Previews

The Witcher

Which witcher is which?

The elves are terrorists. The dwarfs are persecuted in ghettos. The biggest threat to
the kingdom of men? That'll be another kingdom of men just down the road. The purest, noblest, greatest defenders of the land... well, there's not a lot of them, so the job of stopping random monsters from eating everyone is picked up by genetically twisted mutants. They're called Witchers, and you're one of them.

The cult fantasy world of Andrzej Sapkowski, where fellow Poles CD Projekt have set their game, is a long way from standard Tolkien fantasy, and is appropriate for the more morally grey adventures they're trying to create. For example, in your standard BioWare-esque adventure, you're usually given a clear choice between the good option ("Yes, I'll go and find your cat"), the mercenary option ("Maybe I'll go and find your cat... for the right price") and evil ("I will spit-roast your cat!").

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The Witcher is all about deciding which is the lesser of two evils. For example, when playing with an early version of the code, we found ourselves finally managing to hunt down a group of the aforementioned Elvish terrorists. Before we could lay into them, they said that they left their hostages with a pack of ghouls in a nearby crypt. Rescue them, and the elves slip away and commit further atrocities. Stop them, and humans are ghoul-snacks. Either way, you'll have to live with the consequences.

Things are also not quite what you expect in combat. While you're only in direct control of one character, Geralt, there's more than just left-clicking on your opponent. There's left-clicking on your opponent at the right time. The cursor changes shape when the next attack in a combo chain is available. As your character grows in experience, increasingly violent attacks can be unlocked, up to the decapitating finishing moves.

There are also three stances available to your character, each with a completely different set of attacks. Since there are two separate 'types' of sword (a normal one and a silver one for monsters), this effectively means six different paths to specialise in combat, and that's before you turn to the various magic options. While the game features a defined character, there's also plenty of space to personalise him.

The main monsters that The Witcher's team have yet to defeat are tying down the camera perfectly, and preventing their attempt at mature content ending up as the exact opposite. If they run these through with a silver sword, this could be one of the RPG surprises of the year.

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