales. It is not considered a “proper” part of the series, written with no intention to continue, so I don’t know if it was translated.
      Either way, stuff like the Hound of the Baskervilles being the Hound of the Baskervilles was intentional.
      1. SpoonyViking says:
        It was, but with the name changed from “The Witcher” to “The Last Wish” (or their equivalents in Portuguese, here :-)), and it’s also the best one of the series, in my opinion. Not that the others are bad; I just think a character like Geralt works better in a series of loosely-connected short stories than in a full epic.
        1. Guest says:
          “Ostatnie Życzenie” – “The Last Wish” is the original title of the book, actually. I’ve started reading from the third one (the beginning of the Saga, haven’t tried short stories). The language and (real) historical background were amazing, but I got bored after the third, with a heavy “I don’t care what happens to these people” syndrome. Except Ciri and Dandellion, they were awesome. :) Both the books and the games are considered serious buisness in Poland though, likely the most popular fantasy franchise here.
      2. actonthat says:
        Hmmm, do you think it’d be better to start with the series there or with the actual saga beginning?

        The Baskervilles reference is one of those things that would make me squee in a game I was enjoying and annoy me in a game I wasn’t. Unfair, maybe, but true.

        1. illhousen says:
          The short stories were better, as I recall.
          Though it was, like, ten years since I’ve read the books, so I honestly don’t remember much by now.
  3. Zephyr says:
    If you’re playing it on PC, have you looked at modding the game? I haven’t tried it with the Witcher specifically, but by the sounds of things, it’s pretty easy (though I’ve been modding Morrowind and Skyrim for years, so my perspective may be a little skewed). Anyway, I think Nexus Mods has a few for the Witcher, including stuff like interface and combat fixes alongside the sadly inevitable “put all female characters in lingerie” mods, so that might make the game a bit more enjoyable.

    Also this: http://www.nexusmods.com/witcher/mods/255/?, which changes lots of NPCs to people of colour and the main guy to a dark-skinned woman, which seems like it’d interest you?

    1. Septentrion Euchoreutes says:
      I think there are more competent Morrowind modders than the total number of files submitted for The Witcher. Given that you link something which is only a graphic swap, I don’t think there is enough there to actually fix a the game. It’s much better to look into modding of a game with aspects you actually enjoy. I would suggest running from horrible games like the Witcher and never looking back.

      Modding does give a good first hand experience when it comes to game design though. I’ve done Morrowind, I’ve tinkered with Civilization game files, and done more serious stuff hacking Super Mario World. Because time a valuable commodity, it’s much better to improve a good game with mods than to merely fix a bad game.Similar perspective, different conclusion I guess.

      1. Zephyr says:
        Yeah, there’s not a lot there for the Witcher, I don’t know if it’s hard to mod or if it just doesn’t have the community like TES does. I’m aware that particular mod’s only a graphic swap – I linked it more for the website and because it seemed like something Act might be interested in.

        I agree with you on modding games you enjoy instead of fixing bad games, I just thought that if Act (or anyone else) was going to continue playing this regardless, then it might be worth spending half an hour installing something that’d make things better. A quick search came up with an redesigned interface mod and someone’s comment mentioned a redone combat system, which were the main two gameplay complaints Act had, so I just figured I’d mention it :)

    2. actonthat says:
      I don’t really know that this game is worth the time to mod, but the one you linked to looks pretty cool. Thanks for the recs!
  4. Siegfried says:
    The Witcher is…an odd series of books. The best I can describe it is as generic grimdark fantasy mixed with traditional fairy tales significantly amped up on the sex and violence quota. I’d almost think of them as parodies of your standard sword’n’sorcery stories, except the author seems to play it straight most of the time.

    The misogyny is also not something exclusive to the game series, it actually features quite heavily in the books as well. Maybe not to the ridiculous extent of the games, but you can see where the games draw it from.

    Also, while The Witcher is a terrible game, the sequel, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, is actually not too bad. They fixed most of the gameplay aspects at least, so it’s not as much of a hassle to play, even if the setting and story is still pretty “meh”.

    1. actonthat says:
      Yeah, when I was looking at the sequel, it seemed like WE FIXED THE COMBAT SYSTEM was the main thing they wanted to get across.

      If that wasn’t so broken in this game, I could lol my way through the bizarre storytelling, but unfortunately it’s just a really frustrating UX that is both boring and frustrating.

      I’m just going to read the books.

