Platforms: Win, Mac
The Witcher has been sitting in my Steam library, untouched, since the middle of 2012, when I picked it up during a Summer Sale for $2.49. While this would seem to indicate that it wasn’t a game I was really all that interested in, that’s only partially true. I have an extreme prejudice against RPGs where you’re unable to choose and customize your character. I can usually bully through games that don’t allow for a choice of gender, but I just can’t figure out why someone would want a role playing experience that gives no choice, even if the choice is a cosmetic illusion.
But since everyone seems to be talking about the latest in the franchise – The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt – and all the talk seems to be of the excited and happy variety, I decided that there wouldn’t be a better time to see what all the hype is about. Or at least what the hype was about eight years ago.
If you’re the type that wants non-stop action and is irritated by cut scenes, turn back now. In the first hour of play, at least half of that is cut scenes. Probably more. While I understand that the beginning of a new franchise needs to initiate you into the universe, it’s a lot of watching and not a whole lot of playing. For me, at least, this worked in the game’s favor. I was interested enough in what was going to happen next to play through the tutorial level.
The Witcher offers three difficulty levels, and I’m very glad I chose the easiest because dear god, the combat is initially really unintuitive, and there’s very few things that will make me bounce off a game faster than multiple deaths in the tutorial level. The Witcher uses the amnesia trope to introduce the player to things that the main character, Geralt, would otherwise already know, so while that’s a little bit yawn-worthy, it’s not a deal breaker.
Combat is a click-to-attack affair, but instead of clicking rapidly, or clicking and holding, which are both common, this is a single click, then waiting for the right moment in the animation then doing another single click to build up attack chains. It’s not a difficult concept, honestly, but it took me awhile to get the feel for it. Thankfully, you have enough cannon fodder before the first “boss battle” to get your sea legs on.
There are seven chapters (if you include the prologue and the epilogue) as well as two other separate adventures. The prologue took me about 75 minutes, and I didn’t do a whole lot of messing around. The entire main campaign will run about 30 – 35 hours. If the prologue is anything to go by, about 20 hours of that will be cut scenes.
I joke, kind of, but I did enjoy The Witcher, as much as I’ve played thus far. It’s going to go into my “Would Love to Finish” category in my Steam library, because I want to see if the story will continue to hold me despite being less than impressed with the mechanics so far. My biggest gripe? Why am I stuck playing as Geralt when there’s a kick-ass sorceress named Triss Merigold in it right from the start? Being a sorceress has to be at least as good as being a witcher, doesn’t it?
In all seriousness, if you’re looking for a game that’s more story-driven than game play driven, you could do worse than The Witcher. It’s held up remarkably well for a title of its age, and it’s not uncommon to see it on sale for a couple of dollars. That said, it’s not a terrible value at full price, and it’s probably a must play for folks interested in the start of the series.