A Paladin’s Review: The Witcher (1). You Face The Might of The Salamandra! Or Maybe Just A Badly Aging Combat System.

The Witcher (Enhanced Edition)

The Witcher (Enhanced Edition)

At long last, my review of the original Witcher is available for your perusal.

I’m going to be a little honest, I’m a little uncertain about this review. It’s 6,000+ words long (Witcher 2 was about 4,500) and I’m, well, feeling some nerves about this one. I put a lot of work into it. So, I hope it’s as good as I think it is. If not, well, you know where to put your comments. Thanks for reading, it means a lot.

Read and rate my review on Steam!

Read my review of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition.

A Paladin’s Review: The Witcher (1). You Face The Might of The Salamandra! Or Maybe Just A Badly Aging Combat System.

  • Genre: 3rd Person/Top Down Perspective Western RPG with in-depth conversation & story as well as tactical melee combat.
  • Developed and Published by: CDProjectRed
  • Platform: Windows and Mac OSX.
  • Business Model: Base Game
  • Copy Purchased by Myself

Preamble

It’s funny, even when I finished what I felt was a satisfactory review of The Witcher 2, I realized later that I had still missed some things. There was some game mechanics or story elements that I should have talked about. However, there’s not much I can do about it other than striving to do a better job. I originally played The Witcher 1 and completed it in June 2013. I wasn’t really reviewing games at the time as I was busy with college. So, after I finished it, I set it aside and moved on to The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. Fast forward to 2015 and I published my review of The Witcher 2. I knew then that I would have to do a review of TW1 and The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt at some point. Boy, what a daunting task that was to think about. Still, I think it’s worth doing and I have a lot of thoughts on this unique series despite all of its flaws. I’ve been replaying TW1 to refresh my memory on the game as well as taking the time to complete the community created adventures. I remember most of it and it quickly came back to me as I played it out. After all, The Witcher 1 was developed in a different time.

To tackle such a complex genre with such a complex world as The Witcher series took some serious guts from the developers. Even more so when you consider that this is their first game as a company. I can’t help but give them respect for taking such a chance. Still, I’m here to discuss whether this is worth playing now. If playing this game is worth building up to The Witcher 3. To be honest, I don’t think it is. It’s got some pretty grievous flaws that make it hard to recommend but let’s get to it. Here are my thoughts on The Witcher 1: Enhanced Edition by CDProjectRed.

Official CDProjectRed wallpaper for this game. It was almost the cover image for this review.

Official CDProjectRed wallpaper. It was almost the cover image for this review.

Overall Gameplay Thoughts

The Witcher 1 stands out from the traditional RPG with its combination of top-down and 3rd person viewpoints, unusual point-and-click style combat system and fully voice acted dark fantasy storyline. There are seven chapters in the main campaign including the prologue and epilogue. Each chapter of the game is a set of large areas connected to each other with buildings that can be accessed, NPCs to chat with, caves to explore, plants to pick up and monsters to interact with. The levels serve to both guide the player along the scripted, almost linear campaign while remaining open enough to allow the player a wide degree of choice and freedom in exploration. Generally, there’s a main hub area that gives the player access to an inn, blacksmith, shops and quest givers for the entire chapter. These hubs are connected to several different areas that can be traveled to and from during the entire chapter. It should be noted that you’re not allowed to go back to previous areas after you’ve finished a chapter nor are you allowed to visit any future areas before you’ve finished the main objective(s). The individual chapters can take a significant amount of time to complete, around five hours or so at a guess, especially if you’re a completionist. I’ve put in over sixty hours between the GOG and Steam versions though some of that time was spent on the community levels. Either way, it’s not something to be finished quickly.

The throne of a long-dead realm.

The throne of a long-dead realm.

