How The Witcher Dealt With Choice

By Phill Cameron on May 4th, 2011 at 11:00 am.


With The Witcher 2 looming like a dark juggernaut of RPG-based distraction, we thought it might be a good time to go back and poke around in the original game. Just what was it that really made it sing? (There may be some mild spoilers ahead.)

Forget about the sex cards, forget about the five hour slog through the Outskirts, ignore the occasionally shoddy writing and voice work, and let’s focus on how The Witcher deals with choice. It’s a piece of game design that demands respect.

We need to begin with an example from the game. So let’s try this: You’re out at night, slaying monsters by the shore for a local merchant, when some elven guerrillas come up to you, asking about the shipment of goods – nearby goods – they were expecting from your temporary employer. They can’t risk being around for long, so they need you to make the decision of whether to take them at their word and let them haul away their goods, or tell them to bugger off.

Do you:

Let them have the goods, which are potentially weapons, and could very well help the guerrillas carry out acts of terrorism against the populace of Vizima?

Or

Inform them that you have no idea whether they own the goods or not, and they could very well be trying to steal them?

Consider that either decision has potentially grave ramifications. You don’t know what the goods are, but if they’re desirable for these freedom fighters, there’s a good chance they’re essential for their resistance. It could be food, meaning that they would starve without them, or it could be weapons, meaning they’d be poorly equipped and more likely to get killed if they don’t get them.


This is a world were anything non-human is seen as barely better than a beast, and the cause of these elves is one of equality, even if their means are violent and something that you might not agree with. Peaceful protest is all well and good, when you’re dealing with people who might, on the off chance, listen to you, but whether that’s the case or not here, you have little to no idea, what with being outside the city at this point. It’s a tough call.

But you’ve made it, right? Good. We’ll get back to that.

That’s how choice tends to go in The Witcher. You’re presented with a decision where either side of the argument could be valid, and then forced to make the call. It’s a running, morbid joke throughout the game that Witchers are supposed to be bastions of neutrality, an agent that is there purely to deal with monsters. But they’re powerful warriors, and when the monsters don’t seem to be nearly as clear-cut as Geralt and his brethren might like, the world is becoming a place they’re going to have to involve themselves in, otherwise they’re at risk of becoming redundant relics, occasionally evoked when some particularly large rats appear in the local tavern’s cellar.

But there’s two phases to every choice here, too. First, there’s the decision, and then, there’s the consequence. In many other games, that consequence takes place soon after the decision, so that it can give you some good or bad points and push you a little more up whichever end of the binary spectrum you’ve decided to pursue. It’s also easier if, in terms of storytelling, you get to connect that consequence with your action before you get about it. The problem with that, and something that The Witcher sidesteps so elegantly, is that the player almost always has the option to revoke that choice that they’ve just made with a minimum of retreading.


You can just quicksave before the conversation, and then reload if you don’t like the outcome. Like a spoilt child, you get to have your way, even if you fuck up. You’re a beautiful and delicate flower, and the mere chance that you might be presented with something that disagrees with you isn’t something that can be tolerated. Instead you need to have that reassuring hand on your shoulder that lets you back out of any decision that you’ve made, right after you’ve made it.

In The Witcher, that hand is a push, and it’s forcing you to remain in an anxious limbo, unable to see what the consequences of your choice are, how big and how powerful an impact crater the asteroid of your decision is going to leave. It might be an hour later, it could be something that doesn’t even show up until next chapter. But it’s going to come back, and it’s going to have an impact.

Which choice did you make?

If you chose to let the elves take the goods, then you later walk into a pub to be presented with a corpse. Protruding out of his chest are three arrows, the tips of which are designed to split on impact, diverging into three different arrowheads, to maximise the damage against internal organs and the like. Because of how they work, they’re useless against even lightly armoured enemies, so these are purely for killing civilians. That was what was in the goods. Well done, asshole, you just enabled to an act of terrorism.


If you didn’t let them take the goods, then that guy who gets arrowed doesn’t, and instead informs on a Scoia’tael sympathiser and supporter, who turns out to be a major character that you need help from. And so you need to bail him out of prison. Also, what with him being a dwarf, and most humans hating anything non-human, prison is a pretty crappy place for him to be. That would be your fault.

As a player, making that choice, you’ll wish you’d picked the other option. And the same goes for the people who picked the other option too. It’s tough, not being able to be the good guy all the time. Furthermore, if you’d wanted to fix that particular decision, you’re looking at replaying three, maybe four hours of the game. Not really an option, when you think about it like that.

This is The Witcher taking away your crutches. It’s pulling the stabilisers off your bike, and letting you careen down the narrow lane of your decision making. It’s letting you know that you can make mistakes, you can fuck up, and the game will carry on. Sure, sometimes things will happen that you might not have wanted, but that’s how a good story happens. If everything you do turns out great, where the hell is the jeopardy that makes the story interesting? It’s precisely by piling problems onto a protagonist, and having them face worse problems no matter how well they deal with the situation, that the best stories thrive.


The smartest thing The Witcher does, however, isn’t the big choices like the one outlined above. Instead it’s the little things, the things that don’t even look like choices, but can have ramifications. Things like being told by a friend to do some research into forensic sciences before you do an autopsy. In another game, that would be a requirement, with the option to do the autopsy completely unavailable until you’d done the required reading. Here? Here you can do the autopsy whenever, and it’s framed in such a way that, once it’s done, you’re pretty much certain your results were correct. Who needs books, right?

Except you’ve botched it, and, unless you looked it up in a walkthrough, you’d never know. The world keeps turning, and you’re just on a different track. A track that could well end up with people getting killed from your aversion to research.

That’s a neat trick: The Witcher hides consequences inside split second decisions about things that don’t look like game-changing moments. You just act, distracted by these big, grandiose moments where you’re forced to pick one side or the other, while all the time you’re making these small, minute to minute decisions that you’d think were just part of playing the game, but are actually causing ripples that, somewhere down the line, are going to become a tidal wave that you’re definitely not ready for. As these waves start to crash over you, you start to figure out what’s going on, and suddenly every little thing you do becomes important. What, before, was just clearing out a house of monsters, now has you thinking about what would happen if you didn’t clear it out. How do you know what’s important to the outcome of something and what isn’t?

What all this means is that choice is embedded in The Witcher in a far subtler, and consequently far more profound way, that most RPGs we play. It creates a world where smaller changes aren’t purely superficial changes. And while they may be scripted, there are so many outcomes, so many variables, that it nevertheless feels like a naturalistic outcome. The track you find yourself on is yours, in a way that few other have managed, because you can look back on the story and see where you might have gone wrong. When little things you do chang the world around you, it becomes something incredibly personal.


And it’s personal not only because of the things you’ve done, and how they’ve changed the world of The Witcher. There’s also the things you didn’t do, that lead to deaths and tragedy, or even, maybe, something good. The game suppose that Geralt isn’t clairvoyant, and it also that sometimes things don’t go the way you’d or he would think. What looks like the right choice might be the wrong, and vice-versa.

This might sound incredibly frustrating. It could sound like you’re being punished for doing something right, or that this unpredictability means that the game is constantly pulling the rug from under your feet and making you pay for things that didn’t even seem significant at the time. After spending so long with clear signposting and wonderfully friendly game design, where the player’s every whim comes with a safety net, this might sound like torture.

