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I built first gaming PC around 4 years ago now, and one of the first games I got was The Witcher. I bought it for around 12 hours then largely forgot about it until last month. I'm trying to finish the first 2 in time for the third. So yeah, the review.
As i'm sure everyone is aware, The Witcher is an RPG set in a fantasy world of ghouls and spectres. It controls like a standard WRPG, and has the usual traits like vitality, endurance(magic), exp and one other in the form of toxicity, which will be explained later. The combat system the game uses is really quite weird at first. It essentially takes the form of a rhythm game, where you try and time your mouseclicks to keep combos going, similar I guess in a way to the Arkham Games. There is no block or dodge button, as this is dealt with by number crunching behind the scene. That is quite annoying, as you're constantly hit with attacks anyone could easily dodge, and adds a frustrating luck element to it. There are also different 'signs' (magic) which can aid you, with stuff like wind, fire, mind control and shields being utilized. The combat is admittedly a little unwhwelming in the sense that you don't really do much, but visually it looks cool, with backflips and beheadings everywhere. One of the most interesting things the game does is it's use of potions to augment your abilities. These can be simple things like seeing in the dark, amplyifying healing, or combat changes like slowing down time and increasing attack damage. You can also make 'oils' to coat your swords, to make them more damaging to ghouls, spectres, humans, etc. There are also bombs, but I never used one in my playthrough so couldnt explain them. The potions, signs and flashy combat combine to add some tactical edge it, which helps make the lack of control less annoying.
As for the general gameplay and story, well it's first impressions are of a fairly standard fantasy rpg. You play as Geralt Of Rivia, a Witcher (monster hunter) who rather conviniently has lost his memory. After the opening mission (that serves as the tutorial), you're set off on a quest to find magical scrolls that hold the secret to The Witchers powers. The first little town you come across is under atatck from ghost hounds, and thus your given your first real quest. On top of that, you can take additonal jobs from the townsfolk. This is largely the template for the rest of the game, you got to the main area which serves as a hub for the chapter, you have one main quest and others you can pick up. It's all very standard RPG stuff, and nothing that's going to win any awards, even the stories good but not great. The cast of main characters is quite interesting, and your interactions with them largely shapes your experience. The game does grind to a halt a bit in chapter 2, but after that it's all systems go till the end. Visually, it looks quite good for an 8 year-old game. There are a few assets re-used and there seems to be about 5 different character models, but at times it does look quite nice. There is an issue with invisible walls though, and gaps that look big enough to walk through that you can't, which i'm guessing is a limitation of the engine. So far i've said the game has slightly boring combat, has an ok story, is rather unoriginal and looks quite meh.
And yet I loved it. The game as a game is good at best, but one of the most lauded features of the Witcher franshise is the choices you make. This is where the game really shines, and where the character having amnesia is a masterstroke, as he becomes your character. I know that other games have implemented choices aswell, but i've yet to play one which does it as well as this. There's nothing like choosing the good or bad option, and choices that seem the most reasonable after a view hours might turn out nasty. Throughout the main questline there is one running parallel, in which the non-humans are trying to fight against Order, a Knights Templar like organisation. This is arguably more interesting than the main plotline, as you have a direct influence over what happens. The first Knight of the Order you meet helps you with a quest, and largely seems like a respectable person. However, you hear from others about the atrocities they commit against the non-humans. Quite early on each side gives you a mission to seize the same arms shipment, and it boils down to who do you think is most worthy. Do you help the order who knowingly persectute non-humans for the betterment of humanity, or back the rebels who want freedom and equal rights yet have a reputation for being bandits and terrorists? The choice you make doesn't have an immediate effect on the story, it's only after a few hours that everything starts to reveal itself. I chose what I thought was the right option, but after a few hours I was wondering if I had. The final boss (which is quite dissapointing), sums up all of your choices, and it made me seem like a marauding death dealer when I could've swore I was doing the right thing. Innocents died, towns burned and bad men lived, all because I was trying to help. I loved it though, the choices I made didn't all end in happy endings, which is such a refreshing change from all the 'good' endings we get in games now. My choices were the right ones in my eyes, sometimes life just sucks whatever we do.
Should you buy The Witcher? If you're looking for an RPG where your choices matter, you want a cast of interesting and flawed characters, and can overlook the quirks of the gameplay then this is a great game. Hell, if you like RPGs then you should already be used to games with weird battle systems. It's always on sale, still looks ok and seems like a game made with genuine affection. It's full of sexual conquests too, for lovers of collecting pictures of naked ladies. Thanks for reading, any help for future writings is always welcome!