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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Role-Playing

 

Publisher

Atari

 

Developer

CD Projekt Red Studio

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

September 16, 2008

 

 

- Choice in leveling and the alchemy system
- The look and feel of the world- definitely dark and disturbing

 

 

- Cliché heavy
- Never quite seems as good as it thinks it is

 

 

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The Witcher: Enhanced Edition

Score: 7.0/ 10

 

Begin at the beginning- yes, it's a cliche, but it is also good advice which is particularly apt when discussing The Witcher. At first glance, The Witcher is a cliche with an archetypical anti-hero (Micheal Moorcock's Elric of Melnibone immediately sprung to mind when I saw him), a cursed princess and a grim crumbling world populated with the normal menagerie of elves, dwarves and undead. This is not as bad as it sounds though because if you read a genre of books, watch a genre of movies, or play a genre of games for any length of time, you realize that the book Ecclesiastes is correct when it says that "there is nothing new under the sun". Cliches are so prevalent that one can't hope to avoid them, only to see a new twist on them or to see them done very well, and here The Witcher gives some hope.

 

the witcher enhanced          witcher enhanced edition

 

Hope within the player is important because it is in such short supply in the world of The Witcher. This is fantasy at its darkest where 'good' is a relative term. In the

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role of Geralt, one of the few remaining witchers, you are confronted with a world which hates and rejects you, but desperately needs you as well. Choice is a major theme throughout The Witcher including even how you play the game.

 

For roleplaying enthuasists, there is a fixed camera similar to that found in Neverwinter Nights, while those who prefer action can choose an 'over the shoulder' view

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giving them a screen and a set of controls similar to any number of third person action titles. I played the action version of the game and must admit to being a bit underwhelmed by the combat. I know the underlying system is deep [based as it is on 3rd edition Dungeons and Dragons], but for an action title, I felt that I had too little control- attacks were basically automated with some simple timed clicking used to chain them, targeting seemed clunky when more than one or two enemies were present, and some funky collision made the dodging feature less useful than it seemed to be. The multiple sword styles didn't feel like it added that much to the combat as there was always a 'best choice'. A variety of magical signs [spells] added some depth, but most battles [on Intermediate level] were easily fought without them and were over so quickly that only a single sign would be used in any case. The presence of coup de graces was initially a boon, but when this type of move can be used on bosses, it simplified the exercise by too great an extent for me.

 

Returning to the focus on choice, we get to see some of the strengths of The Witcher. Unlike many of the straight line grindfests which comprise so many CRPGs, The Witcher avoids set character classes and allows you to build your character as you see fit. The alchemy system as well is loaded with player choice (in how to use resources) and is one of the strongest aspects of the game. Most satisfyingly, the storyline encourages choice [with multiple endings and consequences for the choices you make] while trying to live up to its mature rating.

 

witcher enhanced edition          witcher enhanced edition

 

In this mature focus, The Witcher somehow manages to succeed and fail at the same time. At times, The Witcher is truly mature- intelligent and thought provoking. You have to give props to a game which includes allusions to Alfred Nobel and the IRA as well as talking about the danger of moral relativism. Still, your choices are limited and opportunities for truly difficult choices seem to have been missed. For example, at one point the character must decide if he supports a witch, who is guilty of seemingly minor crimes, or her accusers, who appear guilty of much greater crimes. Would it not have been more interesting to have one of the accusers be truly innocent, but loyal to his friends, so the character is forced to decide whether to kill one innocent to punish three of the guilty, or let the three worst criminals in a situation go free to save the innocent, while at the same time condemning the witch?

 

Further, the makers sometimes seemed to take mature as meaning "let's do everything we can't do in a teen rated game'; thus, alcohol serves as the base for potions, drinking and gambling are used to further friendships and the character can engage in sexual relations (as well as relationships). None of this is bad in and of itself, but too much of it seems unnecessary- almost like it was included simply because it could be. A good example of this is the character of Vesna who, at the end of Chapter 1, seemed to exist for no other reason than to sleep with the protagonist. Once this was done [and her card unlocked- cards are unlocked for each woman you sleep with], she simply ceased to exist.

 

Overall, The Witcher was a game which strived for the peaks of the highest mountains, but only reached the base camp. This is still an accomplishment and the game is certainly good, it just never quite reaches the rarefied air it strove so hard for.

 

- Garett Kutcher

(November 10, 2008)

 

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