The Witcher: Enhanced Edition Review

Title: The Witcher: Enhanced Edition
Release date: 2007-10-24 (2008-09-16 for Enhanced Edition)
Developer: CD Project RED
Publisher: CD Project & Atari


"The Witcher" is not a visual novel by any stretch of imagination, but considering I feel that this is one of the best games in the last decade, I decided to publicly review it. And with the release of its sequel (which I will probably review some time later) its even more relevant.


Power, sex. Sex, Power. They both come down to one thing - fucking others.
Geralt of Rivia, witcher

The first time I heard about Witcher has been a long ass fuckin' time ago. I saw a concept art in a magazine and dismissed it as another generic "special one" saving the world full of generic shit like elves and dwarves. Fast forward to 2007 and I somehow decided to try the game, despite my misgivings. All in all, that cost me quite a lot of money. Not the game itself, mind you, as at that time I pirated it. However, after finishing it I went to the bookstore and bought all the Witcher books. I think that says a lot about the game inducing you to go and buy a lengthy book series.

Fast forward again to CD Project RED announcing the sequel titled "Assassins of the Kings", which I swiftly pre-ordered. I also took a chance to buy an European Platinum Edition of "The Witcher" and refresh my mind before the sequel (I also got a download edition from GOG, but that mainly because I couldn't refuse the discounted price).

The Witcher
All the ladies want him, all the men want to be like him.
The game is based on a complex world created by a Polish fantasy author Andrzej Sapkowski (and luckily all the books of the series are available in my language) and features Geralt of Rivia as its protagonist. Geralt is a witcher - a mutant created for one purpose only: to slay monsters. The game is a sequel to the books and circumvents Geralt dying at the end of the books by giving him a convenient plot device - amnesia. That works quite well in this case as this is not the tale of Geralt only killing stuff & sexing stuff, but also the tale of him going on the path of self discovery (I expect that his mysterious resurrection will play a bigger part in the sequels). Amnesia also provides a chance for the creators to believably introduce the game world to him and to us bit by bit.

"The Witcher" starts with a certain hostile group of combatants, known as Salamandra, attacking the witchers' stronghold of Kaer Morhen, where Geralt is recuperating. While the knowledge of how to create any more witchers has been lost, the means are still available at the fortress and Salamandra are obviously after them. Why, you will have to find out for yourself as in Geralt's shoes you'll go on an epic quest to avenge your fallen friends and unravel hidden conspiracies.

Geralt relentlessly pursues Salamandra throughout the game and along the way changes himself and those around him. The greatest strength of "The Witcher" lies in its writing. Both the world and the characters come alive on screen and pull us into the great conspiracies, happening just beyond the veil of ignorance. The game world is very dynamic with every choice we make having smaller or bigger consequences, so choose wisely what to do. You are not always fighting, there are many opportunities to device a peaceful solution and even if you cannot avoid bloodshed, you can always choose: kill a werewolf or lift his curse, help knights clear a nest of vampires or protect them on the basis they are not killing people.

The biggest choice of all is of course which faction you side with. There are Scoia'tel (The Squirrels) - non-human freedom fighters fed up with their mistreatment by humans and having taken up arms; the other side is The Order of the Flaming Rose - a faction obviously inspired by Knights Templar. The biggest appeal of "The Witcher" is that this is such a grey world - there is no right or wrong and everyone has more than a few skeletons in their closets. There are few games, where words "dark and gritty" actually feel as properly applied as here. Siding with the Scoia'tel you will fight for the ideal of freedom, for the equal rights. At the same time the freedom fighters are so fed up with humans they see all of them as enemies and even civilians are not exempt from their wrath. Blood runs freely and lots of it is of the innocents. The Order, on the other hand, upholds a commendable duty to protect humans from all dangers; they slay monsters that threaten the population and seek to quell the rebellion of the Squirrels. At the same time they are bigoted racists that see all the non-humans as monsters (or at the very least lower class beings) that need to be eradicated or subjugated. Tough choice, eh? Whom will you join: terrorists or nazis? The third choice is flipping the bird to the both factions and doing it the Lone Wolf style, which will piss off everyone.

These are no dragons.
Whatever you choose or don't choose, there will be lots of fighting involved both in the main storyline and the side-quests. The fighting is based of the, so called, witcher combat styles, that is basically Geralt hacking the shit up while you are quicktiming to press the mouse at the right times. Many people seem to complain about this quicktiming, but I found the fighting very involving and never repetitive or boring and if you dislike the sword fighting, you can always use signs.

Signs are like the witcher magic and there are five of them. Aard is an air sign and is used to knockdown, stun opponents and break barriers. Igni is a fire sign and used to light the shit up like a Christmas tree. Yrden is a non-elemental sign and it creates traps to lure enemies in. Quen (Earth) is a protective barrier absorbing the damage and damaging the opponents. Axii (Water) lets Geralt mind-control his adversaries and turn them against each other. On this playthrough I maxed the Igni sign and other Attributes that increased the efficacy of signs and became vastly overpowered. By the end of the game everyone died just by casting Igni a few times. Hell, I killed one of the bosses by casting it twice and sword was more or less useless to me, it was just sitting idly in the scabbard.

