The Witcher Review

When a good RPG comes along and makes people take notice, it's usually for one of two reasons. The first is that it takes many of the conventions of the genre and implements them really well and the second is that it's something different than what gamers have seen before. The Witcher falls into this second category.

Let's begin with the game's setting which is based on the novels of Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski. You play as Geralt, a member of group of mercenary warriors known as The Witchers who hunt down monsters and other nasty threats. In a typical RPG The Witchers would be paragons of virtue, unquestionably righteous in the face of true evil, but this is not your typical RPG. This medieval world is more a mirror of reality than of idealistic fantasy. The Witchers are viewed with mixed feelings by their fellow humans and some people are really no better than the monsters you slay. The line between good and evil is grayer than you'll find in almost any other RPG, and the choices that you make in the game do not fit neatly into traditional "good option or evil option" decisions. If you save a rapist from a ghoul, are you really a hero? Geralt could just as easily be a hardboiled PI making his way through the dark underbelly of a large city as he is a mercenary knight. Even the dialog in the game is unique for an RPG, with contemporary slang sprinkled the occasional expletive deleted and nary a "thou" in sight. It all makes for a fascinating breath of fresh air in a genre that's frequently far too stuffy.

It's not just the story and setting that set this game apart; it's also the mechanics of the gameplay itself. Battles take place in real-time but the developers have implemented a system that not only does not rely on fast-clicking enemies, but penalizes you from trying to do so. Click on an enemy as he is striking you and you're more likely to be knocked back than to him. Try rapid-clicking an enemy and you'll be lucky to get a feeble hit or two in. Close the distance to an enemy and pick the right moment to strike and your attack will succeed. If you wait until the mouse cursor turns into a small flaming icon before clicking again then you'll begin working on a combo attack sequence. Miss the right moment and your attack is broken off. The first few fights will seem strange to you and they may not go so well, but once you get the hang of the combat in the game you'll find yourself growing to love this simple but elegant system.