The Witcher is an Action RPG developed by CD Projekt Red, released on PC in 2007. The beloved series has been played by many, but I wanted to explore CDPR’s first outing. I tend to find that the first game doesn’t get nearly as much attention as the other two, most likely because of its PC exclusivity.
Let it be known that I am playing The Witcher: Enhanced Edition, a version of the first game that came free to buyers of the original. The enhanced edition added a few improvements, most notably a plethora of new character animations and a larger variety of color to NPC clothing.
The Witcher is based on a series of fantasy novels by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. Sapkowski’s books are a household name in Poland, with some referring to him as Polish Tolkien. I am a big fan of The Witcher series as a whole, so I was excited to see how the first game holds up today. I was also looking forward to seeing how CDPR would adapt the rich world of The Witcher into a video game.
Adapting Sapkowski’s World
Unlike most book adaptations, The Witcher doesn’t directly re-tell the stories from the books, with the game’s narrative being set after their events. The game has you playing as Geralt of Rivia, a Witcher who has recently lost his memory. A Witcher, to put it briefly, is a mutant who kills monsters for money. At a young age, they are experimented on and are trained to kill. While amnesia in fiction is quite a tired trope, I feel that CDPR made a good decision having Geralt lose his memory; it allows the player to learn about the world along with him. There are a plethora of characters from Geralt’s past that book readers will recognize, a lot of the dialogue involves them re-introducing themselves to our forgetful Witcher.
The big bad of The Witcher is a gang called Salamandra. After Salamandra attack the Witcher fortress of Kaer Morhen, Geralt travels in and around the capital city of Vizima to hunt down their leader. Headed by powerful Fire Mage, Azar Javed, the Salamandra lead our hero into somewhat of a wild goose chase. Along the way, Geralt gets himself into a wide range of sticky situations, never failing to insert himself into some sort of trouble in typical RPG protagonist fashion. In saying that, one of the most unique things about this game is its theme of neutrality. As the conflict between humans and nonhumans rages on, the player can choose not to take a side and stick to what Geralt knows best; killing monsters.
The Price of Neutrality
There are a few points in the game that allow players to choose a side, however, there isn’t always a clear choice, unlike in other similar titles. There’s no “good” or “bad” option here, the game leaves it up to the player to choose what they think is the lesser evil. Grey morality is a familiar concept nowadays but was definitely less common when The Witcher came out in 2007.
More unique though, is the true struggle I felt when having to make a decision. I tend to find that when …