The Witcher: Enhanced Edition Review
Reviewing The Witcher Enhanced Edition is difficult, because more than any expansion pack, Game of the Year Edition or other remake, this game is The Witcher, released in 2007. This is in no way a condemnation of Enhanced Edition. It's just as fun, original, and exciting as the original. Still, for the uninitiated and the faithful, this new edition needs to be introduced and examined.
We'll save the updates for last, and look at the The Witcher first.
Polish developer CD Projekt has made a name for itself in Europe by localizing many famous RPGs (the Baldur's Gate series, for one), and when they released The Witcher a year ago, it was apparent that they were more than ready to challenge more famous American RPG developers.
In The Witcher you play as Geralt, an amnesiac, genetically mutated bounty hunter shunned by society, one of the last of a dying breed. As the game begins, you and your brethren are assaulted and cast out of your home, left to regroup and exact revenge upon your attackers. From there, you'll travel to the kingdom of Temeria to continue your search, discovering (through your own actions) what your moral boundaries and leanings are.
If that sounds like a pretty evolved plot for a video game, you can thank CD Projekt and the fictional (Witcher-centric) books of Andrzej Sapkowski. The world they've culled from Sapkowski's work is full-bodied, depressing, and extremely believable. It helps that the game has incredibly superior art direction, music, and animation (when not in conversation). You'll feel like your wandering through a European countryside as lilting music filters past the sounds of monsters and villagers.
The Witcher combines an umber of highly enjoyable and well-implemented gameplay systems: potion brewing, reagent harvesting, leveling up, item upgrading, and magic. Many of these work in concert. You can create potions from harvested body parts, and use those potions to increase a number of attributes, from strength to magic power.
Combat and spellcasting are fast-paced, with combat progressing through time-based rhythmic combos. Even better than the combat is the leveling system. You can use experience gained to purchase various skills and attributes; these range from the mundane to the exotic. You can upgrade your strength, but you can also use werewolf blood to make a potion that makes you powerful after midnight when the moon is up.
If The Witcher just through all of these elements against the wall and waited to see what stuck, it wouldn't be much of a game. However, it provides for so many different methods of enjoying the storyline, you'll actually want to play it again to see how you'd play as a magic-centric Witcher instead of as a potion-centric one.
I haven't even begun to discuss the plot and branching moral pathways that you'll encounter. The game dives deep into a world apparently inspired by the complicated moral and racial issues facing postwar Europe in the middle of the century. Racial tensions are high between humans and nonhumans, humans and Witchers, and basically everyone in the world. The dialogue communicates the various quandaries the Witcher finds himself in ably: from witch burning to cross species love to incestuous rape and its aftermath, Geralt will find himself faced with extremely difficult and ugly choices.