I’m not talking about the sequel and no, it’s not 2007 (or 2008, when the Enhanced Edition was released) all over again. I have a bit of a backlog I’m trying to clear here. Clearing old PC titles is good for the wallet and if you pick your moment right in the technological curve, delightful, as the titles some 3-4 years back run very well and in this case look rather nice, as well.
The Witcher is a special case in that what they’re now selling is an enhanced, “director’s cut” version. It comes with partially rewritten and re-recorded dialogue, among other things. This strikes me as an odd thing to do for an enhanced edition, but if the level of quality present here noticeably exceeds that of the original, I am horrified of what the players of the original version have had to suffer. Not that there aren’t other things which could have used a tune-up: the character models border on the hideous (save for the protagonist, who’s very cool, actually) and the combat feels unresponsive. I’ve done plenty of it and I still can’t figure out how the fist fighting (as opposed to mortal, armed combat) is supposed to work. And not that the combat is the sole culprit here – the whole experience is somewhat unresponsive.
But none of that matters all that much, really. The game world is refreshingly rough around the edges – sexism is evident everywhere, peasant lives aren’t worth much anything, angry mobs rule the countryside. Elves and dwarves are present, but oppressed by the racist humans to the point that they’re fighting back guerrilla-style. The protagonist is a genetic freak, often referred to as a mutant, looking like a vampire. His manner is not that of a hero – he’s a monster hunter by trade and will certainly part with as much of the customer’s money as he can. Also, he really goes out of his way to bed every woman he comes across.
There are moral choices to be made and contrary to what you’ve come to expect from many other titles, the choices often are not black and white. You might lean towards one way or the other, but the game makes sure that you understand that it’s by no means a clear cut decision. Also, they make you accountable for stuff that you’ve done quite a ways in the past. It’s not always clear what your choice is going to result in.
It’s very much new and precious to play someone so far from what we’ve come to expect from a fantasy roleplaying game’s hero. Here’s to hoping that the sequel doesn’t tone things down one bit.