The general gameplay pace of Witcher is to converse with NPCs, explore the area, find quests to complete, prepare for the upcoming fight against variety of humanoids and creatures, converse some more and complete quests. TW1 has a significant preparation system which requires you to research the objective to be dealt with before tackling it. This can range from killing similar monsters to reading books about them, learning what their strengths and weaknesses are in the process. Once you’ve learned about the objective, you’ll want to gather the correct potions, blade oils, bombs and quest items that will help deal with it. It’s a pretty cool system but gets a little overly repetitive and I wish it was a little bit more personally involved for the player. Far too much of it is: buy and read book -> find quest item to deal with creature -> drink the same potions and win. But more on potion problems later.

TW1 is based on a series of books by the same name but you won’t need to read them to understand what’s going on. You’ll be as confused and off balance by the events going on as Geralt is either way. As I understand it, the books do add a certain amount of context to the world and some of the characters you’ll meet. However, the videogame series is considered non-canon and contains a number of story & changed characters from the book series. So, it’s debatable that you need that context to begin with.

The glossary

The glossary

Story & Pacing

The world and plot of the Witcher is a complex and dark tale tied into the mythos and tales of Eastern Europe. It’s filled with complex characters with a range of motivations that aren’t always as light or dark as they may first appear. There is a glossary full of terms and names associated with people, animals and locations in this RPG. People will refer to these often and it can be overwhelming at times to keep things straight though not as much as in TW2. It’s not entirely important that you remember each and every name as there is a glossary to help you out. However, it doesn’t hurt to start picking up on them. The dialogue is very modern with some quirky usage of the English language as I think the lines weren’t quite translated perfectly. Throughout the main campaign, there’ll be a lot of gray choices to make and for the most part, they managed to make the choices pretty difficult or at least there were some unintended consequences to choices I had made.

Well, this conversation is off to a fantastic start.

Well, this conversation is off to a fantastic start.

The story begins with Geralt of Rivia being discovered, injured and alone in a forest, by a group of Witchers. Witchers are monster slayers for hire, humans who have gone through intense training and mutation to become what they are. Unfortunately, there aren’t very many Witchers left in the world. There’s a hinted at force that seems to be killing them off as best as it can. However, Witchers and Geralt in particular have a particular standing with everyone that causes them to both fear and respect them. That doesn’t mean you’ll be able to go everywhere but your progress will rarely be impeded by guards or other such obstacles like a vanilla human would be. Geralt has amnesia, a convenient thing for the player, and is unable to remember anything before being found. He remembers his skills to a degree but has lost his memory of characters he had met before. After being brought back to health in Kaer Morhen, the Witcher’s Fortress, by Triss Merigold, a sorceress who’s a counselor to King Foltest (King of Temeria, the land Kaer Morhen is nearby), the Witchers are attacked by an unknown group. Confused or lost yet? Yea, this is essentially the opening sequence to the game. After a few short cutscenes, it drops you right into combat against this group of bandits without a lot of world context, giving you fairly basic tutorials as you go along. The bandit’s target is eventually determined to be the Witchers’ secrets and “mutagens” which the Witchers attempt to stop. Unfortunately, the bandits make off with the secrets but not before killing one of the young witchers. Afterwards, the Witchers part ways to the four corners of the world to discover who’s behind the theft and put a stop to bandits (figured out to be a gang called the Salamandra), permanently. Geralt goes to Temeria where the majority of the game will take place in and around its capital, a city called Vizima.

Just another merchant.

Just another merchant near Vizima.

