The Witcher Review

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Graphics: 9.0
Sound : 8.5
Gameplay : 9.5
Multiplayer : N/A
Overall : 8.5
Review by Will Smith
The Witcher, if you’ve not been following, is a third person RPG developed by CDPROJEKT and published by Atari based on the works of Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, and uses the popular Aurora engine, which in turn is the driving force behind the ever popular Neverwinter Nights series.

I’ll start by saying the one definitive thing about this game that crosses my mind; It is certainly one of the better RPG’s I’ve played. Let’s face it, I was never big on Gothic, and never fancied my chances on Two Worlds going by some of the reviews, but I’d been tracking The Witcher for quite a long time. So, as a whole, I’d never been huge on the third person RPG genre in the style of Gothic and such, but now I’m totally in love with The Witcher (hell, I had to pry myself away from a 4 hour session just to write this review!).

The graphics, as individual pieces, aren’t hugely great by modern standards, lacking a lot of advanced techniques in places. However, the graphics culminate into way more than the sum of their parts, to create unique areas that really hit you upon seeing them. The graphics at their best settings are good, but not hugely great – about on par in most aspects with Oblivion, you don’t often notice the visual hit when changing from medium to high and back either, meaning there isn’t a huge gap between graphics settings, don’t be afraid to sacrifice a bit of eye candy for those essential frames, you won’t miss much. Beware, that some (minor) graphical glitches can make you wince, such as clipping, and the occasional bad animation, especially during the combat and fist fights.

Conventionally, most RPGs follow a similar pattern of decision; The good option (whereby the right people live and the deserving people die), the mercenary option (mostly being paid to carry out what is essentially the good option) and the bad option (some good people may die because you want them to, end of story.) The Witcher, however, takes a far different approach; each choice will have consequences, you can’t usually have everything, for example; do the sinners die for their crimes? Or would you see them burn the Witch, who, despite doing nothing essentially evil, pushed them along a little bit? On one hand, you’re potentially freeing a bunch of murderers, on the other, you’re condemning someone of far lesser (by my judgement, maybe not yours) crimes to a horrible death. Your Choice.

Also, unlike what some other RPGs promise, your choice really does affect everything around you - often much later down the line, which means saving your game pre-choice isn’t usually a viable option for experiencing every alternative.

Combat is deeply satisfying, even though the dodge manoeuvres which have been implemented into the combat aren’t awfully useful unless you’re really stuck in a rut. The swordplay is excellent, but lack of control on the players’ part can make it seem repetitive, but don’t get me wrong, it’s never dull to watch. It can, however, be hard to execute in the early stages of the game; before you quite understand it and before you start distributing talents. With a bit of practice though, it doesn’t have a massive learning curve.

Despite what some people may believe, combat is not a massively overblown bloodbath – OK – heads will (literally) roll, but the actual gore isn’t really that over the top. The games adult rating (18) appears to stem mainly from the sexual content, which isn’t too blatant and is always in context, not to mention getting the collectable cards makes a fun past time!

Quickies – “The Goodâ€Â

• A highly polished game at release.
• Combat is fun.
• Animations are well performed.
• World is interesting.
• Graphics are competent and efficiently coded.
• Game is resource efficient.
• Individual voice acting is superb.
• Isn’t too demanding on the system.
• Is a lot of fun!
• It’s hard to believe this game was licensed from a book!

The graphics themselves aren’t mind-blowing, and object physics aren’t exactly apparent and rarely occur, but they are certainly good enough and are coded efficiently so as not to cause problems with your system where, by all rights, they shouldn’t. I even found that a card below the recommended specs would run the game on high reasonably well, but performance was much better achieved at medium detail. Textures are crisp and solid, making a beautiful world, and character models are highly detailed.

One slight annoyance, is that, despite being “open ended†those life-or-death choices aren’t always too apparent, accessible, or even there unless they usually relate to the main story, side-quests don’t tend to have this (at least in the early game).

Another annoyance is the load times – they are so long! This is made even worse by the fact that most areas are quite small and transitions are very frequent.

Back on the good side, the audio is rather excellent, with the return of epic battle music long-missed in video games since the days of Final Fantasy 7 and 8, Legend of Dragoon and Suikoden. Sword clashes feel realistic and sound good, albeit don’t always fit in with the animations. Voice acting on individual parts is excellent, but as a whole the game suffers from the disjointed conversational conventions of its third person predecessors, where characters repeat the same non-generic (and that’s what often makes it bad) greeting each time.

One rather disturbing flaw of this game is how many people look exactly the same! Not only that, but their proximity to their twins is just mind boggling, you’ll probably only find between 5 and 8 different types of character in a general area, not to mention everyone but the most important characters have voices that can be distinctly recognised as being the same.

Aside from this, the game is well balanced, and combat won’t seem unfair unless you either get stuck in a glitch or die a lot anyway – in which case the load times will frustrate you to the high heavens.

A final (important) note on this excellent game, is the fact that it attempts to tell a good story, a tale of epic adventure, betrayal and action – and succeeds, very well! Something which games haven’t really done for quite a while now, favouring gameplay mechanics over story (and even if they do favour story – they tend to then mess up the gameplay). The story is in no way derived, convoluted, thin on the ground or shallow!

“Quickies†– The bad
• Lots of people look the same.
• Not without its glitches.
• Combat can seem a little broken on the odd occasion.
• Combat style match-ups can seem very arbitrary at times – with opponents parrying you perfectly every time unless you use the style the game deems appropriate.
• Lots of people sound the same.
• Foreign roots show (e.g., coherency of certain plotlines).
• Difficulty isn’t awfully consistent, especially moving from Vizima to The Swamp for example.

All in all, there is a lot to say about the Witcher, but even more to do in the game and exploring each area thoroughly is a truly rewarding joy. It also does a very good job of flattening the rocky road of third person RPGs left by its predecessors, despite having its own flaws.

If you are an RPG fan, don’t hesitate for one hour, minute or second about buying this!

*Buy if you liked; Gothic – Two Worlds – The Elder Scrolls – Neverwinter Nights – The Witcher book series.