The Witcher: Director's Cut
Once and a while a game comes along that blows you away despite it being somewhat flawed. These are the games that we treasure and play over and over again ignoring the small nuisances that plague the game. The Witcher is one of those games. Developed by CD Projekt for the PC, the Witcher is a Western RPG set in a fantasy setting. What follows is a interesting morally grey story that forces you to make real choices in the game and gives no indication to what is truly right or wrong. For a first game, CD Projekt really outdid themselves and the result is an excellent game with the potential to improve even more. The reason I am reviewing the Director's Cut is because it allows me to look at what the developers actually wanted me to see when they made this game.
The Witcher drops you in the shoes of, not a generic player created character, but rather Geralt of Rivia who is a monster slayer, otherwise known as the aforementioned Witcher. You begin the game by being found unconscious in the middle of nowhere by old companions of yours. From there, you take a trip through corruption, love, lust a power struggle and much more. The story is deep and interesting, but often finds itself losing its impact with the padding that accompanies much of the main quest line. This isn't helped by the lack of meaningful side quests, most resorting to either killing a specific person, or collecting "X" of "Y" substance. This isn't to say that there are no good side quests at all though. Despite most of the side questing needing polish, there are some side quests that will simply blow the player away with brilliance.
As a setting, the Witcher's main areas are pretty to look at, at first, but may come off as too repetitive in the long run as you need to take many trips through the same zones, spoiling the environments for the player. The fact that you cannot travel between main questing zones after you've passed them initially does attribute this problem as well. The characters that inhabit the town are much more interesting than the towns themselves though. You will find yourself in the company of many intriguing and disturbing characters and in some instances these will be your allies. This brings me to the dialogue and morality systems employed in this game. Decisions are not clear cut in this game and many decisions that you believe may be right could isolate a potential ally you could have used coming up. As a Witcher and a self proclaimed neutral party, it becomes difficult to make choices regarding what your influence will be in each faction. Dialogue is straight forward in the Witcher. The main interactive characters are all fully voiced where the generic NPCs are restricted to the few other voice actors that were commissioned for the game. A small blessing amongst the repetitive filler dialogue in the generic NPCs is that at least two different voices are used in the conversations and consistency is used when an NPC is voiced. A beggar sounds like a beggar and a nobleman sounds like a nobleman, no mix ups.
Gameplay in the Witcher is very simple and easy to master. There are different selections of weapons, but sadly only the swords are really expanded on in terms of combat use. Geralt has four slots for weapons. There are two for the swords that are required throughout the game, one for an extra weapon and the last for a small knife. There is potential here for a mixing up of combat, but instead falls flat on its face in that respect. The two swords that you use are the Steel Sword for humanoid enemies and the Silver Sword for the monsters you will find yourself fighting throughout the game. Since these are the main weapons these are the ones I will be focusing on when talking about the combat. With these two swords combat is divided into three further sub-levels. When fighting enemies, you must divide them into their archetypes of Fast Enemies and Strong Enemies. These two styles of enemies correspond with the Fast and Strong styles of fighting with the third fighting style being Group Style, for dealing with multiple enemies. There is also a Magic system disguised as "Signs" that you can use to aid yourself in battle thought there is only five or six that exist. Combat then falls into a one click combat style, with additional damage being done for well time second and third strikes. This makes for an interesting combat idea that instead is faulty due to one poor decision. Luckily the combat is entered into and exited quite quickly so it doesn't sour the experience too much.
This final section is going to be about the characters in the game and the actual interaction with them. The game labels itself as a mature RPG and in many ways it is. However in just as many reasons it comes off as immature and catering to the immature audience. This is revealed in two ways, the profuse swearing between characters, most of it sounding out of place in the conversations and the other chunks just coming off as annoying. It seems as if all the characters are not happy in the game unless they have cursed in some way and it really jerks you out of the experience. The second maturity breaker is the romance or lack thereof. It is perfectly acceptable to work in sex or passion into a game, Bioware has shown that easily enough. What does break the mature image you're trying to portray is having every woman have large breasts and a high sex drive, all while making the sex with women the equivalent of achievements on your Xbox 360, with a card with a provocative image of the laid woman. In the sequel they need to incorporate some sort of romance option or skip the sex all together because having real hookers in the game was enough, not every woman needed to be a whore.
Reading this review, you may come underneath the impression that the Witcher has nothing to offer. While it does have its share of glaring flaws, its narrative and deep side characters, save for the sluttiness, well make up for it. It is easy to let yourself flow into the story and even easier to roleplay as you're given a blank slate and asked to give harsh morally grey decisions. The game is a valiant and even brilliant first attempt by a new studio and shines despite its shortcomings. Hopefully the team learns from the mistakes and makes the sequel an even better experience for the player.
Game available only on the PC. Purchased and played though the Steam Digital Distribution Program.