Game Category: Role-Playing Game – Action, Fantasy
Developer / Distributor: CD Projekt Red / Atari
Release Date: 16 Sep 2008
Rating: ESRB – Mature
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The Witcher (from CD Projekt Red and Atari) is a role playing fantasy game that will surprise you with it’s highly original story. The story is based on the works of Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski and features a rather unique hero. The game itself also employs an exciting monster battle system, and has brought to life a living, breathing and detailed fantasy world.
You play the role of Geralt of Rivia, a witcher with a shock of long white hair. It’s not that Geralt is old, or that he prefers dabbling in witchery; witchers are in fact dedicated and highly professional monster-hunters with the ability to cast magical Signs.
You can see right away from the impressive introduction cutscene against the frightful striga – a woman transformed into a hideous beast by a curse, that the skill and power Geralt possesses is masterful indeed; one can almost say that this witcher has superhuman abilities.
Because of the unpleasant need to hunt and slay beasts in their profession and thanks to the ignorance that shapes the lives of people in a fantasy world, witchers are often misunderstood and looked upon in fear. And, it just so happens that Geralt is possibly the most famous witcher across the lands.
Unfortunately, Geralt has one rather huge problem at the start of the game. Our hero suffers from amnesia after surviving the battle with the striga. Can you guide Geralt in uncovering his mysterious past and thwart a nefarious plot for power?
|Impressive locations like this fortress await you|
The Witcher comes with a prologue, 5 chapters, and an epilogue – that alone will give you quite a lot of play time (in fact, it took me more than 30 hours just to reach the epilogue). During the entire campaign, you also get to watch quite a number of pretty neat videos and cut scenes generated by the game’s rendering engine – the Aurora Engine, made famous by Bioware’s Neverwinter Nights.
The entire prologue itself is a huge tutorial that comes with it’s very own series of “dungeon” waiting to be explored. By the end of the tutorial, you would have learned how to attack enemies, casting magical spells known as Signs, accessing your map, managing your inventory, and more. Let’s cover this in more detail…
|Pay attention to the tutorial… you’ll learn quite a lot from it|
Movement and combat in The Witcher is quite an invigorating exercise in timing and planning. There are two styles of movement – isometric and over-the-shoulder (OTS) mode. Depending on your choice, you’ll find executing certain moves slightly different. Isometric is more mouse-dependent, while OTS gives you greater flexibility – but you’ll need to master both the mouse and keyboard together.
When it comes to combat, you should remember to pick a fighting style. The fast style is good against agile enemies, the strong style against heavily armoured enemies, and the group style against a group of weak foes (eg. archers). To actually attack someone, you only need to perform a left click. To become efficient with your sword work, wait for a flaming sword icon to appear, then quickly click again to chain the next attack sequence.
|The flaming sword icon is not available in Hard mode|
You are also able to execute special moves that help you evade enemies in combat; you can perform jumps/rolls, leaps/spins, or quick turns. To cap it all off, there is a coup de grace move you can perform that results in a little animation of your enemy dying in a spectacularly morbid fashion (namely, decapitation).
Later, you will also be taught how to highlight and then use objects (like operating a winch to open a gate), and to access your inventory to use items you’ve found or been given. The best part of the tutorial though is when you learn your first Sign – the Aard Sign projects a telekinetic force that knocks back enemies or clears away obstructions. There are many more interesting signs you’ll learn later in the game, so stick around.
|Defeating this Savolla guy is not that easy|
Once all the excitement has died down in the Prologue, you must learn how to meditate for rest and recuperation. There’s also the matter of developing Geralt’s character attributes, magical signs, and combat styles. With an extensive ability tree, you have quite a lot of options for mixing and matching the talents you wish to improve.
To reflect on your experiences you’ve gained from the tutorial, you can refer to a handy Journal which keeps track of all the information that Geralt will learn about his quests, the non-player characters he interact with, the monsters he defeat, the alchemical recipes he learns, and any other useful tidbits of knowledge – like political and historical information on a particular location.
|Unleash your talent|
The Land and the Ladies
As you get deeper into the game, you will find Geralt travelling to different parts of Temeria – a kingdom in the vast land known as Witcherland by fans of the Witcher Saga. You will have the chance to sightsee in Vizima – the capital of Temeria; this is also where King Foltest rules Temeria from. You will have ample chance to interact with him later in the game.
Other than the King, you will meet several ladies in the game. Here is also where The Witcher earns its Mature ESRB rating – in the flesh. The leading ladies in the game are pretty revealing – including Triss Merigold, a significant character in the Witcher Saga. Furthermore, there are a couple of highly suggestive sex scenes that (depending on whether you’re all for this sort of thing or just simply unable to stomach it) will raise quite a few eyebrows. And, then the clincher – there’s the collectible card idea that depicts artwork oozing with more than just plain sultriness and seduction; see how many you can collect by the end of the game.
|It gets even better from here…|
Graphics and Audio
The graphics in The Witcher is excellent, the depiction of Vizima alone is worth a visit. Each location is rendered very beautifully with a significant amount of detail that adds to the immersiveness of the role-palying experience. If you’re not careful, you might even get lost – luckily there’s a good mapping function that comes with the game. The 3D models used in the game are also very well done, be it Geralt’s companions, the bad guys, or the monstrous beasts.
The score in The Witcher is befitting of such an epic adventure that to this day I still yearn to get myself the official version of the main theme from the game – salut, Adam Skorupa and Paweł Błaszczak. The sound effects are equally good, but they have been overshadowed by the superior effort in the game’s soundtrack.
|This city is huge!|
The world of The Witcher have been brought to life with an epic adventure that is unlike any other vanilla fantasy role-playing experience, captivating visuals, exciting action, and a lovely soundtrack. You simply cannot miss it!
- The Witcher Saga has come to life – at long last!
- The world of The Witcher is humongous and the adventure itself spans five long chapters and is further polished by an excellent prologue and epilogue.
- There are a number of unique game play elements in The Witcher (some not covered in detail in the review) that make this a unique role-playing experience. They include the ability to prepare alchemical concoctions, casting of magical signs, playing mini-games like dice poker, and collecting rather “interesting” cards.
|In a dark place|
- The battles in The Witcher are fast and furious real-time affairs that help to heighten the suspense and excitement.
- An elaborate character development system gives you more choice in deciding how you wish Geralt to grow in power and stature.
- You get treated to many well thought out and scripted cutscenes in The Witcher. The voice acting has much more hits than misses and does justice in telling a good story.
- You actually have the choice of three game difficulty levels to choose from in The Witcher.
- The game comes with the versatile D’jinni editor that allows you to create your very own mods.
- And if you’re not ready to embark on editing, you can download The Witcher mods from the Internet and play them after you’ve completed the main campaign.
|Lots of characters to interact with|
If game violence, the portrayal of using “drugs” (alchemical concoctions), and visually stimulating sexual innuendos are not your cup of tea, please back away from this brilliant game for mature players now.
- The use of violence, drugs, and sexual themes in the game, although tastefully done, will lend itself to netting itself a fair share of detractors and critics. I must also protest that some of the sexual cutscenes were rather campy.
- The battle animations of Geralt grows old real fast after having to wade through a hundred fights.
- Even non-player characters start looking the same in some of the bigger locales.
- Other than the Prologue, you don’t really get to explore more of anything beyond the Kingdom of Temeria.
|Looks like a serious wardrobe malfunction|