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The Witcher PC Review - -

Gameplay 7.0
Graphics 9.0
Sound 8.9
Value 7.9
Developer: Atari Australia
Review Date:
January 2008
Edwin Millheim
Classification: MA15+


The Witcher

Game reviewed on an Alienware system

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The Witcher  the game is set in a world created by best-selling Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, The game combines action and an intriguing storyline.  The player takes on the role of a Witcher, a warrior who has been trained to fight since childhood, subjected to mutations and trials that have transformed them into what some common folk may call freaks. Earning a living in the world as a monster hunter keeps things at least interesting.

The character is a member of a brotherhood founded long ago to protect people from werewolves, the undead and other monsters. (Hmmm sounds familiar, sort of like Van Helsing.)  The story moves along with cut scenes and of course talking to characters, by way of using the tried and true method of choosing dialog the player character wants to use. Most of the time the story advances with at least some logical sense, with only one glaring jolt forward that can leave the player a bit disoriented.  There is a part where as the story is moving along, all of a sudden the player character is in some city or town, along with some other characters. All of a sudden the hero is called upon to fight off some really mean looking green dogs.  What the heck?  So much for planning and story content.

The game uses advanced graphics and physics systems mixing action and RPG options and character configuration and a not too shabby story line. The story line itself is actually fun from a sword and sorcery fantasy perspective and does keep the interest up.

The Witcher is not anything that breaks grounds by any means.  It is a sometimes satisfying romp into yet another sword and sorcery type world. Even after the much needed patches the game is hindered with load time after load time and cut scenes that are a bit slow on lower end systems. Enter a new area you get some loading, enter or exit a building and hot dog you get some load times. If you have a higher end system with plenty of memory, the load times are not that bad at all.  On a machine that just makes requirements the load times where rather long. (The Gateway computer could not run this very well to save its little mother board, a Dell system ran it better, but we got the best over all performance on a quad core system from Alienware with some levels opening and loading in 15 seconds or less.) Cities and towns are really pretty well done and actually has the look of someone actually living there.  Outdoor areas are pretty believable and pretty nice looking, so much so you may spend some time just exploring a bit to get a look at things. I know I enjoyed just looking around a bit.

Now I understand with so many configurations on the market for the personal computer it's just not possible to test every single type. I also know from a past interview with different design houses, just how many game bugs get squashed in a game before release so it can be truly mind boggling. But how can testers miss so many crashes? The much needed patch seems to work some what, so make sure to patch your game and hope for the best. Reload and load times are immense, and I have not really decided as to if it is because of the graphics or just code that is not optimized very well. There is no real evidence of on any nasty memory leaks, something like that can cause a program's dynamic store allocation logic to fail to reclaim memory in the heap after it's finished using it, which in turn can cause the program to just out and out crash when it runs out of memory. These days with newer systems if you run out of virtual memory there are real problems. As I say I am no computer programmer and most times any crash is more often than not diagnosed as a memory leak. But this blanket term is often miss used,

Getting past these there are some things I feel a bit cheated on, first off it seems that over here on this side of the big pond, we have the censored version. Or at least the community boards and gaming boards are all a buzz, the original version from some reports and reader groups state that there is a version with some more realistic adult language and nudity. It would have been nice as a consumer to not have the choice between the two versions or standard parental controls to phase out adult themes as needed. But that is of course just a small personal choice gripe really. Not having access to the alleged different version, I am not so sure I am missing anything really. The game surprisingly drew me in, even though I have some gripes about the combat system.  Understand at press time we could not confirm for a fact that there are two different versions.

Now let's dip into this rather impressive game shall we? Graphics in the game are not the next best thing since diet soda or Velcro, but still none the less impressive.  Ambient surroundings are pretty cool with deep shadows, beautiful skies and cool things like flocks of birds. Of course all the beautiful graphics in the world cannot outweigh the load times that bring a players immersive fun to a hard drive spinning halt. Even middle of the road machines had a bit of a hard time with The Witcher, the Alienware system as noted performed like a champ bringing the game world to all its glorious life.

The combat in the game is pretty interesting. There is a kind of chain attack system that lends itself well to the story line and of course the fighting, and making the character pretty cool in a fight. Once you get used to the system. In the beginning the fighting can be rather cumbersome and very much non responsive until you get the ideas of OH hold the mouse button down, don't just click it. Mix it up with sort of timed clicking and you will be swinging the sword to beat the band, or what ever other enemy is in front of you. Clicking at just the right time when the mouse cursor changes can trigger an even better attack combo.  Holding the mouse cursor over the intended target the mouse cursor icon changes ever so slightly to a sword with flames around it, this is the best time to hold the mouse button down for chain attack.  There are a few different styles in the game that The Witcher can use and some are more suited for heavy armored enemy, and then of course a loser faster style is for those enemy that are a bit more nimble. With this combat system I felt like I was just more or less along for the ride in this point and click world, it just does not feel like fighting to me. Well it does get involved when there are multiple opponents; I never did get the feeling I was this bad ass that had earned a reputation as a killer of evil though.

At a lower difficulty level there is not much of a challenge, and where is the fun in that?  It is suggested to try playing the game at a hard difficulty to keep things interesting and this also gives the player more to lose. Too many times I have played a game where it was too easy. There was never any danger of the character dying and having to start over at some point.

The inventory system is the standard fare as fantasy style games go, though in some respects a little cleaner. Potions and other items can be accessed and used with a fast mouse click. I prefer to use the mix of mouse and keyboard for best results. The best choice by the designers was keeping quest items separated from other items.  I just found this less worrisome in the heat of things to not have to be careful to not drop anything important.  I love browsing and checking out what I can use in any of my quest situations. Players will find themselves using a lot of potions during higher difficulty levels, so make sure to use them wisely.

Sound and voice acting is surprisingly fitting. Lip sync to the character animations are not all that great, but not overly distracting.  I freely admit I started out not liking this game and was prepared for the worse; it was the voice acting and the cut scenes that drew me in and made me want to play more and to also interact more with the characters, especially the more buxom sword and sorcery babes.

If you snag the game, make bloody sure you have the computer power to run it. I don't want to hear any gripes. Check the specs gamers! Take it for its words of wisdom. They know what will run the game. Plus, check for the patches, without the patches it tended to crash a lot, with the patches it crashes a lot less. Perhaps there are more patches in the games future. One last thing, Impulse Gamers, if you play the demo first,  (which by the way is a very generous amount of game time for just the demo alone.) and then you get the full game, make sure you completely delete the demo off of the hard drive before loading the full game. I unnamed friend some how messed their game saves up by using the demo saves in the full game.  You guessed it the game went caplooey.

The Witcher is one of those games that an Impulse Gamer will very much enjoy. (If you have the computer power) Grab your sword, and get ready to cast some sighs to get your through the dark of night and recover what was stolen from you in the game.  Sorry, no spoilers here.

The game reminds me a bit of Fable only with more attitudes and oh so much darker. So there you have it my fellow Impulse Gamers. Get ready to spend some hours on this one. I know I tended to balance a bit back and forth from gripes to likes, but The Witcher is one of those games that will be played for a long wile. Even longer with a patch or two more to shore up some crashes and stabilize it.

Have fun, play games
Edwin Millhem



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