Choices & Consequences in The Witcher

With The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings right around the corner, Rock, Paper, Shotgun looks back at the original Witcher and how it dealt with the mechanics of choice and consequence.
And it's personal not only because of the things you've done, and how they've changed the world of The Witcher. There's also the things you didn't do, that lead to deaths and tragedy, or even, maybe, something good. The game suppose that Geralt isn't clairvoyant, and it also that sometimes things don't go the way you'd or he would think. What looks like the right choice might be the wrong, and vice-versa.

This might sound incredibly frustrating. It could sound like you're being punished for doing something right, or that this unpredictability means that the game is constantly pulling the rug from under your feet and making you pay for things that didn't even seem significant at the time. After spending so long with clear signposting and wonderfully friendly game design, where the player's every whim comes with a safety net, this might sound like torture.

And, perhaps, it might be. For you. But I want to be punched in the gut sometimes (figuratively speaking!) and I want a game to fuck with me, confuse and punish me even when I might not have expected it. This might seem unfair, or cruel to the player and that might fly in the face of game design's received wisdom about making consequences clear at the moment of decision but I believe the pay off is that I no longer feel like a spectator. Ultimately, those decisions are still my decisions. I'm an instigator, someone who the game reacts to, rather than me being forced to react to the game. Every moment counts, because my actions count. It's not some big neon sign saying '˜Moral choice!' to prepare me for this scene, knowing, in rough terms, what the outcome is going to be. It's a knife at your throat, constantly, letting you know that one slip up, at any time, could change everything.