The Witcher: From Books to Game

The Witcher

It wasn’t until I finished the Witcher for the first time and the credits rolled that I found the game was based on the world created by polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. I believe that this is the first game I have played that is based solely on a book series. I have played games that have supplementary books to add to their universes like Warcraft or Halo, but I have never encountered a game that originated from a book.

I was amazed to find after reading a number of the books, how faithful CD Projekt RED had been to the world and characters from the books. Geralt plays just like he reads, and even though you make many of them, his actions and choices make sense within the context of the world that existed before the games.

The first Witcher game uses the conceit that Geralt has lost his memories as a way to justify you being able to level up and get more powerful as the game proceeds. However as you meet Geralt’s old friends throughout the course of the game they tell you more about yourself and allow you to shape your own view of how Geralt should act.

The game has three different endings depending on which path or faction you choose to follow, do you side with the Scoia’tael (Squirrels) the non-human guerilla fighters who are at war with humans. Perhaps you feel like siding with the Order of the Flaming Rose the people fighting against monsters and non-humans. The final choice is the path of the Witcher, or true neutrality where your take no sides and protect yourself and your friends to the best of your ability against whatever comes your way.

In this world there is no real correct choice only shades of grey, and you find out about the light and dark sides of each path as you play through the game. The settings you play through also lend to this idea as well. Each chapter has you playing through very specific areas, chapter one has you gaining the trust of the people in the outskirts of a city so you can get permission to enter the city. Naturally the tasks you complete are those of a witcher, killing monsters wherever you find them.

The quests in this game, even if they are side quests allow you to find out extra things that will later apply to the main story, and these things can play out in interesting ways if you are paying attention. I won’t spoil it but the first chapter has you dealing with a number of locals whose motives aren’t quite what they seem.

The biggest hang up I have with the Witcher even in its Enhanced Edition, is with how incredibly dated the controls feel, eventually you do get used to them but they just never feel quite right. This game is also very difficult when you head in for the first time, it very much expects you to take advantage of all of the systems such as witcher sign’s (magic), or alchemy to enhance your combat abilities.

If you are just there for the story I would recommend playing through on the easiest difficulty, as you will not come across too much that will slow you down. If you do want the challenge I would recommend searching for some good level grinding spots, as they will become very necessary to make sure you stay on par with your enemies.

One of the great things about combat in The Witcher is the use of the witcher’s two swords, Silver for monsters and Steel for everything else. This plays into the fantasy of the world really well as the game allows you to switch at will between them, so you are always dealing maximum damage to your target. Witcher’s signs feel great to use as well, especially at high levels where you can set entire groups on fire as you dance your way through them with your sword.

I greatly enjoyed this game, I have finished it twice at this point. The first time was on an easy play through just so I could experience the story, and the second was a 100% completion play through on normal, because this is one of those games that allows you to pull your progress into the sequel.

If you are a fan of fantasy, dark or otherwise, I would recommend giving this game a try. However you must be aware that this game does feel dated in its combat sequences. It stays true to its source material very well and although it is not necessary to play this before playing the sequels, doing so will give you a deeper appreciation of the story and characters that you encounter in the sequels. So if this game sounds interesting to you pick it up, it is regularly on sale through Steam or G.O.G and often comes in a pack with its sequel making it easy to play the series right through.

Rise of the Tomb Raider: A Fantastic Sequel

Rise of the Tomb Raider

When it was announced that the Tomb Raider franchise was being rebooted by Crystal Dynamics, I didn’t care. I had never played more than a demo for an old PS1 Tomb Raider game, and so I ignored all of the news around this reboot. It was a wonderful surprise when I saw it and played it for myself, I fell in love with the franchise and couldn’t wait to see what would happen with the sequel.

Usually I am the kind of person that devours anything related to the franchises I love, but in the case of Rise of the Tomb Raider I decided to ignore as much of the news as possible. The idea being that I would be as pleasantly surprised as I was when I played its predecessor Tomb Raider. Luckily even with the amount of gaming news I consume, from news sites to podcasts and YouTube videos, I managed to go into Rise of the Tomb Raider without having had anything spoiled for me.

It was worth it! I downloaded the game to my Xbox One and was immediately wowed by how good the game looked, it was the first time I had ever sat there staring at the screen not realising the intro cut scene had ended. I have heard people talking about this before but it was amazing to experience it for the first time.

