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    dkirschner's The Witcher (PC)

    [June 10, 2011 11:42:18 AM]
    I finished up the rest of The Witcher's DLC tonight and it was a lot of fun! I haven't bought into the whole DLC thing because it usually seems to be a money-grab, but The Witcher's is free, and high quality, just like the game. There are two official ones with voice acting and all, one of which is superb and has 3 different endings. You've got to make some thoughtful decisions about whether to allow this girl to stay at Kaer Mordhen under Witcher protection or to cast her out. The other official one, Dandelion gets himself arrested for sleeping with the mayor's wife or some such, and lies to Vizima's underworld leader to get him to pay 2000 oren bail. You know Dandelion doesn't have 2000 oren, so you've got to run around Vizima doing quests to raise the cash. Slight surprise near the end.

    Then there are 5 community mods (1 or 2 of those might just be unpolished CD Projekt mods). I played most of one that was very reminiscent of a NWN design, using the Aurora engine like a NWN game would to phase Geralt around collecting elements to fit into some stone. Another two were just 'Geralt winds up in a small town and the villagers have problems. Go help them.' I didn't play much of those.

    The best one of the bunch though definitely goes to the one about Geralt's wedding. It was absolutely amazing. I laughed out loud 15 or 20 times. Geralt wakes up at his wedding party with no recollection of what's going on. There are like 20 or 30 guests that Dandelion invited, all kinds of random characters from the game and official DLC, including Gollum and Gandalf parodies, Golgum and Gafaf or something. You run around talking to all the guests, and the conversations are great. The dwarves are drinking and getting people to try some nasty ale that makes them vomit. There's a band with horrible lyrics. Thaler the spy is undercover. Some mage and a dwarf pick a fight with one another, and the mage tells a story of how he was seduced by a woman who he thought was a man. The guests make fun of your ruffly shirt a lot, which is really funny. Dandelion loses the rings to the Gollum character, who runs off with them, and you have to go find some fish to trade him for 'my precioussss.' Ganfaf stands there and spouts quotes from LOTR that are so funny because they're so out of context. The end of the little story is awesome too. This little episode was such a nice surprise. This one and the one about choosing what to do with the girl in Kaer Mordhen, totally worth playing.

    Sadly, there is no more Witcher for now :( Gotta find those books!
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    [May 21, 2011 06:39:16 AM]
    Beat The Witcher earlier in the week and haven't had a chance to sit down and write about the last half. I thought I saw there were 6 chapters and an epilogue, so last entry when I was beginning chapter 4, I thought I was halfway through. Turns out I was wrong and there are 5 chapters and an epilogue, which is short, so I really wasn't far. Seriously a great game, and highly recommended RPG. The end was cool, story wrapped up nicely, yet obvious where the sequel begins, and the final boss's last words before he dies are awesome. Took me 44.5 hours, which according to (a cool little site that averages user-submitted completion times), is just under the average. There are 7 DLC episodes that are extra story bits for some of the characters in the game. Dunno how long those will take, but I'm gonna go Riddick -> Amnesia DLC -> Crysis -> Witcher DLC -> Crysis x-pac, to split up all these shooters.

    At the end of the game, the main choice you make unfolds, whether you helped the elves, the humans, or remained neutral. I think it was ambitious the way they tried to make choices matter, but really, you get one of 3 endings, same boss though. I thought the boss would be different, like, I thought the last chapter would basically have a different goal depending. And most of those 1 or 2 moral choices you make along the way don't have much impact, as in it changes some little things, like which female character falls in love with you or whether the witch or some peasants help you out for a fight. Some of the choices turn out to be meaningless, like I suspected earlier, especially who you implicate for the murders. It does in fact have to be Ramsmeat because Kalkstein and Thaler are written into the story later. I thought that meant the story would be different had you implicated Thaler, for example, but nah, it's the same because Ramsmeat has to die and Thaler has to play his role later. The Witcher 2 is supposed to have 16 different endings. I'm real curious to see where they take the idea of choices with consequences! The Witcher 2, by the way, is getting rave reviews across the board, so I will be anticipating the ol' price drop on that one.

    A couple other random things...I ended up being the world champion of both boxing and dice poker, neither of which ever get any more difficult than the first matches, which is a shame. Fistfighting, you just block, punch, block, punch, and repeat until you win. Dice poker is all random, and the opponent won't raise or take any risks whatsoever unless he's like 99% sure of it. The last dice poker player plays no different than the first.

