Weeklies

Game: "The Witcher"
System: PC
Genre: RPG
Published by: Atari

Reviewer: Dr. Boogie
Posted: 2/14/2008

Review: Among all the other great games of 2007, The Witcher went by with relatively little fanfare, and it's really too bad. Granted, there wasn't much of an advertising campaign apart from a few print ads, and I can't say I was overly familiar with the work of Polish fantasy authors like Andrzej Sapkowski, but it's still too bad that more people didn't take notice.

You take on the role of Geralt of Rivia, one of the few remaining "witchers", men who have undergone a severe regiment of training and genetic mutation to become natural monster hunters. Some people seem to recognize you as a legendary figure, while others call you a freak (white hair, pale skin, and oddly-vertical pupils don't help a guy blend in), but you can't really say one way or the other because you have amnesia. There's no time to learn your former identity from your fellow witchers, however, as their stronghold is attacked by a powerful bandit group known as the Salamandra. They wreck up the place, steal several important witcher artifacts, kill an apprentice witcher, and run off just as quickly. Now, the witchers have split up to get to the bottom of this crime and strike back at the Salamandra.

The job of witcher is a dangerous one, but luckily, you've got a strong sword arm and the ability to brew special potions, oils and bombs to give you an edge. Normally, making a lot of potions would require a special lab, but as a Witcher, you can cook up potions using plants and parts scavenged from slain monsters, and in lieu of special equipment, you can use animal fat and strong booze! The downside is that due to your amnesia, you'll have to relearn all these useful formulas and monster anatomy through books and scrolls scattered throughout the world. Fortunately, almost every town has a merchant who specializes in that sort of thing.

Combat is where the game really tries to differentiate itself from standard RPGs. As a Witcher, Geralt uses 3 distinct swordfighting styles: strong, fast, and group. They have more distinct names, but that's basically what they're used for. Certain enemies respond more to the fast/strong styles, and when you're facing multiple foes, group is obviously the way to go, so much so that it seems to do extra damage to individual foes when you're fighting a group. Plus, when you click to attack an enemy, Geralt will launch into a chain of attacks with his sword. After the last attack, you'll have the opportunity to click again to lengthen the chain, adding more attacks and increasing the speed of these attacks. Combine all this with the right anti-monster oil for your sword and you'll be carving a bloody swathe through the area.

If you're tired of combat, you can adjourn to a local village and try your hand at a minigame or two. At all hours of the day, you can find burly men fist fighting at the inn, and you can join them to earn a little coin. Then again, maybe you want to make more money without losing some teeth. In that case, you can dice poker (which plays like a simplified version of regular poker) with many different people throughout the game. If it's not money you're after, you can try your luck at seducing the ladies you'll meet in your travels. Not all of them are turned off by your pale complexion and white hair, and if you manage to bed one, you'll get to see a playing card-sized drawing of the lady in a compromising position (made less compromising for the US release).

There are two things that really sets The Witcher apart from other RPGs. The first is the bleak setting. The kingdom of Temeria has just come out of a war, and it looks like it might be headed into another one, this time with humans facing off with non-humans (elves, dwarves, and to a lesser extent, witchers). To that end, the theme of racism emerges often as Geralt travels through village after village of ignorant peasants. However, the non-humans aren't taking this lying down, and that brings me to the second unique aspect of The Witcher: decisions. Throughout the game, you'll routinely have to make decisions based on the situation at large. Sometimes, the decisions are easy (help the dwarf being attacked by a mob, or don't), but much of the time, the decisions you have to make will have no clear right or wrong answer. Moreover, you might make a fairly innocuous decision, only to find out the impact of your choice hours into the game. I really enjoyed this, as it forces the player to really think about every decision they have to make, rather than save, try one, and load if you don't like it.

All is not well for The Witcher. The game has a wonderful and engaging story, but you'll frequently find yourself yanked back to reality thanks to some shoddy voice acting. Nowhere is this more evident than with the actor portraying Geralt. The actor in question seems entirely unable to convey any sort of emotion, and while Geralt is portrayed as being fairly aloof and uninterested in peasant politics and bickering, he still has moments where he's supposed to sound angry or thoughtful about something. To be fair, most of the cast isn't up to snuff, so it's not all his fault.

The other thing that breaks the mood are a number of little problems with the dialog. The game was originally in Polish, and a number of the translated lines in the game are clunky at best. There's also multiple instances of characters saying things that you really wouldn't expect to hear in a medieval setting, like calling someone a "babe," or a thug who remarks that, "your momma sucks dwarf cock." Obscenity aside, there are also a few times in the course of dialog during which a particular line will play with a lot more bass, only to return to normal in time for the next line.