And, perhaps, it might be. For you. But I want to be punched in the gut sometimes (figuratively speaking!) and I want a game to fuck with me, confuse and punish me even when I might not have expected it. This might seem unfair, or cruel to the player – and that might fly in the face of game design’s received wisdom about making consequences clear at the moment of decision – but I believe the pay off is that I no longer feel like a spectator. Ultimately, those decisions are still my decisions. I’m an instigator, someone who the game reacts to, rather than me being forced to react to the game. Every moment counts, because my actions count. It’s not some big neon sign saying ‘Moral choice!’ to prepare me for this scene, knowing, in rough terms, what the outcome is going to be. It’s a knife at your throat, constantly, letting you know that one slip up, at any time, could change everything.

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127 Comments »

  1. Teddy Leach says:

    Did not give things to elves. Hate elves. Geralt often had to deal with these little moral choices in the books too, so it was all very nice and familiar.

    Of course, it helps that, by reading the books, I’ve got a decent idea of what the Squirrels are like.

    • Stammer says:

      I never read the books and I still hated the Scioa’tel. Which payed off because their ending is by far the worst of all 3.

    • Bhazor says:

      Well I haven’t played it in a while but I’m pretty certain that Geralt was told what was in the boxes, or at least I remember being really annoyed that I didn’t have an option to let them take the medicine but leave the weapons.

    • CaLe says:

      I sided with the Elves most of the time because the humans just seemed like a bunch of racists.

    • leeder krenon says:

      exactly. everyone’s a cunt.

  2. Terragot says:

    Punishing the player isn’t a problem unless the game starts to tease the player. Punishing a player is just a good part of game balance, story diversity and ‘oh, snap!’ moments. It’s when a game openly teases the player about the choice they made when people stop playing.

    Nobody truly minds cocking up, there isn’t half a minute spent worrying about a spilt pint, but it’s when everyone makes a point of you cocking up that it becomes an annoyance.

    The witcher makes every choice seem like that’s how the game should flow. There’s never a moment where an npc child comes bounding up to you, whips their finger out of their nose, points at you and lets out a big teary eyed cry of laughter because you didn’t do the autopsy right.

    In the witcher, the choice is always (al)right.

    • CMaster says:

      Heh yeah, reminds me of one of the most annoying RPG tropes:
      Obvious traps/scams.
      You can see the trap from a mile off. The quest giver NPC is clearly dodgy or making little not-very-veiled jibes. Getting further involved or doing what they say is clearly a bad idea. Yet you have to go ahead anyway. The only way to get the XP, and to get the eventual mission reward is to walk straight into the trap, at which point the NPCs will laugh at you for being such a gullible fool.

      ARG! I only did it because the game offered me no other way! I wasn’t gullible, I’m just playing by the stupid rules of the gameworld.

    • heretic says:

      I like games which at this point give you an option to KILL the mofo who gave you that stupid quest.

      The fallout series come to mind, I didn’t like the sound of the quest of a certain merchant in F2 and just decided to kill him and take his wares :D In NV I didn’t like the bomber gang dude from the start, found where he was after finding out what stupid quest he wanted me to do and blasted his head off.

      BLOODTHIRSTY

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      The best/worst example of this I ever saw was in the adventure game Syberia.

      At one point you have to convice a former opera singer to come out of her retirement to do one last concert for an obsessed fan. The fan is clearly a dangerous lunatic (he’s already stolen the hands from your clockwork robot companion!) and it’s blatantly obvious he’s going to kidnap this poor woman as soon as she steps foot into his lair, but you have to do it anyway.

      Your actions are completely unethical – made far worse by fact that the whole plot of the game isn’t about saving the world or defeating an ancient evil. No, you lead an old lady into an obvious trap so your employers can buy a toy factory. Yes, really. Your character is tasked with tracking down some bloke so he can sign a contract selling his toy factory to your employers.

  3. Grinnbarr says:

    I just found it utterly depressing that anything I did resulted in shit hitting the fan. The most obvious example of this is the part where you fight the beast. I was running the game on my laptop and when the beast appeared, my framerate dropped appallingly, so I died. However, the last autosave is before you make the decision to SPOILER save or give up the supposed witch. There is no option to save after that. So I went through this choice several times, choosing different things each time, and I just felt like shit either way.
    I abandoned the game shortly after entering the city. Might come back to it when I’ve upgraded my computer.

    • John P says:

      Yeah the shades of grey thing gets a bit tiresome after a while. In Witcher 2 I’d like to see some options that aren’t damned if you do damned if you don’t. Like some choices between two pretty good options, which still have consequences but which aren’t designed purely to make you agonise over them.

      That said, the subtlety of The Witcher’s choices mean this is less of a problem than in, say, BioWare games, where the choices are billboarded and highlighted, and are clearly designed to make you feel bad.

    • Will Tomas says:

      The beast fight is the most obvious random difficulty spike, and it’s really annoying that you can spend ages desperately getting his health down but still dying, then realise it’s possible to kill him in 2 hits. But I did think the witch story played out rather well, and I loved the ambiguity of it.

    • Rinox says:

      @ Grinnbar:

      There are a few things that had simply ‘good’ consequences in the Witcher though.

      *spoiler*

      Like letting the werewolf captain of the guard live and helping him out with his girl. That, for me, was the beauty of the Witcher. It acknowledges that you, Geralt, are nothing but a pawn in the greater story and amidst forces far greater than you. A powerful pawn, but a pawn. There is little you can do to change the main events, Civil war, bigotry, political backstabbing, greed – they are what make the world go round, and more often than not there is no real ‘good’ choice. The glimpses of hope shining through are almost all shown through your personal relationships, things that have little to no impact on the greater developments of the universe but matter to you and the people that like/love you. Your personal relationship with people both among the rebels and the knights, Shani caring for the wounded during the battle, the love of the captain and his girl, etc.

    • Red_Avatar says:

      The hardest part of the Beast, was defending the witch. She’d constantly get ganged on by the wolves and she dies FAST. I actually played this part yesterday (replaying the game right now) and it took me EIGHT tries before she survived the fight. It was really based on luck – if you could get the beast between you and her, and her on the outside of the circle, you could avoid her getting attacked instead of you.

    • Grinnbarr says:

      @Rinox:
      Yeah, as I said I haven’t finished the game yet, so I didn’t have much experience of the kinds of choice you mentioned you encountered. The witch was just the most important choice I managed to get past before I gave up. Your point about the personal decisions having nice outcomes is interesting – I’ll do my best to give it another go, if I can only get past the irritating combat…

    • CaspianRoach says:

      @Red_Avatar
      You don’t actually have to protect her, she can’t die. If you hover over her while she’s ‘unconscious’ you’ll notice she still has about 5% hp. When the combat ends she just walks it off.

    • sonofsanta says:

      @CaspianRoach Goddammit that would have saved me so much time on my playthrough.

    • Jharakn says:

      I’m impressed you actually managed to go though the whole fight without letting her die, I tried the same thing unknowingly and eventually gave up letting her seemingly die in disgust only to be surprised when she got back up again at the end.

    • phuzz says:

      Sometimes she revives in the middle of the fight and does a heal spell which heals you, which is handy, but it seems quite random.
      I do prefer the more opaque quests in the Witcher to the structure in Fallout 3 where there’s usually a ‘best’ way to do the quest, with occasionally another path granting you a unique weapon which is the only time I feel torn.

    • Thule says:

      I don’t know why everyone had such a hard time in that fight. Yes, the witch can die, which is bad because she heals you, but she gets up again after awhile and starts healing you again, so it’s not like you have to protect her.

