The Witcher:
Final Thoughts

By Shamus
on Aug 19, 2008
Filed under:
Game Reviews

A lot of people are faulting me for being overly critical of The Witcher and not giving the game a chance, and they’re right. This series has been too divisive, and so I thought we’d wrap it up early, on a conciliatory note.

It turns out I never really took the steps needed to enjoy the game. I’ve been unfair. Luckily, people have provided me with lots of helpful tips on what I’ve been doing wrong. It turns out that to really enjoy the game you just need to:

  1. Read a 72-page manual.
  2. Read the series of books on which the game is based. (You need to learn Polish first, as only the first book is available in English.)
  3. Wait until the patch comes out in a few months that will fix up all the annoyances and problems with the game.
  4. Spend hundreds of dollars upgrading your computer. Only a fool plays a game with mid-range hardware, anyway.
  5. Play for several hours until you get to the good parts.

I admit, I just jumped right in and expected it to be fun. Seems kind of crazy in retrospect. I’m going to discontinue this series until I can complete the tasks in that list so that I can give the game a proper review.

People have also faulted me for not talking about the story, which is also true. So here is a summary of what the game was like before I had to quit:

You play as Geralt, a dirty old man with amnesia. (You can’t play as a female, but that’s no big deal because girls don’t play videogames.) Some bad guys steal some magical artifact from you, and while the story isn’t clear on what their plans are or what the magical item really does or what the consequences are of them having it, the other characters let you know that it’s very important – which is all you should need to know to get moving on your adventure.

Geralt wants to get into a major city, but it’s blocked by a plot-driven door, and so he has to go to the village to get permission to enter the city. The local reverend sends Geralt to talk to each of the three community leaders, who each need him to kill a number of monsters and bring back the giblets as proof. Once they are satisfied, the way is opened for Geralt to enter the city.

At the gates of the city he is arrested, and surrenders during the cutscene. However, he’ll be allowed to go free if he’s willing to defeat a fearsome monster.

These narrative innovations give you an idea of the caliber of interactive storytelling you’ll miss out on if you elect not to get the game.

Here is a site where you can learn Polish online. Here is a good place to upgrade your computer. And here is the first in the series of books. You’ll find it easier to shop for the other books once you’ve learned Polish, but this should get you started.

I give the game 4.5 out of a possible 5 awesomes. All the major game sites give it good marks, so clearly this is an excellent game.

There. Now we can all be friends again.

Okay, snark and sarcasm aside, I really do think I need to shelve this game. I seem to be immune to the alleged charm of The Witcher, and endlessly hammering away at it is sort of pointless.

This goes back to my first post in this series. Some people faulted me for writing a whole post about Geralt, but I think that post encapsulated the entire problem. Geralt is step one to liking the game. If you’re repulsed by him the way I am, then it’s going to be a deal-breaker. Playing The Witcher if you don’t like Geralt is like playing GTA if you hate driving.

And this probably explains why this series has been so hostile. If you’re not immersed in a game, all the faults tend to stick out and grab your attention. If you’re having fun, you gloss over the little annoying details.

KOTOR is a great example. Lots of of minor little interface annoyances, but I wouldn’t bother mentioning them because I’d be too eager to talk about the brilliant characters and great story. If I hated Star Wars, then I’d probably remember the game as an overly linear RPG with a cumbersome interface and an overlong climax, and not a triumph of interactive storytelling.

I do give the game credit for the player choices that go beyond simple binary black-and-white options. This is exactly the sort of thing I was talking about in my Jade Empire series. I really enjoyed these, although they weren’t enough to keep me playing in the face of all my other problems with the game. I hope other games take a cue from The Witcher and give us choices more interesting than “rescue kitten from tree” and “eat kitten”.

I also give them credit for a game with no DRM. Thanks for that.

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20202060 comments? This post wasn't even all that interesting.

From the Archives:

  1. Kevin says:

    Though I did give you some crap about reviewing games on a computer that couldn’t play them, I’d like to point out that some very valid points made by other posters caused me to completely recant that position. I may be a big guy, but I’m not too big to say I was wrong.

