Month: May 2011

The Unofficial Official Witcher 2 Tutorial

The Witcher 2 can be kind of a tough game. And after finally figuring out how to fight effectively in Witcher 2, I am more annoyed than ever that the game doesn’t have a proper tutorial, because the amount of data it would have to give you to be an effective fighter really isn’t that high.

So I wrote my own tutorial so that more people can get through the intro and into the meaty, meaty goodness that is The Witcher 2.

Geralt of Rivia

Magic user. Alchemist. Mutant. Monster killer. Geralt of Rivia is all of these things, making him far more powerful than a normal man. But that doesn’t mean he’s indestructible.

Geralt is the Batman of the Witcher universe. How does Batman deal with foes, especially ones more powerful than him? By being Crazy Prepared, of course.

Getting Crazy Prepared

There are three things you should take care of before you go into battle – Signs, Potions and Bombs.

1. Signs.

Signs are magical spells that can be cast quickly. The hotkey for casting your currently selected sign is ‘Q’. Before you go into combat, you should assign the Sign you’ll most likely need to your hotkey. Do this by holding down CTRL to get the quick menu. The Signs are on the left side; just click one to assign it to the hotkey. The two most commonly used signs in combat are Aard (knock an enemy back and possibly stun him) and Quen (give yourself three free combat hits of magic armor). Again, press ‘Q’ to cast the Sign.

Two important things to note about magic: First, you must have mana to cast. The mana bar is yellow and is below your red health bar. It’s divided into segments and you must have at least one segment to cast a Sign. Second, all Signs have an animation that must play successfully before the Sign is cast. If you get struck during that animation, your Sign will not cast.

2. Potions.

Geralt cannot consume potions in combat. I like this, it’s kind of stupid for RPG characters to be sucking down health potions in the middle of battle. (Even though I just wrote a game where you do exactly that.) In order to consume a potion, he must meditate. To meditate, hold CTRL and click the center “Meditate” button. If there are no enemies nearby, Geralt will go into mediation mode. At that point, you’ll be able to click “Potions” in the menu and choose which potion he should drink. By far your best bet is the “Swallow” potion; it will greatly accelerate how quickly you get your health back in combat. It will last for ten minutes after you’ve consumed it, so drink it in a quiet place before a big fight.

3. Bombs.

Geralt starts with one bomb type – the Samum bomb. The hotkey for throwing your currently selected bomb is ‘R’. The Samum bomb is awesome; it basically casts the Aard Sign on anything in range. To equip it, go into your inventory (by pressing ‘I’) and sort your inventory by “bombs” (using the icon in the upper-left). Drag the Samum bomb to one of the “Pockets” slots on the right. Now you can use it in combat instantly by pressing ‘R’.

(If you’ve noticed that you assign/use these three vital things in completely different ways then you get a cookie. The GUI is poorly laid out. It could have been greatly simplified. You’ll just have to deal with it; the interface for Witcher 1 was the same way.)

Combat Stuff the Game Doesn’t Bother to Tell You

The prologue is actually a bit of a change-up for Geralt; he’s a monster-fighter, not a six-guys-at-once fighter. Thus, he’s better equipped for going one-on-one against a single tough foe rather than engaging a bunch of foes at once.

You can target an enemy by pressing the ALT key when you’re looking at an enemy. (You can tell which enemy Geralt is looking at because he’ll have a little icon on him.) Once you lock on, all your attacks will be made against that enemy and all movement you do will be in relation to that enemy. If you find that Geralt keeps switching targets uncontrollably, use ALT-locking to fix this. This leads into…

If you don’t have a locked target and are spamming your attack button, Geralt will start attacking a new target as soon as the first one dies. This probably isn’t what you want, since he could move into a very bad position to do so against your will. Another reason to use Alt-locking and to not just beat on the attack button.

You can move quickly in combat by rolling. To roll, double-tap a movement key. I like the backwards roll (Down-Down) because if you roll left or right, you can still get hit by another foe.

Kill weak foes first. From a damage perspective, all foes are pretty much equal, so it makes sense to kill off the weakest foes first. In the Prologue, that means the guys dressed in green.