      Secondly, I’ve always just chugged Swallow(healing potion) and a Blizzard(bullet-time potion) and used Specter Oil before the fight and I was fine. Just keep Aarding the Beast and after a while you’ll get lucky and get to insta-kill it. Also don’t be afraid to just run around letting your Health/Endurance recover.

      I remember having some trouble with it on my first playthrough, but it just requires a bit of preparation to get through it easy. I’m replaying the game on Hard now in preparation for the second game and I went through that fight relatively easily.

    • PearlChoco says:

      That’s weird. I only did that fight once but I clearly remember killing the beast after 2 or 3 blows, using some kind of special ability. Pretty easy fight, after all.

  4. icupnimpn2 says:

    Chrono Trigger was the first game to really surprise me with unexpected consequences. The trial scene was stunning. You were running around doing typical jerk rpg stuff. Food on a table? Eat it, why not? Later, when the princess is kidnapped, your actions are replayed in front of the court as part of the assassination of your character. It was a brilliant subversion of rpg tropes that hasn’t has as much impact as it deserves on games that followed.

    Maybe other developers felt, well, we can’t surprise them that way twice. But the lesson they needed to take away was really what was described for the Witcher: don’t do it for one scene, make the whole game that way. And make the specific consequences part of the ensuing game world instead of just calling you out for what you’ve done.

    • Teddy Leach says:

      Ah yes, Chrono Trigger. I was amazed when that scene popped up, as well as impressed.

    • frenz0rz says:

      I love Chrono Trigger, I’d say its still probably my favourite RPG and one of my favourite games ever.

      It was also the first game to ever make me feel horribly guilty for stealing and old man’s lunch.

    • Aedrill says:

      I never played this CT (it looks fun, so maybe one day, after we all globally agree that jobs and families are unnecessary…) but this bit looks more like fucking with a player than making him regret doing something. It’s playing with convention of an RPG, which isn’t a bad thing, it just doesn’t fit this conversation. Player did something he’s doing countless times in 99,(9)% of RPGs and suddenly he’s being punished for this without a hint of a warning.

  5. manveruppd says:

    Yeah, the autopsy thing was genius. It’s not just the simple things like whether you’ve read the book or not: most of decisions you’ve made in the last 3-4 hours of play, like who you talked to, who you did favours for, whether you’ve come to like someone or not, contribute to the conclusion you’ll come to during the autopsy, and if you’ve come to the wrong conclusions you won’t find out until it’s much too late and you’ve potentially killed innocent people based on your conclusions!

    And the reason you can tell it’s not an empty consequence is because, even though there’s no real penalty for making the wrong decision, the player (not just hte character) still feels it in the gut and /facepalms when they eventually find out!

    • Joshua says:

      I only realized now how awesome it was, since I only played the game once. But honestly, now I think abou tit, just by talking to a former mercenary about his life can actually change the outcome of that scene.

  6. redward says:

    I never felt punished playing the game. I actually genuinely admired CDProjekt for making the myriad choices in the game all tell an equally compelling story.

    The Witcher is the only game I can think of with so high a success rate of making your random choices, even in dialogue, feel like something considered and legitimate, giving your character honest-seeming motivations for why he might choose a certain thing. The end of the Outskirts is a perfect example – either stand up for a woman you know to be a little shady to protect her from a town of the worst kinds of criminals, or allow the townspeople, who may have been corrupted by dark powers, to sort it out in their own way and leave them to it.

    Unlike, say, Starcraft 2, there *is* a kind of objective reality to the story, but Geralt interprets it in the direction you choose him to. I never felt that my decisions were out of the blue, they all felt like the credible actions of a character, whether refusing to stand down from protecting others or giving up on saving innocent people because he was weary of it. Just… very well considered, even if the details were a little odd in the translation.

  7. JackShandy says:

    I’ve just been reading the books, and it’s interesting that the classic “Hero, we need you to make a moral choice right now!” moment’s are big parts of the fiction as well. Geralt tries to be completely neutral all the time, but because he’s a huge swordsly dude who finds himself in the middle of a bunch of warring factions there’s a bunch of situations where he’s forced to let down his code and kill a bunch of dudes in an attempt to take the lesser evil.

    It’s cool to find out that they didn’t just add those to be like Bioware.

  8. frenz0rz says:

    Excellently written article, couldnt have put it better myself.

    I love the Witcher. Love it to bits. Its just a shame that so many people seem to give on that long, tiring slog through the Outskirts and never get to see the game when it truly shines. I had a friend playing it recently, and I more or less forced him (verbally) to continue playing, because I knew he’d eventually love it. And now he does!

    Still, one thing I’m suprised you didnt touch on was how the decisions you make also carry over to the next game, a la Mass Effect. Its my hope that eventually most RPGs will have some sort of system like that, allowing you to play YOUR character with your own unique story through multiple games. Imagine the storytelling potential, for example, if a few of those decisions you made in Witcher 1 went on to influence the story in Witcher 2, or even 3. Hell, there might even now be a few unknown variables or decisions we’ve made that had little-to-no consequence in the original game, but will go on to play a bigger part in future games. The survival of a character, perhaps? The choice of relationship – the consequences of which the first game never really concludes?

    Also, was anyone else somewhat blown away by one aspect of the ending? Not to give any spoilers of course, suffice to say that the player is never directly told of this revelation, and you are left to notice it yourself…

    • redward says:

      Yeah, that was elegantly done.

      Something that’s not really talked about in the Witcher is the way it does actually put some small effort into tying the character’s philandering into conflicted ideas about male roles of protection and fatherhood, what with the charcter’s odd relationship to women, his inability to father children, and the way the relationships with Shani/Triss & Alvin develop into the final acts. The ending non-reveal makes for a nice, ambiguous button on all of that.

      There’s actually a really nice, easily missable bit of dialogue with Foltest about his daughter’s mother that brings some of that home, too.

    • frenz0rz says:

      Yes, I think the whole father-figure thing really did bring a lot of depth to Geralts relationship with either Shani or Triss, and the ambiguity of the ending left me with mixed emotions – most of all, a bit of guilt. After all, —[SPOILER]—, when talking to Alvin as he was running around the fields in one of the last chapters, I felt I’d more or less convinced him that he could grow up to be a strong, brave knight, fighting evil and all that awesome stuff that a child’s mind could fantasise about. Then, when I learned what (possibly) had become of him… oh, the guilt! The guilt of Geralt not being there as a father, and that for the few moments we conversed in his childhood, I’d convinced him to be what he’d become!

      Having only played it through once though, I didnt know at the time whether my actions had truly impacted on that particular outcome of the game. But thats one thing I love about having such far-flung consequences to your decisions – unless someone actually tells you, or unless its blindingly obvious, you might never truly notice the full effect of your decisions. I mean, I didnt even know that the autopsy could have multiple outcomes.

    • faelnor says:

      The prose was elegant, but were so many words necessary? Is there really a discussion in there? I would have retained just as much if it gave the elves example in two concise paragraphs while repeating “yes, The Witcher has meaningful choices”. Where are the development, the logical construction, the branching off?

    • redward says:

      @frenz0rz

      Yeah, it’s disquieting. That ending montage (before the cinematic) with that shot of Geralt smiling as he leaves Vizima is a really weird, interesting moment in my memory of the game. Lots of mixed feelings. “He must’ve worn it under his armor for years.” S’good.

    • DAdvocate says:

      !!! MAJOR SPOILER WARNING !!!
      I found the ending rather haunting because the “villain’s” motivation as described at the end is a twist upon whichever morals you choose to teach him when he was a child earlier in the game.

