Back in 2007 when The Witcher first came out I thought it was the greatest game ever. The game had everything and more; a great story with choices that mattered (not just your typical black and white, good and evil), great characters, an interesting new combat system and a open world. I couldn’t find any flaws with the game, it felt like a game as perfect as a game could be. Well, that has changed a bit…
I guess almost 10 years gives you a new perspective of what games can and cannot be. The story remains great, the characters interesting, but the combat system feels rather clunky (switching stances to fight different kinds of enemies was a real drag) and the quests in the game at times feel extremely tedious… I think the biggest sin of the game is the constant running back and forth, back and forth for quests (especially in the second act when you have two main questing locations; Vizima and a swamp). Luckily there are mods to help you with that, but still, rather tedious. Some quests are hidden and dependant on you stumbling on a certain monster, others won’t progress until the next act of the game (but there’s no clear indication of that in the quest description, so you just have to proceed with the main storyline and hope you didn’t miss anything and fail the quest).
Speaking of mods, all the Witcher games have a rather active mod community at Nexus Mods, and I would strongly recommend looking into them before playing any of the games. Here you get everything from updated graphics to rebalanced combat systems (made by the same people who made the game).
But back to the game; I think the main selling point are the characters. The protagonist, the grizzled Witcher Geralt also known as The White Wolf and The Butcher of Blaviken (for more info about that read The Last Wish). During the game he’ll meet several characters from the Witcher books, like the stuck up sorceress Triss Merigold, the naïve healer Shani, the boisterous dwarf Zoltan Chivay and the ever boastful and self-centered bard Dandelion. The game also introduces a slew of original characters, some of which you’ll meet again and again throughout the series.
The game starts out with the Witchers of Kaer Morhen, the Wolf Witcher school, finding Geralt and bringing him in. Geralt has lost large chunks of his memory and rests and recuperates for a while in Kaer Morhen. His brief respite is interrupted when the Salamandra (a gang of bandits) attack Kaer Morhen and manage to steal the mutagens used to make Witchers. Geralt and the other Witchers head out, searching for the thieves.
Act 1 is spend helping the smallfolk on the outskirt of Vizima while trying to get entry to the city and investigating the Salamandra. Act 2 & 3 are spend inside Vizima, running various tasks for the Salamandra (with a high focus on back and forth running and waaaay too many drowners in the swamps…). In act 4 Geralt has to leave Vizima after landing in some hot water as a consequence of his Salamandra investigations and starts running quest in a village for the duration of the act, before finally returning to Vizima in chapter 5 to find the city in total chaos with The Order of the Flaming Rose (xenophobic knights) and the Scoia’tel (elven and dwarven “freedom fighters”) fighting one another in the street (this conflict has been brewing since the first act and Geralt has had several chances to pick a side or remain neutral). Geralt finishes his investigations into the Salamandra, only to realise that the Grand Master of the Order of the Flaming Rose was behind them all along and has to fight him.
The game ends with Geralt being rewarded by the king Foltest of Temeria (the country of which Vizima is the capital. but just as he’s about to leave a mysterious figure attacks Foltest. Geralt saves Foltest, only to find that the mysterious attacked was a witcher (or at least someone who’d undergone similar transformations).
This summary was very brief, but to be honest chapters 2-4 are so filled with kill x of this and y of that and run back and forth and back and forth quests that there wasn’t much else to write about. Sure, there are some rather nice story quests, but if I went into that level of detail this review would never end.
All in all I still had, years later, a good time playing through the game, despite the game starting to show signs of aging. I guess some of my issues with the repetitiveness of the quests was due to them really being rather repetitive, though part of that might also be because I’ve played the game through many times before. Anyways, I’d still warmly recommend the game! Onward to the next review!