The Witcher has been in development since 2002 (from what I have read) allowing the programming team ample amount of time to hone and polish the game. In The Witcher, you take the role of a witcher (imagine that), who are professional monster hunters for hire. The main character in the game, Geralt of Rivia, an amnesiac Witcher, is the role you will be taking as you hack, slash, and negotiate through the fantasy realm filled with plenty of adult-oriented situations. Everything from sexual situations to racist events prove that this game isn’t meant for the kiddies, but it draws a nice parallel with occurrences that happen in our world (minus the dwarves and such).
The Witcher also proves that it is possible to adapt a book to a game successfully without dragging the author’s name into the dirt. Just look at the plethora of games ranging from Eragon to The Hobbit that were based on books and turned out to be miserable. One request I do have for the reader, though, is that you find the English translation for the book and get some of the backstory to the game. The Witcher does fill you in on certain aspects throughout the introduction, but it is always nice to have a more fleshed-out understanding about what is occurring in the gameworld.
With nudity (well, not in the US version), violence, and events that are shaped by your choices, The Witcher sounds like a must-have game. If you bought into the hype and let the anticipation kill you while you waited for the game to be released, this review will definitely push you on either side of the fence if you are wondering if you should add The Witcher to your game rack.
The first feeling on my mind when I gazed upon the screen and took in the graphics of The Witcher was one of utter amazement. It looks as if cdProject took the aging Aurora engine and infused it with fantastic visuals and another chance at life. Geralt himself looks superb as do the rest of the rendered monsters and NPCs. When the spells start flying and swordplay comes into play, the movement of the characters if fluid and it doesn’t look like there is a frame missing in the character animations. Once you experience the sunshine filtering through the cracks in the beginning castle, you will start to doubt that is engine was used in Neverwinter Nights.
Only one small niggle that appears throughout the game are some of the artificial borders thrown into the way of the protagonist. A gigantic monster might not be able to stop you, but a fence sure will. I understand that this is a limitation with the engine, and as such, I only want to mention it. From what I understand, some people were turned off to the game for this reason, but you will miss out on a masterpiece if you let such a small issue discourage you.Compared to many other import games, the voice acting is passable in The Witcher, but it still sometimes destroys the atmosphere of the game. Did the word babe really exist in a medieval fantasy world? According to The Witcher, it does. Some of the dialog seems to be artificially shortened, and ironically, it does turn out to be the fact. I am not sure if they wanted to save some time in translating the game and getting it to the public or space constraints in attempting to keep it on one DVD came into play.
The music is atmospheric, the sound of flesh being cut, and the metal on metal combat will pull you into the game, making you believe you are Geralt, massacring the bad guys (or attempting to negotiate with them). There isn’t really any other ground to cover in the sound department, since the biggest issues, in my personal opinion, were the voice overs. Having heard much worse come in from Europe (think Spellforce), these voiceovers are fantastic.As with most PC games, both the keyboard and the mouse are heavily utilized in The Witcher. Different fighting styles, which will be covered in more detail in the gameplay section, are selected by the push of a button. The inventory, quest log, etc. can also be brought up by the push of a button. When I first saw the interface, I was a tad bit confused, but after looking it over, it slowly clicked on what I had to do to level up my character. For example, alchemy can only be used while camping and the ability to dole out attributes wasn’t too clear, but after experimenting with the interface and indulging in the manual, I was able to figure it out.
You can chose between different camera angles, and I would recommend switching between them to find the best for you. I preferred the over-the-shoulder camera in town, but zoomed further out when I was out in the wild fighting to stay alive. No other issues with the controls came up and when I asked my buddies who purchased the game, they came to the same consensus: The controls are adequate for the game.
As mentioned previously, you take the role of a monster hunter by the name of Geralt. You can cast a small complement of spells and have different fighting styles that can be adjusted depending on the situation. That will be pretty much all of the information I will share with you, as any background information that ties into the story might ruin the game experience for the reader.
Character development is approached through the normal level gain scheme and silver and gold upgrade skill points are given. These can be distributed down different trees for extra or upgraded abilities. New spells are learned from shrines scattered throughout the land. There is even ability that increases your combat effectiveness while drunk. So yes, the alcohol in this game isn’t only used for alchemy, but also to help you win battles (as long as you have invested points in that skill). Geralt can increase his knowledge of herbology and monster slaying by paging through tomes and scrolls. This highlights different herbs out in the field and allows Geralt to skin monsters for reagents.
The alchemy system allows the player to concoct potions that would normally kill a man, but thanks to the Witcher’s physiology, he is immune to the negative effects of the potions. These perform everything from recovering health to increasing battle strength. Since Geralt is an amnesiac, he will have to relearn all of the recipes again, through either scrolls or books. After learning about a certain plant or animal, Geralt can then harvest said object for ingredients.
The battle system in The Witcher consists of choosing the correct battle style and then left clicking at certain intervals to perform combos. Some players might think that this simplifies combat too much, but I think the balance is just right. You will need to combine spells, melee combat, and alchemy together to finish certain encounters. For example, undead are vulnerable to silver weapons, but if none are available, a certain alchemical potion allows you to harm the undead with regular weapons.
As Geralt progresses throughout the story, certain decisions will have long-reaching effects that will only be experienced later on in the game. This means that even saving profusely won’t allow you redeem yourself for past actions 20 hours into the game. As mentioned in the introduction, some of the situations that Geralt finds himself in are very adult-oriented and definitely are present in our contemporary society. As of right now, I am still very absorbed into the game and I do regret some of the choices I made throughout Geralt’s journey. Time to spend another 60 hours playing through the game again.
The only issue that dampens the atmosphere are the lengthy load times while zoning in and out. The next patch will address these issues, but until then, sometimes waiting for a minute while loading is the norm. This ruins an otherwise organic transition between scenes.
For the price of a PC game, you will receive about 60-80 hours of gameplay depending on how many quests you skip over or attempt to accomplish. Even if you skip quests, the choices that certain quests entail can shape your journey through the game. As it is possible to perceive, you get out of The Witcher what you put into it. You can be the hero, a condescending prick, or anything in between – the choice is yours.