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Default RPGWatch Feature: The Witcher Review

December 1st, 2007, 02:56
It's taken us a little while but we finally have our review of The Witcher up. This time, Prime Junta joins us as a guest writer, taking us on a journey through his unusual perspective:
That's all true. They're there, both the good and the bad. If you rate The Witcher like most dopamine-reward-hijacking games, these flaws will easily knock off a couple of points off a perfect score. Meaning that the 8-out-of-10-ish scores it's been getting are completely deserved. If, that is, you rate The Witcher like most other games.
However, The Witcher is not like most other games. It is "about" something. Game reviewers simply aren't capable of fitting this fact into their conceptual review-writing framework, which leaves them handing out not-really-that-great grades… but with many of them nevertheless saying they liked the damn thing, without being able to say why; sometimes slapping an Editor's Choice onto it for good measure. That's because they'd really need to write two reviews — the game review and the book review — but they only have the capability to do one. Poor gaming journalists.
Read it all here.
More information.

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December 1st, 2007, 02:56
And you guys called us unabashed fans?

Great review, but one key thing I don't like…

Game reviewers simply aren't capable of fitting this fact into their conceptual review-writing framework, which leaves them handing out not-really-that-great grades…
This is wrong. They are perfectly capable of fitting this fact into their review, it's just that they don't want to. They don't want to because the people reading their reviews don't want to read about it and might not actually notice it when playing the game. These reviewers know their audience, and they know that for their audience this is an 8-out-of-10 game, not a game which you can only describe by rambling on about philosophical underpinnings of game design or waxing poetic about the current state of game design and the way this game kicks it in the nuts.

This review is definitely a Watch-specific review, and that's good, that's what you're writing it for, but it's kind of weak to then switch into a mode of somewhat looking down on other reviewers

unless I misread that bit

PS: all the last times this kind of game happened it was flash-in-the-pan followed by another period of steady decline of the genre. Still, as I've been saying for some time, Europe holds the future of RPGs, and any kind of mildly intelligent non-casual gaming
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December 1st, 2007, 03:13
Wow, this game does indeed sound awesome. I must admit I stopped playing after I was forced to go hack-and-slashing in some caves and sewers in order to get some foozles to open a wizard's tower. Not very involving stuff, though now I'll try to slog through and get to the juicy stuff you mention in the review.
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December 1st, 2007, 03:34
Originally Posted by Brother None View Post
This is wrong. They are perfectly capable of fitting this fact into their review, it's just that they don't want to. They don't want to because the people reading their reviews don't want to read about it and might not actually notice it when playing the game. These reviewers know their audience, and they know that for their audience this is an 8-out-of-10 game, not a game which you can only describe by rambling on about philosophical underpinnings of game design or waxing poetic about the current state of game design and the way this game kicks it in the nuts.

This review is definitely a Watch-specific review, and that's good, that's what you're writing it for, but it's kind of weak to then switch into a mode of somewhat looking down on other reviewers

unless I misread that bit
That's a valid point—for a great many readers traveling the info superhighway reading game reviews, you do need to present a case they can easily digest, and an 8/10 score is a reasonable course. I don't think the point was so much to blame the reviewer as to differentiate the game from one that's easily and completely summed up that way—but hell I don't know. I could have misread that part too.

PS: all the last times this kind of game happened it was flash-in-the-pan followed by another period of steady decline of the genre. Still, as I've been saying for some time, Europe holds the future of RPGs, and any kind of mildly intelligent non-casual gaming
The flash-in-the-pan concept doesn't worry me so much —the genre spins up and down on a spiral it seems—but I do worry about the challenge CDProjekt now faces to live up to what they've already done. Hopefully they won't burn out like sixties rockstars and they have a plan, because whatever they do next is going to be measured against this one.

Edit: Thanks for saying "unabashed fans" instead of fanbois. That was very civilized of you.

