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The Witcher - review

Discussion in 'The Witcher Series' started by Aikanaro, Jan 2, 2008.

  1. Aikanaro Gems: 31/31
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    The number of reviews in this forum is looking pretty sad, and having just finished The Witcher I've quite a bit to say about it. Thus, a review.

    Overview:
    The Witcher is an action RPG, though unlike most action RPGs it puts a fair amount of emphasis on the 'RPG' part as well, or at least selective elements of it. The setting is a pretty standard medieval fantasy one complete with elves, dwarves, magic, and so on, though it's a much grittier setting than most. There's plenty of both combat and dialogue, though the dialogue is less interactive than in the cRPGs of yore. (yeah, I suck at giving overviews).

    Character:
    You're given a character, Geralt, who's a famous witcher (professional monster slayer) and all-round badarse anti-hero sort of grock. Ultimately, he's not a bad character to play, but there's a certain Gary Stu feeling there (for those not familiar with the term - a Gary Stu is a character that the author really wished he was). It doesn't come across as too ridiculous though (well, there are some bits where it certainly is, but I'll mention those elsewhere).

    There isn't any character creation, or any personal character stats at all, really. You can choose things that are, essentially, combat feats on level up, but there is no way of making a, say, intelligent diplomatic Geralt who's not physically strong, or a buff but stupid Geralt. All that stuff is dished up to you as though it was an adventure game.

    Which is fine, I guess, but just don't go in expecting to be able to define your own character in any way (except for answering moral choices throughout the game - more on that later). It's the character of the guy who wrote the novels, not yours.

    Character development (both yours and NPCs) is handled well - motivations and such don't seem forced. Geralt is the only one who seems to change his views much, though. Would have been nice to see more of some characters.

    System:
    Refering to the underlying RPG system (which I'm just going to define as 'the bit with numbers and stuff' for the sake of simplicity), well, there's not that much to say. Honestly, it's pretty ****.
    You could entirely remove the system and the game wouldn't be much changed. The role of the system in this game is a minor addition to combat. Essentially, when you level up, you choose what amounts to a feat in D&D and it changes your chance to kill things in a positive manner.

    Now, there is a lot of fighting in the game, so it makes plenty of sense for the system to do stuff with the combat. Ultimately though, it adds little except to force the introduction of tougher enemies as the game progesses. There would be very little change to the core of the game if you threw out this little bit of system and called it an action adventure game instead.

    The main problem that I have with the system is that it doesn't support the things that are actually the important bits of the game. This is the character development and the moral choices the player makes - there is no backing from the system there, where it could be used to make things more compelling.

    The system is irrelevant, badly integrated into the game, and serves little purpose. Pretty poor RPG design.

    Setting:
    You're in the kingdom of Temeria - a pretty standard fantasy name for a pretty standard fantasy place. It's a pretty average setting. Slightly grittier than most, but still filled with standard fantasy junk.

    The main thing to seperate it from other fantasy worlds (and I'm sure this particular thing has been done a million times before) is that elves and dwarves are filling the role of negroes in 1940s America, or perhaps Jews in Germany before the death camps got rolling. Essentially an oppressed minority that lives in ghettoes.

    I don't feel that this was gotten across as well as it could have been. Sure, there's the nonhuman district, and lots of nasty comments are made about them. At no point do we see any elf-bashings or lynch mobs or whatever though. It's hinted at in dialogue, but it's not all that prominent. Sometimes you have to wonder whether the elves have any reason to be as pissy as they are.

    Regardless, they are quite pissy. They're having a bit of an armed rebellion, actually, in order to have freedom and whatnot. On the other side are the standard reactionary religious zealots who go about crushing it in the name of order. The game is more ambiguous as to who's right and who's wrong than that, but I did get the feeling that the developers were giving moral support to the elves.

    Overall the setting is well presented, coherent, and is integrated into the rest of the game reasonably well. It's just nothing special, is all.

    Situation/Plot:
    The main plot of the game is rather uncompelling. Basically, you're killing your way to the foozle. The plot is basically linear, though sub-plots add non-linear spice to it..
    Fortunately, there are plenty of sub-plots which tend to tie into the main one, making it all worthwhile. These you do have a say in how they progess, and that's what makes The Witcher a good game.

    The afore-mentioned struggle between the nonhumans and humans is the key secondary plot. It opens up with plenty of moral questions, leading to you (the player, not the character) making choices which lead to consequences further down the road. I'm under the impression that this is taken to a good degree, though it's hard to tell without replaying.

    That makes The Witcher one of the few games that actually takes advantage of the story being told in an interactive environment. The story changes with your decisions - it's not just another overlong movie that you walk through - things happen because you stuck your character's nose into it, or something else happens because you decided not to. It's one of those games that I'm sure that I'll replay in order to see what could have been if I'd decided differently.

    Gameplay:
    Not bad, not wonderful.

