Review by magusx666

"The Witcher is a the most enjoyable RPG I've played in the past couple of years, and it also features the greatest journal and alchemy system to date."

So I first heard about The Witcher quite a while back when it was first announced. I was fairly excited at the time, and watched every subsequent amount of gameplay footage that was released. However, as time went on, the game looked less and less interesting to me, so I lost a considerable amount of interest in the project, though I did continue to follow it closely…just with a very small flame of hope. When I heard that the game was made by a Polish company, I was even further disheartened, as I believed the game might contain elements that a non-European gamer such as myself might not be privy to. A couple of weeks before the game's release, though, I heard people on the message boards saying that they'd played it (I suppose they were pirates and/or Europeans), and that it was really good. This surprised me, but I was glad to hear that, because I'd been looking for a fun RPG for quite a while. Neverwinter Nights 2 was alright, but having to pause the game all the time and rest every minute or so while micro-managing every character and handling a bunch of different inventories just got on my nerves. I beat it and everything, but I wanted something more.

Since then, there really just hasn't been too much in the RPG vein, especially a “deep” RPG as opposed to a purely hack-n'-slash RPG like Hellgate: London (which is also pretty fun, though lacking more than a little in the plot department as well as variation. Well, I'm here to say that The Witcher is the finest RPG to be released in 2007 on any and all platforms. It's not a godly game by any means, but should serve to quell your RPG needs better than any other game this year, and possibly the past year or so. Here are my thoughts and feelings on The Witcher…

GRAPHICS: 5/5

The Witcher has some good graphics. No matter what settings you play it on, be they low, medium, or high, the game looks really good. Everything is very well-detailed, the characters looking above average with the environments looking gorgeous. In virtually all locations, the game looks sexy. If you're in a cave, hut, or a swamp, things might look dark and gloomy, but they're very well-rendered. However, if you go into an open field of a grassy environment, you'll not only be treated to appealing graphics, but lovely ones as well. It's really very attractive to look at. No complaints in the graphics department. CD Projekt (the company that made The Witcher) even made the game so that, like I said, the game looks really good on all graphical settings. This is great because there are some games that get released that look terrible (worse than older games…not kidding) like F.E.A.R. did on my old rig or like Crysis does on my current rig. This is one of those games that you don't have to have a phenomenal PC to enjoy like the aforementioned titles.

SOUND/MUSIC: 5/5

The music of The Witcher is nothing short of awesome. It generally has that “fantasy” sound to it, but it's unique enough that it doesn't sound “generic” and boring. At times, it has a certain Scottish sound to it, and at others, it will even lean off toward another genre while still “fitting” in the game perfectly. Actually, The Witcher has the best soundtrack of any game that I have played in the past…oh at least two years or so (aside from musical rhythm games like Guitar Hero, of course).

The sounds themselves are nothing special. They're good. In all honesty, though, I haven't played a game in ages that's had “bad” sound effects. However, in the sound category, I will go ahead and mention voice acting. This is a very big deal, as there have been quite a few games that have been released with voice acting that made me cringe. It was agonizing at times. However, you'll find none of that in The Witcher, as all of the voice acting in the game is top-notch. But wait! There's more! Not only is the voice acting great, there are more than a handful of voice actors like in Oblivion! So instead of every other female you talk to sounding like a fifty-year old woman who smoked cigarettes ever since she was ten, you get to hear a very wide assortment of voice actors with unique voices. The important characters (there are a lot) all sound different, which aids you in immersing yourself into the game. So yeah, all in all, the “sound” aspect of The Witcher is great as well.

CONTROLS: 5/5

I used to not make a controls section, but with a painful maelstrom of games that I have played in the past NOT letting me remap keys and having bad control schemes in general made me begin listing controls as an important part of my review. In the case of The Witcher, however, bad key settings are not an issue. You can remap the keys if there are any that trouble you, not to mention the fact that the controls are pretty darn good in their default form. Keyboard shortcuts to menus like the journal exist, and you use WASD to move around. Interacting or attacking something only requires that you look at the person/object/enemy and left click on them. Your character will automatically run over and interact with it. Buttons 1-5 select different spells. Right-clicking casts a spell, while holding the left- or right mouse button charges up an alternate sword attack or spell effect, respectively.

