Yes I know I know. October 2007 called and wants it’s review back. I don’t really understand how such a gem of a game has managed to evade my attention for so long. Do yourself a favor, download the demo. It’s a little huge-ish but it’s well worth the download. To put things in perspective: it’s about the size of a Sam & Max episode. Yes, the demo 😉
If you’ve ever played games like Knights Of the Old Republic or Mass Effect you will love this game. The Witcher is a mature (take that literally folks: here be digital boobies) fantasy RPG developed by CD Projekt and based on a series of novels by the Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. Graphically it’s based on Bioware’s Aurora Engine, used in the smash hit Neverwinter Nights. It doesn’t disappoint as the graphics are polished, with decent lip-syncing, incredible weather effects and very nice lighting. Here and there you’ll find some small hiccups (a bit of clipping and an occasional blurry texture) but on the whole it looks very good. Be aware that you’ll need quite a beefy PC if you want to play this game. Vista is not required in any way though as the game is DX9 only. Sound-wise, I can assure you that the game is also up to par with realistic sound effects and a near perfect musical score.
What makes this game the most compelling though, is the moral choices. Unlike games like KOTOR, where the consequences of your actions -be they good or evil- are immediately made clear, The Witcher confronts you with your decision hours upon hours after you’ve made it, discouraging players to just reload the game if they don’t like what happened. This kind of true moral dilemma, to me, is another step toward making videogames really stir human emotions, à la Bioshock.
Long story short: buy this game or at least give the demo a try. I ended up buying the collectors editions, which comes with the soundtrack, a beautiful artbook and a making-of DVD. Don’t miss this jewel.
(Edit: Be aware though that this is by no means a stable game. I’ve had numerous crash-to-desktops, usually when saving after a long session or transitioning to a new and large area. I don’t seem to be alone in this as the support forums are buzzing with people who have the same problems. A few suggestions: download patch 1.2 and the corresponding hotfix for Windows if you’re using Vista, make sure you have updated video card drivers and turn of Aero and UAC (in Vista). That being said, I still love this game.)
(Edit 2: Well it looks like our cries have been heard)