    As for the Witcher… who knows? This game was never on my radar and I would not have played it anyway. I have tried to play games where I didn’t like the main character before and I have not gotten through them. Gerald or whatever sounds like one of those. Of course I imagine I am a bit north of the targeted demographic so my opinion is probably not statistically relevant.

    I’m really only here for the cake and free beer.

  2. Doug Brown says:

    That’s a lot of awesome! Congratulations, Witcher!

    It’s funny, the cartload of RPGs that come out every year, and I’m still looking for something that can equal . . . The Bard’s Tale (the original).

  3. Heph says:

    But…but…who *wouldn’t* choose “eat kitten”? o_O

  4. eloj says:

    The Witcher has great music.

  5. Luke Maciak says:

    Hey, I already know Polish and read several of the books so I’m like half way there. LOL

    I actually considered getting the game at one point mainly because I was familiar with the series, and because it was made in Poland (you know, need to support my people) but after reading your reviews I think I’ll pass.

    Oh and BTW if it seems that you were getting a lot of flak for the negative reviews from the Polish crowd keep in mind that it was probably a knee-jerk reaction. The Witcher is one one of the first Polish games that achieved this sort of major success on the European and US markets. So you can probably see why some people might have been upset about a very negative review. We all felt a bit of national pride when we heard that The Witcher is doing so well. And it does sting a bit to see it put down.

    Anyway that’s probably what happened. I enjoyed the reviews anyway.

  6. Kel'Thuzad says:

    So much sarcasm. Too much sarcasm.

    My brain hurts.

  7. Carra says:

    If I hated Star Wars, then I’d probably remember the game as an overly linear RPG with a cumbersome interface and an overlong climax, and not a triumph of interactive storytelling.

    Well, I only became a fan of Star Wars after playing KOTOR. No need to like star wars to enjoy this great rpg :)

  8. Jerm says:

    I just whipped out Fallout 2 again!

  9. Matt K says:

    The KOTR example is apt. I played through about 1 hr of the game before I gave up. I could care less about Star Wars and so the game never had any hook for me. The rest as you said was less than stellar. Some games are just not for some people.

  10. Dan Beck says:

    FYI to Doug in post 2: Someone recently posted a Neverwinter Nights module based on The Bard’s Tale on the NWN Vault. Might be worth a look.

  11. Dane says:

    I find it quite odd that you would hold up KOTOR as an example of good characters or storytelling. I felt that it had a single good plot twist and a single compelling character (Jolee), but the rest was mediocre at best.

    I mean, speaking of “plot doors” – leaving Taris requires running at least as many silly errands as getting into Blacklake did. You need to: steal a Sith uniform, use it to get into the undercity, join a gang, break into their rival’s base to steal a swoop engine for them, go into the undercity to find Mission so she can get you into the base, go into the sewers to find Zalbar so Mission will help you, then actually raid the base, then use the swoop the engine is put into to win a race, then fight the people you beat in the race to rescue Bastila, then break into a Sith base to steal codes for Canderous, then pretend to join a crime syndicate so you can get into their hideout, then shoot your way through the hideout so you can steal the special ship the boss built.

    At no point in time do I recall the game offering any alternative means to get off Taris. You’re on rails the whole way through. You can’t use your Sith uniform to steal a Sith ship and escape in that. There are apparently no ships inside the Sith base you could fly out in. There are also apparently no other suitable ships on the entire planet to break through the blockade except the one owned by the crime boss. I really can’t understand why that sequence wouldn’t bother you when the Blacklake one so obviously did… was it simply because there was no physical representation of a door barring your progress?

  12. Shamus says:

    Dane: The sequence on Taris was indeed overlong, but it wasn’t such an obvious time-sink. The door to Blacklake was pure gibberish from the get-go, an obviously artificial and clumsy contrivance. A quarantine of a section of the city was nonsense. The lockdown of a contested planet during war makes sense.

    Taris let the player make steady progress: Ok, now we have a way to the undercity. Now we have Bastila. Now We have a way to meet Davik. Now we have the Ship. Each step moved them closer to their overall goal.

    In NWN2, you did a job. Can I get in yet? Nope. Do another job. You didn’t feel like you were moving forward. You were just waiting for permission, and you never had any sense of how close you were.

