Saturday, January 14, 2017

Mother Gamer Plays The Witcher

While I have read The Witcher books, I had never played the first two games. I know that's odd, but sometimes I miss games here and there with everything that's available to play. I loved the third game and a friend suggested I check out the first two. Luckily for me, The Witcher was on sale on Steam and I got the enhanced edition. I got the second game also for Xbox 360.

I was pretty excited to start the first game, just to see what it was like. The opening sequence for the game is interesting talking about Geralt and how he helped to lift a curse on a princess who had become a striga, a type of vampire. This gives you some insight into what a Witcher does and it sets the scene for the story. As opening cut scenes go, I thought it looked great and it definitely hooked me into the story immediately.

Starting the story at the stronghold of Kaer Morhen, gave a pretty good feel for how the battle system works. I chose the mouse and keyboard controls with an over the shoulder camera. There are two top down camera angles that can be used as well as the option to use the mouse to control everything. I chose the casual setting so I could just enjoy the story and atmosphere during the first play through. Playing through the tutorial part of the game helped to familiarize myself with the three fighting styles; strong, fast, and group. Depending on what type of battle you're fighting you can switch from each one fairly easily.

Hello, Geralt of Rivia.

The items menu is easy to get to and I didn't have trouble navigating it. I did find I would run out of room however and have to pick and choose which items I wanted to put in storage at the nearest inn in town. Alchemy is a big part of the game as Geralt needs to mix various potions that enhance some of his abilities or do things like increase his vitality. There are books and scrolls Geralt can pick up during his adventures that unlock knowledge on monsters, plants, and alchemy formulas. Some can be bought from merchants while others are rewards for completing quests.

The items menu layout is user friendly.

It seems that this is a part of the story where Geralt still hasn't regained his memories and is with Triss Merigold when Kaer Morhen is attacked and all their secrets and materials for creating Witchers are stolen. It's a pretty exciting start to the game and the battles were a lot of fun. I was also amused at some of Geralt's conversations with his friends as he admitted that he didn't remember certain things so they had to remind him or fill him in on various events that have happened.

Sure graphics wise the game is dated, but it still looks good and plays really well. The cut scenes alone are well done even the shorter ones that are just introducing you to a new area. The music is beautiful and I liked that each area had it's own unique music because it set the atmosphere for the different points in the story. The battle music is great as well adding to the excitement of Geralt battling monsters. The voice acting is good for some of the characters. Geralt's voice of course is great and Vesemir's too. Dandelion's voice threw me off because it was a totally different voice than the one I was used to in Witcher 3. Turns out for the first game, it's a completely different person doing the voice acting for Dandelion's voice. It wasn't terrible, just different. 

One of the lovely cut scenes in The Witcher.

There are a lot of side quests that you can do in the game in each area while doing the main story line quests. Exploring is fun because you can run into more side quests and the scenery is interesting whether it's a small village or a spooky cave in the swamp. Side quests are my jam and I loved just running around picking them up and battling monsters. Some of them are just simple fetch quests like gathering a certain number of herbs, but I still had fun doing them just for the exploration factor.

Geralt exploring a village.

Geralt is a Witcher which means he slays the monsters and monsters are a big thing in the game. There are all kinds of monsters ranging from Strigas to Graveirs. There's even an island full of wyverns and an island full of fish people to add to the fun. Battles are good, but every now and then they got frustrating. There were a couple of boss battles where I found myself getting frustrated because with one battle, there was no option to save before fighting so I had to do one fight over again before fighting the actual boss. The other fight involved a lot of tentacles and a sorceress who really wasn't helpful (sorry Triss, but it's true) so I had to use all of Geralt's Witcher skills and race around the room. I did win, but only because I had maxed out all of Geralt's abilities.

The save feature is fairly straightforward. You just click on your journal and go to system and save. There is an autosave function that activates any time you go into a new area which is convenient if it's just before fighting a boss in the area. Your journal keeps track of all your quests and information about all the people and things Geralt has seen during his adventure.

Geralt battles a Graveir.

 One of the things I loved about Witcher is all the choices you have when trying to decide what to do in conversations. There's really no good or bad choice, some things are varying shades of grey. It's really up to you if you choose to do something or not do something. As you progress, you see as you go how each decision affected everything and it adds a lot of interesting details to the story. 

There are romance options too, mainly between Shani and Triss. I chose Shani because honestly I have never liked Triss (I've read the books and there's a good reason why I don't like her), but for those who do like Triss you can have a romance with her. You can have dalliances with other women in the game too such as a couple of nurses and a certain princess. I thought it was kind of odd that you received romance cards with a painting of each woman on it afterwards, like a trophy of sorts. The artwork on them is well done though. 

There are two mini games you can do, fist fighting and Dice Poker. Geralt can wager that he'll beat someone in a fight and as he wins each fight, he can search for stronger opponents. Dice Poker is played with dice and playing cards. Dice Poker is a bit frustrating because it does seem that the results are totally left up to chance and it seemed that most of the time the game was heavily in favor of the NPC winning constantly. I learned to save my game before each match and reload just in order to have a chance at winning for the quests relating to Poker Dice. I was sure that Zoltan (Geralt's Dwarven friend) was cheating at this game a few times. I had more fun doing side quests than I did playing this strange little game. 

One of my few Poker Dice wins. This game is weird!

I really liked the loading screens for the game because it showed different art work paintings of areas in the world of Witcher. They were lovely and I enjoyed seeing all the different paintings. There were even a few of Geralt and some of his friends which I thought were fantastic. The loading times are fast which was nice and the game runs really smoothly. 

I liked the story a lot and while the story is only five chapters there's a lot to see and do just with the side quests and mini games alone. Once you complete the main game you can play fan made adventures with Geralt and his friends. There's no voice acting in them, but some of them are a lot of fun. My favorite was one called The Wedding. I had fun playing The Witcher because of the story, the gameplay, and the characters. I do plan on playing through a second time because it was that enjoyable for me and trying out different choices for the story. I'm not sure if I'll play Poker Dice this time around though. Zoltan can't keep winning all my money! 

One of the pretty loading images in The Witcher.

*The Witcher Enhanced Edition is available to play on the following platforms: Microsoft Windows

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