Parrying requires mana. This is weird but true. A lot of people think that parrying is unresponsive – it’s not. It’s just that it requires you to have a charge on your mana bar; if you don’t, nothing will happen when you hit the parry button. For this reason, I don’t parry a lot.

If you get surrounded you will die. There’s nothing for it, honestly. They’ll just chop you into sushi. So don’t let that happen!

Putting It All Together

So here’s how the dance goes.

Before combat, meditate and drink a potion to improve your chances. Make sure you have the correct sign and bomb chosen.

Once you’ve encountered a group of enemies…

1. Make sure you’ve got room at your back, if you don’t, don’t engage until you do.

2. Move the mouse over the apparently weakest enemy (or any missile-user) and press Alt to lock on to him.

3. When the enemy is at mid-range (too far away to hit you but getting close), press Q to use use Quen to give yourself an extra three hits.

3. Let the enemies bunch up as they approach you (and they will, the trusting fools).

4. Once they are almost in combat range, press R to throw a bomb.

5. Move in, swiping quickly at your weak and stunned opponent. if you’re lucky you’ll get a finishing move, if not you should still kill him quickly. Don’t spam attacks.

6. Back up. Roll backwards if you have to. Renew Quen if you need to. Pick a new target and start over.

7. If you’re facing an opponent with a shield or heavy armor and they are the only one left (which they should be, since you should have killed all the weaker ones first), you can then use the left and right roll to try to get around their defense and score some hits. This is the only time I use the left or right roll. If you have a charge of mana you can also try parrying, this might open them up to attack. (Not my preferred method, though.)

8. If you get badly hurt, run the hell away! Enemies won’t follow you forever; they’ll eventually return to their posts. This will allow you to regenerate your health and cast Quen on yourself again. Then come back and try again.

9. Don’t get impatient. Batman is patient. Geralt is patient. The goal is to force your enemies into a bad situation and then punish them for it, not to let them do the same to you.

And your reward? When you master this combat system and can decimate groups of foes that by all rights should cut you to ribbons, you will feel like a badass. And you’ll be playing Geralt the way he was meant to be played, which means – gasp! – you’ll be playing his role! You’ll be role-playing! In a role-playing game!

More on The Witcher 2…

…Okay. Apparently you’re supposed to roll around a lot, a feature that wasn’t even in Witcher 1. How do you roll? Well, you can double-tap a directional key on the keypad or…

You can plug in a wired Xbox 360 controller and press one button.

Also, locking on to enemies is important. This is also easier with the 360 controller than with the keyboard.

I seriously feel I got snookered on this game. And the sad thing is, it wasn’t even on my damn radar until I saw some trailers touting its “living world” tech (and you know how I be about the living world tech).

Now I’m stuck with what is apparently an Xbox 360 game masquerading as a PC game (and yes, CD Projekt just announced a 360 version). I don’t mind playing PC games with a wired 360 controller (and yes, I own one) when it’s clear that the game was designed for that. I recently played all the way through Red Faction: Guerrilla using a 360 controller because I knew that game had been designed for consoles first. (Red Faction: Guerrilla is an excellent game, by the way.)

But this was supposed to be a PC game. And it was supposed to be a Witcher game. Now everything I knew about combat and magic from Witcher 1 is gone so none of my skills map, plus if you’re using mouse and keyboard your control scheme is non-optimal.

Plus, for reasons I simply cannot fathom, blocking drains your mana bar. Seriously. This makes blocking completely useless, which is why you have to roll around on the ground like you’re Samus Aran in ball form.

And of course, you are told fuck-all of this when you actually start the game.

This goes beyond bad design. This feels disingenuous, like they’re figuring out the problems with the game on us more lenient PC testers so they can fix them for the 360 version (and I will bet $100 right now that the 360 version has a complete tutorial when it ships.)