The pacing to this game is a large mess. After being dropped unceremoniously into the story, the game does slow down a bit to let you catch your breath. On the outskirts of Vizima, the villagers are under attack by a magical beast. Geralt must discover who’s behind it and learn more about Salamandra. This chapter is decently paced to give players access to the majority of the mechanics TW1 has before it tries to eat them alive. After a fairly exciting conclusion to the chapter, things slow down in chapters two through three as Geralt gains access to Vizima itself. In chapter two, Geralt is allowed access to the Temple Quarter, which houses a lot of the poor and non-human populations. In this chapter, Geralt interacts with new factions (The Flaming Rose and the Scoia’tael) while trying to find out more about Salamandra. In chapter three, Geralt is allowed access to the Trade Quarter which has a lot more rich people and politicians housed. These two chapters slow down the pace as it there are a lot of fetch quests to complete, even if you only focus on the main storyline quests. You will run back and forth across Vizima delivering items, finding some person to learn something about somebody else and discovering secrets to hide outs. I hope you wanted to become intimate with Vizima’s streets because you will by the beginning of chapter three. I have the entire place memorized in my head down to the exact location of NPCs and where they tend to hang out. Sure, there’s some witching to be done in the sewers and cemetery, but there’s not nearly enough to keep things from getting dull. Chapter four does try to ramp things up by putting Geralt far from Vizima in Lakeside country, a place with a lot more mythical creatures where he must choose a side or remain neutral between two different factions as well as discover the mystery of the Lady of the Lake. Being teleported to Lakeside was a breath of fresh air because being stuck in Vizima for two chapters was too long. But even as you get to experience this new area, be parepared to return to Vizima in Chapter five. Geralt returns to deal with the factions fighting each other and putting a stop to the Salamandra once and for all. The epilogue tries to finish things on a high note (which I won’t spoil) but chapter five is a long slog of combat and the ending feels a bit rushed, so it’s more of a chore and anti-climactic instead.

Everything may or may not burn towards the end of the game. It's not my fault.

Everything may or may not burn towards the end of the game. It’s not my fault.

While the story is the stronger part of The Witcher 1 and its characters and dark fantasy storylines try to keep things interesting the entire time, it can still feel like a slog at times. That’s not helped with the uninteresting combat system and fetch-a-thon quests. The pacing means you should be prepared to be in this game for the long haul and a slow, methodical tempo. I think it was a mistake to have the game stay in Vizima for two chapters. Sure, there’s the swamp and other locations Geralt can travel to but I started to get really tired of seeing the same old buildings and streets as I traveled between quest givers. Combine that with the end chapters being a long slug-a-thon and well, I’m not sure what else can be said. It’s fun at times but there are other times when I was getting tired of it.

Combat Mechanics, Swords and Signs’ Usefulness

The worst part about the Witcher is the combat. Think of it as a slightly advanced version of point-and-click combat with spells and swordplay. It’s a system that hasn’t aged well at all and can be really frustrating at times. (I’m really glad this system was dropped in the sequels). I understand the general idea of what they were going for in this game. They wanted to show Geralt as a swordsman who’s very agile and lithe when fighting, as described in the books. However, the result is a lot of watching Geralt flail and dance in the same spot through complex sword moves as numbers go up the screen. So much of this combat system lacks feedback when dishing out blows or having blows dished out to Geralt. The animations and actual landing of blows feel slightly out of sync, stiff and far too unresponsive to be enjoyable. Worse, the continual standing there and dishing out blows without moving around is a big disconnect from the in-game lore (and opening cutscene) of witchers. Most of the fights are often long attrition fights, constant spamming of attacks and spells until someone finally runs out of HP. Though I found that was often myself running out of HP. How combat works is that Geralt goes up to a targeted enemy and then you click in successive hit chains when the icon’s sword graphic is sheathed in flames. If your timing is off, the chain is broken, Geralt will probably take damage and you have to start the chain all over again. (This is extremely repetitive because it happens so often due to many enemies have their own form of stuns or crowd control attacks). Each sword style has a three to six hit chains that do more damage the higher in the hit chain you go. It’s the most effective way to fight and as such means you’ll be doing it a lot. The vast majority of your battles are going to be the same, repetitive actions of clicking, throwing the occasional sign, maybe some dodging and then clicking some more. It’s more of a chore than actually being fun, especially when taken in context of the entire fifty or so hours you’ll end up playing it.