That's pretty much it. The only key default that I had any issues with was the object highlight button. To see what there is around you to interact with, you hold this button down and the game will show you the names of the items, people, and enemies around you. The game's default is Alt, which is a little strange to press when using WASD. However, even this is just a small gripe, as I believe that command can just be remapped to a more favorable key…I was just too lazy to bother doing it. ;) Lastly, when you fight an enemy, as I mentioned, you'll left-click on one to attack, then, once a little flame appears on your cursor, you click again to chain another attack, allowing you to hit again and again uninterrupted. It's a nice system that keeps you in the fight and gives you something to do even if you're just slashing away, as opposed to Neverwinter Nights 1 where you click on an really tough enemy once with a swordsman and then walk off to each lunch until the fight's over. The combat controls are some of the best I've experienced in an action RPG, and, The Witcher's controls are very good in almost every other aspect.

STORY: 13/15

As I mentioned before, I was very concerned when I heard that a Polish company was behind The Witcher. I figured that there might be jokes, reactions, attitudes, etc. that I just “wouldn't get” unless I was a part of that culture. It would be like watching an anime for the first time. One might ask questions like “What the hell is this? Why did that game say that? What is he doing? What does that little water droplet on his face mean? Why is there a miniature, deformed version of that character waving little Japanese flags around?” Fortunately, either the Polish have a very similar mindset as the rest of the world, or I'm just Polish-savvy and I didn't know it. Any jokes, I got. The characters' actions and reactions seemed to make sense. The dialogue didn't seem butchered by translation or anything. I was truly impressed. In fact, I'm now disappointed in American RPG game-makers, as CD Projekt, despite its humble origins, has outdone pretty much every RPG I've played over the past couple of years. I wish more developers would put this much effort into a game.

The overall story of The Witcher isn't phenomenal. However, it is, on the other hand, quite unique in its own respect, and I'm not even sure if or when another RPG will come close to The Witcher's decision system. Let me explain. You see, games like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic feature all sorts of decisions throughout the game that are quite blatantly “good” and “evil.” Unfortunately, once you get to the end of that sort of game, there will be ONE big decision that determines if you get the good ending or the evil ending. This means that you can be the biggest jackass in the galaxy, murdering every single kind-hearted person you find, then at the last second, choose the good guy option and be celebrated as a hero and looked at like you're a great guy. This is simply absurd. I love KotOR, but that aspect of the game is a bit ridiculous.

The Witcher, however, takes a different stance on this. This is no real good or evil. Something may seem like a really good thing to do, but it might have bad consequences. Alternatively, something may seem like a cruel or bad thing to do with good consequences in the long-term. There are also neutral options at time. The game's lack of good and evil in general makes for a more realistic world, and allows you to have more freedom. Even better yet, your choices will actually affect later events in the game. While some quests will have no impact, a fair amount of main quests will actually result in some things playing out quite differently, with the ending not being black-and-white, but instead having several “parts” of the ending, each of which could be completely different. It's really cool, and makes for great replay value. The Witcher's story is most likely the greatest reason to want to keep playing, first and foremost because it's pretty darn good, but also because of the “gray” moral area the game traverses and the snazzy actual effects of all your decisions coming to fruition.

Lastly, I'll mention a small synopsis of the start of the game's story for those that are interested. A witcher is a monster-hunting mercenary who was once human but has been mutated by a secret means only other witchers possess. You are a witcher named Geralt, who has woken up with amnesia. You won't learn why you have amnesia or everything about what happened to you. That's not what The Witcher is about. Instead, it leaves your character as a sort of blank slate to make your own decisions and decide what YOUR Geralt will be like, as well as having him “forget” all of his combat abilities and whatnot so you can learn them all again during the course of the game over a short period of time, thus having one of the most sensible leveling systems of any game, since Geralt is technically just remembering how to do things he already knew from years of experience. It's a little bit odd, for instance, to see characters in Japanese RPGs go from being nobodies with little to no combat experience taking on god-like beings within a few weeks' time.. Anywho, while you wake up, you're taken to a keep where other witchers are training, and as misfortune would have it, the keep is attacked and the secrets to creating witchers are stolen by an evil sorcerer. Geralt and the other witchers all split up to scour the different lands in search of the sorcerer. Naturally, Geralt ends up on the trail of the creep, and so begins your quest to catch up with the sorcerer and get the dangerous secrets of the witchers back.