    And finally, despite the excessive length of Taris, it was still a good stretch shorter than opening that door in NWN2.

    EDIT: Also, what kmc says below. I loved KOTOR in spite of its flaws, because I was on-board right from the start.

  13. kmc says:

    @ Dane: I think that was very much Shamus’s point. He liked Star Wars; he already liked the story and was invested in the characters/world, so he found KOTOR more interesting, but he realizes that without that hook, he would have had a hard time getting into it.

  14. Shamus says:

    And I loved ALL the characters. Okay, the Cathar chick was a little thin, and Zalbaar was a Wookie, which limited his appeal for me, but I adored Mission, Carth, HK, and Jolee. Canderous had great stories. Bastila was interesting for her flaws.

    Crap. I need to be saving this stuff for my KOTOR review. Arg! Better to write one well-thought out post than a dozen dashed-off comments.

  15. Danath says:

    I was actually expecting alot worse for the final post, although I still find your criticising the fact you may have to read some of the manual confusing, I mean its there for a reason if you dont understand things, if every game explained everything, there would be no need to even have a manual, and its not any different from long winded “tutorials” like with the sphere grid in FFXI.

    I recently went back and tried to play the game again, and despite liking the game, the early dialogue and loading screens really irk me, so I shelved it and am gonna wait till EE anyways to play it again.

  16. ngthagg says:

    I would be surprised if anyone didn’t have an undying love for a game (or movie or book) that they knew was full of holes. I’m a diehard MGS fan, and I know how ridiculous it is, but I don’t care. It just scratches an itch.

  17. Namfoodle says:

    Great Post. It’s good to see that you’re open to suggetions on how to have fun, Shamus.

    Heph: Whenever one of our kittens bites me, I bite it back. (You’ve got to maintain dominance! ;) My teeth may not be sharp, but my mouth is bigger than theirs.) I therefore know that kittens don’t actually taste that good. Maybe they taste better on the inside, but the apalling horror show that is the litter box makes me doubtful.

  18. Dane says:

    And I loved ALL the characters. Okay, the Cathar chick was a little thin, and Zalbaar was a Wookie, which limited his appeal for me, but I adored Mission, Carth, HK, and Jolee. Canderous had great stories. Bastila was interesting for her flaws.

    Crap. I need to be saving this stuff for my KOTOR review. Arg! Better to write one well-thought out post than a dozen dashed-off comments.

    By all means please do, I look forward to reading it. And apologies for sidetracking what should theoretically be comments on The Witcher.

    I actually forgot about HK-47, so that makes two characters I liked from KOTOR.

    Mission, for example, always bothered me just with her presence – what kind of irresponsible Jedi brings a fourteen-year-old into a war zone?

    I think on reflection that at least some of my dislike stems from the system that caused characters to just arbitrarily spout bits of their backstory at set times. There was never a sense that I was getting to know the crew, just “Ooop, is it time for Carth to mope about how he can never trust anyone again?”.

    I thought the influence system used for KOTOR II and NWN2 was an improvement in that regard, although obviously still not ideal.

  19. The Lone Duck says:

    Shane: Would’ve helped if you could’ve gone back to Taris later. You know, put off the arena stuff, that sorta thing. Of course, blowing it up helped show that Malak is a bad guy, but I think we could figure that out.
    Anyway, long attention to a game can create a sort of Stockholm appreciation. I wish you could’ve of shown us exactly how the interface was complex. (More or less compared to say, Neverwinter Nights.) Aside from the interface and “adult content”, it sounded like a conventional RPG. Well, games aren’t scholarly texts that you have to trudge through, but leave you wiser for the task. Games are supposed to entertain. While we should give them a chance, that doesn’t mean we are tasked with extracting our own entertainment. If we are not entertained, that is a failure on the game’s part. Now a game cannot entertain everyone. But I ca’t fault you for not being entertained, like you did something wrong. (Though I would say reading instructions is a useful thing for any task.) Anyway, aside from those Bioware and Telltale games, and the temptations of WoW, current PC gaming holds nothing for me.

  20. Kris says:

    Dane – “Mission, for example, always bothered me just with her presence – what kind of irresponsible Jedi brings a fourteen-year-old into a war zone?”