Right from the start Rise of the Tomb Raider does its best to make you feel like this game is a step up from the first game. The tutorial section is split between two opposite places in the world, an icy mountain peak, and somewhere in the Middle East, this is a contrast to the first game being set entirely on a windswept island. It also does the job of making the game feel much larger just by giving the player the idea that Lara Croft has travelled a great distance.

It is unfortunate that it is the story that lets the game down a bit. The basic premise is that Lara went back to the world after the supernatural events that occurred in the first game, and was ridiculed for telling her story. A newspaper headline “Another Crazy Croft,” and some explanation from Lara tells us that her father was discredited for his own theories about the supernatural and archaeology, to the point that he shot himself.

So after her experiences on the island Lara sets out to solve her father’s theories about an Immortal prophet as a way to validate her own experiences and redeem her father’s name. As such Lara goes on this expedition alone rather than risk her friends from the first game, in fact Jonah is the only character to return from the first game.

Needless to say, Lara finds that she is not the only one searching for the immortal prophet, and so general mayhem follows. Alongside the main storyline is the expansion of the idea from the first game that some of the collectibles tell stories of people from the past. In Rise of the Tomb raider these collectibles tell the story of the Immortal prophet’s people running from Trinity (a religious order of some sort), and a Trinity soldier who is sent to follow their trail and report the prophets location.

These side stories are simple and if you get into them, make you want to find the next collectible so that you can read the story of these people. In Tomb Raider I found that these side stories spoiled the major twist for me. However Rise of the Tomb Raider only tells a supplementary story, the only purpose it serves is to flesh out the history of the game world and nothing else. Being interested in stories of all kinds I loved this addition, and I was happy that Crystal Dynamics expanded upon this idea.

When it comes to gameplay Rise of the Tomb Raider does a great job of improving on the first game’s systems. I didn’t notice it too much in tomb Raider but the auto cover system works flawlessly, you are able to hind behind trees or rocks without button presses or awkward controls for getting in or out of cover.

Also added, is the ability to have multiple variations of the same type of weapon. For example you have a number of different bows with different attributes, a longbow that does more damage but is slower to draw and fire and you are unable to keep the bow drawn for a great length of time. Aside from this is a compound bow which does slightly less damage but can be kept drawn for a long time and is more accurate than your other bows.

The same goes for guns, you can have a revolver or a semi-auto pistol; an assault rifle or a bolt-action rifle. Added on top of this is an upgrade system similar to Tomb Raider’s, however it is treated more like a crafting system, where you must collect resources from enemies, animals, and crates to add things to your weapons. Such as adding a scope to your bolt-action rifle and turning it into a sniper rifle so you can take out enemies at a greater distance than you can with your bow.

Another improvement made in Rise of the Tomb Raider is that the challenge tombs you come across now give you a reward other than experience and a treasure map. You now get secret skills that augment your gameplay, like an ancient archery skills that teaches you to quickly fire a second arrow immediately after firing your first, or “inner strength” which gives you a second wind if critically damaged.

The tombs do have better challenges than the first game and they can be massive, some of them are amazing surprises as well. Imagine climbing a barren cliff, and just as you climb around the side of a rock you see a massive temple carved into the side of the canyon wall, you work your way towards all the while hearing a low humming noise. You work your way through the temple and as the final door opens the low humming noise becomes the deafening sound of a massive pipe organ. The temple was built around a natural formation that sounds like a pipe organ when the wind gusts down through the canyon.

And that is just one of the challenge tombs. The others are just as good, you can tell that Crystal Dynamics put a lot of time and effort into this part of the game. Alongside the challenge tombs are some secret crypts that give you pieces of an ancient weapon, the puzzle here is finding the crypts but each one tells the story of a founder of the immortal prophet’s city, which is another thing that adds to the story of the game world.

Rise of the tomb Raider is not an open world game, however it does a great job of making you think that it is. There are a number of large zones that you can explore to find secrets and resources, and each of these large zones are connected by smaller zones that have secrets of their own. This makes the game world feel much larger than it is, you rarely see a loading screen once you are in the game unless you choose to fast travel around.

All in all Crystal Dynamics did a great job with Rise of the Tomb Raider, they managed to improve upon every aspect of Tomb Raiders systems, and they have once again set up for a great sequel. As of writing this the DLC for Rise of the Tomb Raider is all out although I haven’t yet played it, once I do I will write about those as well. I can say with confidence if you enjoyed Tomb Raider you will most definitely enjoy Rise of the Tomb Raider. Even if you are new to the franchise it should be easy to jump in here without much trouble as there are only a few references to the first game.  Pick it up, you will not be disappointed.