GAMEPLAY: 14/20

This project is definitely fun to play, but I'd only do so in moderation, as I played day and night for quite a while, finally “getting sick of it” by the time I reached the last Chapter of the game. I'd say three or four hours a day should keep things fresh and fun for quite a while. One aspect that I really did like, once I continued playing after a few weeks, is that the game is extremely easy to pick up and start playing again. Another thing that I really liked, while I'm on miscellaneous details is that many RPGs like to have the last big hunk of the game feel rushed and forced.

The end of the Witcher feels, by no means rushed, though it did feel forced…at first. Even though about 75% of the game allows you to go anywhere you like within each Chapter's areas, the last Chapter of the game starts off giving me that “end game feeling” that I generally get where I feel unprepared and totally screwed. However, if you continue a little bit into the Chapter, everything actually keeps the mood of the earlier sections of the game while giving you just a little stronger sense of urgency. Besides, the game gives you that fun god complex where they stop upgrading the enemies at a certain point, allowing you to absolutely thrash groups of enemies like it's nothing. So overall, the game's last Chapter, which does feel a little bit different from the rest, is actually better put together than most RPGs I've played. It's eons ahead of Knights of the Old Republic II's unfinished ending, and isn't as imposing as the end of a Japanese RPG. I figured I'd just address the feeling I tend to get near the end of games as I've found on the message boards that quite a few other gamers feel as I do.

As for the majority of the game, however, you'll be taking your time. Nothing feels rushed at all. You'll often have fifteen quests or so, all of which can be done whenever you feel like it. One downside is that, sometimes without warning, you may do something in a main quest that will render doing a side quest completely impossible, sending that quest to the failed list. The best way of avoiding this, though, is to just go ahead and do every side quest you can before the main quests if at all possible. It kinda takes away from your freedom just a bit, but the quests are still quite fun and very rewarding.

Speaking of rewarding, you gain experience from killing enemies, but as you level up, and enemy that was worth 200 XP may soon be worth 1 XP each, meaning you'll need another source of experience. A big plus for many story-driven RPG fans is that the best way to get experience is by doing quests. If you do every quest you can, you'll get to experience that “god complex” I mentioned above. Of course, while I'm talking about the difficulty, I'd also like to highly recommend playing on at least the Medium difficulty, even on your first playthrough. There are moments when you'll be getting beat up pretty bad, but for the most part, you won't be very challenged. I played on Medium difficulty, and I'd say that for your first time, it would be a pretty good choice. The Easy setting would be a joke. I'd avoid it at all costs, as you won't feel like you accomplished anything in fights.

Most of the time, you'll talk to someone, get a quest, then go out and do it. It's pretty standard fare, and quite a few quests involve getting a number of items from monster remains and plants, although there are also quite a few quests that will have you going to other characters in search of information and getting them to do or give something to you. Some will involve combat, while others may not even need you to kill anything. The quests are varied enough that you shouldn't have any qualms about doing all of them, and the sky-high amount of XP you get from doing them (when compared to killing monsters you've surpassed in level) will make you willing to do anything to complete them.

As you run around doing quests, you'll come across quite a few monsters, most of which, you'll want to kill, provided they're giving out nice dosages of XP. However, as you level up, you'll often find enemies you've fought hundreds of times littering your path that give out 1 XP each. You'll hit the point where you'll find yourself just running past them to get to your objective sooner, as fighting endless enemies can get a little old. Unfortunately, one of the game's downsides is that several areas (Chapter 2's swamps in particular) are simply a pain to traverse. The myriad of quests, will have you running every imaginable way possible. By the time you finish Chapter 3, you will want to convince the king to pass an edict to drain those damned swamps then burn the dry land. I did every quest that I could there, and those swamps get old really fast. Other than the swamps, though, most of the game's locations are pretty fun to explore and do quests in.