  5. guestest ever says:
    Witcher is one of the best CRPGs ever made. The word EVER does not contain any irony, sarcasm or hyperbole in it:
    a) The actual game itself changes depending on player choices.
    b) It has an incredibly good combat system (with a bad learning curve).
    c) It’s not the blandlands of tolkienishville
    d) Predates grrm induced hipster grimdark crapdeluge by years
    e) Refreshingly free of both American and Japanese rpgcraptraps
    f) Contains the best finale since [insert exbest finale]

    Sure, interface is a mess, setting is grimdork, translation is dodgy, girlcards are girlcards, dice poker can go fuck itself… But far as CRPGs go, it doesn’t get much better than this.

    It’s not Witcher’s fault CRPG genre is full of badness and bioware.

    1. actonthat says:
      a) This is pretty standard in modern wRPGs.
      b) No it does not.
      c) The setting actually seems interesting; I wish the game would tell me about it.
      d) Grimdark in Song of Ice and Fire is my biggest complaint about that series, and it’s not any more endearing here than it is there, so I’m not sure why that’s a defense
      e) How so? Like what?
      f) That doesn’t really matter if I don’t have the incentive to get there.

      “Interface is a mess,” and “treats women (ie, that thing that I am everyday all the time) like shit,” are pretty compelling reasons for me to not push through to that spectacular ending.

      If you want me to keep with it you’ll need to make a much stronger case, because Fable should just adopt the tagline, “We love women and are our games are lots of fun!” and when I have to choose, that’s going to win.

      1. guestest ever says:
        I shall refute the refutations once:

        a) Modern wRPGs are as far from actual game changes as two things that are astronomically far away are. “Illusion of choice” and maybe good/bad/ugly paths are what’s standard. Not even Alpha Protocol, the pinnacle of plot branchyness with an actual CRPG attached, changes very much from one playthrough to next.
        b) Yes it does. Play on hardest difficulty.

        c) It occasionally does. While it’s still grimdork wartorn land of scumbags and death, it’s well made grimdork wartorn land of scumbags and death.

        d) This is old genuine grimdork before grimdarkness became hip and cool after grrm started to rake in the monies. It’s old school grimdork, not whippersnapper grimdork, which counts as defense against the usual fare.

        e) Geralt isn’t a soulless husk to be filled with projected player personality. Geralt also isn’t an implausibly powerful teenager with a dark past full of trauma. There are no good/bad/ugly paths determined by kicking or feeding puppies. No great evil threatening the world. No mcguffin hunting to unlock final area. No +14 coolsword of acidfiredeath. No JRPG combat…

        tldr: it’s neither FF327 nor bioware, which makes it superior to masses by virtue of differentness.

        f) It exists whether it’s witnessed or not. It could seem a pretty small gem among the sea of grimdung to the untrained eye, but that only makes it awesomer.

        I’m not mad enough to try convincing someone on the internet about anything, so I don’t intend to build cases here. I already know how great Witcher is, a look at Fable would be more useful far as I’m concerned. Though I’m pretty sure Fable sucks because “open world”. Ewww…

        1. Socordya says:
          What’s wrong with Bioware?
        2. actonthat says:
          a) Really? Because Fable II had some pretty extreme changes based on decisions. Hell, Chrono Trigger did. At this point, if a wRPG *didn’t* change based on my decisions I’d be kind of annoyed. It’s one of those, “You don’t get a cookie for not sucking,” things to me.

          b) I don’t really see how knocking the difficultly up a notch would invalidate the long list of complaints I had about the system? Does it stop being boring “hold this button down and do nothing else” combined with frustrating mechanics?

          c & d) Like I said, the setting actually seems really cool, which is why I’ll probably go read the books now. That said, the grimdark itself doesn’t bother me as much as how it’s used does– like all tropes– and this game has had some serious storytelling issues early on, which makes me think it will continue to have them.

          e) You’re kind of comparing apples and oranges? There’s a subgenre of RPGs in which the idea is player insertion (Elder Scrolls, Fable, Diablo, Fallout), and another subgenre where the idea is to explore a specific character’s journey (Rune Factory, Final Fantasy, Tales, Chrono). There’s not really a hierarchy there for me. I get different things out of both subgenres and don’t really have any preference outside of what I’m in the mood for at the time.

          The interesting thing here, as illustrated by the games I sorted just now, is that despite the mechanics, look, etc. being wRPG, the character setup is very jRPG. If the game had held on to me I probably would have discussed this, because it’s super interesting to me.