It's not as complex as it looks like.
The witchers also dabble heavily in alchemy and create potions to enhance their abilities. Wisely or not, I decided to play the game using Flash's mod. It's a mod to rebalance the game, change experience allocations and many other small things. All in all it makes the game much more challenging (it's also included in the European Platinum Edition DVD). I tell you, playing "The Witcher" on medium difficulty level with this mod installed can be brutal in the beginning chapters (damn the Outskirts and the Beast). Thus alchemy helps a lot. Potions are created in meditation mode and usually ingested before or during the fights. They create such effects as vitality regeneration, "bullet time" or resistance to poisons. They help you survive many a deadly battle while also poisoning you. Drink one potion too many and you will find yourself dizzy, disoriented, not being able to cast signs or barely being able to hold your sword. So, you have to judge wisely, what you need to use in any given situation.

You wouldn't trust her so much if you have read the books, Geralt.
While Geralt is not fighting or brewing a witch's brew, he is sexing up women. Our hero has a voracious appetite for flesh and his conquests are presented to us in a shape of "sex cards" - beautifully drawn pictures of naked or semi-naked women (it's a shame that Americans initially got only the censored version of "The Witcher"). Geralt can screw around a lot, but can romance only two of the characters: Shani the medic, or Triss the sorceress. I don't have a problem with Geralt sleeping around as that is consistent with the books, but I have a problem with his romances. Those that read the books know, that he has only loved one woman in his life - Yennefer of Vengerberg. On this playthrough I chose Triss as my romance and by the end of the game Geralt's journal calls her something akin to "the love of his life". I felt slightly disgusted as it appeared to me that Triss has unjustly  taken an advantage of poor Geralt.

One of the complaints I have about the game is the translation from it's original Polish. I chose to play the game in Polish with English subtitles and it's obvious that the Polish dialogue usually go for much longer then the subtitles would let you guess. For some reason the English translation was shortened at some stage of the production and it irked me sometimes when large passages were translated as a few words. I don't know why that has been done, but in the end that was only a minor quibble.

"The Witcher" employs some godly tunes and the soundtrack really fits the atmosphere and provides chords to really make you feel in an adventure story. On the other hand, graphics haven't aged very well - only a few years have passed since the creation of the game and while the overall backgrounds are not bad, some of the character models look really awkward and undetailed. Also the hordes of clones plague the world as only a few builds and faces are used for common city and village folks. Sometimes it gets ridiculous as you bump into five or six persons that look the same in a row.

"The Witcher" is not an overly long game, but it's immensely satisfying. When I knew that we are about to get a sequel I was almost jumping in joy. Now, I usually don't spend my nights playing games anymore as I have to get up early to go to work, but I lost myself in Witcher until the early morning a few times. There are few games this involving and this... alive to actually care about characters. Also, kudos to the game for invoking one badass plot twist at the end that I definitely didn't foresee the first time I played the game.

Bonus adventures

"The Witcher Enhanced Edition" comes with seven bonus adventures that can be played outside of the main game with five of them being fan-made.

Damn those Swamps!

Our vampires don't sparkle, bitch!
Probably the shortest of the adventures. It's set in a swamp near Vizima and has only a few NPCs. Geralt is having a very bad day: everyone around him is acting crazy and he himself is seeing hallucinations.

I didn't like the adventure. It felt very empty, the world just didn't feel alive. There are only a few characters to interact with and a few enemies, but we have a whole empty swamp to explore. I warmed to it a bit later as more and more crazy things happen around Geralt, but in the end I didn't find it satisfying and worth the inclusion in the official product. The end itself also felt like a cop out after the writer wrote himself into a corner. There are no sexorz in this story.


The Geralt is on the journey, but he can't continue it due to the bridge he has to cross being broken. So he decides to stay in a nearby village of Deceits while he finds a means to proceed. There are seven interwoven quests here with two of them being of importance: there is an escaped fugitive in the area which you have to apprehend and there has been a murder in a village that you have to solve.

This adventure has more quality than the previous one and is longer, but still doesn't feel very professional. Dialogues are dry and stilted and there are some sharp edges in the programming: for example I got stuck while trying to enter the fugitive's cave and had to reload, there are also some graphic corruptions in the villain's house.

There probably is a sex event here. The local gossiper shows an interest in you and asks a present from you, but I never could find what I have to give her and I literally tried everything. *sigh*

Wraiths of Quiet Hamlet

Come and get me, bastards.
This adventure like the previous one is based in a village that is Murky Waters in everything but the name. This is the first of the included fan adventures, that I liked.