    Obi-wan & Qui-gon brought a six year old Anakin to Naboo. That didn’t turn out so well in the end though..

  21. Heph says:

    What? He brought balance to the Force! Of course, than his son had to go and ruin it by making more Jedi again….Tss. Two of each, balance. :-P

    Anyway, back to the Witcher: while this post isn’t any more…really positive…about the Witcher, it’s a lot more palatable, to me, anyway. This si you saying: “i don’t like it, because…” while the other two posts really come off as “this is a rubbish game, and SCREW YOU”. Well, in tone of voice, anf stuff. I prefer sarcastic/witty Shamus to angry Shamus, I guess. Otherwise, I’ll jsut happily agree to disagree – not all games are for all people. It’s just a shame that this game has some dealbreakers – the personality of the main character, the sex card game and such – that turn you off it so completely, as, in a lot of other ways, it does do things you’d like in other games. *shrug* I never liked the FF series, so who am I to critizise other people’s taste in RPGs?

  22. Dane says:

    Obi-wan & Qui-gon brought a six year old Anakin to Naboo. That didn’t turn out so well in the end though..

    Yes, although I seem to recall that they intentionally put Anakin somewhere they thought would be safe before the actual fighting commenced. And it was pointed out quite explicitly that Qui-Gon is considered reckless and unorthodox by the other Jedi.

  23. Patrick the Malcontent says:

    All I wanna know is when you’re going to get around too reviewing THE greatest PC RPG ever….

    NETHACK BABY!! NETHAAAACK!

  24. Patrick the Malcontent says:

    _____________
    |!%*/?*!\…|
    |??/*+%{]..@|
    |[[]m..!*…|
    |%*=+[[\/?..|
    |……..@..|
    ———-#–

    You see here the corpse of a kitten named Aslan.
    You eat a dead kitten named Aslan. Your god is angry!
    You owe 5 gold for a kitten corpse named Aslan.
    You feel nauseous.
    You feel dizzy.
    You throw up!
    You feel a bit steadier now.

  25. Patrick says:

    I did enjoy the Witcher. It was pretty rough around the edges, but I thought it was a pretty impressive offering coming from an inexperienced developer. It was arguably too ambitious, and they neded to take more time for polish and english conversion.

    (Actually, Geralt isn’t particularly old, either, although he is a womanizer. He just has white hair and too many scars.)

    In any case, your snark is seriously misplaced. The quests are silly at the beginning, but it does serve to teach you some of the game systems. I needed nothing from the manual, either.

  26. Deoxy says:

    Mission, for example, always bothered me just with her presence – what kind of irresponsible Jedi brings a fourteen-year-old into a war zone?

    The regular kind, apparently. It would appear that padewans normally accompany their masters wherever they go. I haven’t read any of the books, but I’ve read some plot summaries, and it seems to be pretty common to have padewans around getting killed.

    Not the smartest way to do it, I wouldn’t think… but then, the Jedi really do a lot of odd things (like giving lightsabers to a whole classroom full of elementary-age kids – official Lucas canon, right there). That’s what you get when you try to make coherent stories out of Lucas special effects showcase movies.

    Note that I actually LIKE Star Wars quite a lot, but you could drive a small planet through some of the logical inconsistencies. Trying to take the plot and setting elements (easily the weakest parts of his work) and make it into something coherent is almost as ridiculous as trying to make sense of Star Trek techno-babble (which directly contradicts itself many, many times over the course of the franchise).

  27. Gahaz says:

    Danath:

    Check most console game manuals, even a new and fancy RPG will have a manual that’s 16 pages long, and that’s if your lucky. The idea is with a well constructed interface it would not need to be so lengthy as to not want to read it.

    Its the fact that its so long that you look at the manual, perhaps flip through it, but if you weren’t really looking forward to this and wanted to consume absolutely everything that was connected to the game most people would just look at this novella and say “F that, the install is done already time to hack stuff!”

  28. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Love the post,its excelent.Also,Id like to stand beside Carra since I too dont like star wars,and did avoid all the star wars products(except for the movies,but that only when they were on TV,so I didnt have to pay for them)untill all the hype led me to try KotOR.And I loved it,because of its gameplay,characters and story.