13724298811621244928_2015-08-25_00002

Combat with the Yrden trap. It’s pathetically small really, most enemies just walk right by it.

As Geralt, you’re equipped with two different type of swords: the silver witcher sword designed to combat monsters and a steel sword for humans. In the game, this just gives flavor to the sword fighting styles and Geralt will run around with two swords on his back. How you use them is still essentially the same. Though it can be annoying to deal with because Geralt won’t automatically unsheath the right sword for the right enemy, requiring you to wait for the animation finish and then select the right sword, giving enemies plenty of time to attack. Those two swords come with three distinct Witcher fighting styles. Strong, fast and group attacks, which are pretty self-explanatory. Strong is for one on one combat with bigger, more powerful enemies. Fast is for swift blows on agile fighters. Group is for large groups of enemies where Geralt deals out large circular attacks. The game will indicate that the stance you’re in is wrong when you’re unable to land a successive string of blows on the target. You’ll find yourself switching between the three styles many times. The three styles change up the animations which at least keeps the combat visually different all of the time instead of the same repetitive motions. Unfortunately, they don’t change how players click buttons so there’s a disconnect between what Geralt and the player is doing. One odd thing about Geralt is that he also runs around with two tertiary weapons which can include axes, hatchets and daggers. I never used these weapons because they generally did less damage than his swords and you can’t use the Witcher styles to do even more damage or even improve his proficiency with them through talents. They’re a strange addition and their purpose seems entirely pointless. This is even more apparent by their complete absence in the sequels. Geralt does have dodges but you’ll rarely need to use them except to try and escape from a corner. Though this means Geralt will sometimes take damage from enemies anyway. He also has a parry but it’s entirely automated, though you’ll be hard pressed to see Geralt actually parry anything as his animations rarely show them.

One of the more...unique bosses in this game.

One of the more…unique bosses in this game.

Geralt is also equipped with five Signs, low-tier magical spells that require a certain amount of endurance to cast. Igni, a fire spell throws a blast of flame in a wide cone in front of Geralt, is the sign you’ll end up using the most. It does a lot of damage as well as sets targets and campfires on fire. It’s also the most convenient and quickest spell to pull off. Aard is probably the second most useful sign, as it uses a telekinetic blast to knock enemies over and blast through obstacles. It’s also fast to cast and can sometime stun enemies, allowing Geralt to use takedown moves. Yrden creates a trap on the ground that, if enemies try to cross over it, knocks them back and do damage. There’s a chance of inflicting status ailments too but honestly I rarely used this sign. That was mostly because it takes a long time to cast and getting enemies to cross traps was more aggravation than it was worth. Quen creates a temporary magical shield that, in theory, will be used to give Geralt some breathing room and regenerate vitality or imbibe a potion. It goes away as soon as Geralt attacks an enemy and is decently useful. Axii signs allow Geralt to mind control enemies for a short time. It’s also one of the slowest signs to cast and leaves him vulnerable to counterattack. In theory, it should give the player more even odds when facing hordes of enemies. I didn’t bother using it because damage breaks the connection and the long cast time was simply too much to be useful. Overall, I felt that signs were an interesting mechanic but I often used Igni and Aard to win the majority of the fights. There also wasn’t any incentive to use the other signs and they often took too long to cast.

Sometimes you'll run across strange creatures, who you can't attack I might add.

Sometimes you’ll run across strange creatures that run around in the background.

