I spent 5$ this week and put myself to work on a game that began the trilogy.
When I was first introduced to the witcher series, I was much already enticed by role-playing games like Mass Effect and Elder Scrolls, so it’s reason for not being in that same triumverate was due to the fact that most of my time was consumed by World of Warcraft. Judging the book by it’s cover, I found intricate art-styles that remind me of some of my favorite medieval games, and it had the fantasy like no other. I cannot say that Witcher is the long lost treasure I had been missing but it definitely added to or capitalized on the best features of role-playing games. Considering the cost, I couldn’t see any better way than to play Chapter one of the visualization of the Witcher series and give my thoughts to you. How gracious of me.
I’ve been hearing recently, or have been trying, to define things not by their faults, so forgive me for the change in pace.
Witcher begins it’s tale with a quite riveting and lengthy intro trailer. Along with the enhanced edition, i received some extras including a text translation of the whole video which had me feeling like I did before Wrath of the Lich King was released. Having text to the exact video I was watching made me immediately invested to the story. Reading gave so much context to the Witcher world. filled with magics, witches, and scoundrels alike.
I was immediately taken back when I woke up on a cart to begin my journey, nearly escaping death and a large case of amnesia can do that though. My expert knowledge of one scene would have to wait like a episode of Game of thrones, but I was patient due to incoming danger. Witcher throws you right into the action, with a rag-tag group of witchers and a mage who peaks the love interest category immediately as much as she does her suit….sex. When the dust settled and my enemy was made clear, I gathered in the fire, as I found I would often do, and honed my skills as quick as I could. Just having learned the combat, I already had used a few potions but had the options now of creating them myself. Though poison to others, these alchemic potions varied on their usage not only against certain monsters, but also the difficulty, ranging from pointless in the easiest and crucial in the hardest.
The story of witcher is nothing like your typical, “gonna be the very best”. From the start, you are a renown witcher, so that idea is all but moot, but you still have a meander of abilities to choose from for every bronze talent you earn. I honestly couldn’t keep up with how many points I had,so I rather chose to save them until I needed them in the particular part of the story. I wanted to focus on alchemy, but gathering materials would take much more than I expected. When i finally did gather them, my base was too weak, and I had to find out through quests what that meant. This was rather frustrating because I spent talent points, grinded through enemies for money and talked my way to get the recipes I needed to face my monster, but still could not create what I needed. In the end of chapter one, I couldn’t make my potion because the only people I could talk to remind me of the lengthy descriptions or to purchase the materials either died or moved to locations never to be found again. Pushing through the main story line, I noticed the game was punishing to those who avoided side-quests, which is understandable to a small degree, but not to the point Witcher does in Chapter 1.
I was forced to rely on my extra talent points to level my skills, but they seemed to prove unhelpful in most cases. Talent trees in Witcher seem to veer off from story based to complete randomness and then refuse to let you go further in them if you get to far. Having close to 20 points, I found myself stopping at a lot of talent trees because the talents were simply unexplained to me at that point in the story. while I would love to create oils, I had no idea what that meant because there was no herbalism tutorial. In fact, it wasn’t until I read the guide and it was too late that I could unlock the herbalism talent, and even then, affording the book to understand the herbs was too expensive. Also, unlocking talents would mean you would have to meditate, and while that was a neat concept, most interactions push you forward into the action and trap you before you can access the meditate option in the text. Which ultimately became an awkward choice in a role-playing game, asking to meditate from someone in their house because fires were sparse in Witcher.
The Witcher was brilliantly created for its time and all bugs seem to have been non-existent. In a whole day of playing, I only had one crash with little frustration because of how useful the Auto-Save feature is. It was nice to not have to break from the story to save. However, I feel like interactions in the beginning could do a lot to be less awkward and punishing, the most punishing being loading screens. Entering the first “boss” area for the salamander’s tail quest, I was immediately surrounded, attacked, and knocked down to half health before I could unsheathe my sword after a loading screen. Attempting to “Fus-Ro’Dah” would do nothing because I was cornered and the direction of the force push would selective of who I targeted as apposed to the direction I faced. I got lucky and dodge rolled myself out and was able to knock down/disarm three of the people, but was still on my last bits of health to survive. Potions could/would have been an option, but these folks have already disappeared for sections of the story yet to come. The amount of times I had got lucky due to randomness made winning these combat interactions awfully awkward and unfairly hard, as I spent a great deal of time being almost killed in easily winnable situations.
