The Witcher (PC game) review

 When I first started playing The Witcher, my favorite aspect of the game was being able to pick through people’s wardrobes without fear of getting NPCs angry. I could go through their digital closets and house-barrels without fear, permanently borrowing one-to-four pieces of in-game currency worth of weak beer, omnipresent flint, or ham sandwiches with inventory pictures that looked like evidence exhibits at a murder trial. I could then fence the goods at my leisure—or until my inventory filled up. Which happened quite often. And, since there are limited weapon slots on our witcher friend, I had to leave behind more torches and Temerian iron daggers than I would care to admit.

I didn’t like the game much then, if at all. The voice acting was just tolerable, only occasionally dipping into Tales-series levels of badness. The prologue wasn’t all that engaging. The combat was bizarre, and poorly explained. The horrid amnesiac protagonist trope played heavily. Strangefully, a sorceress decided to sleep with me after I made her drink a magic potion, thus allowing me to collect her sex-card. And there was lots of you’re-the-chosen-errand-boy action.

And yet, 60 hours later, I’m glad I decided to play The Witcher. Pretty sure I’m glad.

I’d been interested in the game for years, possibly since before its release. I recall walking by it several times at big box stores, admiring the out-of-place metal wolf head on the box’s cover, always standing out among the latest WoW expansions and shovelware Diner Dash releases. The metal promo vid was nice too. At that time, I’d more-or-less disowned modern gaming, but that’s another rant entirely.

So, let’s get down to business. I purchased The Witcher, eventually, and some time later, finally played it. I finished it yesterday. Was it a good game?

Is anything truly good or bad? Isn’t everything in life simply a catalyst for tomorrow’s memories? Why am I bringing up this drek?

Well, because I think I truly started to enjoy the game when I began to have to make tough decisions. Not the right decisions—there really are no such things in the game—I began to have to make choices which would probably help one person I liked while destroying a different person I liked.

I know that is not a unique concept, and companies such as Bioware are famous for this sort of thing. I also remember attempting to play Dragon Age: Origins, and laughing at the moral options.



Approximation of an average DA:O moral dilemma:


You have encountered humans in the forest.


A.)Slay them and drink their blood dry, in no particular order.

B.)Throw them a party to celebrate their arrival in your secret elven village.

C.)Pretend they aren’t there until they leave.



The morality in The Witcher is more ambiguous. There are no good/evil/neutral choices, there are paths to help some, paths to help others, and a path where you can furiously attempt to maintain a witcher’s neutrality. Forced morality is not inserted into every single conversation, so when you do have to make a big choice, it actually feels like a big choice.


And this is pretty true to the books. Yep, the world was fascinating enough for me to pick up the two translated American releases by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski.


The Last Wish, essentially a collection of short stories about witcher Geralt of Rivia, is pretty damn good. In it, Geralt moves from town to town in a dark fantasy world, fighting monsters and solving peasant problems. However, little is as it first seems, and he is constantly forced to make tough decisions.


The other book, Blood of Elves, is more of a straightforward fantasy novel. I didn’t enjoy the pacing at all, but the characters were still…


Oh yeah! I’m supposed to be reviewing the game! Which means getting sidetracked is plenty appropriate. The game has way too many random side-quests, most involving your running across town, and they constantly interrupt the supposedly important main quests. It adds a ton of time onto the game, and I didn’t enjoy it.


But the dark fantasy world is pretty good, and the translation of characters and ideas from book-to-game is pretty fantastic (although Dandelion’s voice was awful). Geralt gets more interesting the more you play, although I think the damn amnesia idea was kind of unnecessary. So what if we don’t know the every detail of the dark fantasy world? That doesn’t mean you have to sever the character’s connections to it too. Just feels a bit unnecessary.


And the weapons system is a bit silly. There is no real reason to use anything but Witcher weapons, even though you keep finding other weapons. Kind of feels like a waste.


Anyhow, let’s talk about some more of the positives. The combat, as bad as it is initially, becomes something of a strength later in the game. Once you get more swords and techniques, you’re able to do some really neat stuff. If anything, it got too easy on normal mode, especially after obtaining the Igni sign, not to mention the insanely powerful potions.


There is some very nice ambiance. Some country areas feel downright spooky after dusk, there’s a swamp that feels massive and slimy, and some cities become old friends after HOURS OF RUNNING BACK AND FORTH THROUGH THEM.


There are some optional pointless things, like sexing up randoms or fistfighting or Yahtzee betting. Leaving them as optional was a good call.


The fact the game was made in Poland by a Polish team based on a Polish author’s book full of Polish medieval myths is pretty badass. A lot of love and knowledge of the subject matter went into the game, and it shows.