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      Huh? What? Clearly I missed this revelation in the ending, so I have no idea what you are talking about. To youtube!

      Edit: Even after watching video of the ending, I still don’t know what revelation you’re talking about. Could you elaborate?

    • sonofsanta says:

      PROPER FUCKING SPOILERS ABOUND

      Like, seriously.

      @VelvetFist – Jacques De Alderberg – i.e. the Big Bad, Leader of the Order of the Flaming Rose, man what made all the bad stuff happen from the word go – is Alvin, little magic scamp you were caring for from Chapter 1 through to the end of Chapter 4, when he teleports out of the big village fight. Presumably he teleports back in time a number of years, has visions of the icy death of the world, and founds the Order to try and avoid this fate.

      Clues to this include: the stone thing he holds at the end when he dies, as previously given to him by Triss; saving your ass in the swampy bit of Chapter V and saying he’s now repaid the favour; and mentioning your tendency to lecture overlong, and other hints that he is familiar with you.

      SPOILERY STUFF ENDS, NORMAL SERVICE WILL NOW RESUME

      (and comments need to allow a spoiler tag or something so that text shows up in white and prevents accidental spoileriness)

    • redward says:

      MAJOR SPOILERS FOLLOW:

      Alvin is the villain of the game. It’s very, very strongly implied that Jacque de Aldersberg is Alvin – he wears Alvin’s amulet, and the game is scripted to have him repeat whatever you told to Alvin throughout the game as justification for his violent race purity ethos.

      It’s also slightly hinted that he somewhat expects you to kill him, so you can take his place and lead humankind to salvation.

      The idea is that, after teleporting away from the village @ the end of Chapter 4, Alvin begins traveling through time, eventually making his way to the first time Jacque de Aldersberg is sited. It’s mentioned several times in the game, both in books and (I believe) in dialogue with Triss, that people with Alvin’s powers might have the capacity to travel through time and even alternate dimensions.

      Geralt gives a very small indication that he knows all this, or at least suspects it, but the game otherwise refuses to comment on the reveal, and Geralt’s thoughts remain uncommented on. It’s a powerful way for the game to present a pretty big bombshell of an idea, and it makes the whole victory of the end rather bittersweet, and ‘resolution’ of the themes of fatherhood and protecting women and children pretty melancholic, and satisfyingly untidy.

    • Lars Westergren says:

      >It’s a powerful way for the game to present a pretty big bombshell of an idea, and it makes the whole
      >victory of the end rather bittersweet
      Indeed. “But…you only use that sword for monsters?” *chop*

      One of few games that have made me choke up a bit, sympathising with the bad guys. Other’s include Planescape:Torment, Final Fantasy 7, and when giving the final death to Bodhi in Baldur’s Gate 2. “No! This life is my own!”

    • Jimbo says:

      One of the best game twists / endings ever imo.

      I hope there’s some kind of recap based on your Witcher save file at the beginning of TW2. I remember that I was broadly pro-human (well, anti-terrorist really) and I remember the twist, but I can’t remember a whole lot about how everything else went down.

      Also lol at The Witcher apparently keeping every single save. I only played it once, 4 years ago – 12gb worth of save files.

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      SPOILERS CAUSE I DISCUSS THE ENDING A LITTLE MORE.

      @sonofsanta, redward: Wow. I totally missed that, and thought that Alvin teleporting away was just an unexplained cliffhanger for the sequel. I didn’t notice Jacques repeating my words unfortunately, and found him overall a highly unsatisfying villain. I wish I had made the connection when I played it.

      Thanks for explaining it!

    • sebmojo says:

      Great article.

      One day I’m going to write a defence of the sex cards – I really liked them. Particularly compared to Bioware’s stiff Ken/Barbie slash fic vids.

  9. CMaster says:

    Honestly, I see the idea about feeling like being “punished” for choices. I haven’t played The Witcher so I don’t know what it is like there. But unintended consequences are always part of making decisions, it’s the bread and butter of Strategy gaming, but no one minds there. I can only really see it getting irritating if the game constantly turns whatever choice you made into clearly the wrong one.

    What feels more punishing when it comes to choice is Bioware’s approach. In that your choices, by and large mean fuck all. The Mass Effect series is what I am thinking of here. In conversations, you get railroaded along to the same outcome again and again, no matter how you approach them. You never get any choice in how to approach things – you’re just dropped off somewhere, and told to shoot at things until you get to the end of the corridor. The only actual choice you get is at the end, with big flashing signposts, “moral choice” alerts flashing and quite frequently a false dichotomy placed in front of you. And half the time whichever choice you make comes to the same outcome anyway. You know even if carried forward to the next game, or later in this one, it isn’t actually going to effect your ability to achieve your goals. It just effects which character gives you the same quest (eg Wrex) or if some random NPC mentions something in passing. That is cheapening choice.

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      I fully agree. In The Witcher, your choices are smaller, but they mean more.

      There seems to be a philosophical similarity between the approach to choice in The Witcher and Metro 2033—both of them embed the choices within the narrative and within the progression of the world, so that you are often not even aware of them. And neither reveal their consequences to you until it’s too late to change your mind.

      What these two games have in common is this: their choices are not about finding the more beneficial outcome, but are about the expression and development of your character.

    • randomnine says:

      There’s an interesting counterpoint here in Starcraft 2′s single player, where there are conflicting binary choices, and

      (SPOILER ALERT)

      no matter what you do, the game portrays your decision as obviously the right one. It makes the world feel morally weightless, like fate itself is conspiring to support your decisions, so you can just smash through with gleeful abandon.

      That is, perhaps, appropriate for the game experience and narrative tone in Starcraft 2. It kind of undermines having any kind of principled choice in the first place, though.

  10. bonjovi says:

    It was for the same reason that books were so good. As in real life, there are no good or bad choices, evrything has a consequence.

    This theme in books was a critique of the popular fantasy canon, where protagonist can be neutral and always good. A hero. Reality is that the lady you just saved from fire, beats up her kids.

    The choices presented in game are only real choices. You dont really have a choice if one option is obiously better.

  11. UW says:

    The choices/moral decisions in the Witcher were handled fantastically. As the game reached its climax I found myself completely overwhelmed by helplessness as the wheels I had personally set in motion began to turn.
    Looking back, I could see so many places where my own small actions had created this situation, and I was already so far down the path I was on that it seemed utterly ridiculous to suddenly start backing the other side. Leaving me to eventually make the most tyrannical decisions. Decisions which, if presented to me individually, I would definitely have not taken. However, they seemed like the only logical way forward based on how I had behaved up to that point.

  12. Ian says:

    Obligatory “I need to go back and try to trudge through that tedious city/swamp bit in an early chapter and try to get to the best stuff of The Witcher” reply.

    • MD says:

      Heh. Every now and then I consider going back and giving the Witcher a proper go, but those posts put me off more than a hundred angry rants could.

  13. oceanclub says:

    And this is precisely why Bioware’s output seems a little bit stale after playing The Witcher:

    * Press 1 to do good (+1 on the goodometer)
    * Press 2 to do bad (+ 1 on the badometer)
    * Press 3 to,well, meh.

    P.

  14. Dominic White says:

    Anyone starting The Witcher, I highly recommend you grab this trainer:

    http://games.softpedia.com/get/Cheat-Solutions/The-Witcher-Enhanced-Edition-8-Trainer.shtml

    And if you want a more logical difficulty curve (still shitty at the start, though, but it means combat actually remains challenging the whole way through) and more action-oriented combat, this mod:

    http://www.moddb.com/mods/full-combat-rebalance1

    And have at least Infinite Health turned on for the first act. Once you’re past the first act, then you can play normally, but until then, you’re too underlevelled and the enemies are too numerous/tough to be any fun. And that first boss is just HORRIBLE. Being able to set you on fire, leaving you completely helpeless as its minions tear you aparrt is not fun at all.