    I thought I found a KKK reference which freaked me out a bit, until I realize that the leader of the Order is also called the Grand Master, and that the little kid who told me that he wants to play 'hang the elf' and that he's 'always the Grand Master' really was talking in context.

    Just to mention again, the info screen is fantastic. It keeps records of all plants, monsters, characters, locations, quests, important terms, all in nice readable and searchable format. Whenever something new happens to a character, for example, that character's entry will have a new ! by it, letting you know there's new info for the entry. I like the auto-updating there, and all that information really, really, really helped me keep track of what was going on. Other story-heavy games should have the same at least.

    After finishing any game, I look at cheats and walkthroughs to see if there was anything really neat I missed, to see what cheats and easter eggs exist, to see if anyone has any advice or strategies that I could have used or if I did something novel that other people didn't do. In the Witcher, then, I checked out all the alternate choices of story that I didn't choose, like what would have happened if I'd done X instead of Y. No real surprises there. There aren't any cheats to speak of, just a couple exploitable bugs fixed with the enhanced edition. I found out I could have been selling weapons, but I never did because you can only carry the ones for which you have free weapon slots. Since my slots were all full, I never picked them up off the ground, but I should have been selling what I had whenever I found a vendor! I never once modified or created a weapon, so all those runes and meteor stones were wasted. I never once upgraded my armor! I always wondered why there was only 1 hotkey for potions, and that was because better armor has more potion slots! Aaaah! No matter though since I never even used the 1 hotkey. I never once made a bomb, and I only used weapon coating like twice, so all those materials were also wasted.

    While looking at extras and tips, I stumbled upon a box back of The Witcher and had a good laugh, and an idea for something to do after I play a game. The back of The Witcher has some truly outlandish claims. Obviously what goes on the box is put there to move the box off the shelf. Gamers need to be able to pick it up, be impressed, and then buy. But to what extent does the need to lay out eye-catching game features lead said displayed features to be...mmm...exaggerated? There's certainly an element of subjectivity to say that features are exaggerated, but perhaps some of these can be ranked along a continuum of more or less accurate, as identified by consumers who actually played the game. What if you had participants playing a game, and show them the box back when they were done, and then talk to them about how accurate they think the highlights listed there were in relation to their experience? This would be cool in general when prompting people to reflect on their gameplay experience.

    So for me and The Witcher, I wrote down a couple that jumped out.

    "More than 90 hours of nonlinear gameplay." Considering my time was 44.5 hours and the average on howlongtobeat was like 48, I'm going to reject this one. Perhaps if you played it through twice, but that is in no way 90 unique hours. 80 of those hours would overlap. And in my 44.5, I completed or at least started every quest I came upon, went to every area, spent probably a normal amount of time dying and retrying things, running around, picking flowers, talking to NPCs, exploring, etc. No way in hell there are 90 hours of gameplay.

    "6 different sword styles." Actually there are 3, and then those exact same 3 with a different sword. So I would argue there are in fact 3 different sword styles.

    "over 120 different attacks assisted by magic, potions of your creation and modifiable weaponry and equipment." 120?! Hahaha! This is what I used. 3 sword styles for each of the two swords. We'll be nice and call it 6 since we need to add up to 120. 5 signs. ... ...6+5=11. 11=120? Negative. Oh right, but I didn't use bombs. Maybe there are 10 unique bombs. What else performs a qualitatively unique attack? Maybe they're counting weapon coatings which make your weapon more effective against certain monster types. Maybe there are 10 of those. That's 31 total. Maybe they're counting animations. Each sword style has like 4 or 5 animations you can chain together. Oh okay, let's give them 4 animations times 6 sword styles = 24...24+31 is 55. Okay, we're almost halfway there. Yeah...No. No clue where they get the 120 number. But you know what else? It doesn't really matter because there are TWO(point five) types of button that you push to attack. (1)Right click to use a sign (1.5)Hold it to charge it (2)Left click to use your sword, and repeat the exact same timing for every stance in every fight in the whole game.

    Was The Witcher overzealous with their box features? I think so.