    Combat consists of clicking on the enemy, and then clicking again when the cursor turns red in order to get combo hits. This comes with three different fighting styles and five magic attacks/defenses, as well as a whole heap of potions that give different effects.

    The alchemy system is notable. Combine various ingredients according to a formula and you end up with a potion. Each ingredient contains the substances that actually make up the potion.

    It's a decent system, though it never seemed to end up predictable. Generally I'd just make stuff out of whatever I happened to have (regardless of what I actually needed) rather than seeking out the right herbs to make the right potions. Over time I made up a small mental list of the most useful ingredients and went out of my way to pick them up, but it was never very methodical.

    The inventory is crap. Not a big deal, but I could never find what I wanted in there.

    Dialogue trees were mixed with linear dialogue sequences - overall to good effect. You could choose what to say at junctures, but otherwise the conversation would continue according to Geralt''s personality (with input from your choices).

    Polish:
    The game doesn't gleam, but it's not too murky. I hit a few crash bugs, though nothing that prevented progress. Loading times from area to area were fine for me (2gb of RAM and patched to 1.2). Reloading times (i.e. loading from a save game) were pretty bad - the game would hang for ages apparently doing nothing.

    The graphics were by far shiny enough (I played on the lowest settings). It probably doesn't fit into the 'polish' section because they clearly made making things look pretty a priority, but yeah, what's to say? They look like a modern AAA game to me...

    Art direction is good, but didn't strike me as anything special.

    The music is a nicechange from those epic symphonic scores that most cRPGs have.

    Voice over quality varies from quite good to quite bad. It never makes me want to tear off my ears though (never quite reaches the levels of suck that The Longest Journey managed, for instance).

    The writing seemed fine to me. Lots of people are bitching because of an apparently crappy translation, but it didn't stick out too badly. There were a few obvious bits, but overall it was fine.

    Probably wouldn't be proper not to mention the sex cards, which are extremely tacky and juvenile. I'm sure that there are ways to manage sex maturely in games, but The Witcher gives us another good example of how not to. Basically every named female wants to get in your pants and when they do you get a card that looks like some pornographic collectables game.

    Oh, and the game is very long. That definately warrents a mention.

    Conclusion:
    Words like 'brilliant', 'awe-inspiring', 'wonderous' are not what I'd use to describe The Witcher. More like 'solid', 'enjoyable', 'very good'. It's not a flawed gem in the tradition of Troika - it seems to do everything it attempts to a compentent level. It never really surpasses that into the realms of brilliance though. This isn't the Second Coming for cRPGs - but it's a good game with some nice non-linear storytelling.

    I think this review sounds a bit negative, actually, and that's not really indicative of my overall opinion. I'd recommend it to anybody - I'm recommending it to you right now - but it didn't blow me away in the manner of Ps:T or Fallout (2). It's strength isn't really as an RPG or as an action game, but as a non-linear story.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 2, 2008
  2. Taluntain

    Taluntain Resident Alpha and Omega Staff Member ★ SPS Account Holder Resourceful Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) BoM XenForo Migration Contributor [2015] (for helping support the migration to new forum software!)

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    Nice review, thanks for posting!
     
  3. Merlanni

    Merlanni ★ SPS Account Holder Veteran New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!)

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    Pretty close to my view. Some say it is just a bit to long but I disagree. I like to sink my theeth in a game for longer than a month.
     
  4. nior Gems: 24/31
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    Good review. I'm still in Chapter 3 but here's a few contribution.

    Like Aikanaro, I wouldn't rate this game as the best I've played but definitely it's one of the more unique ones. For once, you don't get to chose to be evil or good. You just choose what you think is morally right in your opinion. And in your taking "sides" you received rewards from your new allies and consequences from your new enemies. Perhaps the only thing I'm not too happy with this set up is that there's basically only 2 choices to choose from. Well on some cases it's 3 choices but the 3rd choice is simply not doing anything.

    As for character built-up. I believe every player will eventually end up having a Geralt with the same features. It's just a matter of which feature you select first to make your battles easier. So there's really not much of the RPG element there.

    The inventory. At first, I felt that it sucks. It's visually too small, often made me squint trying to figure what those items were. And the capacity is very limiting. You can only carry 4 weapons at any time. Initially, this was frustrating but eventually, I realized that this frustration was a result of getting spoiled with other games having a bottomless inventory or at least a "fantastic" capacity. And all this for us to sell in order to get money or gold to buy better items. But the fact is, after collecting a decent amount of orens (the monetary unit in this game), there really isn't much to buy. Up to this point, I'm still using the same 2 swords that I came across early in Chapter 1 and the only significant upgrade I made was a new leather armor (not the one from the Intro) that I was able to purchase early. Perhaps in the later chapter, there would be some more interesting armor or weapon upgrades. So having a limited inventory changes our mindset from trying to accumulating wealth to carrying only what we need. Personally, I consider that a good move. My grips, well quest items that don't get used will accumulate, which can sometimes create confusion but that's really not that important.
     
