When I heard that I had the chance to return to the world of Geralt the witcher and his adventures in an improved state, I jumped on it. CD Projekt had the sense both to improve upon an already successful game and recognize the original’s major flaws. Even better, owners of the original game can download the Enhanced Edition for free. Replaying The Witcher in its enhanced state allowed me to revisit Geralt’s world with the issues of the original fresh in mind. What I found was a significantly more coherent, polished product, and once reexamined, a game that establishes an unforgettable legacy.
The most obvious and important of the Enhanced Edition’s changes is the rerecorded, retranslated dialogue. The original Witcher’s dialogue was illogical at times, unintentionally funny at others, and just plain awkward due to poor translation. Pieces of the plot were lost, and sometimes entire conversations made little sense. Now, with over 5000 lines modified, The Witcher possesses superb writing with innuendoes, jests, and plenty of profundity. Geralt in particular says more weighty words than many other RPG protagonists. It must be said that not all of the dialogue was redone, and some of the lines that were left alone still retain that slight hint of mistranslation. CD Projekt typically chose the dialogue that needed retranslation most, however, and the results shine.
In its original form, The Witcher’s plot was intriguing and its characters interesting. With the changes, the story becomes coherent and logical, and the characters are more realistic and believable due to their refined dialogue. The witcher Geralt is the most developed of all of the characters, and he carries the game on his mutated shoulders. Geralt is a true hero, and his place in RPG history is not to be taken lightly.
In terms of gameplay, the developers made a few important tweaks while maintaining the excellence of the original version. Opening the menu, players will immediately notice a new inventory – one divided by alchemical ingredients and non-alchemy items. Also, the alchemical components can be filtered by type, and both sides of the inventory are auto-sortable. These minor changes are oddly effective. Another convenience is an auto-loot feature; no longer do players have to open the loot screen to collect everything from a corpse or container. Instead, it’s done by holding down a single key. Other changes include improved AI for the dice poker mini-game, increased combat responsiveness, and reduced load times. The changes won’t shock anyone, but they make the game easier and smoother to play.
The Witcher stands out as a complex RPG with unique mechanics and an interactive, dynamic combat system. Add in mini-games to occupy downtime and a satisfying character progression, and The Witcher becomes one of the most rewarding Western RPGs in recent memory, giving BioWare some worthy competition.
Besides improved responsiveness in combat, nothing has been done to alter the control schema. When playing the original, I complained about poor control overall, yet upon replaying, I found little that annoyed. Using the much recommended keyboard/mouse control scheme, the game runs smoothly enough, if slightly short of perfect.
A new character differentiation system with up to fifty new models represents the most prominent graphical fix. Identical character models for even somewhat important NPCs plagued the original Witcher, and this mechanism addresses that issue. Many random NPCs and even enemies are now pallet swapped, and the major players in the game are now different from everyone else, such as Carmen the prostitute, who no longer looks like any other whore in the city. The differences are sometimes subtle with lesser characters, and there are still many identical models, but the differentiation is greatly appreciated nonetheless. Furthermore, facial expressions are improved, and over 100 gestures have been added to make the game’s inhabitants more realistic. The changes are almost immediately recognizable upon starting the game, and overall, they provide greater depth for The Witcher’s characters.
With a little work, The Witcher’s level of graphical detail and realism has improved. The somewhat gothic style of the game’s environments and monsters is unique and never tired, especially when viewed close-up using the over-the-shoulder camera view. From the glistening skin of a drowner to the hair on Geralt’s chest, the player will see it all clearly, whether he wants to or not.
As previously stated, much of The Witcher’s voicework was rerecorded, and for good reason, as much of it was somewhat painful to hear the first time around. The rewritten dialogue, however, requires new voicework, and the result is commendable. Thankfully, CD Projekt kept the original voice actors. Losing some of them would have been a shame, especially the actor who plays Geralt, thanks to his lovely deadpan sarcasm.
The now professional voice acting of The Witcher resounds with quality throughout, with only occasional slip-ups. Given that every word in the game is spoken, this could hardly be more of an achievement. The Enhanced Edition brings no changes to the soundtrack, but this is good: the music, from poignant to atmospheric, ensures that The Witcher pleases the ears.
The Enhanced Edition also comes packaged with two adventure packs to supplement the core game. They are to be played at any time, and the player begins anew with Geralt, with a set number of talent points to spend on his abilities. They are presented in a unique fashion, as tales or ballads of the bard Dandelion, and as having occurred before the events of The Witcher. The first, Side Effects, puts Geralt in Vizima to bail out his friend, the very bard that tells the story. The second, The Price of Neutrality, involves a divisive issue at the witchers’ keep that is thrust upon Geralt and the others by the outside world. These adventures are a worthy addition to The Witcher’s legacy; they’re entertaining, not so long as to grow stale (at around two hours each), and they include intriguing references and foreshadowings to the core game.
Side Effects is obviously the lesser of the two, and has a somewhat recycled feel. Geralt must earn 2000 orens to get his friend out of jail, and to do so, he gambles, fist fights, drinks, and battles his way through a sector of Vizima that is already presented in The Witcher. Still, as a sort of conglomerate of the types of gameplay found in The Witcher, the adventure gives players more of the same, which could be seen as a good thing.
The superior adventure, The Price of Neutrality, features the never-before-seen area around the witchers’ keep, including a mine full of dangerous kikimores. Upon returning to the keep for winter, Geralt encounters a force of mercenaries and royal courtiers camped outside waiting for the witchers to make a decision on the mysterious, cursed girl currently safe behind the keep’s walls. These outside influences challenge the witchers’ creed to remain neutral, and Geralt makes the final decisions when it comes to the girl’s fate. The new location and NPCs are a pleasant surprise, and the pacing of the adventure is excellent. In addition, the adventure features an interesting and uncommonly challenging plot sure to satisfy those players wishing for more time with the always-controversial Geralt.
The Witcher is in better shape than ever, and gamers that played the original will be jealous of those who can enjoy the game for the first time in its higher form. Don’t worry, though, as the Enhanced Edition gives Witcher veterans a perfect excuse to replay a sure-to-be classic. The alterations offer new conveniences, a greater sense of realism, and best of all, reasonably coherent dialogue. These changes serve only to bolster what was already present: a fun, engaging Western style RPG. Upon reexamination, The Witcher is truly superb.