284th played so far
Year of Release: 2007
Developer: CD Projekt Red
Publisher: Atari, Inc.
Woo, awesome. Here’s a game I’ve been looking forward to for a while (pretty much the start of the blog – it’s on my list of games to play anyway).
This was helped, too, by our fifty deal (may its conclusion be swift). Peter hasn’t played it directly, but seen it played enough (thanks to a housemate at uni), meaning he doesn’t need to watch it as much. I can focus on it, share experiences, and we can save a bit of time that way. Let’s go for it!
Somehow, good things happen to games made using Bioware’s engines. Aside from the afore-linked Planescape: Torment, we’ll be looking at the sequel to Knights of the Old Republic later. But it’s not about the engine – it just helps with making good things come to life.
Yeah, there’s bits I don’t like as much. The overly sexual nature with the gathering of (semi-)nude playing cards. And the click-rapidly-to-attack-lots-of-times gameplay seems a bit unnecessary at time, when some form of auto-attack could be used.
But that doesn’t matter. It hits all the right notes. The game derives from an existing story (semi-amnesia used as an excuse for most of the exposition), which means you feel like you’re in an existing, bigger world from the start. It feels like the game immediately allows itself to do more with that base, less setup and more play.
Even beyond that, it also offers options. Despite playing an established character, the game offers plenty of choice – from moral quandaries to different quest routes and establishing parts of your personality. It makes for an interesting mix of both a set story and the options we want in a western RPG.
Although we didn’t get that far, these decisions are meant to impact later parts of the game as well, which makes it even more interesting – as much as Mass Effect‘s use of save game transfers does.
But it’s also these non-main story parts that entertain for other reasons. Aside from the large amount of side quests, partially fueled by fairly realistic NPC behaviour (walking around and living their lives as time goes on – one sidequest coming from you escorting someone home if you’re there at the right time), there are many other things to do. Alchemy is a large part of the world, and going around getting ingredients, recipes and finding enough about creatures to be able to skin them is a lot of fun.
Then there is character advancement. It’s a subject that, in many RPGs, you barely discuss – numbers go up, you may get an ability, or make a minor choice. Some offer skill trees anice way to compromise between new abilities and advancing existing ones. The Witcher, in its own lovely way – has multiple skill trees (or one giant, branched tree, if you wish), one per ability, making for a lot of fun times trying to figure where to go next. Luckily, skill points are plentiful and you can always get more – even through brewing potions, as you find out early on.
The best thing is probably how it all feeds into each other – abilities unlocking quests, the world moving on around you, opening and closing opportunities, exploration rewarded with its own abilities. And all of that means you’ve just got to try that next ability, get to that next area… it’s amazingly well done.
On the whole, this game manages a good marriage of setting, gameplay, character development and story that feels to be be at the front of what the genre is capable of. It has its rough edges, but when playing it’s addictive all the way through.