Below is a review of The Witcher by Al Giovetti, followed by a updated review of the newly released enhanced edition of the game.
The Witcher is bar none the best role playing game of this year (2008). The plot is complex. The animation and graphics are high quality. The music, sound effects and voice acting have that edge to them. And the quests are plentiful and unique in their choices and twists.
The game is an action/adventure. The game player can choose over the shoulder (OTS) or high or low isometric perspective. I found over the shoulder perspective the easiest to play. OTS enables the AWSD movement rather than point and click. The type of adventure is a computer role playing adventure (CRPG).
Like most RPG games, as the protagonist gains experience his skills become more proficient and his "level" increases. The main character attributes of strength, dexterity, stamina and intelligence increase as the experience increases. Bronze, silver, and gold talents are added in several areas such as proficiency with the steel sword, silver sword, and other skill areas. Alchemical mutagens can also enhance talents permanently or temporarily.
There are thirteen context sensitive cursor modes. When you exit an area the cursor will be replaced with an exit icon. If you hover over a character you can speak with you will enter speaking mode.
There are ten game play icons: trade, storage, pay, bribe, gift, signet, rest/meditation, weapon enhancement, fistfight, dice/poker, or drink. Signet indicates that you show your signet ring to gain admittance to an area or to get more information from the conversation. Many of these icons are similar to other game play modes used in other games.
There are places in The Witcher where what you say affects the rest of the game. The questions you ask and who you ask them of determine the flow of the rest of the game. You have to save often, think ahead, and you might want to go back and do a crucial quest differently the second time to check out how the game progresses with your new choices.
Just to give you an idea of the complexity in this game, the Prima electronic game guide by Fletcher Black is 59 pages long and it is only one of the many paths through the game. The Games Pressure guide is 290 pages and even that is not complete.
The game is based upon the fantasy short stories and five novels of Polish fantasy novelist Andrezej Sapkowski. Witchers are monster-hunters who receive special training and modify their bodies by eating mutagenic food that gives them superhuman powers to battle the monsters. The books have been adapted into a movie, television series, computer game, graphic novel and other adaptations.
Geralt of Rivia is the protagonist in the stories. Geralt is a young witcher with extraordinary powers. The stories are executed with a wit and some references to modern culture. Geralt is constantly placed in the world of moral dilemma when he roots out all the facts; many times everyone is guilty to some degree and sometimes he is forced to take sides.
Sapkowski does not use the good and evil equation the way some fantasy novels do. All characters in the Witcher world are composed of grey and there are no clear choices. Often, the Witcher is forced to get involved to help one side or another or everyone will die. Sometimes the person or monster who looks guilty is merely a victim of the "good" people.
For example, in the computer game, there is a witch who has provided poisons and spells for the townspeople to kill, rape and otherwise take advantage of their fellow townsfolk. The townspeople demand that the Witcher kill the witch because she be-witched them. The truth is that the townspeople were evil and used the witch as an accomplice. You have the choice whether to kill the witch, kill the townspeople, or kill them all.
There is also a sexual aspect to the game. In the European game, full frontal nudity is the rule for the illustrations and animations. In the North American release, these erotic drawings and animations are toned down to the point where all the "naughty bits" are concealed. The sound of "oohs" and "ahhs" still emanate from the speakers but to my knowledge there is no "hot coffee mod" for this version.
Geralt finds himself in a dilemma when helping females. Many of the women he meets will grant Geralt a liaison if he wants one. There is a sub game trying to figure out how to bed all the available women in the game. Some might find this quest unsavory and may want to skip it while others might find this the high point of the game.
Most of the women want to have children. Geralt cannot have children due to the process which transformed his body into a Witcher. Many women will not accept him as a life mate without the ability to have children. So Geralt finds himself condemned to one night stands mostly with women of loose morals.
For every conquest that Geralt makes he gets a trophy card of the woman in a provocative pose. The European version of the game exposes various "naughty bits" of the women. The USA release is more modest and has strategically placed hair, cloth, curtains, etc. to conceal the "naughty bits." Fear not, the European cards are available on the internet if you are so inclined.
Final Grade: A (Enhanced) / A-
Minimum System Requirements:
Recommended System Requirements: