Some time ago it all sounded like “Overlord is one of the best Action-RPG’s ever”. Well, it seems like the lord of darkness has met his match! The Witcher, a game by Polish developer CDProjekt, is some kind of mix between Diablo and a bunch of new RPG elements. One of the major improvements is the fact that choices you make through the game can affect the storyline! However, this isn’t the only aspect which makes this title a real ‘must-have’ for about every gamer!
You are Geralt, a witcher with a serious reputation who was killed during the big war between good and evil, but could be revived thanks to some of his powers. Before I continue, it might be useful to know what witchers are… It are people, bounty hunters, who clean up the dirty work of paying customers and they aren’t cheap. They hunt people, but also monsters, demons and other foul creatures from the depths of hell. The average witcher has superhuman powers at his disposal which he gets by drinking magic potions and eating special ‘pills’ who grant him metamorphic powers. For instance, a witcher can see in the dark and has blinding reflexes which allows him to outsmart every monster he encounters.
On a rainy day, Geralt is found completely dazzled, lost and relieved of most of his old strengths and to complete it he also lost most of his memory. The people who found him are a small part of the last band of witchers walking the face of the planet. A couple of years after the great war, the witchers were pointed out as a big evil which lead to an immense massacre (a bit like star-wars Episode 3, the part where all Jedi are killed). They take him back to their headquarters, a fort which once acted as the training grounds of these fighting machines, where he’s supposed to be re-educated. Just before he wants to commence his melee-combat training, disaster strikes yet again. An unknown yet very powerful mage together with his henchman, have come to steal all riches and knowledge the witchers have and as if this attempt alone isn’t enough, they manage to get away with their evil scheme. Our hero’s are powerless without their grand alchemical formulas and so they appoint you, Geralt, to go get everything back and avenge all fallen witchers.
The rest of the story isn’t bound to a pre-defined pattern. You’ll get plenty of times where you’ll have to choose what to do in a certain quest. Fox example, in one assignment you’ve got the choice between defending the dungeon or defending the courtyard of the same building. Your choice here does have an impact on how what will happen further in the game and how easy everything will be in the future. Apart from that, there are also NPC’s which can play a tremendous role on the storyline. A good relationship with one can really simplify everything, while picking a fight with another can have the opposite effect.
The Witcher has other tricks up its sleeve next to the solid storyline and the interesting relationships and their impact on the flow of the game which make it a truly worth your while. For one, the fighting system feels very natural compared to many other RPG’s out there where you simply have to press a button and the character does the rest. Here you’ll have to click your mouse at exactly the right time to make Geralt do some mindblowing combo’s and stun his enemies. This means it no longer is a game of “are my stats better than yours”, but you actually do need some skills and timing to win a melee-fight. You also have more control over what Geralt is doing, like the choice of sword fighting style and dodging by double-clicking the ground. You can use the mouse or keyboard to make everything happen, but I prefer to just use the mouse since it lends me bit more freedom than the keyboard, plus you can react a lot faster.
The magical potions I mentioned earlier are of great importance! Because of this, the developers found it necessary to create a system where the player could brew his own. The entire “cooking process” is rather intuitive and doesn’t really need any explanation. First of all you’ll need to right ingredients and you can find those on plants and monsters you’ve killed. Second you need a strong alcoholic beverage which will form the base of your potion. Once you have all these materials, it’s time to do the real thing… Look at the formula, put in the set ingredients and voila, a potion! Don’t think you’ll manage it without using all this cooking and brewing, these drinks are absolutely necessary to defeat certain beasts! All this is combined with old RPG-elements like leveling-up your character and making a choice between loads of skills.
The entire story is played in highly detailed, dark, Medieval villages and cities (you know, those where people took a dump in a bucket and threw the content right out the window). The atmosphere which is created by the marvelous environment is enhanced by an even better bit of musical wonder which varies at every location and even depends on the time of day.
The Witcher is a true piece of graphical splendor, but that comes with a price! The system specs are no joke at all. Once you’re actually playing the game, you’ll notice it even more when you see and experience the tremendous loading times (and tremendous is meant in a bad way). Expect about 30 seconds of staring at a loading screen to enter an Medieval tavern! This, together with the numerous bugs which you’ll encounter on a regular basis form about the only negative point I could find…
The Witcher truly is one of the best RPG’s I’ve played in the past few years. A sort of Diablo-reborn and perhaps even better. Everything is shown is such a detailed and dynamic fashion like the relationships between humans, the cities really are alive, the impact your choices have on the storyline and a lot more. Sadly, all this big guns come at a price! The Witcher has everything but low system specs and is a true memory-devourer. You’ll need some patience to get from one place to another because of those loading times. Apart from that, this game remains a must-have!