Geralt is quite the ladies' man as well. If you like, you can have Geralt “make whoopee” left and right. Even if a girl looks like someone you'd never sleep with in a movie or game, Geralt will probably bed her. At times, it's even a little awkward and you'll say to yourself “That's messed up…” On the same note, this game is definitely adult-oriented. Not only is there heavily implied sex, but random people in bars and around towns will have very colorful things to say such as mentioning someone's mother sucking on um…a dwarf's “egg.” Yeah…not for kids.

So yeah…the game consists of running around, talking to people, making a decision here and there, doing quests, fighting monsters, etc. However, I haven't mentioned two of the game's best features. Not only are these features good; they're actually features that blow similar features out of the water in other games. The Witcher sports the greatest Journal and Alchemy system I have EVER seen in a game to date. First, I'll mention the journal. You would think that it would just consist of a list of quests to do…maybe list some clues about completing them, as well as your finished quests, failed quests, etc. Well, it does do that, and so much more.

Not only does it keep up with your quests, but it also serves as a one-stop glossary about anything and everything you've learned about. Let's say you meet Bob at the beginning of the game. You meet Bob again much later and wonder what he was all about. In a Japanese RPG or even most American RPGs, you're just screwed. You'll never know who he was unless you go look Bob up on the internet or a strategy guide or play through the game again until you meet him. Well, in The Witcher, you can just press J to open the journal, then click on the characters tab. There'll be a big alphabetical list of everyone you've ever met that had any importance whatsoever. Find Bob and click on his name. It'll show a big, detailed article about who he is and what's important about him. Better yet, if something happens with Bob when you meet him again, it will usually update the article with new info on Bob!

How about monsters? Ever play a game with a lot of monster types and you can't remember what one is weak to? I've had that happen a lot. It's a real pain in the ass. Well, in The Witcher, you can go into the journal and look through a list of monsters just like you could with characters and pick out the particular monster you're facing. It'll tell you all about the monster, as well as what it's resistant or immune to, and even suggested means of combating it. The journal lists so much more…I honestly can't even remember all of what it lists. It's freaking incredible. If more games sported journals like this one, I'd be a lot happier. Even your alchemy recipes can be found in the damn thing!

That brings me to the alchemy system. Yeah…I know what you're thinking: “Alchemy's a pain in the ass in every other game!!!” Well, you know what? You're right! I always avoid mixing up potions in other games. It's tedious, difficult, and just lame. In The Witcher, it's so easy to use and simple to understand! Also, ingredients can be taken off of monster corpses as well as plants, both of which respawn, meaning that even if you make a potion that stinks, you can always make more. This lack of a constraint on your potions means you can have a potion for every occasion in your inventory and be ready to really kick some ass. Not only can you make potions to drink that raise resistances, increase your health regeneration, allow you to see in the dark, etc., but you can also make bombs to toss at baddies as well as oils to coat your blade with to do oodles of damage to specific enemy types! It's incredible. I finally found a game that I don't mind making potions in. In fact, it can even be fun.

All in all, the game follows the standard recipe of an RPG these days. Like I mentioned, you just run around questing and killing monsters. However, the advent of this grand journal and alchemy system streamline the whole thing and the simplicity of the combat makes it much more fun to play than The Witcher's typical genre brethren.

CONCLUSION: 8 (5 + 5 + 5 + 13 + 14 = 42 of 50; 42 * 2 = 84%)

This is by no means a perfect game. However, the small pieces come together to make The Witcher a game that I simply cannot think ill of. The excellent graphics, the far above-average voice acting, amazing music, the enjoyable story with a morality system featuring shades of gray and truly important choices, as well as pretty fun gameplay while including the finest alchemy and journal I've ever seen to this very day make The Witcher a game that I would recommend to anyone that is a fan of western-style RPGs looking for the best RPG to have come out in a long time. Thank you for reading, and I hope this helped you decide whether or not The Witcher is for you. =)


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 12/25/07

Game Release: The Witcher (US, 10/30/07)


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