Where there's smoke, there's mirrors.
Last edited by magerette; December 1st, 2007 at 05:03.
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December 1st, 2007, 03:43
I haven't played The Witcher yet (my computer isn't good enough), but as a fan of Sapkowski's Witcher books (which I recommend to everyone!), the one thing that bothers me about this game is its cliched starting point - you wake up with amnesia after having seemingly died. I actually hope they explain it in some way with a major twist in an add-on or sequel.
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December 1st, 2007, 03:55
Good work, Prime Junta and all involved.

I agree, at the very least a milestone in gaming history and certainly a rare gem.

Trust me, most of the names I have been called you can't translate in any language…they're not even real words as much as a succession of violent images.
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December 1st, 2007, 04:05
Originally Posted by Dogar View Post
Wow, this game does indeed sound awesome. I must admit I stopped playing after I was forced to go hack-and-slashing in some caves and sewers in order to get some foozles to open a wizard's tower. Not very involving stuff, though now I'll try to slog through and get to the juicy stuff you mention in the review.
It's funny how people see things differently. This isn't the high point of the game but I remember the sewer in Chapter 2 as…four or five short intersecting corridors? And there is one short cave (I guess you could add the cemetery)?

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December 1st, 2007, 04:24
Dogar, I highly suggest you wait one week for the patch as it sounds like it will address some of the frustrating parts.

Trust me, most of the names I have been called you can't translate in any language…they're not even real words as much as a succession of violent images.
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December 1st, 2007, 05:15
Great Job Prime Junta and all involved!

I totally agree with the reviewer(s). Witcher is like a breath of fresh air..one of the best games I've played.
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December 1st, 2007, 05:31
Originally Posted by Dhruin View Post
It's funny how people see things differently. This isn't the high point of the game but I remember the sewer in Chapter 2 as…four or five short intersecting corridors? And there is one short cave (I guess you could add the cemetery)?
Yeah, by saying "caves and sewers" I was just sorta lumping together all the simple hack and slashy parts of the chapter. Though the sewers are actually fairly large, including the cult hideout.
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December 1st, 2007, 05:50
Greater than the sum of its parts is exactly the way I described it, as Corwin did.

When you take it apart, piece by piece, it doesn't seem like there's a great game in there. When it's put together it works very well, especially in the atmosphere department.

I'm usually not a big fan of hack n' slash. Oblivion's combat bored me within an hour or so, but The Witcher's combat never became so tedious that I felt I needed a break from it. It requires your attention often enough so that your eyes don't glaze over as you click away.
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December 1st, 2007, 06:31
Thanks for a review that probed the deeper meanings behind the game design, PJ. Good job.

..& so they take the fiction all out of the Jabberwock & I recognize & accept him as a fact. - Mark Twain, May 30, 1880
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December 1st, 2007, 07:21
Having played through chapters one and two, I can tell that this is a gem of a game, and it's going to be one of my all time favorites. However, I have shelved it for the time being. The translation is poor - there are times when the game is incoherent. I can fill in the blanks for myself (context is a wonderful thing) and in soem ways, it is a good thing- sort of like how books don't have pictures so you have to imagine it for yourself.

The reason I've put it aside is the combination of all the running around, the load times, and most annoying of all, the constant auto-saving. You often have to pop into someone's house to report something to move a quest along. What should take 20-30 seconds in total ends up taking several minutes. A near instant load on the way into the house, but then a 30 second auto-save, followed by five lines of dialouge, which triggers another auto-save on the way out. The load times aren't too bad if you fiddle things around, do a proper defrag (that is - make sure you actually defrag your page file, simply having Windows defrag the drive with your paging flie(s) will not result in a defragged page file) reduce texture quality etc - I can load the big areas in 10-15 seconds usually, which is not a big deal.

Anyways, I've returned to dopamine gaming in its purest form for the time being - World of Warcraft. That game gets me high like no other. It's great, because it completely satisfies my dopamine gaming needs.

