Return PolishForums LIVE
  PolishForums Archive :
Archives - 2005-2009 / Life  % width 2

"Wiedźmin" - A review of the Polish Masterpiece: The Witcher Role-playing game

Tran Anh 2 | 72  
4 Apr 2008 /  #1
The Witcher (Wiedzmin) RPG - A review by a very unprofessional player and totally noob reviewer (Warning: some minor spoilers!)

First thing first, a full explanation is due: Apart from some occasional strategy board-games, The Witcher is the first computer Role-playing game (i.e. 'serious game') I have played since I was 16. There was then a tragic moment that had stunted my further RPG development: As usual, I was at the 23rd hour of the day perching high on a mighty gryphon, my noble adamantine sword +11 was about to strike dead a positively terrific she-demon to save the world when suddenly like a tropical cyclone my ancient grandma rushed into my room, smashing my computer, grapping at my tender neck, punching at my even more tender balls and roaring at my understandably convulsive face: "I'm gonna turn you and five generations of your male descendants into irreversible eunuchs if you don't go out there and f*ck some real chicks instead!" Thus haunted by her dire warning, her ubermanly hands, her golden toothless gum and her overcharged betel-smelly breath, for 7 years I precariously managed to live a normal life without RPG, enrolling in Ha Noi Conservatory, bedding a steady flow of ladies, cooking some exotic doggies here and there and translating some cheap Polish sex-guides for a little extra hard cash...etc. But deep inside myself, I always felt something lacking...

And suddenly it has been filled in a most unconventional way. One of my dear old chaps, knowing my unhealthy interest in anything Polish, managed to smuggle home a fully packaged The Witcher game (DVD, manual et al) and grandly presented it to me as a gift from his European travelling. You know, friendship can't be profounder than this: He bravely risked arrest at Ha Noi airport for importing Western product of glorious pornographic content; and, in purely economic morality, he could have used those 35 euros to purchase 40 Witcher game Dvds of relatively equal quality and even more progressive content in our very own capital instead (the poor sod, sniffing too much Frenchy wine to forget the indisputable superiority of our commie system!) Nevertheless, only after my friend's eloquent advertisement about the game: Numerous RPG-of-the-year Awards, best-selling worldwide, stunning gore/nudity graphic...and especially his solemn oath to take good care of both my granny and my girlfriend (whose state-of-the-art digital chastity belt was, of course, veritably impregnable) did I dare to take another deep plunge, bunkering my flat and embarking as the legendary witcher--Geralt of Rivia on a heroic quest to rescue the world (with the kicking (and getting) of some ass on the way posed as a perfectly healthy bonus...)

...About ten days later, despite the fact that my skin was on the later stage of disintegration due to the lack of sun care, my weekly workload has amassed into a mammoth heap and my girlfriend sweetly announced the third successful cyber hacking into her system in the year, I felt almost a sense of divine exaltation. Many who have played the game certainly know this experience but for some of you who have not, I may stimulate your imagination by comparing it with Mahler's symphonies: Earthshakingly tremendous and infinite lasting pleasure. If you still have no clue, then just imagine like having the best sex as (not with!) both a man and a woman (and if that still doesn't make a bang in your head, well, obviously your local psychoanalyst need to get a state visit from one of your more thuggish lawyers...)