  5. Urithrand

    Urithrand Mind turning the light off? ★ SPS Account Holder Veteran

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    You were a lot more generous than I'd have been, I have yet to cross the boredom barrier to get past the end of Chapter 1... I thought the sub-quests were terribly implemented and entwined into the main quest in a way that made it impossible to finish a side quest without continuing on with the story.

    There's a quest where you have to get some fisstech for the guy in the dungeons, but by this time I'd sold what I had to the dealer guy then handed him over to Ramsmeat! I spent around 5/6 hours of game time trying to run into thugs at night to get some but to no avail! This was not thought out properly by the game designers and I was extremely frustrated.

    All in all, I was thoroughly disappointed by a game which showed amazing potential. It was made with the NWN engine, but none of the NWN ingenuity.
     
  6. Aikanaro Gems: 31/31
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    To be honest, the game only gets really good at chapter 3. The first chapter could probably have been cut, and the second chapter - while not terrible - felt a bit like you were being bounced back and forth between NPCs without much say. Well, except when you were killing things, but that gets old pretty quick. Still, that part of the game is fun enough to tromp around in, it just would have been nice if there were more meaningful decisions to be made in it.

    And yeah, the fisstech sidequest was a pain. I didn't spend quite *that* long looking for it, mind you...
     
  7. Merlanni

    Merlanni ★ SPS Account Holder Veteran New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!)

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    A question in general. are we a bit spoiled and expect to much? I agree that the game forces a bit of repeatedly walking from a to b to c and back to a. Also the swamp is a bit recycled to much for many quest.

    But do we not want a ton of quests to keep us busy for hours? Do we not long for an endless stream of kittens to save from trees? When a game is short but has a strong quest we complain that it is too short. Some quests in BG2 or PST are lame.
     
  8. Urithrand

    Urithrand Mind turning the light off? ★ SPS Account Holder Veteran

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    In a lot of ways I found it very appropriate that most of the quests take place in the same areas, its a much more realistic approach than the D&D "Oh look, a sewer just magically unlocked itself!" take on things. Having said that though, the area load times were very slow on my computer, and waiting sometimes 2/3 minutes for an area to load, realising you forgot something then having to go back through the same area transition two more times is a real pain in the ass.
     
  9. Aikanaro Gems: 31/31
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    I don't mind area recycling - but the swamp was annoying.

    In fact, area recycling is fantastic. It gives an area a lot of depth at the expense of the game's breadth - but breadth is overrated anyway. Returning to areas that you know from earlier in a game that have changed - especially if they've changed because of what you've done - is something I really enjoy in video games in general.

    Crap level design is another matter. I never found combat in The Witcher compelling enough to warrent the sheer amount of it. Adding that many enemies didn't add anything but wasted time.

    But I'd argue that we're not spoilt at all. If we were spoilt, The Witcher wouldn't have received the response it did. If it had've come out in 2000 (naturally with graphics scaled down to cope :p ) it wouldn't have made as much of a splash as it has now. It's a good game, but around that time there were games doing what it does well much better.

    Also, I'd rather have less filler and more good quests/plot points. I don't mind short games - I'll happily take a short but full of high quality play over a game that's long but mostly consists of filler.
     
  10. Urithrand

    Urithrand Mind turning the light off? ★ SPS Account Holder Veteran

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    I like short games that you can pad out into long games if you want to just plod along and take your time, and in a way the Witcher fills this role, but I've just lost my patience with the stupid "carry this, kill this" feel to every quest in the game so far. Incidentally, how do you get in the cemetary? I need to do the alghoul contract and I can't seem to find a way inside yet.
     
  11. Merlanni

    Merlanni ★ SPS Account Holder Veteran New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!)

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    Which act? Alghoul can be found in the swamp at night. Sometimes in the sewers. You can get in from the merchant side.
     
  12. Urithrand

    Urithrand Mind turning the light off? ★ SPS Account Holder Veteran

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    Chapter 1 I think, I've been running around in the swamp for ages and all I get is Drowners, Drowned Dead and Echinopsae all over the place. The grave digger hints that there's someone who'll pay to have the undead cleared up, and therefore let you in but I've found no-one yet.
     
  13. Merlanni

    Merlanni ★ SPS Account Holder Veteran New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!)

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    You have to follow the main plat a bit. The investigation whit the detective to be precise. Once the tower is open an new part of town comes available. Also Leeuvaarden at the dock has some quest for you Talk a bit whit him.

    In general: Is it my imagenation or are many names dutch. Leeuvaarden is a dutch name, Bloedzuigers is dutch for bloodleeches/bloodsuckers.
     
  14. Barmy Army

    Barmy Army Simple mind, simple pleasures... Adored Veteran

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    The combat IS boring and repetitive in The Witcher.
     
  15. Hugin Gems: 3/31
    Latest gem: Lynx Eye


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    I borrowed this from a friend

    [​IMG] I just borrowed this game from a friend.

    Now I'm gonna give it a try.

    Thanks for the reviews :)
     
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