Once in a while there's a game that comes along, breaks the rules and hacks down the boundaries in a glorious visceral display of sheer audacity. There's a reason that Bioware gave this particular game a recommendation and I can fully support and agree with it. I'm talking about the Witcher from Atari and CDProjekt RED.
The game is based on the world devised by Andrzej Sapkowski a Polish author who has taken the great fantasy conventions and stood them on their heads. Sapkowski's world isn't one of your happy elves and dour dwarves swilling ale in time to gnomes dancing a merry little jig, it deals with real issues and addresses some very dark/stark concepts.
The lands of the Witcher are full of monsters but there are no greater monsters than humans, humans are capable of the most terrifying deeds of all. The game takes the motifs of Sapkowski's world and translates them into a satisfying and enthralling experience that has kept me entertained since the official release on Friday. Normally I'd wait for a review copy to appear from Atari but not in the case of the Witcher, this is too good to wait.
I had mine on pre-order for a while since I'm a bit of a fan of old Geralt even though I have yet to get the Last Wish in the UK. I know what I do of the world and the game from keeping an eye on the news and tabs on forums across the internet.
The game brings us into the story of the Witcher 5 years after the final book, where a certain event transpires that the developers have been able to lay to rest and a burning question on all the lips and in the minds of all Witcher fans is finally answered. I won't say any more since I don't like giving out spoilers.
Through a certain way in some very solid storytelling new fans of the Witcher are brought into Sapkowski's world, allowing them to experience the same eye-opening as Geralt in a way due to the aforementioned event. The Prologue to the game serves as a tool to teach the player about the Witcher and its concepts, as well as introduce various gameplay mechanics that have only really been seen in the likes of Jade Empire.
There's a lot to cover here and I'm going to be as succinct as I can, in terms of gameplay, graphics and just plain story and atmosphere. So here goes.
Based on a completely revamped Aurora Engine (seen in Neverwinter Nights) the Witcher presents a dark fantasy world with many twists, the story is told through the medium of beautifully done CGI (the intro is one of the best I've seen and easily stands with Blizzard and Squaresoft) and in-game cut-scenes that are also very sharp and well animated.
The game is broken into a prologue, acts and an epilogue and there's a lot of gameplay in terms of side-quests and story to get through. I'd say that the game boasts about 80 hours or more of play, since it took me a couple of days playing to get from the Prologue into Act 2 and I'm no where near finished on that act.
A lot of these quests arenít just over in a moment either; they're broken up into phases that can take a while to complete. They range from the usual monster slaying and collecting (seen in games like WoW and Guild Wars) of certain items to following a conspiracy down through a group of people and having to make an agonizing choice between several factors, knowing full well that the results might not be immediately visible and they're going to come back and bite you in the ass when you least expect it.