Combat (250 animations looking like I’m casting a harry potter spell)
While I love having guides to these open world games, Witcher’s guide rather avoids having you be completely successful your first time around and could be quite linear at times. I died a countless amount of times when i was forced to drink against fat Odo, because of the wording the guide had. While the guide told you to drink to negotiate your price and face the predatory plants, the note to unlock the “drunken strength” talent was displayed afterword and had little usefulness for me. Being completely new to the game, I drank and was immediately pushed outside, stumbling sluggish until I armed myself. Once I entered combat, I seemed to gain balance but lost all ability to deal damage, despite my new, extremely quest based, talent. I had to go back, repeat my interaction with Odo, and break to meditate. Even then, the monsters could shoot at me long range and almost kill me before my sword could touch them. My spells did nothing but to slow or stop my combat, which was quite odd as I figured giant plant monsters would be weak to fire, or at least enough to make it worth casting. Swordplay, while unique and slightly unpredictable, was fun and the finishers saved me a countless amount of times. However, these sequences did little to stop mobs of enemies from attacking me, making any random finishing moves with animations a risk. Even with eating food or drinking potions, the animation that had you doing them would have you slashed down to half health before you finished. Witcher wants you to drink your potions beforehand, which makes sense for stat-based potions, but I found that even food became this useless item in my inventory because of how slow it and ineffectively it boosts your regeneration. I could understand this in the later chapters, but not in Chapter 1.
Text (why in role-playing does text have to be so long and have so much text that you get so bored with it..LIKE THIS)
The text in this game is rather planned in the Witcher, which makes for a lot for a lot of conversations that don’t really add to the story. Because it existed in text form long before, it’s not surprising that they expected some prior knowledge but even still, Witcher doesn’t force a story down your throat, the only exception being showing my eternal fire ring and intimate scene. Coming from an entirely non-dev standpoint, it would’ve been best just to remove those, “look at my finger” cut-scenes. Also, Witcher doesn’t go out of it’s way like Mass Effect to make intimacy an impossibility. Rather you are given two choices in text, sex or no sex. I know my German is rough but basically that’s what it felt like. The last issue I had with text was the use in items. Descriptions were either too long, or did little to provide you with anything more than a meander or items which gave no visual descriptions. I’m not saying a ham sandwich didn’t look like a ham sandwich, but potions, scroll, and books started to look exactly the same, which made for a lot of clutter and mouse over to find out what I had.
Verdict (To be Determined) 6/10?
I would say spoiler alert, but it has been like 8 years so……well I did it anyway
Finishing Act 1 had a way of tying the story up with sex, death, and relationship building, so I can’t say that it was all bad. However, the last fight scene had me stumped and ultimately stuck to the point of no return. Banding with the witch against the townspeople or not, I was gonna face the demon dogs anyway. Once again beginning the fight I was already missing a chunk of health and the witch was dead from minions killing her before the loading screen could finish. This happened 3 or four times until I mastered killing the minions with an immediate spell-cast but still couldn’t face the dog on my own, lacking the potions and the sword upgrade the guide refused to mention. As there is no way to prepare or break for the fight, I was stuck in the circle of fire. Luckily….or rather due to the bug gods of game development. I did a force push which killed all my enemies in one fell swoop. I had no idea what happened but I guess it was lucky because I thought I would have to restart the game. It definitely left a sour feeling before the end, and with everyone i just met being dead, I just moved forward and skipped the side-quests. For Chapter 1 I felt punished for progressing in the story, which is an odd feeling.