Something I’ve been lamenting lately has been a general lack of new CRPGs on the PC. Now, before you say anything, I know full well that there are plenty of decent RPGs or Hybrids to be played on multiple platforms. Mass Effect on the Xbox 360 or BioShock on 360 and PC, for example. Now, to me, that’s all well and good but there comes a time when a geek like me needs something new, but also old, in the same experience. A time for classic role-playing games.
Which is why I’ve been following The Witcher quite closely for the past few months. Well, actually I’ve been following it pretty much since I finished Oblivion and have been hoping that it would be the game to tide me over and satisfy my PC RPG needs until Fallout 3 comes out next year.
In premiseThe Witcher has a lot going for it. Set in a medieval fantasy world, it’s an open-ended epic story about a single man and how he approaches the business of…um, witchering. Witchers are actually just the usual monster killers and hero-types, so why they’re called Witchers and not just monster hunters I don’t know.
The Witcher is a truly epic story, click to enlarge
That’s just in premise though and, while we could judge a game just on the premise and initial appeal, we like to take things a little bit more seriously than that if we can. Which is why I forced myself to endure 45 minute install times, 20 minutes of patch downloading on a semi-broken Internet connection and some of the most infuriating packaging I’ve come across in a long while.
I don’t do that for everyone mind – only for you, loyal readers will I put up with such annoyances. Only for you do I go through these great woes. So let’s make it more than a wasted effort and get on with the rest of the review then, shall we?
The game doesn’t open too fluidly and even after the mammoth install time I still had to watch a lengthy cutscene which seemed to have no immediate relevance to anything at all. In fact, not only did the cutscene have no relevance at all – it tells the story of one of the main character's most famous jobs – but no sooner has it finished than we are introduced to the main character, who is now suffering from amnesia.
Click to enlarge
Turns out that said character, a Witcher by the name of Geralt, has been presumed dead for a fair while when he is found in the woods by some fellow Witchers who take him back to the groups stronghold. Here we are introduced to the various different mechanics of the game in an extended tutorial sequence which lets players get to grips with the game at the same time as learning a little about the in-game lore.
The Witchers, once a powerful and feared group of heroes for hire, are now reduced to a small number of very old and very young men and a single sorceress who all eek out a meagre existence in a ruined castle after the Witchers were hunted down and almost wiped out. Why? Because the Witchers are a little less than human, using an advanced understanding of science and alchemy to create various mutagens and the like.
Geralt doesn’t get chance to catch up on all the gossip though because before he even has chance to start seducing the resident sorceress (that comes later) the castle is attacked and the Witchers are once again on the defensive.