The Witcher - hands-on

We find ourselves with The Witcher on-screen before us and almost immediately the withering vines of hope have begun to flourish. We instantly think of Oblivion, but also of the immediacy of Guild Wars (there’s no multiplayer, before you ask) - even the multitudinous flavors of White Wolf’s World of Darkness universe, in the sense that you’re plunged into a fantasy world that at once seems familiar, yet also not quite right.

There are quaint cottages and rolling hills, but nothing is quite as fragrantly colorful as the lands that Warcraft occupies. Behind the bushes there’s a kind of seething animosity rather than any kind of overt forest-of-doom hellishness that you might come across in other beardy games. Walking through a village you almost get the feeling that the NPCs are watching you from behind their curtains, turning only occasionally to beat their children.

This all points to a stark and morally ambiguous world that is indeed quite novel, but the game is replete with many staples of the fantasy diet; elves, dwarves, wizards, gnomes and a bestiary that wouldn’t look out of place among the collected works of Tolkien, Gemmel, Feist and Jordan.

However, the interaction between the various racial hues appears to be refreshingly contemporary, with racial intolerance, fundamentalist musings and even terrorism being cited as background goals for the game’s 100-plus quests.


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