    You can blaze through the first act in very little time if you’re not worrying about health and alchemy and preparing for every overly dice-driven encounter. It’s the one thing I wished they’d had the nerve to revise more during the whole Enhanced Edition upgrade. Cheating past it is completely acceptable, far as I’m concerned.

    • DeepSleeper says:

      Sell me on this combat rebalancing mod, Dominic, if I may ask you to. It looks interesting, but I’m not getting a grasp from their FAQ on A: Why it’s so hot, and B: Why I should want to make the combat harder. Does it get more intricate?

    • StingingVelvet says:

      Odd post to read because I never had a problem with difficulty in chapter one, even on the harder modes. I can’t even remember dying in The Witcher at all actually, it’s a pretty easy game from start to finish.

    • Dominic White says:

      The FCR mod mainly makes the combat a lot faster, a lot deadlier, and requires more maneuvering and dodging from the player, ala Witcher 2. It also makes bombs a lot more important in gameplay.

      It also addresses the inverse difficulty curve, where Act 1 was intermittently tedious and ridiculously tough (that boss was hatefully hard – even with all the right oils, potions and more, it basically has an instant-kill attack with a percentage chance of working – you either lucked out and killed it without issue, or you just kept dying again and again – pure luck, really), and everything after that was piss-easy.

    • DeepSleeper says:

      That unfortunately sounds like exactly the opposite of what I want, but still, it’s going to interest somebody.

      Think I’ll snag the trainer though.

    • Joshua says:

      There is also the Flash Mod. Which is like the Combat Rebalance, but without hte Combat Rebalance.

      It simply fixes a lot of stuff. Its by the same author, adn included in the Combat Rebalance.

    • Dominic White says:

      I really do recommend the combat rebalance, though. The original game was intermittently hard and slow at first, but once you got past that first difficulty spike, you were an unstoppable superman that nobody could touch. Why even bother having a combat engine if I can practically one-shot the final boss?

    • JackShandy says:

      I’ve honestly just finished the first chapter last night, and I’ve got no idea what you’re talking about, Dominic. I found I could use the Ard to paralyze and then instantly kill any foe I fought. The boss was incredibly easy – I used no oils, no potions, not even Swallow. Unless the game somehow switched me from medium difficulty onto easy, I don’t think I’ll be needing this thing.

  15. Nihilille says:

    At first I thought: “Thanks RPS for putting to words why I loved Witcher so much (could never explain it).” But then I remembered shagging 3 or more vampires simultaneously, and realised that was why it was so great.

  16. StingingVelvet says:

    I’m not sure why everyone complains about the outskirts at the start of the game. Personally it was the endless Vizima section in the middle of the game that I thought went on too long. The outskirts at the start was a great area with some good questing and a lovely overall plot, I thought.

    • airtekh says:

      Vizimia is where I abandoned my playthrough.

      I spent absolutely ages playing Chapter 2, and was looking forward to a change of scenery for Chapter 3, only to be dumped right back in the same areas I had just spent hours slogging around.

    • gganate says:

      Yeah, Chapters 2 and 3 are the worst, because they take place in basically the same areas and you have to backtrack through the vast swamp for several quests.

    • StingingVelvet says:

      Yeah, cut chapter 3 from the game and it would improve it by a lot. Chapter one I actually liked… that’s my overall point. Glad to see some others agree.

    • Kaira- says:

      I don’t know why people hate chapter 2, it’s one of my favorites. Could it be that no one else enjoyed Geralt the Detective? :(

      Chapter 3 doesn’t really have anything that I really remember it of, excluding that little party at the beginning. But I did enjoy talking about atoms and life with that one physician.

    • gwathdring says:

      I’m more confused by all the trouble fighting the beast. It’s entirely possible I just got lucky, as I only fought it once … but I’ve seen a number of posts talking about how brutally difficult that fight was. Is it a lot more difficult if your forget to use Spector Oil perhaps?

    • Kaira- says:

      @gwathdring

      I believe it is. So, if anyone is struggling with the Beast, here are two helpful tips:
      a) Spectre Oil. You’ll need it.
      b) Aard is very useful, especially if you get the ability to stun enemies with it. You can stun the Beast. You can one-hit kill stunned enemies. See where this is going?

    • Vinraith says:

      What Kaira said. The Beast is trivial, you just stun it and one-shot it. I remember being terrified about that fight at the time, as people had built it up to be this hugely difficult thing. It was over in 10 seconds, I figured they were talking about some other “Beast” later in the game.

    • Dominic White says:

      It’s still a dice-roll. Aard has a chance of stunning the Beast and letting you kill it almost instantly, but the Beast has a chance of setting you on fire and having its minions kill you almost instantly. It’s really, really bad design.

  17. Will Tomas says:

    I love the ambiguity of the Witcher. There’s only one proper ‘you must choose and this will have consequences’ choice (who to give Alvin to), the rest feel much more integrated into the world. I also love how it’s a game in which being genuinely neutral is a possibility. Also where it can play with expectations – the courtesan story in the Trade Quarter is great, because you’re essentially faced with 3 choices, all of which have massively negative consequences. Trying to do what’s right in those situations is what makes the game, for all its occasionally clunkiness, so worth playing.

  18. woodsey says:

    I’d like to see the safety net removed too.

    Its also why I haven’t replayed Mass Effect 2 at all, because there’s no point having a series about your choices over 3 games if all you do is ensure everything goes absolutely perfectly.

    • Rinox says:

      I agree. One of my friends lost Tali in the final mission because he made less-than-optimal choices (made Zaeed leader of Fire Squad 1 or something) and was really bummed by it, He considered replaying the ending for a second, which I vehemently disagreed with. I mean, I don’t think he would have done it, but it sure would have cheapened the experience. No matter how hard it may suck to not do something ‘perfectly’ and lose a great character, it is what makes your story in the end.

      I was actually really disappointed by how hard it was to lose a LOT of party members in the ME2 finale. In fact, it’s virtually impossible to die yourself if you go in even remotely prepared. It’s too bad they did so little with such a potentially powerful system – a little more randomness of consequences would have contributed.

    • gwathdring says:

      I disagree about randomness. I think, as the Witcher shows, having less than obvious consequences can be extremely interesting and rewarding. But randomness, especially when dealing with characters the player cares about, is not good storytelling. It could be more “realistic” I suppose, but this is about storytelling and gameplay, not simulating an actual space assault. And there was a little randomness in the deaths at the end from the player perspective. Keep in mind that, first of all, choices for the entire game are fairly well signposted; this is not a good thing in my view, but it still predisposes the player to thinking about the obvious choices. Second of all, when it comes to “defensive values” at the end, the exact death order seems a bit arbitrary to me based on the specific abilities I had each character unlock. From my standpoint, some of the defensive lines that wouldn’t have resulted in further party deaths were less sensible than the line I picked. This would have been more understandable if the choices hadn’t been so canned and signposted throughout the rest of the game and even the rest of this particular mission. I would have greatly preferred varied choice throughout, but under the circumstances it felt completely arbitrary to have Mordin die on numerous playthroughs for what turns out to be some pretty exact yet somewhat arbitrary math.