Even with those problems, The Witcher is a great game. The story and decision-making draw you in, and the combat and potion-making keep things interesting. It's just too bad that the game has such an unpolished feel to it. If the developers had hired some better actors and fixed the numerous minor issues, this game would have been an instant classic.

Overall rating: WholeWholeWholeWhole
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)

Reader Comments

Suicidal Chipmunk
Feb 14th, 2008, 06:50 PM
I was thinking about buying this game, but I bought The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion instead. I think Oblivion may be a better game though.
Funky Dynamite
Feb 14th, 2008, 07:46 PM
You thought wrong.
Crazed Techno-Biologist
Feb 14th, 2008, 08:15 PM
it looks fantastic.
frappez le cochon rouge
Feb 14th, 2008, 08:40 PM
I am looking forward to playing this soon.
Funky Dynamite
Feb 14th, 2008, 08:54 PM
For anyone interested, there's a demo out that covers nearly the entire first chapter of the game. It's quite long.
<me|yourmom> = you
Feb 14th, 2008, 09:47 PM
This game is amazing. A friend showed me the intro and the first level. Wow is the only word that could describe it.
after enough bourbon ...
Feb 14th, 2008, 09:48 PM
You should get royalty payments - you did a better job of marketing this game than they did.
Member
Feb 14th, 2008, 10:58 PM
Definitely interested in trying this one, but I really want to try and get the European version, due to the better "content" than the US version.
pickled
Feb 15th, 2008, 01:53 AM
I remember reading about this game when it first came out. Those women you bed look horrible.
Funky Dynamite
Feb 15th, 2008, 01:26 PM
There are quite a few unusually stacked peasant women.
Forum Chaos Lord
Feb 15th, 2008, 07:35 PM
Another classic example of us Americans losing out because - SHOCK HORROR! THERE ARE BOOBIES!!
I believe I speak for all Americans when I say that the people who rule that no game can have any adult content whatsoever can go fornicate themselves with an iron stick.
frappez le cochon rouge
Feb 15th, 2008, 08:18 PM
What do you mean by us "losing out?"
OH GOD
Feb 15th, 2008, 08:45 PM
well hey at least we can have games that let you kill children
Member
Feb 16th, 2008, 02:35 AM
Oi, if that's not an invitation to start a rant. Indulge me. Suffice it to say, I'm all for the rating system but I'm opposed to censorship, if that makes sense. The whole "I may not like what you have to say, but you can at least say it" deal. Or put in your games, in this case. Personally, I'd like to see more M or AO rated games, but that's just me, because, well, I'm an *adult.* What I don't like are people blaming the industry because of the content. If you don't want your kid shooting hookers and playing with "hot coffee" then don't buy them GTA in the first place. I'm all for people making informed decisions about what they let their kids be exposed to, but if it's just general ignorace, it makes me want to smack them on the back of the head sometimes. "OMG, my son is playing a game where he runs people over in cars! And has sex with women!" And who *let* him get that game? Personally, if the average consumer out there were just the slightest bit more intelligent, I don't think we'd have to worry about which version of the game got released. (And you're talking to a 7 year retail veteran, so by 'average consumer' I mean people that are generally not going to be found on the I-mockery forums...)
Feel the guilt
Feb 16th, 2008, 02:13 PM
I'm actually playing this game right now, and I can definitley recommend it to all of you. Combat is fun, so is the character and potions system.(how could you forget to mention potions in the review?!) I don't think the voice acting is too horrible, but yea, there are some akward moments, and I wish they hadn't used the same voice actors for so many different people. Graphics are cool, and with the new patch the loading times go much faster, when before they were just plain torture. So yea, It's a fun game, and if you're not offended by swearing, drugs, violence and sex, buy it.
Funky Dynamite
Feb 16th, 2008, 02:59 PM
How could I forget to mention potions? How could you forget to read the third paragraph!?
Suicidal Chipmunk
Feb 16th, 2008, 03:11 PM
I still think the elder scrolls is better
Funky Dynamite
Feb 16th, 2008, 06:04 PM
And I still know you're mistaken.
Forum Virgin
Feb 17th, 2008, 09:36 AM
I've heard so much good and bad about this game that I wasn't sure whether or not to even bother downloading the demo, but after reading this review, I'm pretty sure I'll at least give it a shot. Amusingly enough, I daresay you're the only reviewer to draw attention to the demo's existence, and I know you're the only one I've seen make note of the lengthiness of the demo itself.
Emu Emu is offline
Level 29 ♂
Feb 17th, 2008, 02:09 PM
bioware can do no wrong, fr srs
Spiteful Jerk
Feb 18th, 2008, 12:30 PM
sigh..

