The Witcher (Enhanced Edition) – Final Thoughts

(today’s post: 990 words)

Tonight I finished The Witcher. The game apparently clocks in around 80 hours, and I’m sure I must have hit at least that because I did everything in the game that I could (too bad there’s no clock to tell you exactly).

I enjoyed the game. I don’t think I could have played for that long had I not. I’m going to post a couple thoughts on the game – as well as responses to my first impression post.

(Spoilers be here, there, and everywhere. You are warned.)

I love that the Witcher re-uses so much of their areas and people. And what I mean is that in most RPGs, for example, you start off in “Tutorial Town” – which promptly burns down 5 minutes after you start. The entire game continues on a disposable trend. But in the Witcher, people you meet and areas you visit early on are still there at the end. When things happen to them, you care because of those 80 hours. The ending was especially good because of these built-up relationships with people and places. I wish more RPGs would do that.

The lone exception is the “end boss” Jacques de Aldersberg – who kind of popped in from out of nowhere. “You killed Azar Javed, the boss you chased around all game long, but he was my puppet!” Or something like that. It makes sense in the story, I just don’t like being introduced to a new villain as I’m getting ready to wrap a game.

I liked that the game used quick-n-dirty cutscenes to get across some of the more dramatic moments – just a piece of concept art and some narration. I think BioWare always got too caught up in high-polish, expensive (in terms of time and manpower) movies. But when you’re going low-cost, you can do it all over the place and it really adds to the story. The Witcher used it sometimes just to get across some thought that was wandering through Geralt’s head, like fantasizing about giving up adventuring to settle down. It’s great for a story-based game.

I noticed there were a lot of loose ends with the story. It’s funny to think that a game so long could set itself up for a sequel, but I’m pretty sure that’s what happened. Even the final “game over” video suggested that there’s a lot more to come with Garalt getting attacked by another witcher. Hey, whatever. I’ll play the Witcher 2 whenever it comes out.

A comment from the first impressions note mentioned that I liked not “grinding” for gear. Happily, that stayed true throughout the game. I gained two suits of armor throughout (I bought one, and had a second set assembled as part of a quest), and maybe a few swords. At one point in chapter 4 the Lady of the Lake gifted me with a new sword; most games have to balance gifted-weapons toward too powerful because the player goes through equipment so rapidly, but here I was just excited to have a weapon from the Lady of the Lake – though it did have some bonuses; I kept her blade through to the last fight.

I also commented on the economy balancing – saying I’d been spending every last dime I had on books and was always broke. That held through close to the end but eventually broke down. I hit a point where there weren’t enough new books to buy and my money started accumulating. I think I finished with over 9,000 orens.

If you follow me on Facebook, you know I bitched a bit about one particular fight – the hellhound of chapter one. I went on-line to look for help and spotted one post that said something like, “If you can’t get past this fight, you’re in for a tough time. The game only gets harder.” Fortunately (and unfortunately), that wasn’t true. I never had a fight as tough as that again. I did die a few times here and there, but a single re-load got me past everything. If I were to play again, I would play on the hard difficulty setting – not normal. The fight against the Koshchey was said by some to be the toughest in the game but I blew through it without buffs on my first try. The final fight ended similarly.

Final comment, most RPGs feature a good path and an evil path. A few of the better games put a bit more effort into it to make both paths appealing. The Witcher is more the latter. The two sides are the humans and the non-humans. As a Witcher, you’re duty is to protect humans; that means sometimes killing non-humans (elves & dwarves). But the non-humans are poverty-stricken minorities and they’re being persecuted, often unfairly – so I’d think many gamers would be on the side of the non-humans. But the final twist is that the non-humans act like terrorists and generally hate humans. They’re willing to get dirty to fight for their rights and their freedoms.

So do you want to fight for the low-lifes or the scum bag racists – or try to be neutral and get through on your own side? Or do you want to develop relationships with these people and try to get them to change their ways? It’s pretty cool stuff. In most games you know which side you’re going to play but in the Witcher I kept bouncing back and forth as I learned more about each side. The game gives you plenty of time to make your final decision. At BioWare, that was always our goal – to get people to re-think each decision. I think the Witcher pulled it off well.

Like any of the Grand Theft: Auto titles, it’s too long a game for me to want to re-play it but I stand by my “best of 2008 award” and I am looking forward to an eventual sequel (as well as trying out the two short modules that came with the Enhanced Edition).

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