Monday, 15 March 2010

No I won't see The End: The Witcher (Review)

I really wanted to like this game.

 Come on, that practically screams "awesome game"

Really. Western RPGs are my second-favorite game genre. I have some great memories of Neverwinter Nights. Even off the computer, I run two games of D&D and I'm playing a game of Shadowrun. It's not like I dislike the genre.

And yet this game has failed to make me interested in it. It's not a bad idea, I suppose. I even like some of the characters. No, the problem is the story.

You play the game as Geralt, a Witcher. He's a guy who runs around killing monsters for a living, and has been mutated to do so. He's basically what would happen if Clint Eastwood merged with Drizzt Do'Urden. He's a little cliche, one could say, being the total badass he is, but that doesn't mean it can't work. Oh yes, and he sleeps around a lot. But that's really not that important.

"The only way I could be more badass was if I was on fire."

So we've got Fantasy Eastwood here, and he's one of the last Witchers around. One of the neat things about the game is how alchemy and science are coexistant with magic, which gives it a neat feel. I guess it feels like 16th century sci-fi. Regardless, people don't like you because you're a mutant.

The game deals with a lot of racism and prejudice and themes like that. Elves, dwarves, and gnomes are basically second-class citizens to humans, which I have to say is an interesting twist. When humans take down a monster, the reward is greater than if a Witcher does. Dwarves are often lynched by humans, and there's a group of Elven terrorists fighting to be recognized as equals. The politcal situation of the game is one of the cool parts.

I can't even say that the gameplay is bad. The fighting system is fast-paced and energetic, feeling much more authentic than in games like Neverwinter Nights or Wizardry, with it being real-time. Although not really quick-time events, you have to time your attacks to chain them properly, and switch combat styles mid-fight.

And the graphics and music are good too. Both help draw out the atmosphere and immerse you, basically doing their job. The cutscenes are cool, and at times very cinematic.

So what went wrong? The set-up is good, our protagonist is usable, the gameplay is decent, and the graphics and music are fitting. Well, the story is the problem.

I really don't care.

And neither does this sheep apparently.

I don't think I've ever played an RPG where I cared less about what was going on. Nethack starts by telling you "Go retrieve this amulet" and I'm totally into it. But this game just doesn't draw me. Maybe I've seen the plot one too many times, maybe I'm just completely bored of fantasy RPGs.

The game begins with amnesia. Crap, that sounds familiar. Oh yeah, basically every single RPG with a pre-existant protagonist ever. So basically I'm an old badass which everyone knows, except me. You're in a Witcher academy, when BAM it gets attacked. Oh no! Not the few Witchers which I just met and don't feel any attachment to!

And then you come to a village that's under attack. Oh. I guess as the one Powerful Nice Guy around I will have to save the day. As everyone else goes about their business as if nothing is wrong. Why does my motivation drop even more.

And so I finally get into a city and now they play the political intrigue card. It starts getting interesting. Except, wait, they stop giving clues and we don't actually talk to any prominent figures. There's not much witty dialogue. Well damn, looks like once again I'm not interested.

And really, it's too bad. It has the potential for sure. We've got Drizzt Do'Eastwood killing monsters in a sorta noir-fantasy setting. We've got a story with a class system and racial factions which hate eachother. We've got an old order which is slowly dying due to prejudice. There's stuff to work with.

And sadly, they do so in the least interesting way possible. Honestly, I can't recommend this game. Although the character is a badass, he's not your badass, so don't expect to feel too much attachment. And there's barely any character development, so don't expect that to keep your interest.

It's weird. I'm a hardcore fan of story-based games, especially RPGs and Adventure Games. And yet I just can't say you should go ahead with this one. I know I haven't actually beaten it, and I likely never will. But that's just how I feel. Sorry guys.

I rank this game at:

Disappointedly Shaking One's Head

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