So yeah, The Witcher is a dark fantasy PC game. It’s not the pinnacle of PC gaming I hear the sequel heralded as, but it’s not terrible. The story is decent, and the gray approach to morality is nice. Some of the mechanics are poorly explained, but they mostly work well in the end (I had to look up a bit online, although a physical instruction manual may have fixed this). The inventory setup is a pain for any sort of compulsive item gatherer, and the game suffers slightly from Offline-MMO Syndrome, though not as bad as Skyrim. The voice acting ranges from mediocre to acceptable. Also, you cannot use a gamepad with this game.


On the other hand, the Last Wish is a fine collection of short stories, and I definitely recommend checking it out.

Fear and FanimeCon 2013: Part 1, The Swappening

“Okay Mr. O, we have you down for one king-bed room, smoking.” She said through her smile, knowing we’d take it.

I tried my hand at passive objection. “Anything non-smoking?”


“How about a rollaway bed?”

“Ten dollars a night.”

Goddammit, Hotwire.

Panda smiled and raised a hand, ever-emotive, “We’ve shared a bed before, right?”

I sighed. King-sized, huh.





My car rose a good four inches as we dissected distended boxes and bags and backpacks; video games and video game accessories—thankfully cased up—leaked through half-zipped holes and tied tops out onto the asphalt. I hesitated at my frankenPC desktop, condenser mic, and Sony 3D Display. After five days in a smoking room, would they ever smell right again?

We reverse-Tetrised it all out. We were prepared, and this year was going to be different. Every year, regardless of the time and energy and calculations expended, Fanime remained unconquerable. You can’t write in your future bowel movements on a calendar.

One hour later we were ready to attempt sleep, knowing we wouldn’t be successful until the sun threatened. One desktop, one HP—burning heat, one netbook, and a smartphone. Too many windows to see the world through which are so much more enjoyable than closed eyes.

So we ordered fifty-five dollars in Chinese food. Had to pickup. Forty minutes before close, hope they don’t mind.

Didn’t want to drive, don’t like to drive. I’m on vacation, dammit! Snaking raised roadways with on-ramps that end in off-ramps. Fuck you, San Jose! The Chinese food looks good. The smile-and-nod lady assures us that the sauces for the egg rolls and lemon chicken are boxed individually, on the side. Thanks, lady.

Do you tip for takeout? She’s so friendly, does she want a tip? Would she just be insulted? Why would I tip her anyway? She didn’t walk the bags to the curb or make the food herself. Well, she could have cooked it, I dunno. She stinks of pride. Good. If you don’t believe in your product, you should leave your product.

Fifty-fucking-five dollars…what the hell did we order? Gotta keep my nose in the bag as I walk to the car. Smells worth it.

It tastes even better. I’d like to consider myself frugal by average American-identity standards, but I let loose on vacation. I probably get that from my dad. And, if his early-90s baseball card collection filled with cracked old flavor-chalk pink gum pieces is any indication, my compulsive hoarding is genetic as well. Hopefully it proves useful at the Swap Meet.





Database is good. Games priced roughly, slightly, less than recent E-bay sold list.

Fuck E-bay. Can’t leave negative feedback for buyers anymore. Can’t expect to break even with all the fees either. Listing fee, Buy-it-Now fee, closing fee—and then Paypal takes a slice. By the time you’ve paid for insurance and tracking, you’re done.

What’s it like to sell at the Fanime Swap Meet? Wish I knew. Gotta get games sorted and put them in bags and this giant suitcase I bought from Savers. The young lady that rang the bag up for me was fresh. She actually smiled and told me I was purchasing a very small bag. Momentary confusion—the thing was long as two suitcases, and barelled wide.

Oh, it was a joke. I told her that I thought maybe there was another bag next to the one I was purchasing which she was referring to. She smiled again. I gushed at how perfect the bag would be for fitting stacks of games in to sell at a Japanimation convention.

The horrored repulsion of my own eyes when we locked again informed me that she supposed I meant to fill it up with bits of chopped people.

How many corpses could fit in the bag? Probably would depend on the sizes of the bodies involved.

So I went home and shaved my beard. The threatening parts, at least. As practical and natural as a beard may be, it is also the physical manifestation of lurking sociopathic instabilities.

Man arrested for unimaginable crimes: closeups of the beard involved tonight at ten. Yeah, like I’d sit through forty-five minutes of bullshit before I got to see it. I’ll just look up those fine follicles online, fuck you CBS.

As much as I enjoy passing through a crowd unnoticed, I do not mind distinguishing myself as different. As much as the anxiety anacondas my core and my vision shakes and eyes lock before darting away, I am okay being different. A societal normality today will be a quaint and eccentric recollection a hundred years from now,but a personal truth is timeless.

