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Game Info:

The Witcher
October 30th, 2007
ESRB Rating: M
Available On: PC, Xbox 360
Genre: RPG
Single Player
Price: $10 new, $5 used
View on GamersGate

(Click here to jump to the moral content)

Imagine if you will the universe of J.R.R. Tolkien. You have your standard free peoples of Elves, Dwarves, and men who live in relative harmony. Throw that vision away, as The Witcher’s universe is nothing like that. In The Witcher, humans are the dominant species in the world, and non-humans such as Elves and Dwarves are the subject of intense and violent racism. The standard visions of “Good wizards” and “Bad wizards” hold no meaning here either, as Sorcerers and Sorceresses are often concerned only with themselves and how much power they have. Finally, some political background: the kingdom in which The Witcher takes place is called Temeria, whose capital is the city of Vizima. As the capital, Vizima is the stronghold of Temeria's king, Foltest. Until recently, Temeria was embroiled in a violent and long war with the neighboring Nilfgaardian Empire.  

So far, this doesn’t seem like your ordinary fantasy world. And likewise, The Witcher is no ordinary RPG. You play as a Witcher, a mutant who hunts monsters. This particular Witcher is known as Geralt of Rivia, or The White Wolf. Even though Geralt is the subject of a popular Polish book series, in this game he has amnesia to make the story easier to understand for those of us who haven’t read them. 

The story itself is simply incredible. It starts off with some small, confusing elements. It gradually adds more complex and intriguing plot elements while revealing more details on what you already know. The prologue begins with an attack on the Witcher’s fortress of Kaer Morhen by a group of assassins led by two mysterious individuals: a scholar known only as The Professor, and a powerful Mage called Azar Javed. It is during this attack that you are introduced to the first major story decision of the game: Do you help fend off the attack, or do you go and protect the target of the raid, the secrets of the Witchers? Many decisions like these will crop up in the game. While some will seem relatively unimportant in the short or long run, they may have game-changing consequences. 

Highlights:

Strong Points: Amazing graphics and game play.
Weak Points:Unstable without patches; choppy dialogue.
Moral Warnings:Lots of violence, swearing and sexual content

The next important part of the game is the combat. The combat is similar to that of other Aurora Engine games like Neverwinter Nights, but it has a focus on timing and style. There are three combat styles to choose from: Strong, Fast, and Group. Each one is for a different situation or enemy, and it requires a little skill to juggle all three styles effectively in a combat situation. Because the combat is timing-based, to execute the most-effective combos, you must use some on-screen indicators such as a flaming cursor or the sword lighting up to know when to execute the next attack. This combat system is fun for a while, but soon it becomes a drag and looses any real challenge. 

Which brings me to the biggest story and combat-related issue of the game: pacing. Around halfway through the game, the focus shifts from building the story to fighting a lot of enemies and doing a ton of quests. The amount of backtracking required is tedious at best, and downright frustrating at worst. The combat becomes easier as you go on, as you both master the combat style and get better weapons and upgrades. Eventually, it becomes a question of how long it will take to defeat an enemy, as opposed to surviving.

Magic is semi-prevalent in this game. There are sorcerers and mages of course, but Geralt does not have access to that kind of power. Instead, Witchers rely on light forms of magic called "Signs". Signs are a quick-acting spell that has an instantaneous effect. There are five to learn throughout the game, and each have purposes both in and out of combat. Aard for example, which pushes things, can be used to knock enemies over or to clear blocked passages.  

The alchemy system is one of the most complicated and diverse I have seen in a Role-Playing Game to date. There are many ingredients to gather, such as berries and leaves or the organs of certain monsters, and each one has differing amounts of the six core elements: Vitriol, Rebis, Aether, Quebirth, Hydragenum, and Vermilion. As you collect Alchemical formulae, you can look at each one and see how much of each element it requires. However, ingredients only do you so much good when you don’t have an alchemical base to use for them. Bases depend on the substance you are attempting to create, for example potions require strong alcohol, blade coatings require greases, and bombs require powders. You can buy these from merchants, collect them from containers in the environment, or simply collect them off of dead enemies. 

Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 87%
Gameplay:17/20
Graphics: 8.5/10
Sound: 9.5/10
Stability: 4.5/5
Controls/Interface: 4/5

Morality Score - 35%
Violence: 50
Language: 20
Sexual Content: 30 
Occult/Supernatural: 40
Cultural/Moral/Ethical: 80

The graphics in this game are amazingly well done. The character models are believable, and the animations are very fluid. The only complaint I have to level at The Witcher with respect to graphics is the repetition of models. To put it bluntly, they reuse almost 80% of the NPC models in this game. The merchants look the same, the townsfolk appear to come in only eight variants, and the soldiers are almost clones of each other. Despite this, the graphics, especially the texturing and overall feel of the game are incredible.