Ok, fine, fine. But Yahtzee Croshaw's review still steered me away from this game. There, no link, no muss, no foul?
Suicidal Chipmunk
Feb 18th, 2008, 06:40 PM
OBLIVION FTW!!!
frappez le cochon rouge
Feb 18th, 2008, 08:15 PM
SHUT[IMG]file:///C:/DOCUME%7E1/KRALS%7E1/Temp/moz-screenshot-1.jpg[/IMG] UP
Funky Dynamite
Feb 19th, 2008, 12:54 PM
Yeah, more like "Oblivion For The Wastebasket"!
OH GOD
Feb 19th, 2008, 03:49 PM
oblivion was fun but it was seriously broken out of the box i can't stand games where the monsters level up with you, it makes for a very dull gameplay experience
Funky Dynamite
Feb 19th, 2008, 04:45 PM
Yes it was. And by the time someone fixed it, I was already over it.
Suicidal Chipmunk
Feb 20th, 2008, 09:29 PM
you made me sad....... I really don't mind that the creatures level with you, at least that way you never had to deal with running into level 1 enemies that die in one hit. Having to waste my time fighting weak, weak monsters when I was like, level 78, was always one of the few things that bothered me about RPG games. There were so many other things I couldhave been doing at the time, like fighting something worthwhile, or finding some secret super-weapons, or something.
Funky Dynamite
Feb 21st, 2008, 12:59 AM
Yes, except that there was no point to doing any of that. What's the point of find a better weapon when that will just cause you to level up faster, and thus make your search for the next great weapon that much more desperate? For that matter, why level up at all? The whole idea behind leveling up is that you are then better able to tackle tougher challenges/enemies, but in this game, the best case scenario is that you and your enemies are always even, but more often than not, you level up too quickly and wind up struggling to defeat a single skeleton walking around outside a ruined tower.

I guess what I'm saying is that playing pre-patch Oblivion is like running on a malfunctioning treadmill; When it works, you're going nowhere; when it doesn't, your knees get scraped and you wonder why you wasted your money.
OH GOD
Feb 21st, 2008, 01:54 AM
you never run into level 1 enemies that die in one hit, but you never run into a monster you really should not fuck with either

there needs to be CONSEQUENCES for going into certain areas, dammit
Suicidal Chipmunk
Feb 21st, 2008, 05:37 PM
True, i do think the game has it's flaws, like the fact that not one single enemy in the game will destroy on such an epic scale that it rips your sohinctor inside out(always a fun thing to have in a good game), I still think that the enemies don't need to ever get ridiculously weak. Have you ever played any Final Fantasy game ever made, ever? After a while, if you have to pass through an area that's already been passed through, you get hit with fifty random encouinters, which all take more time to load than to actually kill, and it's like, "REALLY? you're making me fight THAT? I could destroy that thing in one hit when it was STRONGER than me." Sometimes it just annoying. Sure, you could fly over the place, but sometimes, you wanna go and see if you can find any treasure you missed, y'know?

ps...I only hunt for the strongest, shinyest weapons, or at least the ones that fit my gameplay type.
Suicidal Chipmunk
Feb 21st, 2008, 05:52 PM
i do realize that i spelled shiniest wrong
Suicidal Chipmunk
Feb 21st, 2008, 05:53 PM
sohinctor = sphinctor by the way, it's hard to type on this strange gaming keyboard
Funky Dynamite
Feb 22nd, 2008, 04:38 PM
You know you can edit posts, right?

Your Final Fantasy analogy is faulty because Oblivion isn't a JRPG where you get into random encounters as you walk.

What I'm getting is that your only complaint is that you don't like fighting weak enemies. At the same time, though, you say you love to find the "shinyest" weapons, so in a way, your problem with weak enemies is your own fault. If you'd just quit exploring areas and looking for better weapons, I guarantee you'll stop encountering enemies significantly weaker than yourself. Furthermore, if you're easily killing the enemies in an area, what are the odds that they're guarding something that will help you become more powerful that you already are?

My advice to you is to stop playing RPGs that follow the Final Fantasy formula for random encounters. Once you do, you'll see that Oblivion is far from the best alternative.