Thursday, November 29, 2012

Gaming As It Should Be!

Were I a member of the gaming Industry right now (especially one of the 500-lbs gorillas the likes of EA and Activision/Blizzard) I would hang my head in shame. Because where conglomerates with literally thousands of employees have failed, a small Eastern European company of less than 30 people taught them all what gaming should look and feel like and how it should be marketed.
Who of the multi-billion gaming "giants" ever went back to rework and improve a game already released? And then offer the new enhanced version to their customers for Free?  Yet, there you have it: thanks to CD PROJEKT RED gaming as an art-form is still alive and kicking!

The Witcher was the most awaited fantasy cRPG in the past 3 years. Not only did the original deliver, but even more work has gone into truly improving it.When first released this was one of the most beautiful Role-Playing Games I ever played - and now, now it is gorgeous.

The environments are detailed, realistic, and can be experienced from up close. Grass, flowers and tree branches moved in both Fable and Titan Quest as well; these, however, seem so true I caught myself reaching for my...antihistamines! Weather affects and day-night alterations (you have to see the elongating shadows to believe them!) are just gorgeous! More importantly, these are not just eye-candy: certain NPCs and monsters appear only when the correct combination of time-of-day and weather coincide...The horizon is far and the clouds move in endless variations. It reminded me of the sky of the original Unreal, another visually ground-breaking game at its time. Pure. Visual. Magic.

The character (Geralt) can master both sword-fighting and magic spells (what is known in Western Europe as a Warlock). To some die-hard RPG fans this may seem like heresy, nevertheless, keep in mind that multi-classing is not unheard off. The movement repertoire for both practices are impressively designed. Especially the sword-fighting, it is at par to any console action game. And the spells (both offensive and defensive ones) are not less impressive.

Free roaming? Yes and no. One can decide which parts of the map he will visit but loading is still needed to travel even annoyingly short distances. And since quests and side-quest still have to be completed, yes, eventually a subtle, yet ever present, directionality is present.
Looting and bartering? Aaah...yes, sort of. You practically never change the swords you start off with (you do but much later in the game and the selection is not...vast), whereas good armor is only a little easier to come by compared to Planescape: Torment. Keep in mind that is is a true cRPG - not an item conveyor-belt the likes of Diablo3.

On the upside, you get to gamble (real men do NOT quicksave before betting on dice-poker!), have romantic relationships and bribe for information, so trinkets have other uses as well.
Detailed character modifiers? Nothing like the AD&D rules but you do gain talents (gold, silver & bronze) which you can spend to improve your fighting or magical abilities. You will only get a number of those (especially gold ones) so you have to choose wisely. At the same time this increases the re-playability of the game.

After replaying the game over and over these past years, I can find no fault with it. The camera placement, which sometimes got on my nerves (it is that Aurora Engine...), I got used to rather quickly. And the timed sword strokes that I had to learn how to land in order to get the sequence bonuses and maximum effect (and was bitching about in my initial review of the game), well, I got to love them so much that I even missed them in The Witcher II! Yes, us gamers, we are a fickle bunch.

This game brought a breath of fresh air to the scene when released. This Enhanced edition not only is a truly reworked game but it also comes full with detailed Manuals, beautiful Maps and all the extras that games used to come with in the good old days. Now, not only does this game include the best MODs and DLCs, but, in the respect-the-gamer-first spirit of CD PROJEKT RED, it is absolutely DRM-FREE!

Whereas the Baldur's Gate Saga was story-heavy but (by today standards) visually wanting and the NeverWinter Nignts Series was found, well, wanting in all aspects, The Witcher is the dream cRPG that BIOWARE was supposed to be capable of releasing all along but never did - and its current EA bedfellows surely put a stop to such aspirations now. That game, however, is finally here - and not from whom you would expect.
A tip of my hat to CD PROJEKT RED for keeping the art-form of Gaming alive. Well done indeed!


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