    As for anakin,wasnt the kid first supposed to be 16 or something,but george decided to make him more appealing to children.Blegh!

  29. MikeSSJ says:

    I, for one, liked the Witcher quite a bit, so I’m somewhat disappointed that you didn’t enjoy it, but tastes are different, and I’m certainly not the type to flame anyone over a different opinion. Unless the opinion is really stupid.

    Anyway – let’s just hope that you’ll have more fun with the next game on your list.

  30. Dan Morrison says:

    I hate driving. I utterly detest getting in a car and moving the great hunk of metal around. I find it stressful and uncomfortable.

    And I LOVE GTA. I’ve bought every game in the series from 1 up, and this year had to buy a PS3 and an expensive new TV just because of GTA4.

  31. Derek K. says:

    @Shamus: “and Zalbaar was a Wookie, which limited his appeal for me,”

    This shall be my last post upon your so-called “blag” and I shall now dedicate my life to running “Shamusyoungisapoopiehead.com”

    @Doug Brown [2]: Dragon Wars. Look it up.

    Re: Bard’s Tale:

    Amusing coincidence:

    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2008/08/19/retro-tales-of-the-unknown-the-bards-tale/

  32. NobleBear says:

    KOTOR had a lot of characters I liked and the plot was interesting. I was all the running back and forth I had to do on Taris was tiresome and I was frustrated by the fact that I got to end with my level 20 character and couldn’t beat the game (female scoundrel, I forget which Jedi class). Maybe I leveled wrong, I don’t know.

    In any event, I would like to read Shamus’ thoughts on the game.

    I appreciate what he means when he talks about how being a fan means a willingness to overlook (sometimes deep) flaws. I’m like that with the RE franchise (prior to 4).

  33. Dhruin says:

    As I’ve said before, it would be a shame for people to bypass The Witcher only on the basis of these posts. I played pre-release code on a modest computer without any documentation and the only problems I did encounter haven’t been mentioned – obviously experiences vary.

  34. Veylon says:

    @Danath: On tutorials, I don’t mind having them as long as I don’t have to sit through them if I don’t want to. Final Fantasy VII (and earlier) had a tutorial room where you could find out how the game worked, but you didn’t HAVE to visit.

    Really, tutorials should cover everything, but should be optional. Something like “Go talk to X if you want to learn.” or “I see you have Y. Do you want me to show you how to use it.” It shouldn’t be a long, drawn out process all at once.

  35. qrter says:

    On a KOTOR sidenote: I’ve never really gotten all the praise HK-47 gets. He always seemed a very one-dimensional sitcom character to me – he has his thing and everything he says is a reflection of that.

    He’s better than Jar-Jar Binks, I’ll give you that. ;)

  36. SolkaTruesilver says:

    Actually, there should be the choices:

    – Yes, I want to learn how to access my inventory
    – No, I don’t need to know how to access my inventory
    – No, and don’t propose anything of the kind ever again, I can take care of myself.

    So, you can either skip parts of the tutorial, or it’s totality.

    Back to KOTOR…

    I felt that the story was.. not very well written, overall. Except the plot twist, that is. KOTOR2 was much more intricated, and the characters were more.. alive. The Han Solo-wannabe of KOTOR2 was also much more interesting than Carth.

  37. folo4 says:

    newegg.com does not support deliveries outside US, so your post is not world-oriented.

    The Witcher feels like NWN to me, and since I don’t feel the charm of the game, The Witcher naturally didn’t appall me.

    However, one of the game’s staff made this, which is a very exacting dueling game.

  38. R4byde says:

    KOTOR had a lot of characters I liked and the plot was interesting. I was all the running back and forth I had to do on Taris was tiresome and I was frustrated by the fact that I got to end with my level 20 character and couldn’t beat the game (female scoundrel, I forget which Jedi class). Maybe I leveled wrong, I don’t know.

    You all know that there’s a fast travel option on the map right?

  39. Zaxares says:

    Definitely agreed with you on the most crucial point of your post, Shamus:

    Not everybody will like every game. And this is not a crime.

    I loved NWN2 and the Witcher. (And KotOR too, for the record.) That doesn’t mean that I go around expecting everybody else to like them, however. I would like that people at least give the Witcher a fair go before tossing it into the ‘junk’ category though.