The sound in this game is a bit hit or miss. While the voice acting is passable in most cases, in the non-Enhanced Edition, the dialogue can get nigh-incomprehensible. This is probably due to translation difficulties, but choppy dialogue is inexcusable. The music is atmospheric, and reflects the bleary and bleak environments of The Witcher. The sound effects are convincing, and the sound of a blade ripping through an opponent is very convincing. 

This game has a few stability issues. The game, when unpatched, is prone to crash on startup on XP and has been known to suffer random crashes on any system. While these are few and far between in the latest version, they still happen on occasion. There is occasional pop-in, but it is usually in the far end of the field of view. The patches go a long way to improving the game, and CD Projekt has outdone themselves with their patching efforts. Not only did they correct some of the massive flaws with the Enhanced Edition, in the latest patch they removed the DRM from the game. In today’s market, this is practically unheard of, and CD Projekt should be heavily applauded for this. 

There are three different versions of this game available: The standard edition, the Enhanced Edition, and the Director’s Cut edition. The standard edition is not recommended in its unpatched state, as it has more bugs, longer load times, and fewer character models. The Enhanced Edition content is available through a patch, but getting the Enhanced Edition from the get-go is recommended. The Enhanced Edition adds two premium modules, or bonus missions, and adds more character models to the game to diversify the looks a bit. Further, it reduces load times, gives you the soundtrack, the “Music Inspired by The Witcher” CD, a Making-of DVD, a game guide, and has re-recorded and expanded dialogue. The Director’s Cut uncensors the sex cards and adds more nudity, which I will discuss further down. 

The bonus modules in question are not terribly exciting. The first, “The Price of Neutrality”, is essentially a retelling of one of the original short stories from the universe of The Witcher. It’s incredibly short, and it feels like they could have done more with it. The second, “Side Effects”, is simply boring. The module consists of gathering a certain amount of Orens (the universe’s currency) to help one of your friends out of jail. They make for a nice distraction, but don’t expect much from them. 

Perhaps the most infamous part of the game is the sex card system. When you manage to go down on a lady, you get a picture of her in a suggestive pose for your journal. While these are more suggestive than outright pornographic in the standard edition, in the Director’s Cut edition, they are restored to their full topless and uncensored states. The sex scenes themselves do not show anything, just some motion and the card you received for your “Conquest”. The way sex is handled in this game borders on laughable, as the dialogue leading up to the event is cheesy at best, and awkward at worst. Certain models in the standard edition are revealing to an extreme degree, but the Director’s Cut removes it and adds full frontal nudity to the game. The effect just reeks of immature teenagers, and is little better than the similar scenes in God of War.
 
When all is said and done, The Witcher is an incredible RPG experience. It has everything one would expect from the genre and more, while bringing new ideas to the table with a compelling story that will be remembered by most that finish it. While it has its faults, and suffers from massive immaturity regarding sex, it is still a very solid RPG for the mature PC gamer. 
 
Objectionable Content:
 
Violence: This game is very violent, as you are a monster slayer. Blood flies in all directions and in copious amounts, and limbs are often severed with the more fanciful combat styles. Fast style tends to cut arms off, while group style will decapitate foes in close proximity. The monsters can be rather disgusting, with some acting like giant leeches, and others essentially zombies. 
 
Language: The language in The Witcher is very strong, with every word in the book thrown around. This includes the F-word, both C-words, and all the “lesser” swears. 
 
Sexual Content: The sexual content is pervasive in both setting and execution. The townsfolk often talk about hookups and one-night stands, and there are lots of prostitutes in the city of Vizima. If you actually decide to have sex, you are granted a card depicting the woman in question in a suggestive pose. The scene itself is a blurry red scene of Geralt moving around on a bed, with the card you receive floating in the middle. The dialogue before and after is often riddled with innuendo, and there are lots of crass sections of dialogue regarding sex in this game. Witchers are sterile, and as such they tend to be very loose with women. They are famed for this, and townsfolk will not hesitate to make comments about that to you. An example is “A Witcher! Hide your women.” 
 
Occult/Supernatural: There is also a lot of magic in this game, not all of it used by the player. There are alchemists, sorcerers, and sorceresses. Spirits and ghouls appear, and most of them are hostile. Alchemists in particular have some potentially offensive paraphernalia, as most of them sport Pentagrams on their clothing and equipment. Triss Merigold, one of the main characters, also wears one of these prominently on her battle dress. 
 
Disclaimer: 

This game was purchased in the Enhanced Edition format from GameStop for $25. The reviewer logged approximately 40 hours into the game, and attempted to complete as many side quests as possible. The Enhanced Edition bonus chapters were also played, and the reviewer went on the path of the Flaming Rose, as opposed to the Scoia’tael or Neutral path.

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Deepfreeze32

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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