          You don’t seem to like traditional wRPGs (“Though I’m pretty sure Fable sucks because “open world”. Ewww…,” which, are we 12 here?), which is totally cool, but trying to paint your personal preference as evidence of some kind of inherent superiority doesn’t really work.

          f) I mean, I’m sure the game has wonderful aspects I’ll never ever see if I don’t pick it up again just by virtue of “monkeys at a typewriter,” but I also don’t owe the game my time. It had its chance to convince me to dedicate time to it, and it didn’t do the job. It’s a shame if it had a great story to tell and just couldn’t get it going, but that’s not really my issue, it’s the writers’.

          edit: Also, just for the record, even if this was the most original thing to ever original (which it’s not), that doesn’t automatically signify quality. Good ideas don’t innately translate into good products.

        3. Farla says:
          Grimdark is way, way older than Song of Ice and Fire, you know. It was being derided as overdone well before he wrote the first book.
          1. illhousen says:
            The interesting thing about the Witcher books is that, as I recall, they belong to a particular brand of grimdark common in Easter Europe fiction.

            In Russia, we call it chernuha (literally “blackness”). The difference from Western grimdark is that, in my experience at least, writers of grimdark tend to deliberately portray the setting as cynically as humanly possible, going for shock value. Chernuha, on the other hand, tend to be pretty banal. It’s a story about horrible people doing horrible things for simple, often petty reasons. There is no savoring of gritty details, the world is just shit and filled with bastards, with a few semi-decent people mixed in.

            1. SpoonyViking says:
              That’s very interesting! It doesn’t surprise me, though, what with you guys having Dostoyevsky, Tchekhov et al. :-)
              Reply
    2. SpoonyViking says:
      …Why do people think Tolkien’s Middle-Earth is “bland”? Have they not read the books and paid attention to them?
      1. Ember says:
        Actual Tolkien’s actual worldbuilding is pretty cool. The million and one knock-off clones that came after? Not so much.
        2
        1. SpoonyViking says:
          Quite true on both accounts, but the latter shouldn’t reflect on the former – unless the person has only read the knock-offs, in which case why is he talking about Tolkien specifically?
          Honestly, this whole trend of “let’s bash Tolkien because he wasn’t EDGY and REAL enough” is tiresome.
          Sorry for the rant. :-)
          1. actonthat says:
            It’s not even a claim that holds up, because the post-prologue narration was over a Tolkien Map (TM) that was so identical I had this weird moment where I thought it was actually a picture of his map and was really confused. Plus, it already has Tolkien!dwarves.

            I mean, if you want to do high fantasy, you can’t really get away from the guy because he basically invented the genre as it exists today, but I agree with you in that I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It’s not a good one, either. It’s just a thing. You can do some really cool stuff with established tropes (Elder Scrolls dwarves, for instances), but you can also just fall back into rote stuff. So like every other genre, basically.

            As I said in the review, the info I actually got about the setting seemed really inventive, so I’m not even sure that’s a relevant counterpoint to my not liking the game…

            1. actonthat says:
              Also, and this is totally a tangent RE: “if you want to do high fantasy, you can’t really get away from the guy because he basically invented the genre,” there seems to be this unwritten rule in fantasy to NEVER EVER admit you’re influenced by Tolkien.

              It’s weird, because you have the same setup in Detective Fiction where AC Doyle (well, Poe) defined the whole genre and still colors like every single story today, but detective stories are very self-effacing and self-referential– I brought this up in my Kara no Kyoukai review, I think, but one of the things that you just do in a det-fic story is go, “Ugh, I’m nothing like [famous detective, usually Holmes],” or, “This is like a typical detective story!” Hell, even Higurashi does it.

              So it’s always weird to me that people get defensive in fantasy about Tolkien comparisons, or use “not Tolkien” as a badge of honor, while people in detective fiction are all about comparisons and inter-genre references.

              Fun fact: In The Maltese Falcon, the murder of a detective whose last name is Archer jumpstarts the story. Later, Ross Macdonald would name his sleuth Lew Archer. In 1997, John Travolta played an FBI agent named Archer. Today there’s a whole show about spies called… Archer.

              Reply
              1. Farla says:
                Maybe because fantasy prides itself on being imaginative, or because so much of it is derivative crap just churned out to make a buck after Tolkien made fantasy popular.
          2. Ember says:
            He’ said “tolkienISH”. Chill.
            1. actonthat says:
              Emberrrr Utena is amazinnnnnng
              Reply
              1. Ember says:
                :DDDDDDDD Yessssssss. It is without a doubt my favorite tv show ever, no exagerration. I’m so glad you’re finally watching it! Everyone should watch it!
            2. SpoonyViking says:
              …Huh. I swear I read that as “tolkienSville”. Sorry, my mistake!
              Reply
  6. Savanah says:
    Hey, Farla, you should try Mass Effect any day!
    1. actonthat says:
      It’s on my to-do list! I somehow haven’t played it. I’m working my way through Bioware’s library right now, though I started with the Dragon Age series.

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