Witcher Impressions

A few weeks ago I purchased The Witcher: Enhanced Edition, I’m still not very far in the game but wanted to share some impressions before I’m distracted by other things.  Running on an enhanced version of Bioware’s Aurora engine the game looks and moves great.  There is some of striping in some of the cutscenes but I’m not sure if that isn’t something on my hardware end or the game engine itself.  The guys at CD Projekt did an absoultely wonderful job of milking the Aurora engine for all its worth creating something wholly different than what had previously been seen in Neverwinter Nights 2 (also running on the Aurora engine).  The motion captured animation for Geralt looks great as well.

Combat in The Witcher is in real time.  Your attacks come in three flavors strong, fast, and group and are spread across two different types of weapons steel (for human and beasts) and silver (for monsters).  Typically you’re sticking to one attack type and one weapon type.  Combat operates similar to a QTE, click an oponent to attack when your cursur has a flaming auro click again to start the second part of a combo.  While this lacks the click-frenzy satisfaction of Diablo 2 and is more similar to the timed powers of a MMO like Guild Wars.   Your combat prowess is aided by spells aquired through stone monoliths scattered across the landscape.  As of right now the most useful spell Geralt has the chance of disarming, dazing, or knockdown enemies in front of him which is handy when surrounded.  Other spells include a shielding spell, a fire spell, and a trap settings spell (I don’t have all the spells yet) none of which have proved quite useful.  There is a dodging system as well (double tapping a movement key) that is fairly effective….when I remember it’s there.

Combat and Magic are enhanced by a potion making system.  As of right now this is one of my major complaints about the game.  Potions are an integral part of survival but I often find that a single-minded need to track down ingredients often detracts from the rest of the gameplay.  Also the need the purchase books to held identify herbs you can harvest puts a major hamper on your funds; though doubtfully integral to the game overall it is still a bit annoying to blow anywhere from 200 to 600 gold on a book I read once then sell back to the merchant for a tenth of the price I paid.  I would have been happier if I could find potions available from merchants or dropped by enemies.  The potions typically have long lasted effects (almost an hour or more in most cases) but the lack of potions with instaneous effects, healing in particular, makes some particularly sticky combat situations a real drag.  I’m only in Chapter 2 so that might change.

Chapter 2 reveals another flaw in the game, in my opinion at least, Geralt’s lack of social skills.  Much of Chapter 2 involves “interrogating” people about their involvement with Salamandria (a nefarious organization) which, as far as I can tell, involves dialogue options to accuse or exonerate a character…and that’s it.  I guess I need evidence to further the investigation but the lack of any sort of non-combat related skill system means my dialogue choices frequently feel far from organic and too obviously scripted.  Another problem with dialogue, it always forces me to sheath my sword.  Since all the stuff is in-engine I understand the necessity but it is frustrating when a dialogue or cutscene leads to combat the enemies already have weapons drawn while Geralt is left with his head up his ass.

I am thoroughly enjoying the time-delayed decision making, wherein decisions I make now effect the plot and gameplay much later, and have already screwed myself once as a result.  Honestly I find myself intentionally making “bad” decisions just see what will happen down the line.  Mostly recently I let a cannibal live in the hopes that he will provide aid/information down the line; we’ll see how that turns out.

As I said I’m only in Chapter 2 and right now the plot is interesting but is taking a back seat to gameplay.  I expect things to progress as I get deeper into the game but right now the allure of combat and the deficiences in the game’s (lack of a) skill system are major distractions.  As of right now the reasons behind the game’s 80ish score of on Metacritic are fairly obvious and, at this early junction, I’d have to concur with rating the game in the low 80s.  It’s early to say that with any finality and I’ll post again when I hit the endgame.

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