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Page 2 of 2As I mentioned in my earlier preview, The Witcher sports some of the best graphics ever seen in a role-playing game. In addition to the amazing architecture found in the city of Vizima, there are a number of unique and diversified landscapes that Geralt will explore, including the shores of a massive lake, a desolate swamp cemetery, and a vast plain of ice. Not only are all of these areas pleasing on the eyes, but they're actually believable. CD Projekt has achieved a unique and consistent art style that forms a world that you'll swear could conceivably exist. The only complaints I have are the lack of unique character models, a few obscure character animations during dialogue cutscenes, and a couple of rare but obvious clipping issues with Geralt's weapons. These are small quibbles in an otherwise amazing graphical experience, though.
The game's music, sound effects, and voice acting ranges from average to excellent, depending on what area you're exploring and who you're talking to. Some high points include the game's appropriate combat theme, the upbeat performances by local bands at the game's various inns, the realistic sounds of Geralt's sword cutting through flesh and bone, and our protagonist's crude but convincing attitude while speaking. Atari and CD Projekt have done a solid job with all of the English voiceovers for the most part, though this is the one aspect of the game's sound that could have used a little extra work. There will be times when an NPC's voice will suddenly rise or lower in volume for no apparent reason. There are even times when it seemed as though a different person might have voiced certain lines for the same NPC, though there's no way of really knowing for sure.
Beyond the storyline, graphics, and sound, it's also worth mentioning that the game features an excellent quest system that automatically updates your journal as you finish each step of a quest. This is a must-have feature, given the sheer number of quests that you'll be participating in. You're also given the option to track the next quest step through the game's automap, which is quite useful when you're not sure where to go next. Despite its user-friendliness, however, I couldn't help but feel like there were way too many fetch quests in The Witcher. While there are several thought-provoking quests as well, I'd wager that half of the game's quests simply have you running back and forth across one or more zones to acquire certain ingredients, deliver a message, or kill a specific creature. This might be standard fare for most RPGs, but the game's many loading screens can make finishing these types of quests a long, drawn out affair. The alchemy system helps alleviate some of the running around you'll do, though, as it makes the hundreds of monsters that you'll wind up slaying along the way that much more rewarding. With nearly 50 potions, oils, and bombs available for Geralt to cook up, you'll have to both harvest herbs from (known) plants and skin useful ingredients from slain monsters.
Minor issues aside, I thoroughly enjoyed The Witcher from beginning to end and feel that the game is triumphant on several different fronts. Not only does it significantly raise the bar in terms of stability and localization for European releases, but it also packs an intriguing story, a distinct art style, several unique character development options, a large number of interesting NPCs, and a good 60-80 hours worth of gameplay. It might not quite compete with the amount of time one could easily spend with a game like Baldur's Gate II, but it's one of the few RPGs that's come relatively close since then, which is testament alone that the team's intentions were in the right place. Despite The Witcher being their first stab at game development, CD Projekt has succeeded in crafting one of the best role-playing games I've played in years. If you've finished Mask of the Betrayer and are looking for another good CRPG fix, then The Witcher comes highly recommended.
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