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   The Witcher: Enhanced Edition - Staff Review  

A "Which Way" Book on Steroids
by Phillip "JCServant" Willis

PLATFORM
PC
BATTLE SYSTEM
3
INTERACTION
4
ORIGINALITY
5
STORY
5
MUSIC & SOUND
4
VISUALS
3
CHALLENGE
Moderate
COMPLETION TIME
40-60 Hours
OVERALL
4.5/5

+ Player's choices actually matter
+ Great story and voice acting
+ Friendly interface and journal system
+ Hard to get lost
- Occasional combat frustrations
- Graphic cropping and pop in

Click here for scoring definitions 

   On the PC, single player RPGs are becoming increasingly rare. Titles from larger companies seem to be relegated largely to remakes or ports of console games. Some smaller companies have stepped up to fill the gap, and while it would be easy for those companies to make subpar games given their small size and the lack of competition, there are some games, such as The Witcher: Enhanced Edition, which prove that great things can come from small companies.

   The main character, Geralt, is a Witcher. Witchers are mutated humans with the ability to dispatch monsters. In return for their increased combat prowess, Witchers are unable to have children. Geralt is part of a small group of Witchers who find themselves besieged by a group of sorcerers. Everyone, including Geralt, is forced to investigate and track down this group. In doing so, Geralt comes face to face with his humanity, his friends and his ideas of morality.

    Enough cannot be said about this story. Based off a Polish novel, it is full of detail and character. The story and dialogue is so well written that, at times, it singlehandedly pulls the player into the game. The world of The Witcher is not a bright, green happy-go-lucky wonderland either. Filled with greed, racism, and poverty, the setting portrayed here is as close as any game has ever come in mixing real world problems with fantasy creatures such as elves, druids and dwarves.

    To add further depth to the story elements, the decisions the player makes throughout the game have profound effects on the story and relationships with other characters. Simple conversation choices can change how other people, or even entire races, feels about Geralt. To add further weight to those decisions, numerous flashbacks liberally scattered throughout the story explore Geralt’s reflections on events and choices players made in the past. This is a refreshing contrast to other RPGs where your decisions (especially in conversations) have little or no impact on the story at all. Multiple playthroughs to discover different plots and endings certainly add to the replay value. Since decisions at the very beginning can have a domino effect on options later in the game, a complete replay or two may be necessary to experience all the differences.

You talkin' ta me?

   Of course, being a Witcher, Geralt must solve many situations with weapons and magic. Attacking others is as simple as choosing a weapon and clicking on the enemy. As Geralt attacks, the mouse icon flashes indicating an opportunity to get in an extra attack. By chaining together multiple attacks, massive damage can be done while minimizing incoming damage. Various weapons and magic attacks, each with strategic uses in different situations, keep combat interesting and engaging. Furthermore, potions can be made to provide numerous bonuses in tougher bouts. Things can be pretty hectic in some of the larger battles, but players can pause at any time to consider options and choose the next move. Unfortunately, aiming and camera control can be a bit challenging at times. Pausing allows the player to take their time for the most part, but when one of these issues happens in the middle of a combo, it can be frustrating and lead to the occasional death.

   Experience points are earned through fighting and completing missions. Upon leveling, Geralt can meditate and learn new skills. Aside from buffing melee combat and magic, gathering and creation skills may also be improved. Herbs and other materials may be found all over the world and made into potions, bombs and other items to aid during combat. And while potions may improve combat abilities temporarily, they also increase toxicity, so they may not be abused.

A romantic moonlight stroll.

   Visually, most things look good. Up close, some character models, especially Geralt, look great. Coupled with some great movement, Geralt oozes attitude. On the other hand, there are so many different NPCs that the same character graphics are recycled numerous times, potentially confusing some players. Backgrounds, towns and surroundings are generally well done and detailed; however, significant fog effects and limited drawing distances show up often in several outdoor areas. Sound is done very well, with exceptional voice work

   The Witcher: Enhanced Edition is a re-release of the original, bundled with substantial additions. A physical map, bonus DVDs, soundtracks, hintbooks and a couple of extra adventure modules are included. Furthermore, for owners of the original game, many of these bonuses may be downloaded for free from the main site. During the playthrough, several minor bugs and game crashes were experienced. However, the inconveniences were minor, and a quick scan of the forums indicates that these isssues pop up on a minority of computer setups. Also, The Witcher was infamous for its load times that made the game unplayable to some. This issue has been addressed, as scene transitions load quickly.

   Overall, The Witcher: Enhanced Edition is an amazing game. The combat system, while quite solid, may not grab everyone. The plot, characters and ability to affect the story will. What The Witcher: Enhanced Edition lacks in technical prowess and polish, it makes up for in heart. Every RPGamer who has ever complained of superficial plot devices and the lack of true decision making abilities in video game RPGs should absolutely give this game a run through. Anyone who plays this game will remember it for many years to come, and that is one of the highest forms of praise RPGamer can bestow on a game.

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