    Incidentally, it’s not necessary to have read the Witcher novel series to enjoy the game. I’ve never read Andrew Sapowski’s books, although I suspect I’d get much more enjoyment (on top of the great enjoyment I already do) if I had.

    Totally random and probably uninteresting fact: I only recently discovered that the Witcher is actually set 5 years after the last novel written by Sapowski that involves Geralt. It was helping in putting the game into the bigger storyline perspective.

  40. Danath says:

    @Gahaz & Veylon

    I didnt use the manual either, I used the in game journal to figure out things, I reffered to the manual a couple of times and that was about it.

    My issue with it is many times the in game tutorials are MUCH longer than the manuals, and many times they are NOT skippable, the reason the manuals are 16 pages is because you spend about 30 minutes just mashing the the button trying to get the in game explanation moving along in most RPGs, I just chose Final Fantasy because its really bad about it in the more recent games, especially FF8 and onward, I cant really remember FF7, and FF4-6 I played so long ago I can only look back on them as perfect games with no flaws, at least until I actually bother to play them again.

    Just about everything in the manual IS covered in game, I can only think of a couple times I had to refer to the manual, and it was because of alchemy. If you hate reading manuals fine, but I dont necessarily agree with calling it bad game design to have to refer to the manual once in a while. If you have to read the thing beginning to end to understand the game… sure (Kings Quest), it wasnt the same for me, but your mileage may vary.

    This is clarifying my point to the people who commented on.. . well my comment I suppose.

  41. Paladin109 says:

    (I know I’m dating myself now, but…)
    I remember unwrapping my “Castlevania” NES game, and glancing at the (10 page) manual -after- I’d picked up my first alternate weapon, because I wanted to know how to use the dumb thing…and it was ‘right there’ on page 4…

    ahh ye goode olde days…*fumbles for his walker*

  42. KingMob says:

    I think the developers of the game were quite open about the problems with it, and that’s why they’re developing the patch and retranslation.

    I agree, however, no reviewer is forced to evaluate a game based on its later improvements.

    But maybe Shamus can agree to take another shot once they finally finish that patch?

  43. OneTimer says:

    hello,

    I have recently read the DM of the Ring comics, and I must say its is AWESOME! and it make me want to play PnP again….

    and i think you are very talented and funny :)

    will you make another funny comics? i hope you do :)
    so I will have something funny to read at work beside “the noob” :)

  44. Daemian Lucifer says:

    @KingMob

    There are some things that cannot be patched.Like Shamus said,his biggest deal breaker is that he doesnt like geralt.This wont be changed,so no matter what they do to the game,he probably wont like it.Even if it became a cure for cancer,he still wouldnt like the game.

    @OneTimer

    Well,there is the one he is doing for the escapist:
    http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/comics/stolen-pixels

  45. eloj says:

    KingMob: What would be the point? The Geralt avatar isn’t going to be any more handsome after the patch.

  46. Blackbird71 says:

    “1. Read a 72-page manual.”

    I actually miss the days when games would include a tangible, substantial manual that actually had some bearing on the game beyond a list of hotkeys. Too many games nowadays seem to overlook the usefulness and fun of this sort of thing. Wouldn’t this partly fall under your anti-piracy tactics of including non-copyable extras? On the other hand, I can see how 72 pages could be considered a bit tedious. Still I’d consider this one more of a plus than a minus.

    “You play as Geralt, a dirty old man with amnesia. (You can’t play as a female, but that’s no big deal because girls don’t play videogames.)”

    Call me carzy, but somehow I don’t think that female players would be the ones most interested in playing a female character…

  47. Tom Davidson says:

    after reading your reviews I think I’ll pass.

    I just want to make the obvious point here: Shamus didn’t actually review this game. “The Witcher” — a graphically-demanding game about this guy named Geralt, who’s popular with the ladies, works alone, and kills monsters for a living — is not the game Shamus wanted to play. Shamus wanted to play a slightly less demanding game about “X,” a guy or girl who may or may not have a variety of personality traits, can collect a party of faithful companions, and may or may not do anything in particular, and was a little upset that “The Witcher” is not a game in which this is possible.

