Wednesday, July 9

The Witcher: VERSUS!

The Witcher: Duel Mail was first launched a few months ago. But that was just a beta. Today, CDProjekt and one2tribe launched The Witcher: VERSUS!, the full-release version of the originally titled Duel Mail. Also, everything from the beta was reset, so everyone has to restart their characters from scratch. I played Duel Mail when it was first released; in fact, I was rather obsessed with it. And for good reason. The game plays itself.

The Witcher: VERSUS!
is a free, in-browser, flash-based multi-player game. The characters and mechanics are, naturally, all drawn from CDProjeckts 2007 PC title, The Witcher. The gameplay, however, is anything but. Players choose to play as one of three character classes: a witcher, a sorceress, or a frightener. From then on out, gameplay revolves around setting up one-on-one duels with other players. Below is a screenshot of the primary menu screen.
The left column is a list of duels that have taken place. The middle column is challenges I've either sent or received. And the top right is stats on my character. Players can both initiate duels or accept challenges initiated by other players. Actual duels function similarly to rock-paper-scissors. Players fill slots in two separate bars with sequences of attack and defense maneuvers. Skills are split into four types: strong, fast, magic, and special. Generally speaking, each type is a counter to itself. Strong-type attacks will be blocked by strong-type defense, fast-attacks by fast-type defense, and so on. As characters gain levels, though, skill points can be allocated to upgrade current skills or purchase new ones. New skills offer special abilities, passive buffs, and additional damage or defense bonuses. Half of playing this game well is carefully planning your path down the four skills trees. The other half to winning is predicting your opponent's moves.
The battle screen.
Once the attack/defense sequences are slotted, players push "Fight!" to initiate the duel. If you have accepted a challenge, the duel will play-out immediately, showing with fairly impressive graphical representation, the duel and thereafter the results. Watching is intense, to say the least. Characters take turns attacking and defending in the sequence order previously arranged. Nothing is real-time. "Everything must be planned beforehand," as the loading screen often prompts. So much of winning depends on guessing what you're opponent will do and hoping that your respective battle sequences pan out in your favor. Winning is glorious. Your opponent dies, and suddenly you come back to your main screen where you discover you've gained a level. Losing, on the other hand, is the very definition of disappointing, especially when you realize your win/loss count is being tracked for all to see. My win/loss record stays at a fairly consistent 50/50 ratio.

The best part of the entire VERSUS! experience is that it plays itself. Or at least that's how it feels. When you challenge an opponent, the duel is stored away until the opponent accepts your challenge. When the challenge returns with the results, it appears in the left-hand bar as a question mark, teasing you with a video of the duel. But the downtime after challenging an opponent is extremely exciting. You can go off, do homework, mow your lawn, whatever. And all the while you know that, when you return, one of your challenges will have been accepted. So the game keeps itself on your mind, often, if your on the Internet already, begging you to compulsively check your challenge results. And so begins the cycle of Internet game addiction. However, with the whole "our game plays itself when your not here" aspect, The Witcher: VERSUS! manages to remain fun, addictive, and minimally time consuming. That's what I call good game design.

The Witcher: Versus! is a very well executed game, especially considering it was made with flash. It's seriously fun and you should check it out asap.

No comments:

Post a Comment