    Anyway, anyway, anyway. Fun stuff even with 10% of the attacks and 50% of the length. Go play.
    read comments (4) read comments - add a comment Add comment
    [May 13, 2011 12:25:46 PM]
    I'm at the end of Chapter 3, died by a bunch of armored dwarves and elves who were robbing a bank, and decided to call it a day. I'm still quite enjoying the game. It's had some downs so far, but overall it's a big up for me. The major down was the last third or so of Chapter 2. Chapter 2 took me 3 days of playing to get through, and it gets aimless, feels haphazard. Chapter 3 was a major contrast, much more directed, and took half the time. But, starting from notes after the last entry...

    With a long game like this, I keep noting new things to say, and old things I thought have more time to change. For example, difficulty. Difficulty comes in many forms, not just combat. Part of the difficulty of the game is that you're challenged to figure out what to do next, and you're challenged to make decisions that impact characters and the outcome of the story. I like the level of all 3 of these in the Witcher. Somehow they're in balance. Combat first. The first challenge here was the end of the prologue fighting The Beast. I kept immolating myself on the ring of fire surrounding the battle. Once I got better at maneuvering in the tight space, I had to learn how to deal with 3,4,5 enemies and a boss at once. The fight seems like a check. Have you learned some basic skills that you're going to need? Tight spaces proved deadly for a while longer, but I've figured out good tricks, like backing into a corner so enemies can't surround me. And getting better at using combos really helps. Learning the (basic) timing of combos is necessary. If you can't chain combos, you're going to die, especially with multiple enemies. There have been tough fights here and there, but the tough ones aren't very frustrating, and I feel they're mostly about using space wisely. The Bestiary is incredibly helpful for clarifying strengths and weaknesses of enemies, so refer to that if you're finding some enemy type hard.

    The challenge of what to do next has been great, with, like I said, a bit of tedium in the latter part of Chapter 2. I maintain the story is great. Parts of it play out like a criminal investigation or a mystery to solve. There's not a lot of stuff simply presented to you. You actually go PLAY the story. You run to return every quest to the NPCs. You deliver every package. You find monster bounties on the notice board. The NPCs all stand and walk where they should. The guard captain? He's either by the Trade District gate training recruits or in the dungeon with the prisoners and other guard on duty. The girl who runs the prostitutes? She's either outside her post, in the inn drinking and gambling, or wandering around the streets. It's pretty cool. So when you have like 10 quests you can do, walking around the city finding NPCs feels very natural. Engaging may be a better word. I've learned my way around without referring to the map because the way the NPCs and buildings are laid out makes sense to me. But it is challenging because certain things need to be done in certain orders, yet open-ended enough that it's not always obvious. There seem to be several 'main' quests occurring at the same time all the time. The questing, and thus the pace, of the game has a unique feel. It's not linear and I don't feel pressured by time to rush around, yet there's always a handful of things I should be doing. I think it feels like meandering.

    The challenge of moral choices is interesting too. Choices in The Witcher aren't black and white. I gave the example earlier of the priest/witch in the prologue. There's been one or two good ones every chapter. Recently I had to steal a boy away from the hospital. Triss and Shani both wanted me to bring the boy to them, so based on what you know about them, you choose. Well, I've known Triss since before the game started, but at the beginning of Chapter 3, I was knocked out in her bed, and overheard her talking cryptically to someone through a mirror. I don't get any bad vibe from Shani. I don't think Triss is going to do anything malicious with the boy because she's a sorceress and knows what she's doing. Shani I think doesn't understand the gravity of who the boy is (he's marked or possessed or something). But I gave him to Shani because she's the least menacing, although that might be bad for the city's safety. I have no idea yet, and that was like 4 game hours ago. It's crazy how your choices don't always have immediate outcomes like in most games. I might see the repercussions of my decision 3 days from now. And I'm in the midst of a conflict now between the Order (humans) and the elves/dwarves. The humans are supposedly racist (sort of true), and the elves/dwarves are supposedly not and fighting for their freedom (also sort of true). But some humans are really nice and not racist, like this strong Knight of the Order named Siegfried, who is like the nicest, noblest character in the game. And then some of the freedom fighters are more like terrorists against the humans. So it's gray. I've sided with the Order on two occasions because I like Siegfried so much. The elves/dwarves lack a compassionate leader and I don't buy their ideals.

    Racism is an issue the game raises. It's mostly humans discriminating dwarves and elves, but they also discriminate against witchers, which I think is supposed to make some players feel kindred with the dwarves and elves. Witchers are 'freaks' and 'monsters,' yet they go out of their way to kill monsters that threaten people. But they do it for cash, for incentive. The Order is supposed to be threatening to some players because they also fancy themselves monster slayers, yet they do it for free, asking nothing in exchange, but some are fanatical anti-dwarves/elves. It's neat. The dwarves and elves are even sectioned off in their own district in a run down slum in the city.