    There are plenty of things to slag “The Witcher” about — gratuitous (or, in the American version, gratutitously removed) nudity, high hardware requirements, bugs in sound playback that cause crashes to the desktop, and the usual RPG bugbears of fetch ‘n’ kill quests, artificial restrictions/storyline-required amnesia, etc. — but Shamus’ complaints mainly revolved around the fact that he didn’t want to roleplay as Geralt, and that was the only option the game gave him.

    If you have a low-end computer or dislike RPGs in general, don’t pick up “The Witcher;” it won’t change your mind about RPGs, and it won’t look good on a bad machine. But unless you suspect that you, like Shamus, need to be able to play your kind of character in a RPG to care about the story, I still suggest you give the game a look.

  48. Shamus says:

    Tom Davidson: Even if I’d liked the main character, I found this game to be unremarkable and unpolished, and I make no apologies for that position. There are lots of reasons to skip the Witcher besides Geralt – you even listed some of them yourself.

    It is the very height of arrogance to presume to know what I want out of a game, or to look at what I wrote and say “that’s not a review”. There is stuff wrong with this title, I didn’t have fun, and part of what I do here – and what I’ve always done here – is talk about why games worked for me or why they didn’t.

    I did indeed REVIEW the game, in the sense that I talked about my experience with it. I did not review the game in the sense of playing all the way through and assigning a number to how much I think you’ll like it.

    Unhook your ego from the game, man. It’s cool you liked it. I’m glad you enjoyed it. But you’re making this way more personal than it needs to be.

  49. Tom Davidson says:

    The reason I’ve harped on your primary criticism of the game (or, rather, what I felt was your primary criticism of the game) is that “The Witcher” is as far as I can tell exactly the sort of RPG you would normally love. It’s story-heavy, full of very well-defined and morally ambiguous characters, laden with decision points that have an eventual impact on the storyline, doesn’t require meticulous “gaming” of the system (and especially the loot) for success, offers multiple quest resolutions on a fairly regular basis, etc. The alchemy system is very deep, and combat requires a fair amount of planning at higher difficulty levels.

    But from your very first post, your complaint was with Geralt himself. And the vibe I got from your posts wasn’t even that the character bothered you as much as it was that you couldn’t change the things that bothered you about him. You were stuck with the scars and the white hair and the reputation for womanizing, and upset enough about this to (IIRC) complain that the game shouldn’t really count as a RPG. What I took from that observation was that, to you, a RPG is all about character customization — by which I don’t mean stat builds, but rather personalities and appearances and backstories. It’s not just about playing a character; it’s about playing the character you create.

    What I sensed at the time was that you were palpably affronted that “The Witcher” did not give you the opportunity to do this. I can’t think of a RPG you’ve reviewed where you haven’t had this opportunity, so I’m afraid I’m working from a sample size of one; if I’m wrong about this, and your primary criticisms were not the ones you mainly discussed, I apologize for jumping to conclusions.

    I don’t mind personally that you didn’t enjoy a game I enjoyed. I hate the Grand Theft Auto games, for example, and don’t go around shaking people by the collar and demanding that they change their minds. But I wanted to point out that a lot of the things you’ve said before that you wanted to see in a RPG actually are implemented in “The Witcher,” but (IMO) the inability to customize certain traits of your character made the game so unpleasant for you that you didn’t perceive those innovations.

    Mainly, I wanted to cheer you up a bit (and not the reverse). “The Witcher” was a game I liked primarily because it did try to do something different by making some substantial changes to the venerable RPG formula (both in mechanics and in storytelling approach). This is something I know you’d like to see, too, and I just wanted to let you know that this particular game — despite your personal dislike of it — was trying to do exactly that.

  50. Shamus says:

    Tom Davidson: Arg! I was too slow. I just put up a new post, soliciting exactly that sort of response. Thanks.

  51. Gildan Bladeborn says:

    Call me crazy if you like, but I’ve always enjoyed a nice thick manual. If my memory serves, The Witcher’s manual was actually rather shorter then the manual for the first game I ever purchased (Descent). I’m always disappointed when a manual is just a simple cd-sleeve insert or only covers the barebones and provides no details or background fiction.

