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Written by Starfox   
Friday, 07 January 2011 00:00
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The Witcher

A drowner tongue with two ounces of cadaverine please

The second witcher tool that one uses a lot (especially if playing at the hardest difficulty setting) are potions. Witchers brew themselves their own potions that only them may absorb without experiencing too much bad effects (most of those potions would be fatal to "normal" human beings). There are too many potions to all list them here but they cover a variety of situations from combat potions to healing potions or simple helpers. The simplest of all potions (and the one used pretty often) being Cat, a potion that allows Geralt to see in complete darkness sparing him the need for a torch (problem with the torch is that one cannot draw a sword while carrying it). There's a whole lot of other potions to increase health, endurance, the power of Geralt's attacks... etc. There's even a Perfume formula in order to impress the ladies.

The drawback of potions is that they are toxic, some mildly toxic and some others very toxic. The toxicity bar is always on the screen and fills in green as Geralt absorbs potions. The more green there is, the worse it gets. When the bar is about half-full, Geralt begins to feel the effects of toxicity – which for the player translates in colored dots randomly appearing on the screen. At this point it is   best to stop drinking any more potion unless you really have to. If the bar if fully filled, Geralt falls in a coma and eventually dies. To reduce the toxicity, there are two options, either to meditate (it may takes several hours if your toxicity level is pretty high) in which case the toxicity may decrease while still keeping the good effect of the potion (it only works with long lasting potions though) or to drink another potion called White Honey that will immediately reduce the toxicity to zero but will also cancel all the effects associated. A third option is also provided if you learn a specific skill: using a magic source for desintoxication (those can be found in several places in most maps -- welcome to automatic rehab).

Of course toxicity is also there for gameplay purpose, to prevent players from ingesting all the potions available in order to start any combat in an almost godmode state. Instead, players have to think about what potions are the best for a given situation. For example, when entering a crypt filled with bruxae, alps and fledlers (all bloodsuckers)  it may be useful to drink a dose of Blackblood that makes Geralt's blood highly toxic for any vampire-like creature foolish enough to attempt to suck it while when one has a wyvern, basilisk or cokatrice problem, the anti stun/knockdown effect of the Willow potion will be a good choice against the kind of attack performed by such creatures.

Then there are a few potions that will always come in handy whatever the situation is, like Swallow (increase health regeneration rate) or Tawny Howl (increase endurance regeneration rate). Other choices of all purpose potions is best left to players' discretion as it depends on each player's style.

Brewing potions is rather uncomplicated. You need a) a formula, b) the necessary ingredients and c) a potion base (alcohol). Formulas can be found, given to Geralt (as part of the story or after completing a quest) or bought. There is also a fourth way to acquire formulas: experimenting. That's one thing which set The Witcher apart from most RPGs where it is required to have something particular to perform certain tasks – especially alchemy. Geralt may indeed mix ingredients randomly, brew them and drink the thing to see if it has any good effect. If a valid formula is found, it is automatically entered in Geralt's formulas book. However the procedure is risky. When the potion is failed, drinking it may have a number of effects that range from pain to loss of health passing by drunkenness. When experimenting it's always useful to have some White Honey and Swallow at hand should the result of your experiments be disastrous.  In any case, experimenting may allow you to acquire formulas faster (and considerably cheaper) or even to discover some formulas that you couldn't obtain otherwise.

The Witcher

Ingredients from the potions may be found, given or more generally gathered. To gather ingredients from a particular plant or monster you need to have the knowledge of this plant/monster. This knowledge may be acquired reading books or talking to folks around (some will tell you what you need to know in exchange for food or alcohol; more rarely for free).  Each ingredient gathered is placed into your alchemy pouch where you can sort them by the substance they provide. There are six substance an it's these substance that need to be combine to form a potion – at least 2 different substances must be mixed, up to 5.

The potion base required in the brewing is alcohol. The stronger and purest the alcohol, the more potent the potion will be. Low quality alcohol allows for mixing three ingredients, high quality alcohol allows four ingredients and top quality alcohol allow the maximum of 5 ingredients (which are required by the best formulas). The good thing there again is that you can brew any alcohol, even of low quality, to turn it into White Gull, the top quality alcohol used by witchers. It will cost you just a few ingredients. And don't worry, alcohol is probably one of the most common element in The Witcher world either to be found or bought so no problem finding some.

