The Witcher (PC)

This is the game analysis I did for my Blizzard QA application. This is what originally made me want to start this blog.

Game: The Witcher

Developer: CD Projekt Red

Publisher: Atari

Genre: RPG

Platform: PC

Nov 2011

“The Witcher” is a Role Playing Game for the PC platform based off a series of novels and short stories by Andrzej Sapkowski.  The main character is Geralt of Rivia, a resurrected Witcher who has suffered from memory loss.  The player controls Geralt in an effort to retrieve stolen alchemical ingredients and avenge the death of a fellow Witcher. Geralt will follow clues that will lead him to an organization known as the Salamandra. In the process he finds himself involved in the middle of a conspiracy in a kingdom being torn by an absent king.

There are two methods to control Geralt on his adventure; an isometric view and an over-the-shoulder view.  The isometric view handles much like a point and click adventure where the player can play the entire game using only the mouse. Clicking on the ground moves Geralt and clicking on an object or person will interact. While in the over- the- shoulder view the player uses the WASD keys to move Geralt and the mouse to aim. To interact with objects and people in the over-the-shoulder view the player must point the mouse at what he or she wishes to interact with and then click the left mouse button.  This will either open a new menu or move Geralt closer and then open the new menu.

There are three aspects to combat in the Witcher: Melee, Magic and Alchemy. Melee allows the player to equip up to five different weapons depending on the armor worn. Geralt’s main weapons are two swords; a Steel sword, effective against humans, and a Witcher’s sword, effective against monsters. The steel and Witcher swords have three different fighting styles; Strong style, which hits the hardest, Fast style, which attacks swiftly and Group style. When in combat the music will change and the mouse cursor will change to a sword when pointing at an enemy. Clicking on an enemy with the left mouse button will cause Geralt to attack and the mouse cursor will change for a moment to a flaming sword. If the player left clicks each time the flaming sword cursor appears Geralt will chain his melee attacks. Each successive chained attack increases in strength, which can also be further modified by Geralt’s talent tree.

Geralt will discover five different magic spells, or ‘signs’ as they are referred to in-game. Agni is a fire spell that gains usefulness because it can give an enemy a damage-over-time effect. Aard is a “Force Push” that interrupts enemies or even stuns them for a quick kill. Axii charms an enemy to fight alongside Geralt for a limited amount of time. Charmed enemies are not the most intelligent partners and even though they are temporarily on Geralt’s side they can still be attacked. When Quen is cast Geralt becomes protected with a shield that will absorb a limited amount of damage. The shield from Quen can be useful for those times when the player finds him or herself surrounded by enemies. The Yrden sign creates a spike trap that damages enemies when they walk over it. When crossing an Yrden trap any enemy will be attacked and interrupted which is handy when kiting.

Witchers are masters of alchemy and use various recipes to create potions, bombs and greases that enhance weapons.  The potions have various uses that enhance Geralt’s abilities. For example, the potion Cat allows Geralt to see in the dark. Any potion that Geralt ingests has the drawback of increasing a toxicity gauge that when maxed out will kill Geralt. The second type of item that Geralt can create is sword greases used to enhance a blade’s potency. The final items that the player gains access to are bombs that explode to release poisons or cause fire damage. All of these items have to be created from materials farmed from plants, which can be gathered from the environment and various enemies. This farming aspect can be very tedious because whether farming plants or monsters the player has to walk up to, point and click in order to open a menu. On this new menu the player can select which items to loot or simply press the “loot all” button.  This changes when clicking on a lootable object and simultaneously holding down the CTRL key. When looting while holding down the CTRL key the player will loot everything without the loot screen opening. This function is invaluable as there are not many developers that incorporate this into their game’s looting system. Players who skip reading the instruction manual may have to suffer through multiple chapters before they discover this function.

In the beginning of the game the players will only have access to a steel sword and a Witcher’s sword but discovering spells and alchemy recipes changes combat strategies. During the Prologue and Chapter 1 there was no need to use Swallow, a potion, to regenerate health, straightforward melee was enough until the enemies began to grow too strong. Tawny Owl is a potion that allows Geralt to cast signs more frequently and along with Swallow they become the most frequently used potions. Every potion has a duration and the tradeoff for Swallow and Tawny Owl being so effective is that they have the shortest durations of any potion. Drinking potions increases Geralt’s toxicity level so by the end of the game it becomes a careful balance and timing of which potions to take and when.

Throughout Geralt’s adventure he will gain experience from killing monsters and completing quests. Each level grants bronze, silver or gold points that can be used toward Geralt’s skill tree. The skill tree can only be customized when Geralt is meditating near a campfire or fireplace. Each type of point is used for corresponding tree nodes and the impact on Geralt’s stats which get progressively better from bronze to gold.  The player begins by only gaining bronze points which allow the player to access the lowest of skills. After a few levels he gains silver points, which are improved versions of bronze, and then finally gold points which are the highest attainable points. A few of Geralt’s abilities are locked and only accessible by drinking special potions known as ‘mutagens’ that require special ingredients from bosses and rare monsters. The player can miss these mutagens by not bothering with side quests gained through conversation and message boards. Upon completing quests Geralt receives rewards that can include items, gold and experience

The player must follow one of three paths through the storyline and each path has small variability determined by the player’s decisions during conversations and the side quests completed. Some of the quests are simple, requiring the player to kill a certain amount of monsters, and other quests become complicated with different phases that last the entirety of the game. One example of the more complex quests is the quest to decide what kind of person Geralt is and will become. Since Geralt has lost all of his memories and has figuratively and literally been reborn there are three different “Geralts” that the player can define as he aligns Geralt to a specific side. Through dialog options the player will decide if Geralt is kind and compassionate, essentially a defender of the weak, or cruel and ruthless, taking any measure to achieve his goals.

You cannot avoid clichés and it is obvious that Geralt suffers from amnesia so that the player can start the game as a shadow of Geralt’s former self. Throughout the game it is whispered, mentioned and eluded to the known fact that Geralt was a badass. Part of the fun of any role playing game is in the genre name. The player is taking a role in a story and starting off with the best equipment, every ability and stat maxed disconnects the player. Upon reaching the end of the game the player should feel satisfied with the journey to improve Geralt and the designers were successful in that aspect.

The biggest draw for The Witcher is its story that has been faithfully been adapted from the stories by Andrzej Sapkowski. Geralt’s world is portrayed piece by piece from combat and side quests to exploration and alchemy. The combat is simple but animated fancifully as Geralt spins his swords in flurries. Side quests are not used to arbitrarily extend game time but add to the storyline if completed. For the role playing fan this game would be a great 40 hours to spend.

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About pablopdlc

Gamer, Designer, Artist and hungry.
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