Action RPGs, based in fantasy medieval settings, are ten-a-penny these days. The king of this genre has been Bethesda's Oblivion for two years now but there's also been no shortage of contenders for that crown: the Dungeon Siege and Gothic series, Two Worlds, Loki, etc. The one, "pure" RPG ring that rules 2168 them all, though, has been virtually every title from the hands of BioWare and their associated projects. Using a massively revamped version of their old Aurora engine (from the original Neverwinter Nights), Poland-based CDProjekt have taken a few leaves out of the two B's books, as well as the actual story from Andrzej Sapkowski's The Witcher Saga, to give us the title of the same name.
Making yet another title for an already well worn genre might seem like a pointless exercise, but for all their glory, classic games of yore (such as Morrowind or Baldur's Gate), and the recent behemoths, have plenty of flaws which ensure that there's always something about them that one isn't going to like. So there is still room for another shot at the champion's title: another game that can capitalise on the weaknesses of others. So what does The Witcher do differently? That's not an easy objective to cover in just a few words but try to imagine a combination of Gothic 3, Diablo 2, Neverwinter Nights 2 and Leisure Suit Larry, and you've got a reasonable picture in your mind already. Now I can appreciate that such a concoction will have you reaching for the aspirin already but honestly, the game's good - and you'll soon appreciate my rather cack-handed synopsis.
E3 2007 Trailer
But let's start at the beginning: the story. You play as Garalt, a Witcher; super-duper mutant heroes, hired to protect humans from various nasty monsters and other non-humans. So far, so good, but hold your horses: you've awoken in a smashed castle with virtually no memory of your past glories and abilities. Quelle surprise! All of this is covered in what must be the world record for an introductory movie and opening gameplay - combined it must last for hours, or at least it seems that way.
Seriously though, the start is so bad that gamers with feeble, ADHD-troubled constitutions may not make it to the real game, and that's quite a concern. The opening movie is pretty good, all funky FMV and stuff, but doesn't really do much for the plot, other than explain a wee bit about yourself. Once you've started the game for real though, you're "treated" to near-endless cutscenes, using the in-game engine. Visually, this isn't a problem, because the renderer is more than up to the job but, and this is a big but (and you mothers cannot deny...), they just go on and on and on and on and Ariston and on and on...
You can skip through them with a stab of the ESC key but then you'll miss out on what you're supposed to be doing and after just a few minutes of actually playing the game, you're dumped back into another bloody cutscene anyway. Perhaps it wouldn't be so bad if they were good but the script badly needs an experienced editor and native English speaker to make the most from it, and although the actors try their best, it's quite clear that the actual voice direction just isn't up to scratch. Fortunately, I soon learned that all of the info fed to you in the cutscenes is stored in a thorough and detailed journal, including the various tutorials of how-to-do stuff. So with a review to do, and a game to get through, it was play-ESC-play-ESC-play-ESC-play-ES... ooh, hello? What's this?! Sex?! Ah, yes, but more of that later.
Games: The Witcher
Reviews: Alone in the Dark Jul 11, 2008
News: The Witcher v1.2 Patch Dec 20, 2007
News: The Witcher Demo Released Dec 14, 2007
News: Neverwinter Nights 2 v1.11 Patch Dec 12, 2007
News: Atari Announces ArmA: Gold Nov 27, 2007
Reviews: Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer Nov 20, 2007
News: Core blimey - they're finally all getting used! Oct 31, 2007
Previews: Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer Sep 11, 2007
Reviews: Silverfall Mar 17, 2007
Reviews: Test Drive Unlimited Mar 12, 2007
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