Starting with the introductory cinematic - one of the best I've ever seen - the player becomes deeply involved in this grim story. That's what the game feels like. A very complicated, intriguing, and interesting tale. Few other RPGs I've experienced can so deeply pull the player in to the plot as this one does.
Such is the emphasis here, and the character choice that is so integral to other games is non-existent. Yet I enjoyed the lack of choice in characters since it kept the focus squarely on the story, where it quite refreshingly belonged. In fact, this is almost the polar opposite of one of my favorite series of games, the Elder Scrolls, in that there is no choice but to become wrapped up in the main plot line.
Besides the story, many other things are relatively unique or at the least uncommon for an RPG in The Witcher. This is, first and foremost, a very adult game, unlike most RPGs I've played. There is foul language, sexual situations, and many morally ambiguous decisions to be made. The world is dark and seedy, with many unsavory characters, prostitution, organized crime, drugs, bribery, fencing, gambling, widespread corruption, and much more. The setting is rife with crime, disease, and political intrigue. The combat system involves not endless, quick clicking, but slow clicking to time and string together a series of attacks. Several of the monsters are not clearly "evil" and do not attack the player on sight but attempt to reason and convince him to spare them or help them lift their curse.
Speaking of the protagonist, Geralt of Rivia, he has striking similarities to other fictional characters that are favorites of mine. In particular his look and combat prowess borrow heavily from Michael Moorcock's creation - Elric of Melnibone. His voice, guile, and the fact that he is a complete man-whore remind me especially of Clint Eastwood and his western "man with no name" characters from the Sergio Leone "Dollars Trilogy," or High Plains Drifter.
I do have some criticisms. Some of the dialog is corny and doesn't seem to fit the character of Geralt - such is one of the problems with using a premade character. Naturally the often long load times are cumbersome. I didn't like how dramatically the XP award for monsters dropped as Geralt rose in levels, since many creatures went down in about the same amount of time at LVL 2 as they did at level 25. A couple of the monsters were very difficult to overcome - but worse than this was the fact that such encounters often occurred at the end of a long cut-scene with no chance for saving (can't save mid-fight), so I would die and then have to go through the whole scene all over again.
Despite such flaws, this is on my top ten list of RPGs, and I've been playing them since Bard's Tale on the Apple IIe. Most certainly give it a chance. And don't forget to try the over-the-shoulder (OTS) camera viewpoint - makes it an almost entirely different game.
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