After all the goodwill CD Projekt gathered after Witcher 1 – releasing the improved version for free to everyone who bought the original, adding a whole bunch of features (again for free) and having a pretty awesome base game to begin with – for them to piss all that down the toilet in favor of the 360 leaves a very, very sour taste in my mouth. Trust me when I say that Witcher 3 will not be a must-buy for me.

Holy Krep, It’s Not Just Me!

Okay! Back on May 17th, I took an evening out from grinding on Inaria to play The Witcher 2. That evening ended in frustration (I recall saying something like “sixty dollars down the effing toilet”) when I could not get past a very early fight sequence. I thought I just sucked.

Well, if I suck, then everybody sucks. None of my skills from the first game mapped to this one – in Witcher 1, there was a nice combo system that would allow you to decimate an enemy if your timing on your attacks was right; it also had different stances for fighting different enemies. If those exist in Witcher 2, I was never told about them and couldn’t find them myself.

Plus, respawning enemies. I mean, yeah, I’m in enemy territory, but at some point those guys should pause at the doorways of the courtyard I’m in and think to themselves, “You know, I just watched him kill twenty guys…maybe I won’t go out there. If he wants to fire that ballista so badly, I think I’m going to let him.”

All in all, a little early in the game for a shelf-level event. I’m sure I’ll pick it up again sometime but I don’t know when.

Name That Game 77: The Man who Sold the World

In this episode of Name that Game, all the games described involve humans aiding eldritch abominations (or something equally powerful) in the hopes that they’ll be rewarded after said abomination has eaten everyone else. Needless to say, this never works out well, but they keep trying…

1. In this fantasy game, a man creates a cult to serve as the means to open a gateway so that a powerful, dimension-hopping magical entity can enter the world and take over. He ultimately dies when he badly bumbles a ritual, not only tearing him to pieces but allowing three evil shades to take possession of three members of your party.

2. In this fantasy game, umm…a man creates a cult to serve as the means to open a gateway so that a powerful, dimension-hopping magical entity can enter the world and take over. You finally defeat him by entering the world he has created in his mind and killing him, then go on to deal with the demon…in a rather oblique way.

3. In this horror game, you play as a man desperately searching through a nearly abandoned town for your daughter…who you eventually discover has been kidnapped by cultists so they can sacrifice it to their elder god so he can enter the world and take over. And unless you’ve done everything right, they win.

4. In this fantasy game, living cultists willfully aid undead wizards and warlocks and help them achieve their goals in the hopes that they will become powerful. (Instead, of course, they become zombies.) Then after they’re dealt with, more cultists willfully aid an extraterrestrial-extradimensional being’s attempt to return to this world, knowing full well the death and destruction he’ll bring, again because they think THEY’LL be spared and made more powerful. After THEY bite the dust, even MORE cultists release an imprisoned, insane dragon who believes he is the personification of death itself. His attacks scar and change the entire world, and he makes no bones about the fact that his goal will be fulfilled only when every living creature is dead…yet the cultists continue to fight for him, believing that “death” is code for “change that benefits me somehow”. The people of this world are SO stupid.

5. In this game set in World War II, a single secret agent is sent deep into enemy territory to investigate claims that the Nazis are trying to summon supernatural forces to help them. They are. The agent trails them through several locales, slaughtering tons of Nazis along the way, but arrives just in time to see the summoned demon turn all the Nazis involved in the ritual into his undead thralls. Of course, since he’s a one-man-army, he manages to destroy the demon along with his entire crew.

6. In this post-apocalyptic game (see, I have to keep mentioning the setting ’cause the plots are so similar), there’s a church full of people serving/protecting something in the basement. That something, it turns out, has a hobby of taking “pure” (IE, non-irradiated) humans and turning them into horrible, hulking, asexual brutes capable only of the most base reasoning, which it then plans to unleash upon the few remaining knots of civilization left.

7. In this game, a young man who has lost a young woman he cares about makes a deal with the Ultimate Evil, who tasks him with killing the sixteen guardians who hold him in check. After doing so, the Ultimate Evil does bring the young woman back from the dead…before promptly possessing the young man.

Good luck and have fun!

Hell Froze Over.

