Review by Lithandrill
Very Hyped But Fails To Deliver.
The Witcher. Where do I start? I can't remember the times I heard people praise this with great expectations before it came out. It would be the RPG revolution of 2007. But when it finally came out I was disappointed at best. While this game certainly has some decent points the flaws of it make it unenjoyable for the real RPG fan.
Graphics - 6
Atari must be very proud of their Aurora engine since it's one of the first things you get to see when you start the game and indeed the game immediately reminds the player of NWN 2 (If they have played it) now this wouldn't be a bad thing if it wasn't for the fact that the NWN 2 engine wasn't so hot even when it got out. It didn't look particularly good yet was quite hard on your system.
You'd think that when they buffed the engine for the Witcher they would improve on it. Sadly it's arguably worse. Because Atari knew the engine was outdated they added some fancy effects which supposedly made the game look better, instead all it did was make the game incredibly unoptimized. My machine which could run NWN2 at the highest settings on 1280x1024 with good FPS had trouble running this on barely medium at 1024x768.
The worst thing? It still doesn't look good. Sure there are fancy lighting and shader effects but the characters still look dead and awkward and the world static and dull. Add to this the not-so-hot fighting animations and no one in their right mind would bother upgrading their machine for this.
The movies look cool though so that saves the graphics from getting a lower score.
Sound - 8
The sound honestly isn't bad. The music is catchy but the rest of the sounds aren't much special. A really important thing however is the very good voice acting. In a game like this voice acting can make or break a game and in The Witcher it really enhances the game a lot. Most people you meet will have different voices and not many of them are awkward to listen to (Like often happens with voice acting) and the main character has a great voice that really fits him.
No complain here except that I'd wish that the music would fit the dialog more. Often when you talk to someone the same background music plays which often doesn't fit the story at that moment but this is a minor thing.
Gameplay - 4
Here is where it gets bad. Let me see, where do I start? Ah yes the combat. In a lot of games like this you just left click on the enemy and your character attacks on it's own (Mainly NWN) which I am no big fan of as it is dull and not immersive at all. So I was thrilled when I heard that they were making the player have more control over it in The Witcher. I had expected something like Gothic or maybe WoW.
However the effect is horrible. Instead of left clicking on an enemy once you have to click on them tons of times. You see, if you click on an enemy in the right rhythm (Indicated by a changing cursor) you do more damage in the form of combos. Oh joy, I get to click one button loads of time, how much fun can it be. I'd rather just click once and sit back with a beer to be honest.
They also added stances (Fast, Strong and Group) to spice things up a bit. However these work like some sort of modern rock paper scissors. Let me explain: some enemies you meet are "agile" enemies and require you to be in fast stance to even hit them. Others are "Strong" enemies which are easier to hit but have more HP. And that's about it.
You usually just end up investing all skill points into the fast style because it's the only one that you can use consistently. Want to use strong or group styles? That's too bad since if you don't get some points in fast as well there will be quite some enemies that you can't or barely can hit.
Next there are the spells. The game promised amazing spells that you could use to change the entire battlefield. And that it does but not for the better. For example you have a spell that pushes enemies as well as objects in the game back or knocks them over. Sounds cool? Wait till you see it. Enemies and objects are obviously made out of cardboard in this game because that's sure as hell what it looks like when they get pushed back. Seriously it looks so ridiculous, even more so in a dark and serious setting like this.
Also there are the levels, the first thing you'll notice are the big which is a good thing you say? Think again. Sure they are big but they are about as interesting as a football field. To make matters worse most quests send you all across it. One of the first quests you'll find is escorting some girl home (and luckily your main character knows everything since she never even tells you where it is...) which will take quite some time walking through the dull farm landscape. There are houses here and there and tons of lootable things that contain absolutely nothing save for some meat or ale or some other form of junk loot.
I can't stand that, hundreds of lootable objects with only one in a hundred containing decent loot. This makes it that you spend most of your time looting every barrel and chest only to get some junk.
The alchemy system is sort of fun so that's a good point. Lots of different combinations and potion effects.
Story - 7
The story is quite nice. It's based on some novel which is a good thing as it makes the setting quite detailed. It's not too cliche and allows for a number of different scenarios depending on the things you do in the game which is good since it allows you some control over the otherwise static game. I'd have liked some more character customization but luckily the character you're forced to play is interesting and has some witty dialog much like the guy with the beard you play in Gothic. Also the different dialog choices make it that you have at least some say in how your character acts. But despite all of this it failed to get me really interested anywhere along the line.
All in all pretty decent.
Replayability - 7
The different choices you get in the game make it so that it's worth playing the game a second time without having the exact same story. (That is if you can stomach the horrible gameplay) There are different factions to join and you might have missed some side quests. But that's about it, while a second time will not be 100% the same as your first it certainly won't be very different either. Save for some changes the story is largely the same and there isn't much to get as in hidden content. (Unless you are adamant about screwing every chick in the game in which case you should either go outside or watch some porn)
Final Recommendation - 6
I'll be totally honest, there are worse games around and if you can stomach the gameplay the story is quite interesting. But apart from that the game is horrible to play and you'll likely throw the towel in the ring after your 100th click-the-enemy-a-lot-of-times fight and if you don't then you'll probably do so when you play the 10th walk-around-the-boring-map-a-few-times quest. Best RPG of 2007? What is it competing against anyway.
Do yourself a favor and buy an older RPG like Fallout/Planescape: Torment or one of the good modern ones like Morrowind or Gothic 1/2. Failing that you could buy NWN 2 and have more fun with the exact same engine.
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Product Release: The Witcher (EU, 10/26/07)
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