    I thought the treatment of sex might become more intelligent like the treatment of race is, but it's still by and large not. Geralt still tries to sleep with all the women, and they nearly all end up sleeping with him once he brings them a ring or a gem or talks dirty to them. It's pretty stupid. One thing that would make it better is if the game featured some strong female characters who refused to be flattered, were independent of men, were gay (or any gay characters for the amount of hetero normality going on). But there's none of that. Even Triss and Shani, the main female characters, are conquests, and easily. I mean, Triss sleeps with Geralt 5 minutes into the game, and Shani tells you she loves you and asks for a ring, which of course you don't have to give her. After that part, the 'guys' all go out for a drink and talk about women and relationships, which was actually a good part, and the other womanizer in the game, an irritating bard named Dandelion, proposes a perfect end to the night at the whorehouse, which you can also accept or decline. Geralt got lucky because I went to the whorehouse, bought a ring on the way back, gave the ring to Shani, who couldn't resist him after that. Unsafe sex to sleep with a prostitute and then your girlfriend? Probably. Maybe STIs don't exist in this game world. So yeah, a bit disappointing on the gender front, and it just got more eye-rolling with the introduction of Dandelion. Worst character in the game and worst name in the last x games I've played!

    A couple really nice things that make me happy that other games should do:

    The UI is excellent. Everything I need is visible. Inventory is arranged very nicely. All the quest journal, story info, bestiary, alchemy recipes, potion menus, etc etc, all fantastic! My favorite little UI trick though has got to be when you click on something, an herb for example, and you're too far away, Geralt simply runs to it and opens the loot menu. Too far from an NPC when you click? No annoying "I'm too far!" "I can't do that now!" He *gasp* runs closer and interacts. Such a simple thing.

    Coming off playing Mass Effect 1 & 2 in the last 6 months, I like the dialogue in this game because you don't have to select dialogue options for every little thing in every exchange. Geralt does a lot of good talking on his own. Dialogue choices are smart, available when it matters. It's nice to take a bit more passive role and be able to listen to the majority of a conversation rather than have to pick every little thing the character says. However, one thing I remember ME2 did so well was Shepherd would rephrase whatever option you selected. So if it read "Hang on, I've got to grab my shoes and then I'll be ready to go," he said maybe "My flippy floppies are going on my feet and then we head out." Same meaning, different words. Stupid example, but obvious point. It's fine that The Witcher reads the dialogue ver batim, but the ME2 way was so cool I wish all dialogue tree type games would follow suit. It made reading and listening two worthwhile things to pay attention to!

    Ok, so there's my positive half. I want to try and explain why the end of Chapter 2 was messy, and note a few more oddities. It's weird but all the 'negative' stuff isn't really negative. Just kind of funny or slightly confusing, or how-did-they-not-catch-that type stuff. Chapter 2 narration/explanation first, copied and pasted from right after the moment:

    by the end of chapter two, you're kind of randomly running around talking to everyone, just trying to advance the story, but not really knowing how. mildly frustrating, but somehow still sucked in by the city, the citizens, the grit of the whole thing. i find myself not worrying about wandering. actually the end of chapter 2 gets to be quite the mess. i kind of ran out of things to do. at this point, i was supposed to perform an autopsy on a corpse to identify the killer. i had to get the corpse from the gravedigger and meet shani at the hospital. i waited until nighttime to meet the gravedigger, but turns out he shows up in the MORNING like a normal person. gravediggers are supposed to be up at night! then i was supposed to question 'someone who knows something about autopsies or read a book.' went to all the book sellers i could think of and no books. so who to ask about autopsies? the gravedigger? didn't know. shani at the hospital? didn't know. the alchemist? didn't know. the murderous thief ramsmeat? didn't know. the low-down and dirty thaler? didn't know. hmm. oh well, i guess i'll ask every single other person in the city. turns out it was the detective. makes sense. we did the autopsy and settled on ramsmeat as the main killer, supported by the alchemist, kalkstein. went and told the detective. great, i'm to go kill ramsmeat and lure kalkstein to the mage's tower.

