Stereotypical RPG fare...So where The Witcher veers away from being a true RPG is the fairly distinct lack of actual role playing. I suppose The Witcher is labelled as an RPG because ‘Action/adventure with loads of customisable bits’ isn’t a recognised genre. But that’s really what you’ve got here. You can’t play any character other than Geralt, you can’t choose his class, you have limited choices when it comes to weapons, armour and skills and essentially the levelling up just lets you choose a route through the impressively large skill tree.
Where The Witcher does pay its dues to the RPG genre is in the game world itself which is packed full quests, sub-quests, dungeons, crypts, cities, castles and all manner of RPG fare. As you can probably guess, you run around this world on the trail of some bad guys performing quests along the way in return for money, equipment or information. So it’s pretty your standard adventuring format and will be more than familiar to the seasoned RPG campaigner.
Now I don’t know if it’s just me, but this kind of adventuring is starting to feel old. If I was in the sort of situations we keep finding game heroes dealing with, I’d handle it very differently. I’d explain that I’m the hero. I’ve got a bloody great sword, psychic powers and a rough, gravelly voice. And kicking the living snot out of you for the key to the city gate is, for me, quicker than trudging halfway across the map to find the scarf a bloody wolf stole from your missus. Give me the key and go and fetch your own bloody scarf!
But can you blame me for getting frustrated? We see so many games in which we’re told we’re the saviour of the realm and the one destined to defeat the Lord Nasgarorth in his castle at Zgfhmzshigl… yet we spend most of the damn game fetching lost chickens, finding a missing pendant, recovering the power drill from next door or something equally as trivial… So the whole “I’m a fabled hero as foretold in the prophecy” thing kinda loses its shine when you’re essentially running chores in your bid to stop and ancient evil ravaging the land… populated by NPCs who can’t control their chickens or lend out power tools…
But to be fair to The Witcher the vast majority of quests in here have something to do with the storyline and peoples’ reluctance to deal with you at first is explained by the fact you’re regarded as a mutant by pretty much everyone, so you have to earn their trust and respect before they’ll open up to you. Interacting with NPCs is done through a series of dialogues with options for questions or actions popping up as you chat. Of course, you’ll want to explore all the options and fortunately the NPCs all have very short memories, so if you piss one off by asking the wrong thing you can go back about five minutes later and he’ll talk to you all over again.
The problem with the enormous amount of dialogue in here is that you’ll soon very quickly start looping through standard replies which, while marking the end of a conversation thread, are often out of context with what you’ve just said. It’s not a huge downer but worth a mention, just so you know. And the voice acting in ranges from perfectly adequate down to cringingly bad. The main characters are all pretty good, it’s the multitude of NPCs and their Mancunian or Scouse accents that got to me. And why oh why do all dwarves have to be bloody Scottish?