The Witcher - game review

Date: 2007-10-26 00:14:00
The review was based on the PC version.

Do your work with the heart, however modest it may be, it is only yours in various vicissitudes. - Max Ehrmann, Desiderata .

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link - this is one of my favorite proverbs, it sounds nice and works well. Constantly. Do you remember a game like Gothic III ? A beautiful world, memorable heroes, nice plot, good character development - every RPG lover would play it, if not for those weak links: bugs, unbalanced strength of opponents, steep learning curve. Probably only Poles and Germans played in the third Gothika , and JoWood broke the contract with Piranha Bytes. And do you remember Freelancer ? A vast universe, a multitude of factions, a nice combat system, a fantastic selection of ships and equipment. Unfortunately, someone had the idea that the game should start when the story was over.

Over the years of my next meetings with The Witcher, I was afraid that I would consider exactly the same pattern in it - a good plot, a great character of the main character, an atmospheric world and a multitude of references to Andrzej Sapkowski's books, and at the same time collapsed control, character development done by force and archaic graphics. I have already seen too many good and even very promising Polish games not to be afraid of the national tradition of not pressing the buttons. And guess what? Screw silly traditions - here comes one of the most addicting and most polished role-playing games I have ever played. Screw and modesty: what have arisen. Even if you can accuse her of this and that, she casts a spell on the player that lasts longer than the several dozen hours of gameplay it offers.

It is not known what happened to Geralt at the end of the Saga, because the Master allowed himself to make a joke towards his readers and left two, if not three, possible interpretations to choose from. When we enter the game world, we start talking to our old friends and reading books, the version begins in which many people saw Geralt died on a rivska street, stabbed in the stomach by a pitchfork, and a sorceress gave her life trying to save the witcher. "Certain" sorceress - because Yennefer has magically disappeared from everyone's memory, including her lover. The latter was the easiest thing to do, because Geralt appears in the vicinity of Kaer Morhen - five years after the war with the Nilfgaardian Empire - totally exhausted and remembering absolutely nothing. Found by the remaining witchers - Vesemir and Lambert - he is taken to the witcher's stronghold. He barely remembers the basics of his trade - he knows how to hold a sword and knows that potions are poured into his mouth - he will have to learn everything else from scratch. With great input from the player. There is not much time to recover - the attack on Kaer Morhen is carried out by two powerful mages and a hired killer - your first task, the player, is to grab any sword and throw into battle.

Also at the very beginning there is Triss Merigold - another, after Yennefer disappearance, game mystery. The sorceress, who has buttoned up her neck since the Battle of Sodden, wears a navel neckline here ... The very precise structure of the plot makes us believe that "something is going on here", and not that we are dealing with a banal oversight.

So the witcher begins with a Hitchcock earthquake, and then it gets even better ... How much Geralt would not wish, with his custom, to remain neutral towards the great problems of this world, he gets involved in the conflict of crowned heads, court intrigues and stalking, he enters with his shoes in the interests of supranational organizations and in a whole bunch of minor troubles. And not all of them will be able to cut their way out with their two swords. He will be forced to investigate half a dozen suspects, retrieve a powerful treatise from a magically closed tower, participate in an autopsy, work out a werewolf's personality or face a certain ... god - immortal by nature - and defeat him. Believe me, I am tempted to take advantage of the fact that on the day of the game's premiere I finish playing it and give you a few better fragments - you will all find them yourself, because it is a sin not to play The Witcher .

An equally high level is held by the side plots, which are abundant and which try their best to deviate from the go-kill-fetch procedure. Of course, no witcher can from time to time not accept an order like: "the village administrator will pay 800 orens for the head of a crypt monster that looks like an old mother-in-law", but the vast majority of quests will come not so much for reward as out of curiosity.

For a separate discussion (and underlining with a snake, a snake), the idea for the non-linearity of the player's adventures is asked. Well, from time to time Geralt is faced with a dilemma of how to act in a given situation, whose side to take, who to kill, who to spare, or who to blame on. How the player decides to act in such a situation will depend not only on the immediate reaction of the environment, reward or punishment and the possibility of choosing a further path, but also ... events that will take place long, long after. For example, several hours of play later. Don't worry, however: it will not happen that you will have to repeat these several hours of play - well, in some cases you will have to solve a given problem differently, or maybe you will not have to solve it at all ... Yes, it happens that important elections are conducted to trivial, disappointing effects, but generally the idea is hit.