      Furthermore, carrying over saves from Mass Effect 1 showed me that Bioware didn’t quite manage to match one of the best parts of choices in the Witcher: when there were two consequence for a given series of choices, both were often interesting. It’s not simply a matter of having a “perfect” playthrough. Some of the legitimately more interesting material happens when you make certain choices–keeping Wrex alive comes to mind. There are also instances of confusion as to how much a choice mattered that don’t feel like in-character confusion. For example, Liara doesn’t really give you the option of talking about your relationship, which can be rather confusing–I could be wrong but I don’t really even remember a clear-cut “It’s been too long, I can’t talk about this right now.” Again, out of context a confusing relationship in a game isn’t a problem in context … this seemed as much like an oversight as an attempt and confusing things.

    • Rinox says:

      You’re probably right about the randomness – after all Tali (to use my earlier example) died not because she was the wrong person for the tech job, but because the fire squad had the wrong leader. Which is essentially unrelated to my friend’s choices re: Tali. So yeah, maybe that’s pretty ‘random’ as it is.

      I do believe that implementing situations that are not (entirely) within your control could make some game moments more meaningful, no one is absolute master of his or her fate. I suppose ME2 made a nice attempt with not allowing saving/reloading during the final mission, forcing you to either replay the entire finale or accept the consequences.

  19. sonofsanta says:

    (Spoilery and stuff, probably.)

    It’s telling that the only choice that’s obviously signposted as “HEY THERE THIS IS IMPORTANT” is the one I reloaded about half a dozen times to keep changing my mind – support the Scoia’tael in the village at the end, or stay neutral. I’d been generally friendly towards them as I did rather believe in their cause, just not their methods, but I just got completely paralysed by the choice at that juncture. In a good way, mind – the way that says “by the Gods, I’m invested in this”.

    As much as I love Mass Effect, that becomes less roleplay and more “I will choose the top right each time”, particularly in ME2 where sticking to one option was a matter of min-maxing (cf KG). The Witcher is about having to be a bastard, but picking which kind of bastard you want to be, and thematically developing the character in your mind.

    It also helps that Geralt is so definitely A Character and not BlankSlate Shephard, but that (I suspect) is personal preference.

    • gganate says:

      The robbery at the bank was a hard choice for me because I sympathized with the elves but they were threatening civilians and not open to negotiations, so I reluctantly helped the order eliminate them.

      I thought the choice between Shani and Triss was pretty hard as well. I went with Shani because Triss is pretty much absent for half of the game and I had come to know her better. Actually, I felt pretty bad about going with her, since it’s implied that Triss and Geralt have had a long relationship. I’m wondering how this is dealt with in the second game, since Triss has been mentioned in the previews and Shani hasn’t.

    • Rinox says:

      @ Sonofsanta

      SPOILER

      That was the exact same moment I realised what I had been doing. I was generally sympathetic to the rebels’ cause up to that point, but when I saw the massacre in the village of people who had nothing to do with their cause it almost made me sick. I never agreed to this! That must be how partisans or freedom fighters must feel when a part of their organization turns violent – the whole “you’ve come this far, no turning back now” element was very strongly implemented. I walked away, though, disgusted. And an enemy of the Scoiatel now. :-(

    • Dominic White says:

      @gganate – The whole issue with Triss is a lot more complicated if you’re familiar with the original novels at all. You might have heard Dandelion singing a couple of songs about a sorceress that Geralt fell in love with and settled down with, right? In fact, he mentions in a journal entry that he can’t remember any specifics, but he’s sure that he loved a sorceress deeply at some point.

      That wasn’t Triss. That was Yennefer, a rival sorceress, who is interestingly absent, and nobody is talking about her. Triss, however, makes her move on Geralt the moment he gets back to Kaer Morhen.

      Love triangle, possibly? Hopefully the sequel will cover that in a bit more detail.

    • m4x1u says:

      @ Dominic

      This is one of the things that I’m most interested about the story. Will or will they not introduce Yennefer? (Geralts true & only love). The 2nd thing is about the “kingslayer” guy. By the looks of him and some of his dialogues i think i know whom he is… but I can’t be certain… then again IF he is whom I think he is, then… wow! what’s the plot gonna be like? epic to the square? :D

  20. Gnoupi says:

    I loved the choices in The witcher, especially because it wasn’t the “good/evil” kind of choice.

    My issue however is how the Devs felt the need to splash it in my face any time there were consequences. It was far from subtle, and often close to a “fourth wall”.

    People make choices, they have consequences. I understand that the devs wanted to point the consequence, but not all consequences are obvious. And not all consequences should trigger an inner monologue referring to a choice I made.

    It was nice to have such choices, but I hope that consequences will be more subtly notified in The Witcher 2, to not have a feeling of breaking the flow of the story.

    • Aedrill says:

      It will be exactly like you said. Some consequences won’t be shown at all, you’ll just have to figure it out on your own.

  21. Tom OBedlam says:

    Awww hell, now I need to go back and finish it. I quit after that bloody awful swamp section.

  22. BebopBraunbaer says:

    what i liked most was the choice which wasnt pointed out [SPOILER] like the battle in chapter 2 where you where ask to join as part of the flaming rose or the rebells. No one tells you that you can just go away and dont be part of this battle. Its a choice which no one pointed out to you, there wasnt a dialog with
    1. flaimg rose
    2. rebells
    3. neutral

    you jus have to try it or to miss the battle accidentally

  23. mickiscoole says:

    I was totally for the rights of non humans, but they’d written that head elf’s dialogue so well that I wanted to completely and utterly destroy his terrorist organisation just to take him down a peg or 2.
    >:(

  24. Archonsod says:

    “Well done, asshole, you just enabled to an act of terrorism.”

    Except the guy killed was a drug dealer.

    This is actually where The Witcher failed, by not giving any neutral for the Witchers to aim for or inhabit. If your choice leads to some peasant getting killed it’s inevitably a racist, thug, rapist or murderer. Or you get one of the jihad terrorists killed rather than one of the more peaceful ones. In effect the consequences are removed, if you opt to take a side then it’s a simple case of us vs them, if you don’t then it makes no difference, it’s just people from one side of a war killing those on the other.

    FarCry 2 managed it better. You have two bad-as-each-other factions, but it’s very careful to give you (even if it is indirect) a glimpse at the innocents who are simply caught between the two. It’s much more effective since you know that quite a lot of the time the choices you are forced to make will draw in or otherwise effect people who, like you, have no stake in the conflict or a desire to see one side or the other win.

    • redward says:

      SPOILER ABOUT GUY WHO GETS KILLED BY ELVES:

      He was selling drugs, but he was also secretly risking his life in the employ of the only people actively trying to save the kingdom by fighting Salamandra. He works for Leuvaarden.

    • Kent says:

      Far Cry 2 didn’t have any consequences for the player at all. Those consequences that appeared was only illusions or far too subtle to be of any significance.

      The Witcher was easily on the best RPGs ever I’ve played. The consequences affected players and the world around him very clearly and you always had a choice even if the choice was subtle. Some spoiled gamers saw problems in the various other mechanics that The Witcher employed but those things didn’t feel important to me: I always felt completely immersed in the world of The Witcher. The tact based combat felt like a stroke of genius and the alchemy was intriguing. The character building system was near flawless (thanks to it’s simplicity). The Witcher did everything right what an RPG should make right.

    • Archonsod says:

      Having consequences is moot if you don’t make them meaningful. The Witcher fails because there’s no reason to care about them; neither side is particularly redeemable, both sides hate Geralt and even innocent bystanders are portrayed as brutal, bigoted thugs.