Alchemy and Experience

Part of the preparation system in this game is the alchemy. Alchemy is where Geralt can create potions and blade oils that enhance himself and his weapons. Once you’ve learned a potion from reading a recipe or another character, you’ll need to assemble a variety of ingredients. Those ingredients can either be bought or looted from creatures except for one ingredient that’s required for all of them: alcohol. You’ll need a good alcohol base depending on the potion you create. Alcohol can be found in houses and boxes though you’ll probably end up buying a lot of them from tavern keepers. After assembling all of the ingredients required for the potions, Geralt needs to meditate at a fire where he can assemble as many potions as he wants. It requires at least one hour of rest in order to make a potion(s). The most common potion I ever created was Swallow which quickly regenerates your vitality. This potion is essential to survive many of the brutal fights this game presents to the point that it’s broken. Tawny Owl, which quickly regenerates your vitality, is almost as essential to have. Cat, which lets you see in the dark, stands up there as most used as well because so many of the places you’ll be going into are very, very, very dark. All potions last for a rather generous amount of time of up to eight hours of in-game time. Which is useful and far less gamey compared to the potions in TW2 which last five to ten minutes. That said, there’s a limit to how many buffs you can get from potions. The more you imbibe, the more toxicity builds up in Geralt’s body. Too much toxicity can chew away at his health and affect the screen. So, that’s why Swallow and Tawny are so important due to this limit. For the most part though, I really liked the alchemy system and how the inventory separates the items from your usual stuff. I think it could use quite a few improvements as I feel some potions are just too powerful to not have.

While the UI is pretty ugly, it's usable.

While the UI is pretty ugly, it’s usable.

There is an experience system with a fairly complex talent system. Every time Geralt levels up, he gets a certain amount of bronze, silver and gold talents depending on what level he’s at. These talents can then be applied to improving attributes (strength, intelligence, etc), the five signs or his individual sword styles with either sword. Each style has its own tree of talents so there’s a crazy amount of choice. To the point that it’s a little overwhelming to figure out what should be leveled. The only suggestion I have is to figure out what you think is most important. My suggestion is to improve your sword skills and Geralt’s stats so that he can get through fights easier. For the most part, each tree is a flat upgrade with very little trade-off. The only significant trade off is that you might not improve a skill that you may end up wanting later down the line. It’s not bad.

Living in the World of The Witcher

Perhaps what’s most surprising about The Witcher is that the NPCs move around and there’s a dynamic weather system. NPCs have their own routines and will walk to specific locations depending on the time of day. Guards will patrol the city during the day, NPCs will shmooze at parties during the night and innkeepers will pace around their establishment. Quest givers will often travel to their place of work and back home. It all combines nicely with the dynamic weather system and day/night cycle. When its raining outside, people will run to the cover of nearby roofs. When it’s dark out, they’ll go to sleep in their own beds. It isn’t flawless or in-depth by any means. NPCs can sometimes get stuck in doors and they won’t always respond to current weather conditions. Often times, I would load into a level only to see a mad dash of NPCs running for roofs, even if it has been raining for hours. It can be a bit amusing to see that behavior. It’s a decent attempt at making the world seem real, that not everyone stands around waiting for Geralt to arrive and brighten their lives. (Especially when in some cases, he’s quite capable of ruining it). However, it very rarely affects how NPCs interact with Geralt and they’ll usually act the same whether it’s the middle of the night or early afternoon. Even if you visited the local blacksmith at his house at 3 in the morning, he won’t even acknowledge the creepy act. It’s a little odd but also a traditional RPG mechanic, so I’ll let it slide. If you don’t know where an NPC is, you can check either the glossary or the quest tracker to see where they’re at. Day and night not only affects the locations of NPCs but what you can do. While the daytime is dominated by NPCs and peaceful areas, at night the monsters come out and Geralt can practice his craft. Quests can sometimes be picked up or completed at certain times of day. It makes it worthwhile to explore places both during the day and at night.

He does sorta get stuck and then unsticks himself.

He does sorta get stuck and then unsticks himself.