    Granted, I am someone who’s read 42 novels since the beginning of May, so I don’t expect everyone to share my love of reading. But given that, why would being given more information then you actually need somehow be a negative point? Starcraft’s manual comes to mind, as anyone who didn’t read that sucker in it’s entirety would be cheating themselves out of a wonderful collection of background “fluff” and insight into the 3 sides (the Warcraft and Diablo manuals were similarly chock full of nonessential goodness).

    Compared to manuals like that, reading Mass Effect’s straight forwards “This is the screen, these are the classes, these are the keys, no we won’t tell you what this game is even about” was rather disappointing. Of course they made up for it with the in game Codex which becomes a veritable encyclopedia of background information, but I can’t very well read that in the bathroom, now can I?

  52. Daemian Lucifer says:

    @Gildan Bladeborn

    The problem(I think) wasnt with the manuals thickness but with its necessity.For example,I loved HoMM manuals,but Ive read those after mastering the games.

  53. Captain Kail says:

    @Gildan Bladeborn

    Did you get the Collector’s Edition of Oblivion? It came with a delightful “pocket guide to the empire” that I bet you’d love. It has history, politics, and a lot of background of all the provinces of Tamriel, not just Cyrodiil.

  54. Deltaway says:

    Gildan Bladeborn:

    I completely agree. For example, the Homeworld manual deserves great honors. It was filled with background, stories, rhetoric, history, and strategy from the in-universe point of view. Manuals can be a rich medium indeed.

  55. Joe says:

    You had to read the manual? I downloaded my copy of the game, never even looked at the manual. Whatever else the Witcher is (MADE OF AWESOME) it’s an RPG – in layman’s terms, completely bloody straight-forward. You fight things, if you lose you level up a bit, you talk to people and do what they say. Wtf would you need the manual for?

    Is there something esoteric and insanely difficult about the Witcher that I’ve yet to encounter which requires lengthy consultation with the manual?

  56. Simon Brooke says:

    OK, let’s start out and say, yes, you’re right, if you don’t like Geralt, you won’t like The Witcher. And, beyond that, the game does have faults. You’re right that amnesia is a tired plot device. The choice to voice act everything means that the depth of dialogue is limited, and that’s a shame. Your comments in another post on sword fighting mechanics are well taken – as in Jade Empire (which must use a very similar version of the Aurora engine) you will sometimes see an opponent’s sword pass right through the hero, and yet somehow he goes on fighting.

    I also find all the fighting-with-monsters-and-finding-treasures-in-crypts stuff deeply dull. There are far too many monsters in this environment; it isn’t a credible ecosystem. But, by contrast with its transatlantic predecessors, there aren’t seventeen squillion types of magic armour each with slightly different properties. There’s four different types of armour and a dozen or so different swords, they’re all expensive, and, realistically, they don’t really make much difference – you can complete the whole story perfectly well with the weapons and armour you start out with (well, a silver sword is useful but you get that in Chapter Two).

    The Witcher is essentially a narrative about ethnic cleansing. It’s a narrative about murky politics, and, despite all the monsters and other distractions, it’s fundamentally about people and how they relate to one another.

    Personally I absolutely love the game; I’ve played it through four times, have written a substantial mod for it, and will certainly play it through again. For what it’s worth My own review is here.

    By contrast, I got so bored of Jade Empire in the final chapter that I didn’t bother to finish it. The difference is story telling. The visual presentation of Jade Empire is wonderful, but the characters have little depth and there’s nothing in the story that draws you in.

    But the manual? You read a manual? Why? What would you need that for? By the time you’ve played through the prologue, you’ve learned the fight mechanics. All the rest of the information you need is in your journal, a couple of clicks away at any moment. The reason you didn’t get on with this game wasn’t the manual, or the power of your machine (which I’ll bet is more powerful than mine). It was that you didn’t like Geralt. Which is fine – he’s definitely not to everyone’s taste.

    Having said that, de gustibus non est disputandem; it would be a sad world if we all liked the same stuff.

  57. John says:

    On further thought, it may not be so bad that you cannot play other characters if the main character is also the main character from the book. Then it would be like a Harry Potter game where you could only play Harry Potter, or a Star Wars game where you could only play Luke Skywalker.

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