If you want to do some easy brewing, you just find a fireplace, put Geralt in meditation mode, switch to the potion screen, select a formula in the list which will automatically place the required ingredients and alcohol (if you have them in your inventory) in the appropriate slots then click on the mix button. Potion done!

Now, you might also want to be a bit more selective about the process and do some manual tweaking that the automatic system seems to have real troubles with. See, beside the six primary substances, there are also three secondary substances. If you put ingredients that all contain the same secondary substance, you'll obtain a potion that possesses not only the desired effect but also the special effect coming from the secondary substance. A potion containing nigredo will increase the damage done by Geralt in combat for some time, a potion with rubedo will help restoring Geralt's health faster for some time (it's equivalent to a Swallow potion) and a potion with albedo decreases not only the toxicity of the potion containing it but also of those swallowed after that during the time the albedo effect lasts.

All in all the alchemy system of The Witcher is well done for those who don't want to have a headache over it but it's also flexible enough for those gamers who like to control everything.

But are the potions really that important to beat the game? Let's put it that way: at the easiest difficulty setting, potions are mere helpers that can give you an edge but are not necessarily needed in most cases so you may even jump your alchemy classes in this case. The hardest difficulty is an all other matter. There you'll have to make full use of potions if you just want to survive. Especially during the heaviest fights and especially if you're lousy in developing your character skills. Potions are there because as in every other RPG you won't be able to turn your character into a semi-god (there's not enough XP and levels for that) and the potions are there to balance this fact. They temporarily turn Geralt in some areas in a character of a higher level than the one he currently is.

However the hardest difficulty level has also some special tricks when it comes to potions. The slow health regeneration that exists in Easy and Normal mode is removed so Geralt has to rely on potions to help maintain his health especially before and during combat either to start a regeneration process or to recover some of the health lost. This fact alone always force you to a least take a Swallow potion before entering a series of fights and possibly during some of the heaviest fight to swallow a White Raffard's Decoction (a very potent health restorer but also highly toxic). Consequently the toxicity margin left is much lower than in Easy or Normal mode which means that you'll have not only to carefully prepare your potions but also to only use what is needed for a situation.

The Witcher

Igni, Aard, Yrden... What tongue is that anyway?

The last – but not least – of the witcher's tool are magical signs. Granted, witchers are not sorcerers (otherwise I guess the game would have been called “The Sorcerer”) and their magic is not as extended as the one of real sorcerers but it is nevertheless pretty useful. Witcher's magic is based on the use of signs that can be quickly drawn in the air during combat with one hand (no need to draw a dusty parchment or to vomit a delirious and enigmatic formula). The first sign that the amnesic Geralt will learn anew is Aard. Aard allows you to stun or knockdown enemies during combat (a stunned enemy can be killed with one strike of any sword) and can be used outside of a fight to bring down some obstruction in your path. The four other signs allow Geralt to perform fire attacks (or to light up fireplaces), to slow down enemies, to create a magical shield around him (useful to drink a potion without being hit) or even to temporarily switch the alliance of an opponent so they will fight for him.

Using signs has a cost however as it draws on Geralt's endurance. The endurance is limited and although it replenishes even during a fight, the process is slow (same as the health, there are potions to temporarily increase both the total endurance and the recovering rate). You can also enhance the power of your magical signs temporarily in a number of ways, either by drawing power from a magical stone or by finding a magic source (if you have the needed skill), or simply drinking the appropriate potion.

Not much else to say about magic. It works, it's efficient (even more if you spend points in those disciplines) but some signs are less useful than others. I find myself using mainly Aard (stun) and Igni (fire). Sometime Quen (shield) when I have a difficult combat ahead or when needing to drink a potion during a fight. Practically I had little use for Yrden (slow down opponents) and Axii (converting enemies into allies).

And what about armor?

Well, to be frank, finding armor is not the main occupation of a witcher. In the game there are three armors total all of the light type. One basic (granted for free) a good one that can be bought and a third "awesome" that can be gathered after accomplishing a multipart quest near the end of the game. Armor mainly provide a boost to some of Geralt attributes as well as more potions and or weapons slots. Visually they're not different except for the awesome and rare endgame armor. Anyway, this is being faithful to what witchers are. Witchers rely on speed and agility, not on armor. A witcher in full armor would be like food in a tin can.

But yeah, sure, for those who like dressing, undressing and dressing their character again, The Witcher is definitely not *that* kind of RPG.

The Witcher



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