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.