GC ‘07 - The Witcher Preview

Now I’m not exactly an RPG kinda guy, sure I’ve dabbled, but they don’t usually seem to be at the top of my gaming priority list. However, the latest offering from Polish developers CD Projekt, The Witcher, looks like its going to throw that whole list out of whack come October. For a detailed list of reasons why, hit the jump.

I believe Erudite summed up my newfound anticipation for The Witcher in his post on RPG Codex:

“Man I can’t wait for this game to come out. I’ve always wanted a game with this kind of badass dark medieval setting and none of that happy happy Forgotten Realms Shit”

Sure its got the style and visual flair you would expect from a contemporary fantasy RPG, but The Witcher has some features that will inject loads of freshness into the genre while pushing it in the right direction. And these particular features relate to the core element of role playing - decision making.

Being able to save a game before making a crucial decision and load it when you learn you’ve made the wrong choice not only lessens the weight of the decision, it sucks the life out of an RPG. The Witcher gets around this by ensuring that the repercussions of your decisions play themselves out up to 10 –15 hours later, while your attention is directed at other matters. This means that as a player you are forced to seriously consider your decisions, as they may come back to bite you in a big way.

Also mirroring real life are the nature of the choices you face: Options are never clearly marked as right or wrong, and in dealing with the harsh fantasy world you’re often faced with a choice between a lesser of two evils. All together, the various choices and decisions in the game feed an incredibly intricate storyline which leads to three possible endgame scenarios. And with an average runthrough for each of those somewhere around 60 to 80 hours, there’s plenty of replay value.

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From the moment you awaken in the game, dazed and semi-conscious, you are gradually introduced into the game’s bleak and unforgiving universe, the brainchild of renowned Polish author Adrzej Sapkowski. In this world, the oppressive humans are in charge, keeping dwarves in slums and fending off guerilla attacks from the nearly extinct elves. The fantasy realm exists amid a rich backdrop of ancient prophecy, racial tensions, a mysterious Order, and other ominous themes. To keep monsters and other unwanteds at bay, the humans have bred a caste of enhanced Witchers, whose lack of human feeling make them the killing machines of choice.

Your mysterious character, Geralt however, is a Witcher that seems to find himself torn when faced with moral decisions. Richly connected with other characters in the game, Geralt must deal with the trials and tribulations of friendship, treachery, passionate love, rivalry and hatred. The epic tale unfolds as your personal world and the truly living world around you, interact in such a way as they both determine the other.

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This interplay between Geralt and his world is pervades all aspects of the game – in simply getting about in the world you will see non player characters readying themselves for work at dawn and retiring to the pub at dusk, and your interactions with even the most rudimentary of them will influence their behavior in some way or another.

Combat is real time, but will steer clear of anything closely resembling button mashing. Timing of attacks, combined with the necessary tactical strategies require full concentration to be on the battle. CD Projekt’s description of combat as “combination of KotOR and God of War” styles conjures up an exciting image indeed. Strikes, attacks and combos thereof add up to a total of 300 unique moves, with the animations of all of these being motion captured. The five basic styles of magic can also be heavily modified to suit your character’s fighting style.

Instead of simply buying health and potions to enhance your abilities from vendors, players must create these from scratch. Through acquiring combinations of ingredients, players can brew potions themselves according to formulas or pure experimentation. But being part-human, your character may be effected by some of the poisons, so toxicity levels must be kept in check.

Without even playing this game, I think I’ve already found myself head over heels. Expect a full write up of The Watcher in the next few months, if I can tear myself away from it.

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