Alright, I suppose I should learn from the rough, no-nonsense, to-the-point Geralt (no wonder he gets all the cutest girls) and actually talk about the various aspects of this great game itself instead of unceasingly babbling around the introduction. First, the graphic is utterly stunning and fabulously detailed. In such a filthy place like Temeria full of diseases, wars, monsters and all other shape and size of evils, the power of the programmers to invoke disgust and loathing at will is pretty terrific. From poor grannies with a venerable array of warts, beggars with a full decorating set of dripping scars to hideous monsters whose fashionable make-ups are gore, slime and excrement, ugliness has never looked better (my ears aside, I am not a particularly sensitive person but after one scene when I first butchered a worm-like swarm monster and it burst its filthy self to my face {aka my screen}, my rather rugged body instantly demanded a 30 minute bath, in real life of course!) Impressive as it is, the Polish designers of the game were clever enough to understand most of us gamers would die of depression after hacking for 80 hours through all that transcendental ugliness so they has tried to counter-balance it with the fantastic beauty of the surrealsky, the dreamy wild life, the classy Trade Quarter and, gulp, the hauntingly sexy prostitutes. One point must be made here though, I don't know how old are those Poles but they are certainly not well educated with the Communist tenets. If they had been only slightly aware of the legendary axiom of Marx: "The state of the economy is the determinant of all other aspects of society", they should have never made many wild desolate places which abound in all sorts of foulest monsters that ridiculously beautiful. Also it is such an affront to all the most well endowed Beauty Queens of our world that even the lowliest harlot of Temeria who inhabits in the most rat-infested place and whose clientele consist exclusively of the cheapest, most disfigured thugs possesses a much more male-titillating form than those Queens and their 21st century technology can ever manage to have (just look at her godly tits is enough to derange the lot of them!) Anyway, as not knowing much about Marx is not a particularly dire sin in Poland nowadays, I had no choice but overlooked this inconsistency and tried to enjoy the graphic beauty of the game in the way the programmers intended. As the game progressed, the enjoyment did magnify. In the middle or later part of the game, I spent many hours either standing in the middle of an open meadow, silently savouring the spectacle of the ever-changing ultra-stylish sky or, if the mood changed, simply having a walk in the enchanting Trade Quarter (preferably under a thunderous storm), occasionally allowing myself the luxury of peeping at some of the most well-crafted boobs in the history of digital arts. Actually those delights can be approached with Geralt's more proactive body parts, but that would be for the later tales...

One special effect of the graphic that is even more exhilarating than all those clouds and gentlemanly glances is the combat animations. Geralt can perfectly master two different swords: Steel for humans and Silver for monsters. Each has three styles: Strong, fast and group. Each style could be then unlocked for about 15 spectacular moves in 4 sequences and 2 special attacks. With a total of approximately 90 moves corporating the best and most aesthetic of Western and Eastern swordsmanship, Geralt in a fight is a stupendous sight to behold. Added with blood spraying and jaw-dropping finishing moves and the player is seriously challenged not to get addicted with the action of the game alone. I myself finished the game for the 1st time at a ridiculous level of 45 (with many omitted quests) just thanks to my fervent hacking of pretty much every misshapen beings in and out Wyzima. Weirdly enough, after such a titanic mouse-and-keyboard slaughter, my fingers were actually still among the healthier parts of my body (not necessarily a cause for joy though!) The intelligent sequencing combat system which makes the players wait to the right moment to unleash new, more powerful combat moves certainly gets the credit for that (I shudder to think what would have happened to my cute, pianistic fingers if the Diablo-style of click-fest were employed instead!) A final note concerning the graphic: you must have pretty modern computer to enjoy the spectacle to the most. My computer with Pentium D 950 3.4 GHz, 2 Gb Ram, 512 Mb Video memory, just closely past the official recommendation, could manage it with Geralt out of action, but if he was in the thick of combat then some shadings had to be regrettably turned off (still I'm sure the fight would be impressive enough to knock your traditional Marilyn Manson-worshiping grandma apart!)

As the game is commercially forbidden to be a Wagnerite opera, the music is naturally relegated into a mere secondary role. Secondary yes, but it is still a class of its own right. The relatively unknown Pan Scopura certainly did his best to make the music blend finely with the environment and most of the situations. The diverse scores range from Renaissance simple polyphonies, some vibrant Celtic folk melodies, landscape painting tunes of Debussy tradition spiced with odd Mazurka motifs to one of the most heart-arresting music I have heard recently (understandable as it always popped out when I had to walk alone into a pretty claustrophobic catacomb infested with all sorts of cannibalistic cuties!) Emotional, sensual, chilling, haunting, scary...the game music has it all, well, except for the time when Geralt is trying poke his main argument into his opponents' most lethal spots. Here the most heroic blood-boiling stuff a player can be treated is either a merciless smashing of timpani or a string of atrocious chord-butchering heavy metal "melodies" (the latter can perfectly kill a real dragon in real time out of ear bleeding alone, note that, Geralt!)