I would like to formally announce that Inaria is now done and up for sale. While the main site isn’t finished, you can still buy a copy by going here.

It’s the end of an era…and hopefully the beginning of another one.

Name That Game 76: Those Wacky Aliens!

Okay! We’re trying something new for Name That Game. Rather than use screenshots (which I either have to find or take and either way can now be googled), I’m going to present a series of descriptions of games with a common theme – in this case, human/alien first contact and interaction, and you guys are going to try to guess what games I’m talking about. I will NOT be limiting the games to the PC; classic games and console games will also be used. The person who posts the comment with the most correct responses gets a no-prize! (Which is no prize. Get it?)

So here we go!

1. You and your crew are transported to another world that once held sentient alien life. Alone and with limited resources, you must contend with strange weather, ancient and malfunctioning technology, and a substance that makes you immortal but is highly addictive. Eventually you persevere and save not only yourself, but the entire alien race, who had been trapped in an alternate dimension.

2. You’re a special agent, sent to investigate a ship’s distress beacon. Once on board you find the ship overrun by Giger-esque aliens who want nothing more than to eat you for lunch. While you have laser weapons with which to defend yourself, the mission isn’t as simple as “arm the self-destruct and get out” because there’s at least one survivor who must be rescued. Meanwhile, the aliens hatch their latest, massively-evolved offspring – a white specimen that is immune to all of your weapons. (Warning – this one’s a toughie.)

3. You awaken on a ship to discover it overrun by intelligent, assimilating, hive-minded aliens who want to add you to their collective. The alien hive-mind is evolutionarily adaptive, constantly throwing dangerous new life forms at you (the biomass for which it got from…er…eating the ship’s crew). You also have to deal with not one, but two psychotic artificial intelligences before you can finally blow the ship to smithereens and escape in a pod.

4. Your idyllic planet is suddenly attacked by a hostile alien force; fortunately the government has a well-equipped army specifically created to deal with these alien attacks. Funny how they always seem to show up after the attacks are over… Using your Nosy Reporter Skills, you discover that not only are the government forces in league with the aliens, but you yourself are the reason they are attacking!

5. Aliens attack Earth en masse, literally out of the blue. After the efforts of individual countries to stem the tide prove futile, a multinational organization is created specifically to counter the attacks, which you are made leader of. While you’re initially outgunned and all your soldiers are complete rookies, through experience and researching alien tech you finally gain the upper hand and not only push the aliens off earth, but end the invasion by destroying their forward base on Mars.

6. You wake up to an ordinary morning, only to discover that your best friend is an alien and the Earth is about to be destroyed. After narrowly avoiding getting destroyed along with it, you end up jetting around the galaxy (and back and forth in time) in order to…well, we don’t know. The game ends on one of the best/worst cliffhangers in gaming history.

7. They’s up in your base, killin’ your d00dz. Return the favor.

Good luck and have fun!

Inaria Special Effects

I’ve kind of held myself back from throwing a lot of particles and such around in Inaria because I wanted to maintain a “classical” look, but now that the game is nearly done, it just looks kind of…sterile. Yes, compared to modern games classic games looked blah de blah.

The question I’m asking is a simple one. Would modern effects, like particles and possibly fog of war that used lighting effects, hurt Inaria? Or help it?

I have found my distaff counterpart…

Meet DOSBoxMom, a mother who has been playing video games for decades and is now Let’s Playing an excellent but lesser-played game from the 80’s. Sound familiar?

While she’s just starting out and there’s some growing pains (lots of background noise on some of her early videos) I can’t wait to see where she goes with this.

I finally wrote a nice, long, meaty post…

…and posted it somewhere else.

See, Jay Barnson (aka the Rampant Coyote) was going on vacation (to New Orleans, also the favorite getaway spot of the CRPG Addict) and he needed some guest posts. So I submitted something that had been kicking around in my head for a while.

And he published it. Head on over to read it.

Inaria Balance Update

Tonight I’ll be posting a new version of the Inaria.exe with some bug fixes but also some rather radical balance updates. All you should have to do is download the new exe and replace the current one with it.