The Witcher PC Review
One of the wonderful things about the human imagination is its ability to create alternate worlds out of nothing but its own dreams, desires and fantasies. Within these worlds are characters, towns and cities forged purely from the creator’s own mind. There are tales of love, betrayal and intrigue that are woven and passed down through generations. With technology improving all the time, these visions can be brought to life in ways they never have been before, and video games are increasingly pushing forward in terms of immersing the player in these visions. The Witcher is a game at the forefront of this and will draw you into its world of darkness and beauty with some excellent production values and engaging gameplay.
The introduction to the game is one of the best in years and, to coin an American phrase, gets you ‘pumped’ for playing the game. The story follows that of Geralt, one of the few remaining Witchers. Witchers hunt monsters and are gifted with the ability to use magic and other unnatural skills. The storyline is very engrossing and so without giving too much away, it’s full of twists depending on the decisions you make and there are three alternate endings in relation to what you’ve done throughout the course of the game. The game uses a branching storyline system where the responses you give in conversations and the paths you choose affect what happens in the rest of the game, and while it might feel that options are being restricted from you, it’s a realistic way of making sure that you have to deal with the decisions you make.
The Witcher does a superb job of bringing its world to life and you can’t help but get lost in its atmosphere. The environments are detailed and give off feelings representative of their state. The castle at the beginning of the game, for example, is only inhabited by Geralt and the other Witchers, and it genuinely feels desolate and isolated from the outside world. Some excellent lighting that changes depending on the time of day adds to the atmosphere even more, and while the graphics are never stunning, they’re very good and the game runs smoothly even with all visual settings at maximum.
Aurally the game is again on top form, and the musical score that accompanies the game is of the highest order. Music suits the surroundings you’re in, and don’t be surprised if at times you just stop and stare to admire the lighting and listen to the music. It really is that good. Voice acting is suitably gruff for the characters involved in the game and while some of the lesser NPCs have slightly comical accents or voices, for the most part it’s all very believable.
Moving around in The Witcher is fairly customisable, with three different camera angles to choose from, with a different control scheme for each, and the option of either mouse and keyboard control or purely mouse-based control. Two isometric views and one over the shoulder view are on offer, and while the OTS view will be preferable for most players, the options available will mean you’re sure to find a control setup you’re comfortable with. Geralt’s movement is somewhat restricted in that he can’t jump, or crouch, or even walk, but when moving around this isn’t particularly noticeable or detrimental. During combat, movement is more freeform and the ability to dodge and so forth becomes available. Combat itself is quite unique, and will take some getting used to. Although in real-time, to actually execute moves you have to time your clicks of the mouse to chain together moves. An on-screen indicator tells you when to click, but mess it up and the chain gets reset and your opponent can fight back. It’s certainly different, and to begin can feel frustrating as a delay between your actions and Geralt’s often brings on an urge to keep clicking manically, although this only disrupts your combat. Over time though it becomes quite satisfying, and the timing-based system ensures that you keep concentrating on what’s happening on-screen and can’t just button bash.
There are three different fighting styles to switch between depending on the enemies you’re facing; a strong style for big and slow opponents, a quick style for, erm, quick opponents, and a group style for when you’re taking on more than one enemy. Switching between them is simple and instantaneous, and the ability to cast magic, or Signs as they’re called in the game, adds some variety to the swordplay.
Geralt’s inventory allows him to carry numerous items that will replenish his health, let him create potions, or help in combat. Selling and buying items will also bring in some gold for spending on other supplies. A branching upgrade system for attributes such as strength, agility, magic and other factors works well and provides incentive for playing on and increasing your abilities. A useful quest section provides details of your active and past missions and there’s also information on the characters you’ve encountered and details on all sorts of items and spells. The interface here is slightly confusing initially, but soon becomes reasonably easy to navigate.
The Witcher is a big game and will easily provide upwards of 30 hours playing time, especially if you’re one for seeing everything, collecting all the items and experiencing all of the game’s endings. There’s very little wrong with the game, and it’s clear the team behind it have put a lot of care and attention to detail into bringing it to life and making it enjoyable to play. A great example of the genre and a game that’s great to lose yourself in.
Atmospheric, enjoyable and engaging.