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Review: The Witcher Enhanced Edition

by on April 11, 2012
 

 

 Platforms: PC
 Publisher: Atari
 Developer: CD Projekt
 Genre: RPG

 

 

If you missed out on Studio CD Projekt Red’s debut title “The Witcher” for the PC, originally released back in 2007, then this Enhanced Edition is a must-have if you appreciate high-quality RPG’s (and, hey, who doesn’t?).

Although the first version of the game earned a poor reputation for its countless bugs (which made it more or less unplayable for some) gamers agreed that this would be an awesome game provided that all its issues were taken care of. There were actually so many bugs in the game that it seemed like it had been released before completion, and was more like a beta than a finished product. For some gamers, including myself, the original release of the game was so unstable that it completely ruined the experience, and I couldn’t finish it the first time around. Although the stability issues seemed to be very hardware specific, and some reported that they had no problems at all. However, thanks to gamer feedback and CD Projekt’s will to please their fans, the release of “The Witcher Enhanced Edition” came out in September 2008. Apart from this version being actually playable for all, they also threw in some major technical and visual improvements, probably as a way to say “We’re sorry for the mess-up guys”. The most welcomed change was probably that the loading times where reduced with about 80%. Also, the visual improvements where quite steep.

Left picture: original game Right picture: Enhanced Edition

But enough about the story behind the development, what about the game itself? Well, the waiting for the enhanced edition surely paid off, and it was really everything you could hope for in a role playing game; a deep story, interesting characters, stunning graphics and a bad-ass main character! In the game you take on the role as Geralt of Rivia, one of the last of the dying Witchers. The Witchers are a brotherhood of genetically enhanced mutants that work as kind of monster-slayers for hire. When I say “genetically enhanced mutants” I do not mean that they are some kind of tentacle-monster super-mutants sent back from the future to cleanse the world from the evil villains; The Witchers are humans, but through various rituals they gain superior reflexes, strength and stamina. They can also make effective use of magic and various potions.

The story behind The Witcher is based on the book series of the same name by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. The game is set in a really rich universe with a highly detailed history, characters and environment. As with many other western RPG’s there is an element of moral choices that Geralt faces and has to take a stand to. The player can, to some extent, “postpone” choosing sides in the main story conflict, but sooner or later you have to pick one faction over the other. The outcome of these choices result in different scenarios throughout the game, and of course in different endings, which makes it a subject for numerous playthroughs.

In the beginning of the game you are immediately thrown into the action, as the stronghold of The Witchers is being attacked by cultists seeking the secrets behind the legendary Witchers. This section works as a kind of tutorial to learn the basics of the gameplay, the combat system, how to interact with items, the preparation of potions and all that basic stuff. Even though The Witcher contains all the basic elements of an RPG, many actions and skills are executed in kind of an original way, so paying attention to the tutorial really helps. It’s not that it’s hard to learn, it is more a question of getting used to the mechanics. Especially the combat system is kind of different from other games, and it takes some training to really get the hang of it. The Witcer uses a kind of timed combat system, which basically means that you have to time your attacks carefully in order to execute combos. There are also different “stances” to choose from, and each one makes your attacks more deadly against certian types of enemies. There is for example one stance that is more effective when facing a single big enemy, and one when facing numerous smaller enemies. Personally I really liked the combat system, but I’ve heard from many others that are not sharing my opinion about this. I don’t think it’s because it’s bad, but mainly because it’s different. A nice thing regarding the combat is that the game lets you choose from two different camera settings; one is basically the classic third-person-locked-behind-you view, while the other option offers more of a dynamic higher up free-view perspective (isometric). The latter really comes in handy when facing numerous opponents, and lets you use the potential of the combat system to its full extent. In my opinion at least; I guess you’ll have to find out yourself which setting works for you.

What strikes you first when entering the world of The Witcher is, not surprisingly, the stunning graphics. Thanks to a modified version of BioWare’s Aurora Engine the developers was able to construct the environments exactly as they had imagined, and did not have to re-use the same objects in different surroundings. This really shows in the game, as no environment is the other alike. Shadows and light work beautiful together, and the highly detailed textures are so even at close range. Almost all characters that you can interact with are unique as well, and you can really tell that the developers had all the tools and options they needed when creating them. The game not just looks realistic; it feels realistic in a dark way that not many other games can compete with. In short, The Witcher Enhanced Edition offers some of the best graphics seen in an RPG even up to this day, even though it only uses DirectX 9 and isn’t runnig on the most powerful of engines. If you got the rig to crank this game up to maximum settings you won’t be disappointed! If you’re wondering “how big is the world in The Witcher?” you may be disappointed by the answer. The Witcher does not have an open world in the same meaning as for example The Elder Scrolls series. It has a partly open world, in the meaning that you can move around freely in the place you’re currently in (for example a city), but you’ll have to complete certain tasks and quests before you can proceed to the next “map” or place. But remember, The Witcher is a story-driven game, and the fact that you don’t have a huge world to roam freely in doesn’t really matter as you will be fully occupied with trying to find out what happens next.

To sum it up; This is absolutely one of the best games in its genre, and if you are looking for a mature RPG that will have you playing for hours and hours then The Witcher is definitely the game for you. I feel that I should mention that this is not a game suited for our younger readers. The game is rated M, and for good reason. It contains brutal violence, nudity and sex, use of drugs and foul language. For the grown-up gamers this only adds to the experience and makes it more gritty and realistic, as it is kind of a dark game anyhow.

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