As mentioned a month-or-so ago, there’s an update to last year’s The Witcher on the way. But we’re not talking your normal minor bug fix. Creators CD Projekt have, in a moment of complete madness, overhauled the entire game, from animations to voice acting to combat, taking almost a year to correct problems with the original version and hopefully create something closer to their intended vision. What makes this remarkable is that they’re offering all the fixed and new content to existing customers entirely for free. Valve come close to this kind of free content with their brilliant Team Fortress 2 updates, but those are delivered as a trickling stream rather than a sudden, one-off torrent. Otherwise, I can’t really think of a modern developer that treats their customers so well – and it certainly puts to shame the likes of Bethesda, who charge for even the most absurdly small additions.

The area the drew the most ire from critics and players upon the game’s first release was the dialogue, which suffered outside of its native Polish due to wobbly translations. This was apparently particularly horrendous for German players, but the English version that I played certainly featured its fair share of odd lines and stilted acting. The enhanced edition features newly translated dialogue and re-recorded voice acting, so promises to be a far more convincing affair – quite crucial in an RPG that hinges on conversation. It looks like the enhanced version’s animations may even trump Mass Effect for creating convincing drama, even if it doesn’t come close to that game’s photorealism.

Here’s hoping that CD Projekt’s dedication pays off financially and gains them a strong and loyal following. I can’t wait to see what they do next and it would be an absolute tragedy if this remarkably altruistic act causes them any financial difficulty. There’s a week to go until the enhanced edition is available, so here’s a video while you wait:

[vodpod id=Groupvideo.1560094&w=425&h=350&fv=]

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HybridHalo · September 14, 2008 at 1:30 pm

I’m still trying to figure out if the ‘particularly horrible for Germans’ line is a play on WW2. Sneaky.

I’m going to hedge a bet and say that whatever this update does, it still doesn’t grow the game up. Witcher is like plenty of other of its kind in that the only women that exist within the environment are evil witches or stunning broads/nymphs whom you can bed for collectable trading cards. Recall that Oblivion clone which suffered from exactly the same mentality?

Witcher will, I predict also suffer from awesome cut-scene to less than awesome gameplay syndrome. Another problem synonymous with the RPG genre.

Simon Jones · September 14, 2008 at 2:40 pm

Witcher is particularly schizophrenic when it comes to its depiction of women, you’re right. However, I’d argue that it’s not actually as bad as it’s been made out to be by the media and people that are scared of sex. There are several major strong, female characters who are important to the plot and have interesting personalities and accompanying stories. And, yes, most of them want to have sex with Geralt. What I find strange is that gamers are so judgemental of sexually active women – for a woman to be deemed properly ‘strong’ and for a game to be considered ‘grown up’, do all the women have to declare abstinence? The “having sex makes them a lesser person” attitude rather perplexes me, given that the vast majority of adults enjoy sex and I doubt they consider that it weakens their character.

As for women being so happy to leap into bed with Geralt….well, he’s a monster-slaying hero that carries a large sword and has cool silver hair. He’s the fantasy equivalent of James Bond, except that the women in the Witcher world are far stronger and more interesting. I don’t see why them wanting to have sex with Geralt automatically lessens the game.

I suppose there could be an argument of “sex is ok, but how come you can’t play a woman and have sex with men, or play Geralt as being gay, etc etc”, but that would miss the point of The Witcher. It’s not meant to be a “be who you want to be” RPG in the style of Bethesda and Bioware – you’re Geralt, a very defined personality. That’s the game’s main strength: he has charisma and style and attitude. In fact, I’d argue that Mass Effect’s treatment of relationships and sex is far less realistic and sillier, in that it attempts to portray a ‘proper’ developing relationship but fails utterly, resulting in it seeming like you can just sweet talk any girl into bed. At leat Witcher has the honesty to say “hey, people like having sex in real life, and they like having sex in our game too!” Plus, of course, it’s a down-and-dirty world that the story takes place in, full of monsters and horror and bad stuff – of course people are going to want some escapist fun in the bedroom.

The trading cards, however….bad design decision. It’s not the content I find objectionable, but their annoying, platform/consoley style “collect them all!” nature. I hate “collecty things” in games. Even in Psychonauts.

As for Witcher’s gameplay…in my previous playing of it, up to the end of chapter 3 (I think), I hugely enjoyed it. It takes a while to get into (which is definitely a problem with the genre), but both the combat, exploration and dialogue I found to be hugely rewarding, especially compared to the likes of Oblivion (yeuch) and Mass Effect (which I enjoyed, but which feels astoundingly ‘dry’ throughout).

You’re right, though – it’s not the slickest game or the most immediately rewarding, and it has some dubious design decisions. But it has heart, and passion, and a vision. It’s a game that is much more than the sum of its parts and, for that, I happily put it alongside the likes of Mafia, Psychonauts and BG&E. I can’t wait to see what CDP learn from The Witcher and where they go next.

HybridHalo · September 14, 2008 at 3:34 pm

I enjoyed the demo, and pending opinions may even pick the game up after it’s overhaul through I still suspect I’ll be put off by some of the design decisions, I experienced a lot of linearity in the demo which felt almost counter-intuitive to the scale of game it appears to be.

The gotta catch em all attitude to the sexual element in Witcher is the main issue with regard to how that aspect is treated, admittedly not as bad as Fahrenheit which came off as similiar to a straight to DVD release film which would only get distribution if there were boobies.

I think to date the only really consistent female character in a game is Alyx from Half Life 2. Though I also think that Lara Croft (her boob waving aspects aside) is handled well – leaving both of those characters quite possibly the most satiated over.

Ultimately I am left believing that too many developers are responding to the fact that sex sells, just they’re often not doing it very intelligently. In regard to sex drives the more sex men have the less they desire, so surely the better strategy would be to suggest but never give?

Luckily for Witcher there will always be sex starved lonely gamers huh?

Simon Jones · September 14, 2008 at 9:42 pm

I’ve never properly played the Tomb Raider games, so my only real understanding of the Lara Croft character is through her decidedly typical T&A presentation in marketing/lads mags/etc. Alyx, however, is a perfect example of how less is more. Great writing and animation, as well as restrained art design that had the vision to create a girl who wore normal clothing and had normal proportions, back in an age when female characters all looked like they had been designed by nerds that had never actually seen a real woman.

Who am I kidding, that’s still the case in most games.

With Witcher, I wonder how much of a culture clash is going on – continental Europeans tend to be far less hung up on sex than ourselves, let alone Americans. I’m not sure about the Polish, but perhaps the sex and sex card issues simply…isn’t really an issue over there?

That’s one thing, I think, that makes The Witcher an interesting game – it simply ‘feels’ different to the usual RPGs produced by Western developers. It’s good to have more variety in the genre rather than just the usual Western RPG/Japanese RPG dichotomy.

Korina · February 8, 2012 at 6:12 pm

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