Geralt comes into the Village of Quiet Hamlet and immediately gets a mission to rid it from the wraiths that have been tormenting it for quite some time. The village honestly feels alive. There are loads of NPCs and they're all bustling around and doing their chores. You can talk with everyone and absorb lots of information about the village and its problems. You also can choose how you will solve the wraith problem: will you just destroy them or try to find a peaceful solution? Additionaly the module has one of the most WTF inducing positive endings I have ever seen. *cough*explodinggnomes*cough*

There is a sex event quest in this adventure and it parodies Geralt's frolicking in the main game so beautifully, that I laughed out loud. This is also a very buggy quest. It took me ten reloads for the girl to appear in the designated spot and even then she was unresponsive and I had to reload... again :-(

The Wedding

Not... your usual adventure. The Geralt has amnesia again, this time he can't remember why he is in his own wedding while wearing woman's clothes... And everyone's invited, even Gandalf and Golum... wait, what?

The adventure had lots of potential to be really funny and entertaining, but now it's mostly frustraiting. You accomplish shit by talking with your many guests, but you are never told what's your objective is so you are mostly just bumbling around not knowing what to do. The Platinum Edition has a walkthrough included for this adventure, though it's a bit inaccurate. There is also a bug, where one of the guests will disappear after engaging you in a fist fight and you will be stuck in a perpetual battle mode with no means to interact with anyone anymore. It took me about ten tries for this bug not to appear.

After lots of bumbling around you will finally reach the ending for this adventure and I tell you, seeing a fist fight between Shani and Triss almost makes up for the obscurity of  your objectives. Then comes the ending and... I will just tell you to have a bottle of Brain Bleach ready. Trust me, you will need it O_o

Merry Witchmas

The most professional looking of the fan adventures included in the DVD. MW is a mishmash of The Witcher lore, pop culture references, Neil Gaiman, H. P. Lovecraft, Macbeth and A Christmas Carol. And it works to certain extent.

Geralt is wintering in Vizima and upon going to the cemetery on behalf of an innkeeper to get rid of some ghouls he meets four escapees from Macbeth. The witches are brewing a cauldron and preparing a spell that will end the winter and bring forth the neverending draught. And of course they need Santa Claus Father Witchmas to die for that. Not a very nice idea. I wonder why they think it's smart to ask a witcher for help... Anyways, you can kill Father Witchmas or help him kill witches and preserve the Witchmas spirit. In before that you can fulfil the Christmas wishes of the lunatics in the asylum and meet Mr Croup & Mr Valdemar of "Neverwhere" fame for a little Cthulhu related quest.

Killing witches will preserve the world and killing Father Witchmas will net you a sex scene. It's obvious which is the right decision ;-) There are other two sex scenes in the adventure: a BDSM scene with an asylum worker and a Brain Bleach requiring one. Considering this is made by the same folk as "The Wedding", it's no surprise.

I liked the module. It was quite a short and funny stop on to the more serious business - the official modules. I will always fondly remember Father Witchmas roasting on the slow fire. O_o

Side Effects

The first of the official modules I played and a quirky one. Our good friend Buttercup (or Dandelion, as he is known in the English speaking fandom) is in deep shit up to his ears. He screwed a nobleman's daughter and was locked in prison with his execution pending. Dandelion managed to bribe prison officials to not execute him... with money he has borrowed from the mob. And the mob boss is not happy about Dandelion. Being the good friend you are, you have to pull 2000 orens out of your ass to pay up or Dandelion will be shortened by a head.

So you will gamble, engage in fistfights and do various odd jobs to get the needed sum to save the life of the good for nothing minstrel. The adventure didn't excite me as there was no interesting quests and you was mostly playing an errand boy. No overarching plot either, also one of the quests "The Dice Are Cast" is broken and can't be finished. In the end you have to make a decision to kill the mob boss or pay him, but that doesn't change much except for a few lines. There are no sexorz either. Honestly I was expecting more from an official module :-(

Price of Neutrality

I really like those watercolors :-)
An official module based on Sapkowski's short story Lesser Evil (which itself was an adaptation of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs") included in the first collection of witcher stories "The Last Wish".

Set long before the Nilfgaardian war and the events of the books and the video games it shows Geralt returning to Kaer Morhen for wintering where Geralt is delivered an unwelcome surprise. There is a band of mercenaries led by a prince of Caingorn and sorceress Sabrina Glevissig camping at the foot of the witcher stronghold. It appears that witchers are sheltering a princess of Caingorn that everyone believes is cursed and both the prince and the sorceress want her head on the platter. You are to choose whom to side with: the princess or the sorceress and get one of the four possible endings in the process.

While the adventure was much shorter than I expected, it finally served a real grey choice where both sides are blinded by hatred and vengeance and you have to choose the lesser evil. Playing the module and reaching the ending (whomever you chose) was a rewarding experience and worthy my time.

Much hotter in the card than in the game itself.
There are two possible cards to gain in this adventure (though they both contain no nudity) and they are damn hard to get. The module makes you work for the card as you have to finish a respective quest by the woman and then choose flattering lines while exhausting all the dialogue options. Note, that if you exhausted all the dialogue before completing the quests (as is the intuitive way to do it), no cards for you. Be vigilant.

Links of Interest

Official site
Get the boxed version at: Amazon, Sendit, CDWow.
Get the download version at: GOG, GamersGate.

Final verdict: 98%


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