The Witcher Review

Another RPG premier site steps up to the plate, as RPG Codex takes a closer look at The Witcher. No score as usual (though the reviewers mentioned he'd give it an 8.5 if they did use scores on the Codex), but the reviewer is impressed by this "great game".
The Witcher is one of the first games . . . well, ever . . . to actively hype its choices and consequences. This alone should make it interesting to the average Codex reader. The basic idea, in case you've been living under a rock (or, you know, have a life outside of games) is that The Witcher presents you with choices during the course of the game without clear answers. Only much later in the game do you discover the consequences of your decisions, which can have significant impact on the plot.

This works well. The choices really do influence the story, which is absolutely fantastic. Depending on your decisions, important NPCs may live or die, you may have allies or additional enemies for important battles, and you may completely close off some quests. Moreover, it's great that the choices don't fall along good/evil lines, with some exceptions, so that for each such choice you will have to think hard about how your version of Geralt would respond. Do you choose to negotiate with the oppressed nonhuman terrorists with genuine grievances who have killed civilians and taken hostages in a bank, even though it means alienating your friend, one of the more moderate voices amongst the humans? Do you kill the werewolf, a monster with a murderous appetite, whose fur could be made into a potion giving you a significant permanent ability, or do you attempt to cure him for little reward, recognizing that his victims have been criminal scum and giving him a chance to reunite with his love. (And by the way in world of The Witcher, doing the (nice) thing doesn't necessarily have positive results.) Do you spare one somewhat evil witch, at the cost of many other, probably somewhat more evil, lives? Do you sleep with the pretty redhead with freckles, or the other pretty redhead with oddly low-slung breasts? Choices abound. Although some of them come down to supporting the non-humans, supporting the humans, or remaining neutral, many will present interesting quandaries regardless of which faction you choose to side with. The Witcher makes such choices and consequences an integral part of gameplay, rather than mere add-ons to the storyline. However and perhaps as a result the choices sometimes seem a little bit gimmicky, a little bit too much like a choose-your-own-adventure book. This is partly because of the way that the consequences are presented, which is unambiguous: there is a voiceover, mention is made of your past choice and its ramifications, and typically there is hand-painted art in the background depicting a key moment. It's a little heavy-handed, but still quite satisfying. At first, the art and the voiceover bothered me, but I soon realized that it's an awful lot like the ending slideshow from Fallout or Arcanum displaying the results of your various actions, only spread out over the entire plot of the game. It's fun, new, and it works.

There are at most three, and much more commonly two, choices available at each (branch point) in The Witcher, and it will usually be very obvious when you are making an important decision. (Although, refreshingly - so much about this game is refreshing - at least it's obvious that you only have two or three choices. There are no Bioware-esque pseudo-choices with no real meaning.) Moreover, the branches (merge) back into the trunk eventually making different choices early in the game won't result in a totally different story later. There are three endings, although your choices throughout the game have a great impact on the endgame sequence, affecting not only the final dialogues but also the course of events and even which characters are present. The Witcher has fewer of the subtle choices and consequences seen in games like Mask of the Betrayer, times when you might not even realize you made a choice until you see the results. This is not to say there are no such consequences, however. The main plot in Act 2, for example, involves a great detective quest that takes place over the course of the whole long Act and involves gathering various clues. Your perceptions of various suspects (and, correspondingly, their entries in the Journal) will change as you uncover more. It's easy to miss some of the clues, and there are multiple results to your investigation, some with negative consequences. Obtaining the "best" result and getting the whole story requires talking to multiple suspects repeatedly, performing several small quests, mounting your own night-time surveillance, reading a book on conducting an autopsy, reading a rather obscure book on a peculiar breed of fly, investigating a locked area, which will require either a bribe or a favor, and choosing the right options (this is pretty obvious, admittedly) during an autopsy, which means that most players will probably achieve a suboptimal result, missing out on some positive consequences.