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Now, I'm going to start off by saying that I've never really been a huge fan of RPG’s, but I decided to get The Witcher just to see what all the fuss was all about.
Originally, The Witcher was a series of books written by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, which spun off a poorly received Polish movie/TV series and of course, a video-game which was created by first time developers, CD Projekt RED Studio.
The Witcher revolves around the main character Geralt, a Witcher. Witchers are professional monster slayers. During the opening cut scene Geralt finds himself tasked with curing King Foltest's daughter, Adda. She's cursed - by day, a beautiful young woman, by night, a beast - a Striga. Geralt eventually cures Adda, freeing her of the course. Several years later and suffering from amnesia, Geralt finds himself at Kaer Morhen in the care of other Witchers. During his time at Kaer Morhen, it is attacked by a couple of powerful mages accompanied by a group of bandits with a professor.
The purpose of the attack was to steal the mutagens that genetically alter the Witchers. These mutagens provide Witchers with supernatural abilities so they can kill extremely dangerous monsters and survive. These modifications (which involve herbal preparations, magic potions and virus inoculations) leave them with inhuman reflexes, dexterity and the ability to open and contract their pupils at will (giving them improved night-vision). After the attack, Geralt and the others split up in search of the attackers and recover the mutagens - this is where the game really begins.
The story is engaging and deep. I found it very hard to put down, I wanted to keep playing so I could find out everything about the story, Geralt’s past and many of the characters that I came across during the game.
It's good to have land
Leveling up, spell casting, exploring, interacting with NPCs and sword based combat all form the basis of The Witcher. During the opening mission (which partly serves as a tutorial) you're introduced to the 3 combat styles - Quick, Heavy and Group - pretty obvious what each style does (Quick - Fast strikes, not very powerful. Heavy - strong strikes that are quite slow. Group - Enemies within close proximity will be hit). Switching between the 3 styles felt natural, and often, without even realising, I'd be switching between the 3, taking out an entire enemy force!
As well as swords/axes, magic also has a massive role in combat. As you progress you learn spells, also known as Signs. Each Sign has a different purpose - fire, blast, trap, shield and the ability effect the target physically. You also are able to use and even create potions by collecting vials of chemicals and various plant life you see all around you. To be honest, I wasn't a fan of the combat, typically I prefer real-time combat akin to an action RPGs whereas The Witcher’s slower pace and the addition of an auto-attack took some getting used to. The combat in The Witcher is real-time but is just slower with an auto attack.
Completing quests and killing enemies all result in experience points which add to the leveling up system. With each new level reached you are able to assign points to the different skill trees. Adding points to each tree will improve the corresponding skill or ability. You can't do this on the fly, however - To assign the points and to actually put them into effect, you must seek out a fireplace to meditate next to. Meditation also allows the player to advance time. This can range from 1 to 24 hours. This is helpful as some missions are only available during certain hours of the day.
One of the things that really sucked me into the game was the character interactions. Whether it be main characters that are vital to the story, general chit-chit with the residents of the world or the banter with the merchants, each conversation further draws you into the game. Also, the amount of detail they put into the books and documents you come across is just fantastic and really helps flesh out the world around you. A lot of care was taken into making The Witcher the deep and mature game that it is.
Across the length of the game you encounter a wide range of characters which can hugely impact your overall story. Geralt can form friendships, make enemies and even sexual relationships throughout the game. This is all determined by the conversations you have with NPCs. During conversations you're given dialogue to choose from, which then influences who you side with. This is massively important as who you side with alters much of the game later on and even carries over to The Witcher 2.
Geralt - The Silver Fox
I think I should also point out, the game is huge. It took me around 42 hours to complete it and to be honest, only a tiny percentage of that was spent doing side quests as the main quest had me so sucked in, I ended up sacrificing many side quests. But this is a huge incentive to play through the game multiple times and experience everything the game has to offer.
Considering The Witcher was released in 2007, it’s still a great looking game by today's standards. Each area of the world is beautifully created and is full of life. Animations are not brilliant but they do the job. As much as I loved the game and got completely engrossed in the story I must point out a few flaws when it comes to dialogue and voice acting. It can often come across as a little weird and sometimes cheesy, which may be the result of poor translation from Polish to English. Nonetheless, it does not hinder the game in anyway. The only thing dialogue related that does stand out in a bad way (for me personally) is the profanity. The amount of swear words is a bit excessive and sometimes completely random. I'm sure fans of the game will recall the "Abso-fucking-lutely" that is muttered by Geralt.
As I said at the start, I've never really played, nor really been interested in RPGs, but The Witcher has completely changed that. An incredibly mature, engaging and sometimes haunting game that any PC gamer should experience at least once in their lives. Even by today's standards, this game is just simply brilliant.
- A... grown up game?! Surely not: An incredible RPG with depth and maturity
- This aint no Uwe Boll s**t: Hugely engaging story with a great cast of characters
- Standing the test of time: A great looking game even by today's standards
- A haunting melody: A beautiful soundtrack that fits the game perfectly with a strong cast of voice actors
- Live with your mistakes: Choices, more often than not, come with real consequence that may not be apparent to begin with, but make a huge impact later on.
- Wow, it's HUGE: A huge game spanning a lengthy 5 Chapters, each one filled with places to explore and history/lore to learn
- I'm sorry, come again?: Some weird moments of dialogue, probably due to poor translation (Polish to English)
Usually, licence based games end up as the worst of the worst. They are rushed, have no freedom in terms of story and bare minimal of resources to make. Thankfully, there are aversions and even inversions of such sad trend – The Witcher is one of those few. This game actually manages to use the original work to its advantage , while also adding something itself as well. Take for example the "Bring 20 bear asses" quests, which appear in many RPG's and don't make sense from a story perspective for many world-saving heroes. For Geralt however, such things are in his job description as witcher – monster hunter for hire. While the old amnesia trick helps those who have never read the books to get familiar with the world, the game references a lot events from books.
The Witcher is full of interesting quests, good story lines and decisions with far reaching consequences. What might seem minor at first, may later show up again as much more important. The game world itself is made to feel alive and authentic to the setting. NPCs go to work, sleep at night, get entertainment in pubs, react to the environment and monsters. The language style they use corresponds to their behaviour and feels natural, even though that means a lot of swearing from common folk (and I've learned of Polish obscenities while playing it). All in all, The Witcher is an amazing WRPG and a must play for any RPG fan who wants a quality experience.
Considering the world of The Witcher is what one would call a fantasy world, it's pretty astonishing how close Vizima feels to the world in which we live today. You play as Geralt, a genetically modified mutant, tasked with banishing the twisted creatures which haunt the nightmares of the people - creatures created and shaped by the evil acts which mankind inflicts upon itself. The game feels mature and adult-orientated; its story and characters conjuring themes of inequality, racism, class-struggle, incest and death. It's also a pleasant surprise to see the game handle these subjects with the same seriousness and maturity as the subjects deserve - with the exception of sex. The game is mature in a different way to how most mature games are mature.
Sometimes the game's vision is not quite met, with the execution of some ideas being not quite right. The game doesn't feel like a high-budget AAA RPG in the same way that a game like Dragon Age would, but in some ways that adds to the charm of everything. For what CD Project Red lacked in capital, they made up for with tender loving care for the Witcher IP. It's almost astonishing that a small Polish developer could have this big an ambition for their first ever title. The Witcher is rough around the edges and perhaps not to everybody's taste, but what it does, it does exceedingly well.