There are some mini-games to break up the usual sword play and questing. Those are: fist fighting, dice poker, drinking games and collecting sex romance cards. I’ll come back to those cards in a bit. The fist fighting isn’t explained very well but all you have to do is punch people repeatedly, when there isn’t a star poking out of the fist icon, until the brawler goes down in a flurry of unconvincing animations. You can block blows swung at you but the animations are imprecise so you’re better off wasting them before they put you down. It’s really just a watered down version of the sword fighting making for a pretty dull and lifeless mini-game. TW2 does it better with its quick-time-events version but even that system isn’t the most engaging as it doesn’t change from fight to fight. Dice poker, on the other hand, is better in TW1 than TW2. It’s the same rules where you throw dice twice on a board trying to get the best combinations or runs of numbers to win a 2 out of 3 series. What’s different in this game is that you can have much higher bets (especially with veteran dice players) which increases the tension of these bets significantly. Nothing is quite so nail biting than knowing that this bet could bankrupt Geralt. Sure, he can make that money back through his trade but that will take time. Otherwise, it’s fairly mindless while letting you soak in the inn’s atmosphere.

Dice poker at least breaks the game up with some random chance and strategy.

Dice poker at least breaks the game up with some random chance and strategy.

Then there’s the romance cards/sex “missions”. After you do a bunch of nice things or make the right dialogue choices for certain women, (or pay a hooker), you’ll get “rewarded” with a cutscene with a card placed over it with the woman half or mostly naked. This is such an odd and gamey system that you almost have to laugh at it. I mean, a card? Really? That’s the best we could come up with? I mean sure, the engine probably wasn’t suited to showing off lavish sex scenes but the cards thing isn’t the way I would have gone. I would have had the whole thing cut to black while winking and nodding at the player that you both know what’s going on. The drinking contests are straightforward. You drink until you drop dead and the game ends. Ok, ok, you buy drinks from the nearby waitress and give them to the other guy until he can no longer take it. Once you’re both shambling and stumbling around, the person usually gives Geralt something important related to the quest he’s on. This also affects your vision and ability to fight (reduces your dodge and attack power) for a little while. It’s a fairly expensive mini-game and sometimes you’ll need to find the liquor they prefer. Otherwise, it’s also pretty brainless. In general, the mini-games add some flavor to the Witcher universe but don’t expect anything thrilling or challenging to really break up the pace.

One of the more interesting characters in the game.

A Dryad of the Swamp if I remember correctly.

PC Settings and The Multitude of Technical Problems

The Witcher 1 has a fairly plentiful selection of options to customize your witching experience. Visual options include anisotropic filtering from 2x to 16x, anti-aliasing up to 4x (I’m not sure what AA they used), a good selection of resolution options, depth of field on/off and fullscreen on/off. Lighting, texture, shadow and grass quality have low/med/high sliders in addition to sliders for visibility range and the number of small animals on screen. View distance is perhaps the most performance demanding as I had a hard time keeping the game at a solid 60FPS when the rain was coming down or there was a battle going on. Setting it to medium has the unfortunate side effect of creating a lot of fog in the nearby hills. The game also had continually little loading pauses when I was running around the place. There are good sound options as well. Master, music, battle music, voice, and environment effects all have volume sliders that can be adjusted for your preference. There’s even a disable all sound option. Subtitles and voice overs can be changed to a selection of several different languages. All keyboard controls can be remapped and even assigned a secondary button if desired. Autosave, tutorials, combat feedback, subtitles and more can be turned on or off. While Witcher 2 and 3 support controllers, the first Witcher doesn’t.

9571565469366747136_2015-08-21_00011

There’s a large number of problems you should consider before tackling this RPG. V-sync has to be forced through your graphics driver and in order to prevent screen tearing, triple buffering will need to be forced as well. When starting the game through the launcher, you might run into a window that says the minimum system requirements aren’t met, even if you’re on a machine that far exceeds the minimum system requirements. This issue appears to only affect Windows 7 and above rigs, which seems to indicate there’s a compatibility issue with systems that aren’t running XP or Vista. To bypass this, [url=http://pcgamingwiki.com/wiki/The_Witcher#Minimum_System_Requirements_Not_Met] you’ll need to modify the shortcut to bypass this check[/url]. Unfortunately, this can also cause the anti-aliasing and texture quality sliders to bug out and the resolutions to be restricted to a small and unusual selection. This can be fixed by modifying the Windows registry (as described at the above PCGamingWiki link). I had to do that on my machine and it seems to be a widespread issue when running TW1. I will say that the main reason I don’t recommend playing The Witcher is due to the need to modify/hack the registry in order to get it running. I draw the line at recommending games when they might require that because too many things can go wrong. I’m also concerned that these issues will only get worse on Windows 10 and so on if the game doesn’t get any future patches. Which, unfortunately, it doesn’t seem very likely that TW1 will get any future updates even though I wish it would.

