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How to Take My Money

April 28, 2011

Don't worry, he won't understand. He only speaks sweary Polish.

The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings went gold today, and I’ve gone and pre-ordered it. For a number of reasons. I don’t suppose anyone’s very interested in reading about them, but I’m sitting here waiting for another episode of Doctor Who to download (Matt Smith’s a bit good at this, isn’t he? Cheerily quirky, with a very quick-surfacing darkness when it’s needed, like a tour of Charlie Sheen’s brain) and feel like writing something, so this is what you’re getting. Catch me on another night, and it’d probably be a limerick about how ridiculous this new CODBLOPS expansion is. CALL OF THE DEAD, featuring Buffy, Freddy, and some guys you’ve never heard of, in a DLC pack COD fans are already calling “expensive” and “six months early”.* But! Anyway – The Witcher 2.

Right.

So, I’ve pre-ordered it, and this is why.

OR WAS HE??!?! Yes.

The first game was fascinating. Extraordinarily broken in some ways, but patched up to a never-less-than-playable state by the time I got around to it, and seriously engrossing much in the same way its eastern European cousin S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is. Based on a series of novels by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski (I think his wife, Mrs Sapkowski, was a main character on several 80s American family sitcoms), The Witcher dumped you in a violent, sweary medieval land and just didn’t care what you thought. So you fight, talk, gamble and ceaselessly run back and forth across a land filled with dwarves who cuss out your mother and women who have their own naughty collectible cards and INTERMINABLE SWAMPS and moral conundrums and whatnot, carefully reading the subtitles as the actors speak in Polish because the English localisation was abominable, and suddenly you realise that this unusual and slightly disturbing fiction is far more entertaining than any of Dragon Age’s LOTR-with-attitude pretensions could ever begin to wish they could dream of imagining being. And then you rhythmically slice up some elves who want to make trouble because YOU HAVE BECOME STRONG LIKE OX, and bam! Best RPG of the decade.**

It’s also of note that I got The Witcher: Extended Edition for €4 in a Steam sale, and that came with the original game, its many patches and fixes, the soundtrack, a collection of rubbish MUSIC INSPIRED BY, and 23 Making Of… movies. I think the bandwidth I used to download the whole bloody thing cost more than the package itself, which is frankly ludicrous.

So I was already predisposed toward picking up the sequel eventually. But I’ve traditionally hated pre-ordering things, even things I’m 97% certain I’ll enjoy, on account of they could be rubbish in the end. And I dislike spending more than €20 or so at a time. So it’s been a gradual and hard-fought battle on the devs’ part to win me over into the pre-ordering camp.

First step: have a strong track record. See above.

Second step: preview well. When Jim Rossignol, Alec Meer and Richard Cobbett all speak slobberingly of your delights, that perks my interest right up.

Third step: remember your loyalties. Develop your game with my honking bison of a PC in mind, and I’ll probably reward you for that with shiny coins.

Fourth step: reward me for buying your meaningless chunk of gigabytes by not treating me like Jonesy the Criminal. Minimal DRM, please.

Fifth through twentieth step: be irresistibly cheap. It was going for twenty-six Euro on Zavvi and I AM ONLY ONE MAN. €26 for what Mr Meer speculatively labelled RPG of the year (in a year featuring Dragon Age 2, Skyrim and Mass Effect 3***, no less) in a package with maps and DVDs and commemorative coins and papercraft figures and soundtracks seems rather piffling considering some silly Yanks paid $70 for Mortal Kombat with none of that senseless frippery. (I mean, the demo’s fun, guys, but it’ll be going for a tenner by the time I’m done with Portal 2 and Witcher 2 and Call of Pripyat Complete. And maybe Crysis 2 if that’s become agreeably cheap in the interim. FRUGALITY, etc.)

Twenty-first step: have some day-one free DLC that lets me play the game in Polish with English subtitles because that’s how I played the first game and now that’s JUST HOW THE CHARACTERS TALK OKAY

The twenty-first step is probably specific to The Witcher. Also, the Doc Who ep’s downloaded now, so I’d best be away.

* Okay, since you were wondering:

There was a tired game – Call of Duty

And it spawned some stupid DLC

Titled Call of the Dead

Starring Buffy and Fred

And I’ll saw my own face off before I go anywhere near it.

**We’re not really calling Mass Effect 2 an RPG, are we? I mean, I know it’s a boring conversation to have, but let’s sort this out right now. It was a Shooter With Some Conversations Explaining What You’re Shooting. It was a stonkingly fantastic example of a Shooter With Some Conversations Explaining What You’re Shooting, but a SWSCEWYS it remains.

*** I sincerely doubt Mass Effect 3 will abandon its roots in the fledgling SWSCEWYS genre, but let’s lump it in with RPGs for extra scorezah.

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