Besides the music, the rest of the audio is just as decent with a great sound effect of the environment and a rather competent set of voice acting. I understand The Witcher has numerous localisations and it should be too presumptuous to ask the somewhat greenhorn producers to raid Hollywood for its English voice actors. Whatever the cheesiness some amateurs might commit here and there, the majority of the actors did well enough to convey both the grimness of the world and the SICK humour pervading in the game (and also to confirm the fundamental fantasy suspicion that Dwarves are actually Scottish and Elves are a cross-breed between the French and the Gaynistani). About the Sick humour, I believe that it is simply the best ornament of this game. The scope of jokes in the Witcher is certainly grander than that of any Ben Stiller's movies and the level of sickness is twice that profound. As Geralt, the player can usually initiate a joke by himself or just walk around to hear people pissing each other. To summarise this charmed aspect of the game, here is what I eavesdropped in the very Royal Castle (the corrected text is by courtesy of a Presbyterian minister though):

"The countess said to the count:
-Shall I have the dinner served?
-What a waste...
-Perhaps we might go for a walk?
-What a waste...
-May I ask a riddle?
-Very well...
-What is warm, hairy and dives into holes?
-A cock.
-A mouse!
-A mouse in a cvnt? What a waste..."

It should be noted that though wonderfully realised both in look and sound, it is in the story and thematic presentation that the Witcher really triumphs (instant award: the most unoriginal statement of the whole review!) Based on the novels of famous Polish writer Sapkowski (who I have never heard of), the programmers have successfully constructed an authentic world that in many ways both reflects the ruthlessly brutal Middle Ages and the pitilessly ambiguous (and no less brutal) modern time. Just as the very motto of the game: "There is no good or evil, just decisions and consequences" (seemingly coming straight from a book of Nietzsche "Beyond Good and Evil"), throughout his quest to regain his identity and destroy the supposed arch-evil, many times Geralt will be forced to choose between two paths that are pretty much indistinguishable in the level of evil (or good for one exceptional case). With the neutral choice is heavily limited, the game is indeed a great integrity and wisdom test which will prepare the player for those critical stages of his life when an all-affecting decision must be made between two unapparent choices. Whose side should he choose between a murdering witch and a bunch of totally brainwashed, bloodthirsty villagers? Whose side should he choose between a heartless brother who forces his sister into a disgusting marriage and the sister who has embraced vampirism just to run away from it? Whose side should he choose between the ultra-chic Elvish freedom fighters who insist in using children as hostages and living shields and an Order of Knights in shiny armour who are equally adamant in butchering pretty much every innocent they can lay their hand on, just because those innocents' ears or beard happen to be twice as long and thrice as sharp as 'normal'? And finally, just to make sure not only the player's brain but his pant burst as well, the game forces him to choose between a beautiful blond sorceress who has body measurement of 91-60-89 and a gorgeous redhead priestess who has BM of only 88-59-87 but with obviously much lower fat percentage... Truly as advertised, choice does hurt in this game.

With the moral grayness of many critical quests pushed to the maximum, I am not surprised to hear numerous 'uptight' players complain the game to be Moral Relativistic! Actually, this Polish-born game is anything but that (Radio Maria watch over you!). In the end, Geralt will have to finish his final quest by killing the arch-devil, who is actually a paladin so deeply in love with the doomed humanity that he will do everything for it (i.e. cooperating with the worst criminals, massacring non-human population, relentlessly purging any human astray from his vision...) Thus the underlying moral lesson of the Witcher is pretty much as uplifting and straight as anywhere else: Good intention with evil method will always get you a sound jackboot kick in the ass (...though if you sincerely confess to be just another Dutch gay, for the love of God, we may kindly consider to remove our socks first...)

All in all, after having exhausted pretty much every synonym of 'fantastic' in English, I confirm for the final time, ahem, the 'fantasticness' of the Witcher Role-playing game. With beautiful graphic, enchanting music, thrilling combat system, realistic interaction and a deep, sophisticated storyline, the Witcher is one of the most fulfilling entertainments I have the fortune to enjoy so far. A great art, no doubt, the Witcher has certainly cemented Polish reputation of computer-game making world wide and, with all due respect, has been a lot more effective in helping foreigners to dispel their quaintly neanderthal vision of polar bears on Warsaw's streets than all those Norman Davis' books combined. So what are you still waiting for? Be as fast as lightning and join those bears at the queue in front of your nearest PC shop (if you have some cash problem, then contact me for the real Communist version of the game, ssssh, just don't tell those anti-Marxist morons of CD Projekt though!) Lastly, as a fitting end to this good-natured review, I heartily wish you all have a wonderful Temerian journey as I did and to all pending grooms here, please don't forget to attend the first birthday anniversary of your fiancée's second legitimate daughter after you have finished - THE WITCHER...

Archives - 2005-2009 / Life / "Wiedźmin" - A review of the Polish Masterpiece: The Witcher Role-playing gameArchived