9571565469366747136_2015-08-21_00009

Audio/Video

Witcher 1 goes for a dark fantasy yet realistic look. Much of the landscape, characters and locations are different shades of dark green, brown, grey and muted colors that would other be bright. It’s a consistent if dreary theme of a world weighed down by itself. The soundtrack on the other hand is very good to listen to. Even though I’ve heard it multiple times, it still doesn’t get old. Its orchestral sound with plenty of folk and fantasy combines with combat’s big and bombastic themes. Giving the Witcher plenty of weight while running around Temeria. Voice acting and the writing is a strange beast in The Witcher. No doubt some of it is mistranslation or not enough work in the writer’s shop. Whatever the case may be, it’s all over the place. One line can be really intense while another comes out mellow, casual or distant. It’s almost as if everyone is mildly bipolar. It also sounds like they were in multiple recording studios or had the mic at different positions. It’s not enough to ruin things but it can be disconcerting.

9571565469366747136_2015-08-21_00005

Expanded Content Thoughts

With the Enhanced Edition of the Witcher (v1.5), CDProjectRed included seven adventures. Five developed by the community and two by CDProjectRed as fun side missions to play after you’re done with the main adventure (though you’re free to try them at any time). The two produced by CDProjectRed are: Price of Neutrality and Side Effects. Both of which have full voice acting and were clearly designed to fit in the Witcher universe. The community developed projects have no voice acting and the script of them are either serious, if amateurish, attempts at fitting in the universe or are poorly written jokes. The only ones worth playing are the two developed by CDProjectRed. The ones made by the community are hit and miss, mostly miss.

9571565469366747136_2015-08-21_00002

Character from Side Effects.

Price of Neutrality takes place at the Witchers’ castle where Geralt finds himself between multiple factions who have different interests in a woman who seems cursed and/or a witch. He must decide whether he is willing to protect her and defy a king or give her over to King Henselt and leave the Witchers out of their affairs. It’s probably the best adventure out of all of them as there is a lot of grey area and uncertainty to who’s telling the truth. The combat, unfortunately, is an often frustrating affair where you’ll often fight multiple enemies at the same time and they seem to do more damage than usual. Side Effects is a more comedic adventure where Geralt deals with the shenanigans of Dandelion in Vizima. Dandelion has gotten himself locked up and owes 2,000 orens to a local criminal boss. So, Geralt must spend time gathering those orens in order to get him out. There are a couple of different ways he can do this and you can ultimately decide if Geralt pays the boss or kills him off. It’s got a decent amount of depth to the story and has some tie-in to the events before the main campaign, which I felt was a nice touch.

This is one of the better lines in community created stuff. Yeah, not that great.

This is one of the better lines in community created stuff. Yeah, not that great.

