Review: The Witcher doesn't sink, it swims, and it's awesome.
Back in late October 2007, Atari quietly published CD Projekt RED's PC RPG The Witcher. The title, which is based on a collection of five Polish novels, made its way onto the sales charts over the weeks. Despite the strong and lasting sales, the developer (who is also a publisher in their native region) felt that the game could be better. Rather than lamenting about modifications and patches to the title, the company announced a new edition at GDC 2008, the Enhanced Edition as it became known, for release in 2008.
After a handful of delays, The Witcher: Enhanced Edition hit the scene promising a slew of enhancements, tweaks and performance increases alongside additional content to sweeten the deal. Being the respectable company that they are, CD Projekt released the bonus materials and a patch for early adopters of the original release.
Geralt of Riveria Enters
The game opens with a fantastic cinematic that shows off Geralt's uncanny ability to be more than human, and with good reason. As you soon find out, Geralt is a mutant, bred and modified for the specific purpose of protecting humanity from monsters (external or internal). This goal of Witchers the world over is the central theme of the title, but also causes the protagonist to be shunned for his abilities and differences.
Being based on a series of successful novels, one would expect the story to be well done. The adaptation performed by CD Projekt RED brings Geralt's world to life, pushing him through numerous locations, territories and settlements. As the story unfolds, gamers venture to the staple fantasy settings including humble towns, bustling cities, dank swamps and rolling grasslands, all inglorius detail and full of life.
The major flow surrounding the story is the presentation. While the lush locales, deep background, facts and notes are accessible at any time via your Journal, the game's main storyline is chopped up more than tea leaves. The overall pacing of the story is as solid as the rest of the game, but the delivery is extremely predictable. Rather than sprinkling the story throughout the game, players are hit with mouthfuls at the beginning and ending of quests, and then a plateful upon the completion of a chapter. In this day and age, the story should flow better than reading or being read quest dialogue, but apparently CD Projekt RED thought RPG's stereotypical and archaic revelations were good enough.
Geralt of Riveria Dishes Out The Pain
Being a mutant freak with superhuman abilities including reflexes, sight and strength, you better believe that combat will play a large role in the game. The Witcher's combat is based on the classic point and click targeting (although there is a separate isometric mode available) with a splash of twitch gaming added to the mix. It isn't all swordplay though, Geralt also has one hand in magic, and another in bomb making.
The twitch gaming (clicking when prompted) aspect is part of the developer's attempt to differentiate the hardcore from the casual players, a common trend in PC games. The other aspect is the use of potion making, that would be the fourth hand now, to keep yourself alive. Combined these features keep combat mixed during the early stages of the title. Only to play a smaller bit part once you developGeralt's skills further.
The diversification in gameplay over time is a welcomed change in a classic-style RPG, but it too has its faults. While not directly related to slashing at your various enemies, and there are many, the inventory system employed for the title is incredibly frustrating to deal with. The annoyances may not be on the level of Mass Effect
, but the buying and selling of goods is particularly annoying, and a practice you will do often in the title. Haven't we learned anything from the year's of UI refinement thanks to the dozens of MMOGs out there? Drag and drop and double-click should be standard by now.
Two other inventory related issues had to do with gear. Weapon and armor upgrades are the crux of what keeps people coming back to RPGs. If there is two things RPGs need, it is shiny new metal dropping every so often and huge crits. Unfortunately, The Witcher does not subscribe to this mentality, offering few item slots, and few upgrades for them. Swords can be upgraded, but this gamer found it to be a cumbersome and unintuitive task. Geralt's destructive capabilities are in your hands though via the talent build you chose to employ.
Geralt of Riveria Looking Good, Playing Well
The presentation of the title certainly can't be knocked. The Witcher is a glorious title that will be stripped down to low or medium settings when it is ported to the "high definition" consoles. At least the players on the Xbox 360 or PS3 will still be able to hear the excellent soundtrack in full surround sound.
Platform wars aside, The Witcher, from its battle animations, in game cutscenes, rendered cutscenes, Sex Cards, and locations is meticulously detailed and a pleasure to be a part of. The game wasn't always this smooth though. Thanks to CD Projekt RED's second efforts the team managed to reduce loading time, increase framerates and fix countless bugs. The company also added a campaign editor, the D'jinni Adventure Editor, and two new campaigns. While the Enhanced Edition's content is highly appreciated, acting like a cheap Collector's Edition, the extra missions did not possess the excellent craftsmanship of the main campaign.