My bearded ancestors plied the seas and plains of the world, and none could stand in their wrath.

How is it almost time to sell already, and my games are in the wrong bags? How many suitcases am I allowed to bring in anyway? Will anyone buy my games? I want to be fair, but I’d like to make some cash. It’s time to go, how are we going to get all this shit to the convention center? What room is the Swap Meet in this year, anyway?

Oh shit. The paperwork. Do we have all the paperwork? Why is Panda still filling it out? WE HAVE TO FUCKING GO.

Do we both have to fill out the BOE form, even though I’m the main seller today? What if we’re too late and they already gave away our space?

“Panda. We have to fucking go.” I can feel thrill of fight or flight, and flight is winning. Now I’m his overbearing parent.

We paid money, we can’t back out.

We’re going to be late. Can’t stop that now. Where to park? Con garage has space. Section F5, okay. Where the hell is the Swap Meet? Follow Pyramid Head, I’m sure he knows what he’s doing.

Section F5. Panda asks the help desk downstairs. My giant bag keeps falling over when I take a sharp turn. Luckily, no body parts fall out. They’re telling him it’s upstairs, Hall 2. Wait, isn’t it in the gaming room again? Shit, we were supposed to go early to pick up our badges, but something went wrong. Everything went wrong.

No, can’t go up the stairs. Elevator is around the corner. Gonna share that tiny space with other suitcases and the humans attached to them.

Aahhh, Hall 2. Look at that line. Already full of Links and Narutos and whatever new flavor of harem. I’m guessing the line for pre-reg pickup is twenty times as long.

Do we get in that line? Wait, I’m here to sell! Just follow the other suitcases…

Sellers? Why yes, that’s us! Wave us through, great. Stand in line behind the people. One of the sellers didn’t fill out his forms. The Turk suits offer to give him the form, but the man smiles wide and declines. Two suitcases will go unsold tonight.

Take our paperwork, Mr. Mustache. Space 620? I thought we were at 1000…you’re sure? So my e-mail was wrong? OH, I didn’t mean my e-mail, I meant the website. Oh, okay, nevermind. I’ll just follow the badge-human you told to lead us.

Fluorescent lighting, like a warehouse. Unnatural. The swap meet is ultra massive this year. A dedicated overpriced Japanese treat seller is in here too? Well, if I ever want to get some four dollar lemon-lime marble soda, guess that’s not gonna be a problem.

Going through crowds and…spot 620 is inhabited.

“I think we’re supposed to be at 1000…”

“Okay, let’s go.” Yes! 1000 is vacant!

“Stay here, let me check what to do.”

Snide comments won’t help. Being right doesn’t matter. Would anyone buy a video game from me anyway? The guy across from us is selling games too, and he’s got a kimono and paper fans. And the guy next to him is selling games as well, and that dude’s got a single wooden 80’s stereo speaker!

A badge returns with approval. Time to setup! Shit, the guy behind us has a speaker too! Much smaller, though. The one across the way is playing Storm Eagle.

And what do we have? A tarp. We quietly unfold it, spill our suitcases.

I don’t have my games individually priced. Some are in universal game cases, and they don’t display well. Pull out box, lay down. Get computer, pull up…

People are browsing the games. “How much for Mega Man 2?”

“Fifteen dollars.”

Nod and move on.

“How much are the PS1 and Dreamcast games?”

“The games vary depending on the title.”

“How much for Dynamite Cop?”

My speech accelerates, “Good eye! Perfect port of the classic arcade brawler. Twenty-four dollars.”

“Oh shit, Megaman Soccer!”

“Yours for only thirty bucks.”

“How much for Metroid?”


“I’ll take it.”

First blood! And it’s green!

“How much for Ocarina?”

“Twenty,” as I make change, “Game plays and saves.”

“Wow…good to see some old-school games in here!”

“Thank you! I’m trying to purge so that I can buy more, I was running out of room. If there’s anything in particular you’re looking for, let me know! Sorry that I’m pretty bad at displaying my games, this is my first time at Swap Meet.”

“Do you happen to have a copy of Super Metroid?”

“Oh man, I wish! Sorry…”

“How much for Final Fantasy 12?”

“I wrote down ‘twelve’ here, but I think I was just making a joke. Ten?”

“And Metal Gear solid?”

I don’t know how, but it worked. I stood on my feet on that tarp there for five hours, selling off the collection I’d spent years hunting down, piece by piece. I was sad to see the games go…but I met all kinds of human beings who wanted to talk to me, wanted to give me their money, and tell me all about how wonderful old games are. It was fucking magical.