Then there’s the community created adventures and if the main adventure is aging badly, the community stuff is worse. All of them feature some spectacularly bad writing ranging from fanfiction levels to outright awful. To make matters worse, half of them have a problem where they crash the level, making it impossible to actually complete them. What’s even more jarring is the lack of voice acting. It’s something you don’t realize until it’s gone, but The Witcher series always voices every spoken line. That said, one adventure is where Geralt is getting married, called “The Wedding”. It’s the worst mission of the bunch. The writing is simply awful and it’s nothing but NPCs running around this small building spouting off inane gibberish. Which I think is to give the impression that this is all a dream but I’m not willing to completely buy into that theory. Especially since I was unable to finish the level due to a bug where, during a fist fight, the dwarf I was fighting disappears. You’re unable to leave combat so the mission effectively stalls out. Even up to that point, the entire thrust of the adventure is to be one big joke about Geralt getting married. I have a feeling that someone mentioned this funny line of thought in a discussion and they all decided to run with it. Problem was, it was a one-note joke that wasn’t funny. There’s even a lengthy discussion about a dwarf marrying a mother and daughter at the same time to avoid having a mother-in-law all to avoid legal problems or some nonsense. Yea, that was a thing. I think it was supposed to be funny but I wasn’t amused. A lot of the characters from TW1 show up for the wedding but none of them talk like they should. There’s no fixing this adventure even if a solution to the disappearing dwarf is someday found. This is to be skipped. Period.  

Part of the

Part of the Wraiths of Quiet adventure.

Another adventure, Damn Those Swamps, is a pretty ok one where Geralt goes to a swamp to help out the citizens there with some vague evil threat. For the most part, it plays out like a typical side-mission for Geralt even if the dialogue is a bit basic. Then there’s the Deceits adventure which crashes everytime you leave a house. So, good luck finishing that one. Wraiths of Quiet is pretty good actually, probably the best of the collection. With its custom music, decently developed storyline and interesting effects going on. It’s a mission about wraiths haunting a town that is in dire need of a cure from sickness and the wraiths. It has a beginning, end and was decently thought out for a quest. However, the writing is still pretty subpar and pants at times. Merry Witchmas on the other hand ran into a crashing bug most of the way through the adventure, just as I was leaving a lengthy dungeon. Between the disgusting visual design of the witches and the dull running back-and-forth between objectives, this is definitely an adventure you can skip.

I don't know why we need a torch guardian...

I don’t know why we need a torch guardian…

The only missions worth playing are Price of Neutrality and Side Effects as they feel like something you’d play in a regular Witcher campaign. The other content, not so much outside of Wraiths of Quiet and Damn Those Swamps. It’s neat to see a company support the community especially with a single player focused title but I do wish that there had been far more QA done before officially placing it in.

9571565469366747136_2015-08-21_00006

Final Thoughts

One shouldn’t go into The Witcher: Enhanced Edition and expect an experience similar to the rest of the series. TW1 is CDProjectRed’s first experiment. Their first go at a complex genre that may have been too big for them. A genre that has taken them seven years since to get close to “perfect”. I think it’s worth experiencing for historical reasons and as a starting place to see how CDProjectRed evolved over time. I don’t think it’s worth suffering through the game’s multiple problems in order to see what happened. The combat is by far the worst aspect of the game. It’s an overly repetitive point-and-click system that fails to capture the essence of Witchers and their swordplay. While it tries to add depth with signs, bombs and potions, the same repetitive actions of clicking till everything is dead is how it goes regardless of whether it’s a boss fight or fight against a mob of creatures. It’s not completely unplayable but I wouldn’t expect anyone to enjoy it. The story’s pace is a mess and can be jarring at times as the mood can change on a dime. The beginning chapters mostly drop you into the fire with little build up and little reason to care. The middle chapters are a long and complex series of fetch quests and running around cities or countrysides doing everybody’s bidding. The ending chapters are one big gauntlet run of constantly killing enemies until the big bad guy himself is put down. In between that is some pretty good character building and world expanding but I’m not convinced you really need to play this game in order to enjoy TW2 or TW3. It’s even more dicey when we consider that the game has several technical problems that may have to be bypassed in order to even get it to run. It’s certainly a memorable game, The Witcher 1, even if it’s for some right and wrong reasons.

GOG Link

GOG Link

Thanks for reading as always! Please feel free to read my review of the other Witcher games.

-KingIsaacLinksr

Leave a Reply