    rewind: when i went to see the gravedigger, he told me he'd let me in the graveyard if i settled his debts with thaler. go see thaler. thaler won't deal with me until i prove he's innocent of the killings. so once i named ramsmeat and kalkstein the killers, i went back to thaler. same response. but i didn't implicate you! okay, so i'll go kill ramsmeat and lure kalkstein, then ask you again. same response. ok, forget about that. so i killed ramsmeat and tried to convince kalkstein to come to the mage's tower. couldn't do it. he just got pissed and wouldn't talk to me, so no go. what to do? well i have this one random quest in town to bring shani some alcohol for a party she wants to throw. i go find some bottles of alcohol and bring them. then she asks me to invite someone to the party. who to invite? i asked a few people and there was no dialogue option. hmmm. i'll invite the character with backstory intersecting us all, the dwarf, zoltan. ok good, he's down. we have this party at shani's house, which involved a lot of super awkward conversation, reminiscing of the past, and more drunken and awkwardly presented and poorly written dialogue. then there was a terrible song by the terribler named bard, dandelion. the party took like 10 minutes. it was painful. after that, i still couldn't lure kalkstein. so i figured i'd go turn in a random quest in the swamp and go get this lightning rod made, and see if the detective had anything new to say. i went to the swamp, and lo!, siegfried is there with the Order ready to fight some elves. he asks me to help, so i go to the battlefield, but there's no one there. confused, i went back to him and said i'd help, and then all of a sudden elves were at the battlefield. we killed the elves (hooray!) and i failed a quest because i was supposed to turn it in to an elf (woops!). i got my lightning rod, killed the golem, put in the rest of the stones, and went to the mage tower where the detective was waiting. he mentioned luring kalkstein, and i'm like 'yeah i lured him good!' and me, myself, am thinking "i didn't lure him at all, what am i talking about!? in fact i spent like 30 minutes trying to lure him and he quit talking to me!' so then a plot twist happens, the whole thing with luring kalkstein seems to be forgotten about for whatever reason, so he's still alive and well and...and was never lured? or was he? i have no idea. and then during the cut scene between chapter 2 and 3, it tells me there was a fight between the order and the elves and i remained neutral! then i wake up in triss's bed and she lectures me on being neutral and how i need to pick a side! what?! i just slaughtered an elven army in the name of the Order like 15 minutes ago! ARG! see how the end of chapter two just turned into aimlessness and confusion? what happened, witcher?!

    Re-reading that, it seems like what happened is a lot of 'choices' didn't pan out right. I never was able to talk to Thaler on behalf of the gravedigger, but Thaler plays a large role in Chapter 3, so I don't think I could have implicated him. Or could I have and someone else plays his role in Chapter 3? I have no idea! And regarding the gravedigger and getting into the graveyard, none of that even mattered because the graveyard is unlocked in Chapter 3. So what's the point of trying to get there in Chapter 2? And the part about luring Kalkstein, well in Chapter 3 he had disappeared. At some point I went back to the mage tower, and he was there and gave me 1000 gold (?!) and ranted about discovering that 'all things are made up of tiny invisible particles,' har har. So, I don't know if I even could have implicated him in the murder, or if it HAD to be Ramsmeat. If I'd called out someone else, would Ramsmeat then have played a part in Chapter 3? I dunno. So, choices not panning out right, or there are kind of false choices that you are led to believe matter, but that you can't really make or don't really matter. I wonder if this kind of issue comes up again. Like I said though, Chapter 3 was smooth.

    Another odd thing is Shani's insane grandmother. Shani is a major character. You've got to talk to her a lot. She works at the hospital, but won't talk to you at the hospital because she's busy saving lives. So you've got to go to her house at night. Unfortunately her grandmother (who never sleeps) is a lunatic. When you go inside, she automatically opens up with one of 4 or 5 dialogue bits, seemingly randomly (unless you're drunk, in which case she says "Whaaat?! You're drunk?! GET OUT!" and you stammer "Nnnnot truuee" and sway on your feet). Anyway, it's random, and depending on what you say, she'll have random reactions too. She either kicks you out, lets you upstairs to see Shani, or insists you drink with her. Inexplicably, if you drink with her, she will accuse you of being drunk and kick you out. A truly tough woman to get along with. I did have a good laugh today though because after being conditioned to have all women in the game try to screw me, after a quest, Shani's grandmother said something like "There's only one gift I can give you!" and I was like Oh no, no...nononono. But she didn't mean sex, which relieved me.