    • Kaira- says:

      @Archosond

      That may come down to your personal opinions – I found myself symphatizing the elves, though I eventually decided that it was their war, I wasn’t going to fight it. And Yaevinn was a douche, on top of that.

  25. groovychainsaw says:

    I’m still playing through it, so had to skim through the comments here for fear of *spoilers*. I’m desperately trying to get to the end before the sequel, having only started at Xmas when i picked it up for cheap.

    For me, this is the best RPG of the last 5 or so years. The moralising, complex story and *interesting* decisions you have to make throughout have really drawn me in to the world. The mechanics are somewhat clunky in places, the missions can get a bit repetitive, but few other games have whole chapters devoted to noir-ish investigations of a murder, followed by getting drunk, listening in to conversations and spying at a party, alongside the ‘get me 10 of these’ missions (which are almost all optional, but I’m a bit of a completest).

    What made me realise how clever it was was when i left it for a fortnight or so, came back and could not remember where I was in my investigation. I looked through the journal but couldn’t see how to progress (wasn’t looking hard enough, i guess). I looked online for a ‘nudge’ in the right direction. And I could not find a single walkthrough that matched what I had done . Most featured characters I hasn’t spoken to or were dead (I had helped the squirrels early on – put paid to that after the aforementioned ‘incident). The scope hit me there and then, and I resolved to live with the consequences of my actions from there on and enjoy MY story as I was making it.

    A couple of fixes to the mechanics (my game, being the extended edition, is already more than slick enough for me in presentation etc.) and the sequel could well be my game of the year.

  26. Aedrill says:

    I never thought about The Witcher as of the game that punishes you. It’s more like the world around your character is so shitty that no matter what you do and what your decision will be, there’s always some bastards trying to use you for their suspicious cause. This world is really violent, so no matter what you’ll do, someone has to die. This world is unjust, so no matter what your decision will be, someone will be left hurt. CDProjekt is doing pretty much the same as Andrzej Sapkowski – they’re mocking standard hero archetype. Everyone around you is expecting, that you – legendary White Wolf – will find universal solution to their problems. But you can’t, you’re just a witcher, human in fact. If you don’t know the original saga, and you missed certain bit in game, you probably don’t know what’s Geralt’s other nickname. It’s Blaviken Butcher. Not as heroic and splendid as White Wolf, eh? That’s why this game is so great. You’re just as evil as everyone around you, you’re in no position to judge, and yet you’re being forced to judge all the time.

    Another thing is The Witcher vs Dragon Age: Origins. I didn’t finish the latter (I barely started, in fact), because I find all this “Plague From the North” bullshit boring and tiresome. How many times do I have to save the world from some faceless danger from outside? I prefer story about a guy who’s doing his thing and is being forced to participate in power struggle.

    • gganate says:

      The witcher’s world and its protagonist make it so much more interesting than your typical fantasy rpg. Unlike Dragon Age or Oblivion, its setting isn’t copied from Tolkien. It’s an evil, ambiguous universe with nasty dialogue and manipulative persons. It feels more real.

    • Archonsod says:

      Yeah. They nicked it off Moorcock instead :P

    • rainynight65 says:

      @Archonsod: not really. Maybe Sapkowski himself took some inspiration from Moorcock (Wikipedia claims though that the Witcher stories are based on Slavic mythology), but the game is fully based on the books. ;)

    • Aedrill says:

      @Archonsod

      It’s impossible not to nick something from someone these days. You can take all kinds of drugs, stand on your head, and write random stuff in Japanese, and after you sober up you’ll find that someone already wrote something quite similar. From what I know, Sapkowski wasn’t really into fantasy before writing first short story (He was a merchant at the time), although I can be wrong of course. Point is – stolen or not, it’s still way better than 90% of modern fantasy books, and it does well for the game.

  27. Corrupt_Tiki says:

    Ahhh ahhhh! Spoilers!!!!@#!

    God, I really need to restart this game and try get past that mind numbingly boring fucking swamp.

  28. bill says:

    Have it, but haven’t played it yet. But that *shouldn’t* be punishment.

    though it does highlight one vast difference between games and movies/books. Because we ARE the character, we tend to take things very personally and always want to get the best result possible. But most dramatic stories are about things going wrong.
    A lotr where the fellowship went happily into mordor after grinding through all the orcs on the way would have been a lot less interesting. As would a ghostbusters where Ray kept his mind blank.

    Games have trained us badly. This sounds pretty great.

  29. Nameless1 says:

    Yes. Choices was without any doubt one of the features I admired most, especially because the consequences weren’t always immediate but often hidden and subsequent.

  30. phenom_x8 says:

    Geralt looks different here! Any plastic surgery maybe (hey, it could be one of the choice he made)?? :)

  31. Breakspeed says:

    Slight spoilers about the decision with the terrorists in the article:

    (Wasn’t Coleman – the guy in the tavern that gets killed, selling fisstech (which is like cocaine) to children? Whether or not he turns out to be a good guy, there was something about him dealing drugs that didn’t sit well with me.)

    Great article and can’t wait to make all new choices in The Witcher 2 in two weeks!

  32. Stammer says:

    Anyone else have a save ready to go? If so which ending are you considering your “canon” ending?

    For me I chose neutrality because everything seems to work out pretty well in the end for you, Triss and your incest loving King-Friend Foltest. Zoltan still likes you, that asshole Yaevinn gets minced, the Squirrels get hacked to pieces along side their equally repugnant war-mates the Order and you get a boat load of experience because you get to kill the lot of them in the final chapter.

    My only regret was having to kill Siegfried because he seemed like an ok guy, but oh well.

    • Rinox says:

      Yeah, I felt bad about that too. :-(

    • Aedrill says:

      I think you can spare his life in neutral ending. I’m not entirely sure since I finished this game 4 years ago but that’s what walkthrough says. If it’s true, and you weren’t told about this possibility it would be very witchery, which is great.

  33. RegisteredUser says:

    ..and then there are walkthroughs you can read before deciding anything at all.

    If one wants to spoil oneself the game, be it via quicksaving or WTs, one can.

    What I’m trying to say is that we have to take off the training wheels ourselves to begin with.

    Also: FUUUUUUUUUUU CDProjekt lawyer hirers and P2P haters extraordinaire, you are worse then the skewer yar telly and rosebuds of the night combined.

    Buying The Witcher 2 encourages mindless prosecution and persecution of civilians at the expense of your local law system, which has quite a few better things to process than Jimmy Humperdink checking out a game he’d never have bought in the first place via illegal download.

    Other folks try to sell their games rather than subpoena them into profit (like the humble bundles, of which I bought all 3).

    • rainynight65 says:

      Sorry, but you’re telling only half the story.

      Both the boxed versions and the digital download version of The Witcher 2 (available through GOG) ship with a ton of goodies, and without any form of DRM. The fact that they decide to reward those who buy the game, instead of inconveniencing them (which any form of DRM does) says a lot. I support that wholeheartedly.

    • Vinraith says:

      @rainynight

      Hate to break it to you, but the boxed version of Witcher 2 is going to have SecuROM. The only DRM-free version available is the GOG version.

    • rainynight65 says:

      @Vinraith:
      I see so.
      “However, the protection will still allow for unlimited installations on an unlimited number of computers, with ability to play on up to five computers at once. [14] It was also announced that the game will feature no censorship or gameplay differences across the global regions.”
      Still not too bad compared to what other publishers are doing.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Rainynight

      No, not bad at all compared to most of the big publishers these days, though personally I think I’ll still get it off of GOG myself since I rather like the idea of having a purely DRM-free copy. I did want to make sure you were fully apprised, though, since I’d been operating under the misunderstanding that the boxed copies were DRM-free as well until someone pointed out otherwise on RPS a few days ago.

