The Steam summer sale reminded me that I own and installed The Witcher 2, so maybe I should try it out sometime? Trying it out reminded me of the two things in general circulation from review at the time: it is reportedly one of the great PC RPGs out there, but good luck playing it because the game features difficult combat involving many abilities with little to no explanation of how to use them. Penny Arcade had it about right:
I’m not sure what they were thinking with this stuff, I honestly don’t; this dogged refusal to help the player. If I had to guess, it is this way because they didn’t want to do some boring, typical tutorial sequence that insults the player and makes their titular warmaster out to be some concussed dipshit, taking part in some remedial course for monster slayers. That’s certainly something I can understand. What’s happened in the absence of a true “booster phase,” though, is that people who want to play the game but lack psychic ability are forcibly driven out.
It has tooltips that pop up from time to time, but if you’re under active assault by a dragon maybe you aren’t looking at that. This game doesn’t really play like others, your skills either from action titles or the role-playing genre won’t really cross apply.
I have spoken before about games that actively try to drive away new players. I first alt-tabbed out before reaching the first NPC, when I discovered that the mouse moves much more sluggishly on menus than in-game; not a settings issue, the forums suggest, just how the game works. Then the tutorial hangs just before the famously difficult fight; actual moderator-proposed solution from TheWitcher.com: you can skip the tutorial. The proper answer there is that you need to apply a mutagen, which involves clicking around the interface until you find an ability that will accept one, then finding the key that works for “accept.” Another handy tip for playing: the Enter key on your number pad does not count as the Enter key. You need to use the other Enter key.
You get to practice throwing knives, which seems to bring back that sluggish mouse, while someone throws fireballs at you. Before the infamous first fight, the game does walk you through the abilities. You get to use each (some? most?) once, for the span of perhaps 10 seconds, although some of them involve just pressing a key and others involve holding it down, and then some involve clicks and/or aimed clicks and/or held clicks while aiming. Some of them involve other menus, and some involve cycling through options with a key press. Or, as Penny Arcade sums up:
It’s not that hard. You just have to use abilities they won’t discuss and techniques they haven’t entirely taught you via controls they never quite explain.
So I’m thinking that, before I play the game for real, I need time away to stop hating the game after this introduction, but by then I will have forgotten the dozen abilities I was supposed to learn in five minutes or less.