The Witcher (Enhanced Edition) – First Impressions

(today’s post: 961 words)

I’m nearing the end of the second chapter (of five?) of the Witcher (by CD Projekt) so I think now is a good time to dump down some thoughts on the game (no real spoilers, but you may want to ignore this post if you’re looking to play it… just in case).

Overall, I love it. Lots of fun. Very addicting. I think its best elements are an interesting story, fun combat, a ton of quests (there’s always something to do), and interesting characters. I’m also enjoying the much-touted “moral ambiguity” in the game.

Here’re some additional bulleted thoughts to elaborate:

  • It’s very scaled back from the typical RPG (role-playing game). At least so far, it’s more of an I-need-to-recover-some-lost-memories and less of a my-village-burned-down-so-I-need-to-save-the-world. Lots of the game so far has been an investigation – complete with an autopsy scene. It’s a welcome change. Saving the world is fun, but too few RPGs are focused on self discovery.
  • Another welcome change, there’s no “grinding” for better equipment. You can upgrade your gear, but generally speaking what you have is about as good as it gets. Through the second chapter, I’ve found one new sword that was better than something I already had, and I’ve been unable to afford the one better suit of armor I’ve found.
  • You won’t be spending money on items, either. If you invest in the skills, you’ll spend a lot of time picking flowers and digging out organs from felled beasts. You’ll then use those items to create the potions and oils which provide small-but-very-helpful benefits (i.e. faster natural healing rather than the typical instant heal). Making your own stuff is more interesting than just buying magic potions from the vendor at the magic store – which somehow stays in business even though you’re the only customer. And the smaller benefits fit the low magic world and add to the risk/thrill.
  • But you will use all of your money, and then some, getting through various plots (everyone wants a bribe or donation) and buying books (more on this at the next bullet point). At this point in any other RPG, I’d have broken the economy by now; I’d be a billionaire dropping 1000s of gold on peasants. Not in the Witcher, where I may as well be one of the peasants (which is good… you want to have some struggle and challenge). I finally bought the last available book for chapter two – which cost me about one month’s salary. Spare some change?
  • Books! When you come up against monster, you have no clue what it is or how to fight it. You can figure it out by trial-and-error or you can talk to someone/buy a book on the topic. This gives you information about strengths and weaknesses, likely locations, useful parts, and so on. I’ve rarely seen a book matter, let alone every book, as much as they do in the Witcher. I love it. Again, it immerses me more into the world.
  • You play a “witcher”, which is kinda/sorta like a cop (only in this world, your job is to protect humans by destroying monsters). Everyone hates the witchers (people find them alien and creepy and violent, etc.) but everyone needs them. I think that’s the perfect way to handle the role of the adventurer in an RPG.
  • Speaking of, there are tons of quests. You’re literally inundated. I love it. Many of the quests are mundane (a gravedigger needs grease to make his coffins), but those are fluff and filler for while you’re doing the more important stuff.
  • The world is alive. People move about throughout the day. People have jobs. People have their own interests. There’re no polar opposites of good and evil; it’s just real people getting by. And a lot of the time, you’re just the rude nuisance from their point of view.
  • Combat is fun. In most RPGs, combat is more strategic. You tell your avatar which opponent to attack, and with which weapon. Then you watch and make changes here and there to adjust. In the Witcher, it’s more action-oriented. You click on an opponent and your character plays an animation. At the conclusion of the animation you have a brief moment to click the enemy again. Time it right and you turn your attack into a double-move combo (mess up, and you start over). You can do this again to get three- and four-round combinations. I think it goes as high as five, but you need to unlock some skills to achieve that many attacks. Not necessarily better or worse than anything else out there, but it is fun.
  • You also have different sets of skills based on tougher foes, faster foes, or groups of foes – with foes defined as either monsters or humans. Six sets of skills provides for lots of areas to focus. And they block you from getting too good at anything too quickly by separating skills into tiers, so there’s always something on the horizon.
  • You can also fire off spells. There aren’t a lot of spells (I think there are five – but you have to discover them first, and they progress like your other skills) and they’re not world-affecting (again, it’s a low magic world – which makes magic feel much more impressive) – but they can make a big difference. I cast one spell at an assassin and it knocked him to the ground. Before he could get up, my character flipped his sword around and swung it through the head of the fallen foe. Quick-and-easy kill.

At this point, I don’t have a lot of complaints. The Witcher is definitely one of the best RPGs I’ve played in a good long while. It’s not without some flaws – but I’ll get to them in another post.

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