Saturday, 7 January 2017

Review No. 126 The Witcher: Enhanced Edition - PC (18+)

Strong Points:
Addictive one more quest style gameplay
Lots of meaningful choices
A proper sense of progression
Nice, in-depth combat
Some signs are great fun to use...
Characters are fully-fleshed
Great voice acting and sound
End battle is really clever
Lots of quests
3 camera styles
3 styles of attack give a lot of choice on how to play
Dice poker is a nice distraction...

Weak Points:
Run out of inventory space - a lot
Pace is variable
A lot of the same character models
...some aren't used often
You'll suddenly realise that you can't complete a quest and can't backtrack
An odd mix of open-world and linear narrative
Graphics are dated
Alchemy is difficult to do without dedicating time to collecting ingredients - won't get them naturally
Can get repetitive
Can be overwhelming
Can be confusing - read all the notes, and sometimes just go along with it!
A lot of backtracking
Some crashes (save often)
...even if it is luck-based
Can take a little while to switch weapons

In-depth Review:

Release Dates:
North America: September 16th,  2008
Europe: September 19th, 2008
Australia: September 30th, 2008

Controls: can all be changed in-game
Can all be controlled via the mouse or a combined mouse and keyboard layout

Basic Keyboard Controls:
Arrow Keys: move/(double tap) dodge
Space: pause
1,2,3,4,5: signs
J: open journal
M: open map
I: open inventory
H: open hero page
L: open alchemy page
Z: strong style
X: fast style
C: group style
Q: draw steel sword
E: draw silver sword
R: draw extra weapon 1
U: draw extra weapon 3

The Witcher is a multi-layered RPG based on the Polish novels and starring white-haired Witcher Geralt of Rivia. In it, you have to complete quests for the seemingly hopeless citizens of Temeria, in order to uncover information about the Salamandra and gain the Witcher's secrets back. During your playthrough, the politics of The Witcher start to open up and you will have to make decisions with no clear answer and whose choices may have far-reaching although not always apparent consequences.

The layout of quests makes it so that some span over many chapters, (which you can check in the journal by showing only quests whose phase is in a particular chapter) which is good for the story, not good for my easily overwhelmed mind. There are also primary and secondary quests, though in my eyes you're not playing the game properly if you're not completing all the side quests, as these have some of the games best moments. I have got to mention a couple of quests, however, just because it frustrated me that my earlier, less knowledgeable self-hadn't done something in chapter 1 which I needed in chapter 5. If you want to know spoilers skip this section:

Right, so first up is the trophy quest line, which is confusing as until you kill the monster no quest appears (hints about their location are mentioned though). All you've got to do is kill the 2 big, named monsters per chapter and bring the head to either The Royal Huntsman, Vincent Meis (Chapter 2) or Tobias Hoffman. You can only carry one head at a time. Personally, I didn't do anything in chapter 1 and 2, only realising it was a thing in chapter 3 (chapter 2's monsters were able to be slain either in the main quest or in chapter 2 though), which frustrated me to no end as the only way I could've completed the quest was to restart the game and at 45 hours long in total for my playthrough, that's quite a steep order. The other quests which are similar involve teeth and the dentist as well as poker and fist-fighting. Research them if you are aiming for 100%. End of mini-walkthrough.

Combat in The Witcher is similar to ARPG's in the sense that it's all to do with clicking. The main difference though is that timing is also a factor, with combos being made or killed depending on when you click. This gameplay addition while at the beginning was confusing and overwhelming, by the end, it turned out to actually be really intuitive and give a surprising layer of depth. Each style of swordplay is used to attack different types of enemies and can be changed at whim. More than can be said about switching between swords then, as this can take just slightly too long when you're being attacked by a Gravier. Also, sometimes attacking in groups only hits one person, in which case move around and try again. The signs again, while originally confusing (and in the case of Igni just not seeming to work) ended up being really intuitive and helpful. At least Aard and Igni were, as the other 3 just weren't used as much besides for a quick getaway.

Levelling up allows you to spend talent points so as to upgrade your character as well as your swordsmanship and signs. You start with bronze talents then after level 15 start to get silver talents and at level 30 start to get gold talents. The general upgrading is a fun, visual way to see your stats, although the pacing of it was a bit off, with me struggling to get talents at the beginning while by the end I was swimming in them. You definitely start to feel as powerful as a Witcher should be by the end, which is fun to play. One annoying thing for me though was that some of the bronze talents I couldn't do until I had taken a mutagen, something which isn't really possible until the Chapter 5. This just meant they were staring at me in the face all the time, taunting me. *shudders*.

Alchemy is needed in the harder difficulties, there's no doubt about it. Blizzard and Swallow can make an impossible fight mildly difficult, such is their power. Now, make sure to carry around high-quality alcohol and pick up as many plants as you can, you will need them. There were many, many other potions you could use, as well as grease, bombs and mutagens (the latter two needing talents to use), fitting just about any play style.

Not many people like Witchers. I mean some people (really) like Geralt, but not Witchers, so be prepared to talk yourself out of a couple of situations. The dialogue system is great as it tells you exactly what Geralt is going to say, allowing you to pick not only the tone of your speech but the exact speech, unlike say Dragon Age: Inquisition (the amount of times my character said something slightly different to what I meant, changing the meaning and tone). You'll need to use this dialogue system a lot, even for the most arbitrary of statements. One of the big ideas of The Witcher is 'do you do what is good for you or what is good for the world'. So prepare to make choices, but my advice is to pick something and stick with it, as while the consequences are normally far-reaching so loading an old save isn't really an option, it's all the better to force yourself not to.

Released a year later than Bioshock (the enhanced edition), the graphics, are in a word - dated. While the outside world isn't too bad with nice lighting and water (and the fields in chapter 4 are great) but the interiors are bare bones. The regular houses are white boxes of clay, and while the game isn't there to impress you with its visuals, I found myself wishing to play newer games just for the feeling of newness. Some games art styles are timeless, The Witcher's isn't.

The voice acting for the main characters is great and distinctive and I definitely grew to like Geralt's gravely 'male protagonist' voice over the course of the game. However, as with the actual models, quite a lot of the NPC's just have the same voices, which does take you out of the immersion a bit. Finally, I encountered a couple of crashes in my playtime so be sure to save regularly and especially after something important has happened, or a long bit of text (nothing worse than having to sit through the same bit constantly).

Conclusion: overall, I did enjoy my time with The Witcher, especially towards the end with the consequences of my choices suddenly becoming apparent. I can't wait to play the rest of the games in the series.

Rating: 84%

Thanks for reading, Satamer.

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