    An unfortunate thing: The Witcher reuses character models like none other. There are a very limited number of NPC faces and bodies and they start looking and sounding like one another real fast. It's cool that all the characters are voiced, but even fairly important NPCs will have one of the generic bodies/faces/voices. Could have used a bit more variety.

    The capital city's name is Vizima. Every time anyone says " Vizima..." it sounds like "emphysema."

    The game crashes sometimes. I've had about one bad one per day where the whole thing will just freeze. It's annoying when it happens, and even though the game is excellent about auto-saving, it always seems to crash when there's been no autosave for a long long time.

    Final observation: The poker dice minigame is fun. Different characters will make you bet different amounts. I was playing 'professional' NPCs and we were getting up to huge numbers, like I could raise almost 200 gold, and there were like 40 gold buy-ins. So I beat all the professionals, which means I can play -- I forget the word, so I'll say sharks. I can play sharks. They are a step above professionals. So the first shark I found, he's like "only huge bets to play me!" What's the buy-in of the first shark, after I'd just been playing professionals for 20-40 and 200g raises? 5g! Big bets what! And I could raise 15, ooooh! I was pretty let down. I wanted it to be extreme dice poker.

    Right, so this entry is ridiculously long, and I'm going to go to sleep now and hopefully not write another til I'm done. I can't believe I'll have this much to say again. 3 exciting chapters to go!
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    [May 8, 2011 10:46:39 AM]
    There are A LOT of great things to say about The Witcher. It has exceeded my expectations in every department. Coming into it, I was hesitant from the slew of negative things I'd read about it (alongside the positives of course), but it seems the Enhanced Edition and patches have polished it up big time. My current verdict is that it's damn good. I played all day today and got just into Chapter 2. What to say, what to say...

    The Witcher is based on some Polish medieval fantasy novel(s), which I now want to read, because the game world is realized with great detail in a kind of setting I enjoy being fictional in, and the story, characters and presentation of it all are phenomenal so far. The main character is a Witcher (a monster bounty hunter) named Geralt. There's a cool intro cinematic as a prelude, in which Geralt gets hurt and suffers convenient amnesia (phenomenal story besides amnesia ploy), and is rescued by other witchers and taken to their home. The Prelude chapter serves as an action-packed and meaningful tutorial, and ends with the event that spurs on the remaining chapters. A mysterious sorcerer stole the alchemical and magical secrets of the witchers, and is using them (for now) to begin creating mutant dogs and such. You can imagine the mutations will get much scarier to fight. The remaining witchers scatter to the four corners of the earth to track the sorcerer and the Salamandra, this cult/order/guild group full of thugs and assorted villains.

    Geralt heads south to the city of Vizima, the capital of the country. Chapter 1 exists on the outskirts of the city. There's a plague, so the city is quarantined. And outside the city, there's the Beast, a terrifying hellhound and its ethereal pack, which collectively maul townsfolk. Obviously this is a problem, and it's up to Geralt to fix it. This involves figuring out where the Beast came from, who summoned it, and how to kill it. The outskirts are big and there's a lot of running, and lots of fairly interesting quests. One main quest was to go at night and light 5 shrine flames to try and banish the hellhounds (doesn't work), but it was a neat quest because you had to take advantage of Meditation and it forced you to wander at night, which is more dangerous because the Ghouls, Drowners, and Barghests (the dogs) come out to play. In the end, I reasoned, given the evidence, that the Beast was a manifestation of the sins committed by the townsfolk. This was one of two choices, the other being that the town witch summoned the Beast. It's interesting because neither one was right or wrong. Evidence was there to interpret either way, and neither character ('townsfolk'/high priest vs. witch) were morally good characters. This is a major reason I'll call this game realistic.

    Back to the point I was making, the world has a day/night cycle with four points: dusk, midnight, dawn, noon. NPCs have schedules, will be at different places doing different things. There are also nice weather effects, and NPCs actually react to weather, something I don't think I've ever seen before. I noticed when it rains, they huddle under shelter, except kids, who apparently like playing in the mud. It's almost endearing to watch. So, you can manipulate the time by 'meditating,' which is the same thing as resting in any other RPG. You meditate at a campfire or a bed or inn. The unique thing about mediation is that it's during meditation that you can level up, perform alchemy, or configure your witcher medallion.

