The Witcher video games are based on a sries of fantasy short stories and novels by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski featuring the witcher Geralt of Rivia. The sequel to the acclaimed original released recently, and they both promise a good deal of flexibility in your decision making, which does allow the games to take some liberties from the story cannon.
I picked this game up rather cheaply ($5) around Christmas time, not having known much about it but I found the premise and reviews interesting enough to warrant acquiring it. Overall, I'm glad I did, but I am not quite as big of a fan of the original as a lot of players and reviewers seem to be.
Graphics - 7:
The environments look really good, despite the game's age (2007). Some of the cut scenes look good - I particularly enjoyed the intro scene to the game before starting it up. Characters often look a bit stiff though during the dialog sequences - Geralt in particular seems almost 'stuffy' with his general pose being standing upright arms hanging straight but at an angle to the side - almost like a scarecrow. Still, there are a lot of really nice touches, with an almost elegant look to the menus and interface, though the Aurora engine (used in Neverwinter Nights) feels a bit dated at times. That said, small things like weather and lighting effects are handled very, very well most of the time.
Sound & Music - 8:
These hold up nicely over time. The sound effects are actually quite varied, and there is really good ambient sound in many of your environments. The music is excellent the majority of the time, working well with the set pieces. Voice acting is a mixed bag - most of it is pretty good. Thankfully I liked Geralt's voice since his is the one you hear the most of, but some of the more peripheral characters feel a bit overdone at times.
Gameplay - 7:
The combat is unique, but I don't know that I am always a fan of it. There is this sort of timed click interface where you try to time the 'sweet spot' to click on your opponent and chain attacks together. It gets credit for innovation, but sometimes the execution is lacking as environments or odd camera angles can keep you from clicking when and where you want to. The bar fist-fighting mini-game is just more of the same 'combat' - and suffers from the same problems where you occasionally just cannot click on your target. The dice mini game is pretty nice though, and the alchemy system is interesting if a bit cumbersome at times.
The real standout here is the way your choices in the game later affect things. There is no painfully obvious gauge to measure your 'good versus evil' choices like in Mass Effect, and it works well here. I've only given the game one play through so far, but I have read that sometimes your actions do not show their consequences until much later in the game. If that is true, then there is some significant replay value to be had here.
Intangibles - 8:
And now we lead into the replay value. There are a lot of instances where you have a freedom of choice that can make you want to see how events might play out in another way. There are a ton of side quests as well - almost too many if you ask me. It can be a bit overwhelming when the quests add up, and if you are like me and have a compulsion to finish them all, it can take a long time to beat this game.
There are sometimes long and frequent loading times, and I managed to crash the game several times on an early cutscene, but once I skipped that scene things moved along pretty well. I think I dropped about 50 hours on beating the game the first time, and I did mess around with many of my loaded states to try various outcomes as well.
Overall - 7.5:
The combat really annoyed me at times, and since so much of the game is based on it, I found myself annoyed more times than I should have been for a game that was so carefully crafted in other areas. It should be mentioned, but this is definitely not a kids' game. There is some pretty rough language at times, nudity and tons of adult themes. To put things into perspective, Geralt can have sex with quite a few people over the course of this game, and you get a semi or completely naked card of the lady (conquest) in question afterward. There is some relevance to these relations as well though, as you have a chance at one of two romantic interests in this game.
I have read that when this game first came out, it did so with a ton of bugs, long load times and instability. This is the final, patched version of that, and while some of those things were still present, they were nothing like what was discussed with the game's initial release. I'm curious about the recently released sequel, but will probably hold off on it for awhile until I can pick it up cheaply as well.