    • Aedrill says:

      CDP can hire hitmen, if you ask me. They removed the only reasonable excuse pirates were using (DRM), so everyone torrenting this game is just a stealing douchebag, end of story. You don’t like DRMs? Buy GOG version. You don’t like online distribution? How is downloading stuff from torrents any different? If you download this game without paying you deserve getting a nasty, nasty letter.

  34. Yosharian says:

    What’s wrong with the sex cards? Am I the only one enjoyed collecting those?

    ….stop looking at me like that =(

    • gganate says:

      I enjoyed collecting them to. Yeah, they weren’t exactly tasteful (Abigail’s card comes to mind) but it was part of the role playing element. What would Geralt do? Well, he’d probably bang this chick.

    • m4x1u says:

      I don’t see what’s the fuss about. They’re cool… gotta catch’em all? :>

  35. rainynight65 says:

    Here’s one of my favourite moments of the game.

    In Chapter 3 (I think, first part of Vizima) you’re invited to a party – but you have to bring along two other people. There are a few different choices as to who to invite, and depending on who you end up choosing, the entire party scene plays out differently – dialogues, the little things that you’re supposed to to in the process… And it wasn’t overly consequential to the story. Just goes to show how much love for detail was in the game.

    • Tally says:

      I believe I brought Carmen (the madame) and it worked out rather entertainingly.

  36. Vinraith says:

    You know, much as I enjoyed my single play through of the Witcher, I can’t imagine ever playing through it again. Let’s face it, most of the game is combat, and there’s not nearly enough variety or depth in the character development system to make that markedly different from playthrough to playthrough. You’re always going to be Geralt. You’re always going to have pretty much the same abilities, moves, and spells. You’re always going to have most of the same dialogue and interactions.

    As cool as this choice system is, and it’s something I’d love to see emulated elsewhere, it’s not as useful as it could be in the Witcher because it’s literally the only reason to replay the game, and there’s not enough to it to warrant another 80 hours of game time. The result, ironically, is that it’s little different than not having any choice at all. If the outcomes I chose had been the pre-scripted ones, I’d have had no way of knowing.

    • rainynight65 says:

      I played it twice, back to back. Not for one second in those 110 hours did I feel bored or had a sense of deja vu. And I found it to have more than enough depth in the choices, dialogues and character development to warrant a third playthrough, which I have started but never finished due to time constraints..

      In contrast, I will certainly not be replaying any of the Dragon Age games, and the only reason I am struggling through Mass Effect 2 a second time is that I lost the savegame from my first playthrough.

  37. Tally says:

    Little heavy on the analogies there, Phill, but I do the same thing. Nevertheless I’m glad this article was written that those who did not play the Witcher understand its innovations in the field of player choice.

    Now I just need to finish the game. I got a bit fatigued a while back and have since forgotten what motivated my actions, which makes playing feel aimless. So far though, I’ve sided with the Soia’tael in most or all scenarios largely because two things I consistently make a point of attacking racism and slavery in all its forms in those games that let me. In Fallout 3 I stumbled upon Paradise falls and killed every slaver in sight. It ruined a few quests for me but it was worth it.

  38. Sarkhan Lol says:

    One of the things I very much liked about the Witcher’s tendency to make you feel as though you’ve made the wrong decision regardless of what that decision actually was, is that once you accept it, it puts you square inside the protagonist’s head. You get the same feeling of terse world-weariness, the same exhausted sense of deja vu, the same resolve to forge on ahead, staying true to your own values and motivations no matter how the wind forces you back and the bleak, bitter rain of consequence lashes against your face. Once you get to that point, you’re well and truly immersed.

    There are occasionally ‘optimal’ decisions, if not ‘right’ ones, and you can hear it in Geralt’s 20/20 hindsight monologues. But they’re rare and often unimportant treats in a large, grey bowl of delicious, morally ambiguous shit. And you’re going to eat it all, and then spit it back in the world’s face.

  39. green_genes says:

    Currently trying to finish a playthrough before the Witcher 2 comes out.

    One thing that has stood out for me, though this may be small, is that the towns/city feels alive. I was shocked when I noticed the NPCs actually running for cover under an awning when it started raining. Does this happen in other Aurora engine rpgs? I guess it’s just a shock after playing Dragon Age right before this and the city NPCs are just obvious wooden filler in that game.

    • barbex says:

      I also loved how people seemed to be busy in the city, how they made passing remarks about me being in town. A nice touch was how Geralt looked at people when he ran passed them or shoved them away, it’s just a little thing but it made it feel more real.

  40. Sarkhan Lol says:

    Okay, well, either my comment got eaten or I’m about to make two of them.

    One of the things I very much liked about the Witcher’s tendency to make you feel as though you’ve made the wrong decision regardless of what that decision actually was, is that once you accept it, it puts you square inside the protagonist’s head. You get the same feeling of terse world-weariness, the same exhausted sense of deja vu, the same resolve to forge on ahead, staying true to your own values and motivations no matter how the wind forces you back and the bleak, bitter rain of consequence lashes against your face. Once you get to that point, you’re well and truly immersed, and Geralt’s borderline-emotionless what-the-fuck-ever monotone becomes the most natural thing in the world.

    There are occasionally ‘optimal’ decisions, if not ‘right’ ones, and you can hear it in Geralt’s 20/20 hindsight monologues. But they’re rare and often unimportant treats in a large, grey bowl of delicious, morally ambiguous shit. And one way or another, you’re going to eat it, before spitting it back in the world’s face.

  41. TheGrunt says:

    Never got past the bloody swamp +1
    That part was just horrible.
    And I’m saddened to hear that Witcher 2 will not feature sex cards…

  42. adonf says:

    I liked the outskirts better than the town (in spite of the running everywhere and the annoying boss) but I hated the city. A story bug in the city made me quit and I haven’t come back to the game yet: when I entered the inn someone told me that some dude was dead, yet I had never heard of him. Now that I read this article it makes a little more sense and I’ll probably try to finish it before the new one come out.

    Also it crashes when saving or autosaving after 1/2h of play time, and the saved game is corrupted. I hope they fix this for #2.

  43. Lobotomist says:

    CDR is new Bioware

  44. Simplex says:

    No idea what kind of acronym should be used, the full name of the company is CDPROJEKT RED, so perhaps CDPR? Anyways, in Poland they are mostly known as CDPROJEKT and everyone I know uses the acronym CDP, or calls them “Redzi” (“Reds” with Polish inflection).

    BTW. Anyone else noticed this? There’s a funny moment where you have a discussion with an alchemist/scientist(?) who bashes Kalkstein’s theories and you can try to persuade him that he is wrong by correctly refuting his arguments. If you select your answers based on what you read in one of Kalkstein’s books you can actually persuade the guy that he was wrong, and at the end he says something like “Gee, you’re right, how could I not see it before?” – that was hilarious :)

    • m4x1u says:

      Yup. But it was really hard, honestly :) It demanded reading the damned thing and memorizing it ;)

  45. godkingemperor says:

    One little aspect of the game I found wonderfully charming was its approach to loot. Or rather, the utter worthlessness of most of the loot you find lying around. That the blade made for you was generally better than the weapons you found lying around, bar a few quest exceptions.