    Leveling up is normal, with an XP bar and a little twist on the talent tree idea. When you level you get 'bronze' points, or silver or gold later, which you spend on bronze (or silver or gold, respectively) talent points. These increase damage, add a knockdown effect, improve a spell range, etc. etc., basic stuff. The witcher medallion you can configure to track either enemies or magic. It starts glowing and shaking whenever whichever is near.

    Alchemy gets its own paragraph since it's an important aspect of the game and story. Witchers become witchers through a series of grueling trials, training, and mutation by imbibing potions. The potions enhance combat abilities, defense, grant night vision, alleviate drunkenness (you can get SERIOUSLY drunk, and often have to to talk to NPCs -- think 'drinking buddies'), and so on. To create potions, which are incredibly useful, you need ingredients, which you loot off corpses or pick from plants. To pick plants, you need to have read about the plant in a book. There are also monsters in books, but I forget why you need to read those. I know you can't do bounty quests without having read about the monster first, but I dunno if for anything else. Anyway, this is not as tedious as it sounds and as I feared it would be (Oblivion flashbacks!). Herbs are scattered around, and you just go pick them up or loot materials off corpses that you would loot anyway. You've got a whole separate backpack for alchemy stuff, so it doesn't take up space. Then when you meditate, just make some potions. To make the potion, I forgot to say, you need to learn recipes, so look out for recipe books or NPCs who will teach you. You can also experiment to figure out how to make your own potions, but I haven't been successful yet. There are like 5 or 7 elements that ingredients contain that you need for whichever potion in some combination, plus always alcohol as a solvent. Then you can also create weapon oil, like poisons, and explosives. It's a neat system, and I like how it's tied into the lore.

    So, alchemy is useful for fighting. Fighting itself looked a bit dull initially, but I'm enjoying it now. There are three 'stances,' strong, quick and group. You can change stance on the fly, and each stance is suited for particular enemies (or groups of enemies) depending on their strengths and weaknesses. You've also got two types of weapon, steel and silver. Steel is ideal for humans and animals, whereas silver works best on monsters and magical creatures. You can also swap between these on the fly, plus you have extra weapons (a torch/small one-handed weapon slot, a mighty 2-h weapon slot that you can't change stances with, and something else I forget). Then defending is fun too. Double tap a direction to roll or jump that way and avoid damage. There's also a fistfighting minigame that involves blocking and punching (duh), and a dice poker minigame, both of which hopefully will stretch the entire game because they're fun little diversions.

    Aside from swordplay, you use 'signs,' which is magic. Right now I've got a telekinesis spell that knocks down enemies and destroys weak blockades, and a fire blast spell that deals damage and lights fires. I think there are 4 spells total, maybe 5. You also use signs on the fly. The combat feels very fluid with all the things you can swap between. You basically get combo moves with your swords, and it's a matter of button timing to execute. They're easy enough and add some variety to combat. If you time it right, you can execute enemies by stabbing them when they're down or doing one of various hilariously cheesy decapitation moves.

    One last thing for now -- I had read this game was incredibly masculine, like its sexism would be appalling, specifically regarding the sex minigame throughout. I definitely think the game's content is mature, and applaud it for that, and for not being too over-the-top about it, but it does offend me a bit, makes me look sideways and cock an eyebrow. I've been trying to think of the sex in the context of the story and game world. A female character named Triss helps Geralt recover from his wounds...tenderly. However, they had a thing going on in the past, so explained. And witchers are infertile, so it's not like his lasciviousness is making babies and single moms. He's just a really sexual guy. What I don't like about it is that he will hit on and try to sleep with A LOT of female characters, whether they're named story characters or simply waitresses or women walking down the street. This is the kind of thing in real life that would piss me off, the guy who feels the need to hit on every girl he sees. Girls don't walk around waiting for dudes to try and sleep with them, but lots of guys seem to believe this is the case, or that they can at least try their luck, which is arrogant and assuming and sexist. So while I understand that Geralt at least can't knock anyone up, the game makes women out to be easy if you just say the right thing. Also, when you sleep with a girl, you're rewarded with a sex card, yes, a sex card, which is like a photo of the girl nude and provocative. The first one I saw, I was like what?! But yeah, it's like a collect-em-all thing, kind of ridiculous. It's like a more adult version of Fable.

    So, overall Day 1, I'm very impressed with the polish. This is a great product.
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    dkirschner's The Witcher (PC)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Sunday 8 May, 2011

    GameLog closed on: Friday 10 June, 2011

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Yeah, this one pretty much kicks ass.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

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