The Witcher PC DVD
Published by: Atari
Developed by: CD Projekt
Release Date: Out Now
Unless a PC RPG has been developed by BioWare, Bethesda or Obsidian it usually doesn’t get much attention. However, The Witcher, developed by CD Projekt of Poland, could well be the RPG surprise of the year. The game features a solid storyline that has a strong adult tone and it also has unique combat controls that feel quite different from any other PC RPG that I’ve played to date. Dialogue choices also make more of an impact than they do in most RPG titles. In short, The Witcher is an impressive RPG.
In The Witcher you’ll play as Geralt of Rivia, a white haired Witcher (or monster slayer if you prefer) who is also referred to as the White Wolf. At the beginning of the game you’ll see Geralt being taken back to the Witcher’s fortress, Kaer Morhen, having suffered some serious injuries. He appears to be suffering from memory loss and doesn’t seem quite sure of what’s going on. Before long however, he’s being called upon to defend the fortress from a powerful sorcerer and his minions. The storyline in The Witcher is, on the whole, fine if a little disjointed at times (probably due to translation issues). It’s definitely for adults only with plenty of sex (Geralt even earns cards to remind him of his encounters) and several thorny issues such as racism, misogynistic attitudes, abducted children and many other bleak concepts that you don’t normally have in a game of this nature.
The combat in The Witcher is rather unusual. You’ll click once to initiate the attack and you won’t click again until your cursor is aflame. If you time your click right you’ll successfully chain your attacks together doing more damage to your opponent. If you get it wrong however, you’ll have to begin the attack again. There are three different attacks styles, Strong, Fast and Group. Strong attacks are for powerful enemies. They are slower but do more damage and are useful against well armoured foes. Fast attacks are essentially the exact opposite of Strong attacks. These give quick strikes that don’t have as much power and are good against weaker, lightly armoured enemies. Group style attacks are ideal when Geralt is surrounded. These are sweeping attacks that can deal damage to more than one opponent at a time.
Being a Witcher, Geralt has some rather unique abilities. Witchers can take mutagenic potions which enhance their strength and speed amongst other things. Alchemy plays quite a large part in the game too. Throughout the course of the game you’ll collect many ingredients that will allow you to create your own special potions. The base ingredient for any potion is alcohol and it’s possible to over intoxicate Geralt if you’re not careful. Potions are very important though and can even be used to obtain certain skills. It’s fair to say that potions play a larger part in The Witcher than they do in most RPG titles.
The Witcher uses a 2007 version of the Aurora engine that was used in the Neverwinter Nights game. I found this fact rather intriguing as it looks better than any game I’ve seen that uses the Aurora engine. The general theme of the game is dark and gritty and this is reflected in the look of the game’s characters and environments. The character models are actually pretty impressive, although some of the animations look a bit strange. The game’s frame rate seems to hold up pretty well on our rather mid-range PC but the load times are on the long side and there are quite a few of them and they can be a bit of a patience tester at times.
On first loading The Witcher I was pleased to not only find that the game was subtitled but also that the subtitles were enabled by default and even the game’s introduction was subtitled. The subtitles don’t have any character names or portraits next to them but this doesn’t appear to cause any problems and for the most part it’s easy to follow who is saying what. Objectives are shown in text and can be recalled at any time by looking at your journal. All tutorial messages are shown in text meaning you’ll have no problem in learning how to play the game. Geralt’s thoughts, when he’s exploring, are also shown in text. You’ll even see the occasional battle comment subtitled too.
The Witcher was released with little fanfare and I daresay it will slip under the radar of quite a few RPG fans, which would actually be a shame because it’s one of the most interesting PC RPGs for quite a few years. Whilst I wouldn’t quite put the game on the same level as titles such as Planescape Torment or Fallout 2 it definitely has that dark and gritty personality that those two games had and is sure to have its own loyal following. Whether you appreciate the combat system or not, is probably going to be the determining factor as to how you view The Witcher. You have to applaud CD Projekt for employing an original battle system however and for creating an RPG that just feels so refreshing.