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3. defrag the drive that you originally had your page file on
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If you don't have two hard drives, or don't have your one hard drive in partitions, you can get special defragging apps that will defrag your page file.
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December 1st, 2007, 08:23
Excellent (and very entertaining) review Prime Junta

I too have to agree with some of the posters above that I cant see the Witcher
starting a trend of new games of this scope and quality. Even if it manages to
prove that games like this are not a niche afair sales wise (which I believe its
in the process of doing ?).

I am more interested in seeing CD Project trying to equal or top their
achievement in an addon or sequel by keeping the same design philosophy
and learning from the (few) mistakes they did as a startup studio (and hopefully
choose a better partner for the localization/international distribution).

For now I'll bask in my fond memories of the game untill 1.2 comes out and its
time for my second playthrough…
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December 1st, 2007, 08:40
Very good review - eloquently written. I agree that The Witcher is more than the sum of it's parts, but the bits and pieces of game design aren't so bad either.
Let's hope CD Project continues to produce high quality games and if they are successful other game developers will follow automatically and copy them.

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong. - HL Mencken
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December 1st, 2007, 08:40
I agree with an earlier comment. I'm through probably about half of the game and am enjoying it quite a bit but there are two moderate-sized negatives which have been mentioned by many:

1) load and autosave frequency — it hurts my ability to become immersed when I'm so frequently just waiting, the times aren't that long but the autosave often doubles the time to load an area and is unnecessary considering that I manually save anyway

2) non-sequiter conversations (probably due to translation) — some conversations are just baffling to me and even when I can determine what's supposed to be going on the wording takes me away from immersion

I'm going to keep playing, though, instead of waiting for a patch. I doubt that a patch can fix the conversations as there's so many of them and I can deal with the load times.

In any case it's a very enjoyable game (so far).
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December 1st, 2007, 09:11
Well written review. Hope it isn't Prime Juntas last appereans as a reviewer.

I put The Witcher on hold due to work related stuff. And then i heard of a patch that was focusing on the load times. (i don't think it will be much better, but i will wait for it to arrive - not to be negative, just to not have my hopes up! )

Beeing in chapter 3, after the first chapter slow, ordinary start, flung into chapter 2s opening, and immiediatly starting to love it. The presence of a living world. It really captivated me. And as PJ and everybody else wrote. The witcher is not the sum of its part its more like the product.

And what brother none wrote above about the scoring, i must say that the review i seek everywhere is reviews that let me read between the lines. Just focusing on parts on techincal, gameplay mechanics and then slap a grade on it, just don't make me read the reviews. I must be able to form my opinions.

Yet again. I prefer 8 hour games with focused story line (COD4 - ahh) and i only leave those games for games like this. Focused, still opened, with a world i just can do "just another quest" and then stop - get back - do another, and never loose track of the game, the setting or my own gaming experience.

As i wrote above. Well written. And i guess the reviewers view of the game is spot on with my own, helps me to like it.

As always.
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December 1st, 2007, 11:26
OK OK OK.

Buying it this weeekend ='.'=

I could resist the Bioshock juggernaut, but this one's hitting me where it counts.
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December 1st, 2007, 12:15
Here I was, thinking I was being controversial. Damn. Thanks for the praise, folks.

@BN: you're right, that paragraph does come down as condescending. However, I can only judge game reviewers by the reviews they write, and I have seen no mainstream review, even a positive one, that goes beyond the "blender or TV" approach to this game. Sure, it could be that the reviewers could but don't want to, or their editors won't let them, but I can't know that, can I?

Therefore, I stand by my observation: most game reviewers miss the point of a game like The Witcher because they're not capable — for whatever reason — of properly addressing what the game is actually "about."
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December 1st, 2007, 14:27
You cought the spirit of the game - I rarely read such deep reviews. Too many reviewrs focus only how many camera angles I have and sum up games: graphic 9/10 and music 9/10 - and I add in mind: pleasure from the game 3/10 .
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