The Witcher Reader Review
I'm a serial restarter of games. Especially complex games, like cRPG's. I always play the first hour or two several times over, to get a feel for how the game plays; only then do I start over properly and play through. Sometimes I even play halfway through, only to start over with a different strategy.
The Witcher is the first game I have ever played, in about twenty years of active computer gaming, where I haven't done this. I started with the prologue, and suddenly the real world just faded away as I entered the world of the Witcher.
The editorial review on this site went over the negatives of the title pretty thoroughly. Yes, there are load screens. Yes, the dialog is on the clunky side at times. Yes, the voice acting could be better. Yes, there appear to be a lot of identical siblings around.
And no, you can't change your hair color, play as a gnomish sorceress, or craft yourself a +7 Mithral Full Plate with Regeneration +8, Spell Resistance 30, and Bonus Hit Points 30.
But "half a RPG?" Seriously, folks -- this game is the very essence of a RPG. You're dropped into a fully realized world, with its complex and detailed science, technology, social conditions, mores, and religions. Your choices determine who your Geralt becomes -- not just in the spreadsheet sense, but inside, where it matters. They determine what becomes of that world. You spend way more time in dialog than in combat -- which, when it happens, is vicious, fast, furious, and gorgeous, both to look at and to play.
I could write reams about my experiences in Geralt's world -- its science, philosophy, technology, hell, even gender relations (which go way, way beyond "oo, tits-out Euro smut!" minigames). But I won't, since if you play the game like it's meant to be played, you'll discover it yourself.
No other game I have played manages to do this -- the very soul and essence of role-playing -- quite as well as The Witcher. A big part of the reason is precisely that you start out as a fully realized character with a personality, reputation, and history. You could not have that if you had the gamut of choices between a gnomish sorceress and a mutant witcher, with everything in between.
The Witcher succeeds brilliantly in all of its core areas: choice and consequence, story, characters, visuals, music, and gameplay. Its failings are largely dictated by circumstances -- the limitations of the engine (which, conversely, must have permitted building in so much content), the limitations of the localization budget, the chosen constraint of making the story about you rather than some anonymous farmer's kid destined to save the world.
With an unlimited budget and schedule, I'm sure it would have been even better -- but as it is, this game is "genre-defining" much, much more than jazzed-up sandbox explorers like Oblivion... or even Bioshock. If you have a rig that runs this game like it's meant to be played and don't love it, you have no soul.
And that goes for the dweeb who wrote the official review here too.
So, 10/10 it is -- not because it's perfect (it isn't), but because it's the first game since Fallout to truly redefine its genre.
10 / 10