Like many, my first Witcher game was The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt in 2015. I put countless hours into it as I fell madly in love with the characters, but after I finished it I knew I had to go back and play the first one. The first is not uncommon Witcher game to be quickly disregarded when discussing the trilogy. The 2007 title is often seen as an ugly, obtuse, clumsy hack of Bioware’s Aurora Engine that you can skip in favor of the shinier, newer sequels. But so much of what makes The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt work is located in The witcher– it crept like this Hunting game could run.
Yes, the animations are strange, character models are repeated, and dialogue is laughably stilted at times. But The witcher is an inspired early effort with characters we know and love, as well as all the components that were better executed and praised in the sequels. The strengths and charm of later Witcher games are present in the original, yours to enjoy if you’re willing to give it a try.
The witcher belongs to Metallica Ride the lightning before Puppeteer. To be Pitch-black before The Riddick Chronicles. To be Be bound to before The Matrix. It’s season one of The expanse for season three. The witcher is a product of the time, talent and resources at its disposal. And if you can see past its rust, especially with the Enhanced Edition which is available on Steam and GOG, it’s actually a delightful RPG.
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Let’s talk about the old leshy in the room: the fight. The witcher‘s combat is barely in the top ten RPG combat systems of most gamers. But take a look at the game’s story and how the combat actually works: a lot of the in-world talk in The witcher (and its sequel) about the way witchers fight involves discipline and training. It’s part of the “path” that witches walk. If the games are to take this material seriously, there must be a clear resonance between the narrative meaning of fighting like a witcher and the need to use the right stances, strike at the right time, have the right potions on hand and knowing when to cast the correct characters to cast quick spells in the game. To fight well The witcher is to master this system, and the game offers a means to live out that fantasy of discipline through combat.
The combat is definitely unique, but it’s certainly not bad or hard to understand – it’s all based on timing. You basically queue up an attack by clicking the mouse when the icon shows the correct symbol, which becomes a kind of metronomic beat that guides you through the fight. The result is an interesting mix of the limitations of turn-based combat and the chaos of real-time combat. Honestly, the timing element of it is kind of fun. As you chain your attacks together, Geralt speeds up and performs faster attacks and spins. It is a rewarding and fun path to follow. You just need to get into the groove.
After a few rounds of letting the fight dictate a rhythm for me to follow, I found it to be a comfortable and gentle departure from the usual wandering and talking you do in the game, as opposed to a hard left turn in a violent combat simulation. While I enjoy the changes in the battle in The witcher 2 and 3it requires much more real-time response, lacks the natural rhythm of the former, and at times feels like a less desirable lynchpin of storytelling and dialogue. The witcher‘s combat feels less stressful once you get the hang of it, so much so that I wish this system would have returned in the later games to be improved.
And as the beloved characters and their voice actors mature and mature in the later games, The witcher already knows how to bring them to life. This starts with environmental design: there is a dynamic time of day and the weather changes with it. NPCs wake up in the morning to complete their daily tasks, giving these environments a sense of life. When it rains, they seek shelter and comment on the weather. These feel like towns and cities where people can and seem to live their daily lives. The design of the world helps create a living backdrop for these personalities, which is so important because much of the story revolves around the protagonists existing as distinctly separate individuals of this fictional society.
When we step into the lives of the main characters, we really see them come to life in a way that is not always common in medieval fantasy. Much of that character depth can be found in the game’s quirky side quests, which build on the earnest, brooding personalities so often seen during the story’s more mature moments. The best example of this is with ‘Old Friend of Mine’, a quest where the goal is not to kill a monster, but to throw a fun party for a group of friends. It symbolizes the beauty and tragedy at play The witcher: beauty because you like to see these characters happy and enjoy life; tragedy because you know this is an exception to the draconian rule of their daily lives.
In an “Old Friend of Mine,” Geralt, Shani, Zoltan, and Dandelion face a nobler quest than a hike to throw a stupid ring into a volcano: It’s late, everyone’s drunk, and people are up for some clutter. How can you save the day and kill the beast that is drunk hungry? By stumbling into Shani’s landlady’s kitchen and, of course, stealing some pickles and lard. You must guide Geralt, who is completely broken, down to save the place. If you get caught, you will be scolded. But if you succeed, you are a real hero.
If a fantasy game can’t make you laugh and smile, then there’s nothing worth saving during the dark moments. The witcher bits of humor are important because they both prove and preserve the humanity in Geralt that this society is constantly trying to erase (either through violence or through subtle ways of reminding him that he’s different from everyone else). It’s no secret that Geralt is an outsider. That he must carry two swords symbolizes the sad truth: he must defend himself against monsters and men in equal measure, and the lines between the two are often blurred.
In early The witcher, Geralt meets an alchemist who asks to examine his body. The mere sight of a witcher, whose body bears bold scars and signs of chemically induced changes, arouses an intrusive curiosity in this man. When Geralt asks if this man of science is so forthright with everyone’s body, he says no. Witchers, says the alchemist, are of incredible scientific curiosity; they are anomalies among normal people, so it is perfectly acceptable for him to ask such intrusive questions. Witchers, when not feared or hired for work, are a spectacle for normal people.
I too have had similar experiences. Sharing my pronouns, even the sight of me, the sound of my voice, also leads to invasive stimuli. Questions about hormones, surgeries, my childhood, all the subject of a curiosity that some people feel no shame in expressing openly. If, like Geralt, I wonder if such a person asks someone these kinds of questions, the answers mirror each other. Transgender people, when not feared or hired for work, are often a spectacle for cis people.
The witcher tells the story of characters who are marginalized by society and must find a way to accept, challenge and thrive in it – despite society wishing they wouldn’t. The analogies to our world aren’t always perfect and there’s plenty of room for criticism (especially regarding the ‘sex cards’ you can ‘earn’). But at the core The witcher, starting with the very first game, resonates with me not because it’s an escape from my existing world, but because it’s an acknowledgment of how shitty things can be, and why moments of joy and laughter are worth celebrating or for to fight. It’s what memes are about Geralt as a supporter of queer and trans rights feel so accurate.
As a game, it’s an endearing artifact from another time and place, filled with early prototypes of what I came to love in Killer of kings and Hunting game. There is no Witcher 3 without The witcherand playing it enriches the narrative experience of the entire trilogy. The witcher knew then that Geralt’s story couldn’t just be told with a series of silly monster-slaying quests, it had to give us the role of Geralt to take on, both when he wields a set of knives or steals a jar of pickles – but always when he lives on the margins.