The fun of the game is greatly enriched by well-written and really well-read dialogues - strong 18+ texts are the order of the day here. And night time. Just like the accompanying actions of the characters. In the same Geralt, who does not often let you pass, even a driad or a vampire - it is essential to make her attractive. In the meantime, the blood pours thick and red in alcoves, brothels or haystacks, and the severed heads roll on the cobblestones. From time to time, the authors lash the player's ears with a sharp irony or an apt allusion, which proves that they did not only do their homework with Mickiewicz and Słowacki, but also had a faculty with Quentin Tarantino.

The game offers three difficulty levels, and these levels affect almost only the difficulty of the fights. While at the lowest level, even the bosses can be easily cut, assuming that the player is skilled at swinging a sword, the highest victory becomes the result of the right combination of potions drunk before the fight, signs used at the right moment and motor skills.

Despite all the visual beauty, some players may not like the combat system - there is no place in it for individual hits, hitting specific parts of the body, parrying etc. It is up to the player to prepare before the fight, choose a sword, choose a style, choose an opponent and choose the right moment to launch the next attack. Whether the Witcher manages to deflect an arrow flying towards him, parry his opponent's strike and whether his attack consists of one or five strokes, depends on the development of his skills. Personally, however, I appreciate the idea inherent in this solution, thanks to which fights can present a level unattainable for ordinary mortals, not subjected to a witcher mutation.

I don't remember an erpeg in which I would like to play in making potions, collecting plants, doing anything suitable for craftsmanship - because it's boring. If anything, the best I could do was get up in front of the computer and scramble the scrambled eggs in the kitchen to have more energy to massacre anything that moves on the screen. Until now. This is because alchemy in The Witcher is not only extremely useful - even indispensable at higher difficulty levels - but also very cleverly designed.

Despite the technological limitations of the aging Aurora (game engine), despite the restriction of the character's movement to designated areas, despite the annoying "loading screens" that appear every time you enter a neighboring location - indeed, even at each entrance to the building - despite all this, it is it's a beautiful world. Diverse, very atmospheric and thoroughly Slavic (well, good: Slavic-Germanic). You can see and hear that it is a Polish - in the best sense of the word - game. During the game, you will have to visit vast rural areas, Wyzima cut with a mesh of streets, swamps, a lake and many crypts and caves. In the game guide I'm finishing work on, I included 40 maps - limited only to the locations that the maps require. This size translates into about 40 hours of play on the easiest difficulty level, skipping many elements that are not necessary to complete it. If you conscientiously squeeze all the juices out of The Witcher , this number may increase by two or three times. This is a lot by the current standards, but much too little not to wait for the second part.

The characters and monsters that Geralt encounters on his way in the vast majority of cases meet expectations or even significantly exceed them. Geralt is an athletic, tough guy, ugly at least, Triss is a beautiful sorceress, Dandelion is a handsome man with strong features. Frighten is terrifying, kikimores and centipedes are hideous, and graveirs and bruxes are very dangerous at first glance. It is the world we know from books (period). We can observe it from three different perspectives: two views from above (remote camera, close-up camera), i.e. a proposition for Diablo and Dungeon Siege fans, and a view from behind Geralt's back, with the camera shifted a bit to the side (you think: Resident Evil and you're home) ). I prefer and recommend the last option because it allows you to fully immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the adventure.

The Witcher works stably - it does not freeze during the game, it does not jump into the system at key moments. Probably not without significance is the fact that I played it on a really strong machine. As the developers of the game say: the code has been optimized to work on dualcore - and unfortunately it is true. On the other hand ... if you've been waiting for a compelling reason to upgrade your hardware, this is the moment.

Nevertheless, the game does have some bugs. The first patch is to be released on the release date for a reason. Unfortunately, I can't comment on what it corrects, because I just don't know it yet. The virgin version of the game - the one you will find in the box - likes to hang when exiting the system (the Windows task manager closes it then), which does not hurt anything, but is unpleasant. A really bothersome bug manifests itself when items are stored in taverns - let me not explain it, because there is a chance that you will not notice it and it will not spoil your fun. Or perhaps the patch removes it.

By far the biggest underdevelopment, however, is the game save system, which does not allow you to name saves yourself, or to use numbered slots, or to create player profiles. It is not a problem if one copy of the game is to serve only one person - the problem arises when both the father and his two adolescent sons want to play. Then the only thing left is to play your own saves from and to the game catalog, because there is no way to distinguish them from each other.