by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
Powered by Bioware's Aurora engine, The Witcher is a tribute to its graphical abilities. The game world is rich in detail and lush up to the point that you’d want to step in and bask in the afternoon sun. The only thing that is stopping you is the strange feeling that something is not quite right. Despite the lushness, there is a somewhat gritty, dark gloom that is present throughout the game. This contradiction is masterfully done and shows just what the developers over at CD Project are capable of. The art direction is at least as good as the other great games in the free roaming RPG genre, Oblivion and Gothic 3. And with that out of the way, I hope I’ve kindled your attention for the rest of the article, because indeed, you are in for a treat.
Did I just call The Witcher an RPG? I did, but I am certain that hardcore RPG fans will not agree and I can see their point. Geralt is capable of melee fighting and able to do some magic, but there is not a whole lot of freedom to develop him into another direction. It almost sounds like a missed opportunity but I assume that -without having read them- this is true to the original books.
Your first sword-action is likely to be something of a shocking experience. You are thrust into the fight rather unexpectedly and my gut reaction was to click, click, click on my enemies… and ended up doing no damage at all. The developers have tried to steer away from the usual click-fest that we see in so many of the game’s peers. Attacking has something of a rhythm and if you click too fast, you lose your momentum, giving the enemy the opportunity to catch you off guard. After your first attack, the mouse cursor changes into a shield but will glow with fire when it is time to attack again. Clicking in the right rhythm will allow you to ‘string’ attacks together, maximizing the damage done with each consecutive attack. Getting it just right will often end in a satisfying thwack and a slight ‘shudder’ of your screen as you dispose of your enemies indefinitely. It takes a little getting used to but it does get the player more involved in the combat sequences.
Combat differs from the traditional Hack & Slash games on another point as well. Witchers have three fighting styles: Strong, Fast and Group. Strong attacks are slow but powerful attacks that work well against slow opponents. Fast attacks –you guessed- are faster and are needed for foes with quick reflexes and high agility. The group attacks are the coolest and most often used as many of your fights will be against multiple opponents. Hacking and slashing at one of the combatants will cause damage and knock back anyone near. Timing your attacks is even more important against groups. If you lose the initiative, you will be buried under a barrage of attacks and will often have to flee before being able to gain the upper hand again.
If the fighting doesn’t make your head spin, other parts of the game most certainly will. A dead person doesn’t speak (or at least not usually) and to get information, Geralt will have to talk to NPCs. Giving something valuable to an NPC will make him or her more likely to share information. But man’s oldest ‘truth serum’ is alcohol but giving someone a drink without drinking yourself is suspicious. Witchers are known for many things, but holding their liquor isn’t one of them. Geralt will start swaying and his reflexes will start to suffer. To make you part of his ‘ordeal’, the screen will go wonky, making you feel dizzy too. Pretty neat.
No Pros and Cons at this time