I’ve finally got the chance to play some PC games, and one of the first things on my list was the Witcher series. It’s one of the boats I missed out on, and now I’m finally getting a chance to try ‘em out. But man, the first Witcher game is rough.
Some minor spoilers below.
The best thing about Witcher 1 is the story and the way your decisions affect aspects of the game. It doesn’t use a morality system like Mass Effect, where you get +2 badboy points or +4 goodguy points. Instead everything operates in a grey area where instead of giving you stat boosts to unlock dialogue options, your decisions just make different shit happen. And more often than not those decisions make everything worse and no matter what you’re going to feel bad. But in a good way. A character might die, or a quest line might be locked, or a new quest line unlocked. You might ruin your relationship with certain characters by being friendly with others. There’s a pretty impressive range, especially considering the game’s age.
The worst part is running back and forth to complete quests. There’s a lot of jogging through towns and combat areas to pick something up, bring it to person A, talk to person B, go back to combat zone to interact with the obelisk/wtv and then run back to town to talk to person B again who might tell you to talk to person A. It’s pretty tedious, and half the time I found myself running past all the monsters just to get to the quest objectives. It’s worse in some areas and better in others. I found the Swamp Forest to be the most tedious. That was the point where I considered putting down the game and just skipping ahead to The Witcher 2.
The side character all seem really interesting, and I found myself wanting to spend more time with them to find out what their backstories were and so on. Zoltan is probably my favourite. I was a little bummed that there wasn’t that much interaction with him outside of a few conversations. The same goes for Dandelion, Shani, and Triss (though Triss and Dandelion are a bit more involved with the story toward the second half of the game). A lot of the time it feels like the characters are there to just tell you what’s going on and what you have to do. There are a couple good developmental scenes, but I wanted these side characters to have more impact on the main story.
The combat is pretty interesting. Geralt has three sword styles: strong, fast, and group. Beefy enemies are best dealt with using the strong style which does the most damage but is easily parried, shifty enemies that are quick require the fast style, and group style hits multiple people but does the least damage. This made for some pretty interesting combat scenarios, especially when you start to get surrounded by a few different types of enemies and have to switch between the styles accordingly. When you add the preparation aspect of crafting potions and bombs before and after combat, you get a pretty fun combat system that feels rewarding when your preparations pay off. It’s marred by occasionally being unresponsive. Which can sometimes create frustrating scenarios where you feel cheated out of a win just because the game--for whatever reason--didn’t initiate the attacks/dodge even though you were pressing the buttons. There were several times where Geralt would get stuck on invisible terrain and be unable to move (and there weren’t any visible stun effects on him). It happened frequently enough to make the combat more frustrating than it should have been.
I knew Geralt liked his sexy times, but man he has sex with almost everyone in this game.* Even at weird, probably not appropriate, times like when he and a witch are about to get lynched by an angry village.
*The sex cards lost their lustre after the third one.
I haven’t played that many games with branching story lines, but I really like the way Witcher 1 deals with the consequences of decisions. I’ve already started playing Witcher 2, and it seems like they’ve expanded on the effect of your decisions and how there really isn’t a “good” option for anything. That’s probably my favourite aspect of the Witcher so far, that and the emphasis on preparation. The first one might have been rough around the edges, but it was still really enjoyable. I look forward to playing through the second and the third.