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Written by Starfox   
Friday, 07 January 2011 00:00
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The Witcher - Director's Cut Edition
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Developer: CD Projekt RED
Publisher: Atari (World wide) CD Projekt RED (Eastern Europe)
Game Price (at review time): $13 (basic retail) or $40 (Director's cut retail) or $20 (Director's cut via Steam)
Demo Download (1.97 GB - Hosted by Filefront)
Official Site
Vista/Seven compatible: YES For the Director's Cut edition (older versions requires patch 1.5 to get rid of the DRM which causes the game to not launch on Windows 7)
16/9 support: Native

ESRB Mature (blood and gore, nudity, strong language, strong sexual content, violence)
PEGI 18+ (strong language, violence)
 

The Witcher

 

What happens when a Polish video game publisher suddenly decides to go and develop their own game? Well, an interesting gem of gaming with a real publishing mess (the publishing being the fact of Atari, not CD projekt RED that for once acted as a developer only). For reasons no clearly known, The Witcher game was originally released in two separate versions, one censored for North America and one uncensored for the rest of the world. I say that the reasons are not clearly known because for once they were not the fact of the ESRB. The ESRB granted to all the versions of The Witcher the same rating: Mature. So it seems that for once the publisher (Atari) decided to second guess the ESRB and to censor the game themselves.


To cut a long story short, at the time of this review, three versions of the game are available in North America. The original censored edition, the Enhanced Edition (also censored) and the uncensored Director's Cut Edition. Of course those who still have to play the game are well advised to go directly for the Director's cut. But, and this a good news for the others, even owners of the original edition may upgrade their copy to Director's cut level. They just have to download the complete 1.4 patch which will upgrade their version to Enhanced Edition standard, then to apply the patch 1.5 which will upgrade their Enhanced Edition to the Director's Cut uncensored version (also removing the copy protection in the process that prevented the game to load on Windows 7)


So with those considerations out of the way, we can turn our minds toward the game itself, shall we?

 

The Witcher

 

A bit of the story first.

The story and the characters of The Witcher are based on the series of eight books of the same name (three being a collection of short stories and the five others one big saga) by the Polish author Andrezj Sapkowski. With such an amount of work, CD Projekt  has certainly enough stuff to build one game (several in fact). The game itself starts a few years after the events depicted in the books. Rest assured that you don't need to read the books to understand the game which is a rather good thing as only 3 of them made it in English at the time of this review, 3 years after the initial game release... a shame; in our Western countries the full set is only available in Spanish and German while 6 of the books are available in French. Here we have a direct effect of the video game industry in litterature because in Europe, publishing of The Witcher books really exploded after the game release. Before that, The Witcher was a license mainly ignored except in Poland, Russia and other Eastern countries.

Anyway, the developers had quite the idea when they gave Geralt (the main and playable character) a giant amnesia so he doesn't remember a thing and doesn't have any particular ideas or feelings about what happened to him and his friends several years ago. A lot of people in the game will mention events that occurred in times passed. If you read the books, you'll know what these events mean and if not you'll just have to stick with Geralt and pretend to have amnesia too. That shouldn't be too difficult.

Killed five years before the beginning of the game during a anti nonhumans pogrom in Rivia, The witcher Geralt of Rivia is unexpectedly found alive by his fellow colleagues not far from the witchers fortress of Kaer Mohren. First spotted by the sorceress Triss merigold, he's running in the woods, attempting to escape a ghost entity known as the King of the Wild Hunt. He has lost his memory and doesn't remember anything of what happened before being rescued. Triss and the other witchers do their best to help him recover physically but his memories appear to have been wiped out for good although Geralt still remembers a bit about a witcher's work and experience some weird attraction toward Triss -- he figures that she was a woman pretty important to him before he forget all about her.

One day, the Kaer Morhen fortress is assaulted by a group of bandits lead by a powerful mage, Azar Javed, and an assassin known as “The Professor”. They are after something pretty specific, the mutagens that give witchers their stunning abilities required for their daily work (chasing and killing monsters). Despite putting some good fight during what is the tutorial part of the game, the witchers cannot prevent Javed to steal their secrets. Leo, the youngest of the witchers, is killed and Merigold is wounded in the process (Triss being amusingly allergic to magical treatment she requires a special potion which is good because this bit allows players to understand how the alchemy process work in game).

 

The Witcher

 

After restoring Triss' health and having no reason to stay there, the four remaining witchers (Geralt included) and Triss Merigold decide to leave Kaer Morhen and to chase down the offenders. Each of them goes in one direction Geralt heading South to Vizima, the capital of Temeria where he hopes finding a clue about these scoundrels and their whereabouts. He quickly learn that the scum are forming an organization called Salamandra and as fate would have it, he lands right in the middle of their dirty business which will eventually put him right in the middle of Temeria politics -- so long for the famed Witchers' neutrality.

As a story in its own right, The Witcher video game does well, even though it borrows some plot elements directly from the books all the way up to putting in Triss Merigold's mouth some sentences that were pronounced in the book... but by another character. Other than that, the game and characters are fairly faithful to the books -- in which Triss for example, despite being a sorceress herself, is really allergic to magical treatments. At one point in the game, a pub owner in a place called "Murky Waters" has a story to tell you (if you care asking); what he comes up with is the (very) short version of the full story related in the books.

As I said, one doesn't need to read the books to appreciate the game as it was intended by CDProjekt RED team, but if like me you like the universe of the game and the characters, it might be a plus to read them at some point. They are not boring and draw a pretty accurate picture of some of the important characters you meet in the game and of the gloomy medieval world Geralt evolves in. On the other hand, some people who read the book before playing the game complained about some aspects, particularly the fact that one of the most important characters of the books is not even mentioned once or the relationship between Geralt and Triss Merigold which is possibly the only real point of the game story that without being completely unfaithful to the books has been sufficiently twisted to make it a bit weird. But the books in fact leave enough room so one could come with a couple of explanations for the curious switch; I guess only Triss really knows what's behind her obvious lack of urge to help Geralt recover his memory. Maybe she's just using his amnesia to get what she wanted long ago and was denied. And maybe the answer will be provided to us in the upcoming game, The Witcher 2: Assassins Of Kings in which Triss Merigold will be once again at Geralt's side.

Anyway, such questions can only arise if you read the books. So let's talk about something else.

 

The Witcher

 

 



 

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