The Witcher Enhanced Edition
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2008-10-19 PC Action/RPG M (Mature) CD Projekt Red / Atari

What could I possibly say about The Witcher that I haven't before? I love it. I love it, I love it, I love it... I was debating that my review should just be limited to writing these three words, over and over, until I reached the minimum required word count. You know, after writing so many reviews in a row, there comes a time where I can't seem to find words anymore. Not to mention I did the review of the original, an E3 preview and then a Q&A...

So I went back to my screenshot folder looking for inspiration and found this particular screenshot I took, an amazing view of Vizima's rooftops at sunset that made me stop everything just to admire it. And the writer's block went away.

I received The Witcher Enhanced Edition just before my birthday (now that's quite the gift!) but never got around to enjoy it until about a week after because of a nasty case of the flu that got so bad that just moving Geralt around was enough to make me nauseous. So, in the meantime, I decided to check out the bonus contents in the box, starting with the special features DVD. I got to lay back with my laptop and watch some great "behind the scenes" footage about a number of steps in game development. My favorite - by far - was the fighting motion capture, but all the videos were definitely worth watching.

After learning more about the creation of Geralt, locations in the game world, game engine, plot and more from the videos, I moved on to the music. Just so you know how much I like the music in the game, those "crashing-while-loading" occasions had their good side, since I got to hear a lot of the music playing in the periods of time the game would attempt to load the next area but decide not to. And by the time I went to E3 in July, my MP3 player had about six tunes from the game in it, so you can probably guess how happy I was to just rip the whole soundtrack to my computer and add the rest of the music to my little player. Peaceful Moments and Leo's Farewell have become my choice of music to fall asleep, and I do feel a little privileged to be able to carry some memorable, epic themes wherever I go.

There is also another CD of music inspired by the game, with some very weird tunes and some very cool ones: metal, rock, reggae, vocal music with some instrumental accompaniment, a celtic/medieval tune that I especially like, another that reminds me of riverdance with some Spanish guitar in the mix. It's quite different and it's interesting to see... I mean, hear a little bit of everything.

For those who haven't played The Witcher, TWEE is definitely the way to go, and I don't say that just because of the extra goodies, but because you are also getting some backstory with it. The Witcher short story is included, and I'd recommend reading that before you even launch the game.The intro sequence and some other references throughout became a lot more enjoyable after I read it (and the entirety of The Last Wish).

But moving on to the actual game content, I'll start with the two adventures, The Price of Neutrality and Side Effects.

The Price of Neutrality (now fully voiced) takes place before the events in the main game, with Geralt returning to Kaer Morhen to find a group of mercenaries, a noble man and a sorceress camping nearby. The beginning of the story actually made me sad, since you learn that his horse (Roach) has died, and from reading the book I got the idea that the horse actually meant a lot to him.

So, anyway, no horse, a bunch of strangers chasing a girl who has something to do with Eskel, and a pack (or 12) of wolves... Although the adventure is fairly short, with only a few quests to complete and a couple of new sex cards with more gorgeous artwork to collect, there are quite a number of choices to make that will affect how it ends.

Side Effects has more to do, and here your goal is to get Dandelion out of trouble. Seems like Dandelion and trouble are two words that go together a lot, so this time Geralt has to come up with 2000 orens to pay his debt and get him out of jail. The adventure takes place in the Temple Quarter of Vizima, with field trips to the cemetery and the sewers. There are quite a few quests to do, if you are of the completist kind, fist fights, dice poker and drinking contests.

You will also find references to the book and the main game, such as Dandelion taunting Geralt about Yennefer or other characters mentioning the whole human/non-human conflict.

There is more room for humor in this adventure than in The Price of Neutrality, and it shows in some conversations. There was this particular moment when a very drunk Sargeant tells a very drunk Geralt "Give us a kiss!" that made me laugh out loud (and take screenshots for posterity!). My only complaint is that you can easily zip through the adventures in a few hours, so I wish they were just a little longer, especially The Price of Neutrality.

As for the original game, it had its share of changes, and all for the better The major technical overhaul definitely has to be the considerably shorter loading times. Wow. Saving and loading won't take forever and more importantly, won't crash the game anymore. Even if I did enjoy listening to the music while it would stall on those gorgeous pieces of artwork, it was still pretty annoying to see the loading bar stop, and eventually lose some game saves over that. Scratch annoying, it would make me downright pissed. But that is definitely a thing of the past! The entire game is much more stable now and seems to get along much better with Windows Vista.

Some dialogs were re-written to resemble the original Polish ones, which resulted in over 5,000 new lines of dialog being recorded. You can mix and match the voice language and subtitles language from the many available, so if you want to play with the original Polish voices, you can. With the voice comes better lip-synching and about 250 new animations to make the characters' gestures match their emotions and responses, making them more natural. Gone are the constant adjusting of the gloves and that very flamboyant hand gesture that everyone used to do at random times during conversations.

To add more diversity to the game, the color palette for NPCs and monsters has been significantly increased, so you will have less clones moving about. The changes affect monster skin tones, villagers' clothes, hair colors, hair styles and facial hair.

Some characters had makeovers as well, for example Carmen and Jethro. And I don't know if it's just me, but Dandelion seems to have had a face lift, since his cheeks are much more defined now.

The gameplay remains the same, with a few small but very neat changes. The auto-loot feature lets you grab everything there is to loot at once by simply pressing Ctrl and left clicking. It doesn't open the inventory screen at all, and sure makes it a breeze to go around picking herbs - I spend WAY too much time picking herbs. In a way, it makes gameplay quicker, since I just run and click without even stopping for a second.

While the skill tree and combat system remain untouched, I was pleasantly surprised to see new fighting animations. I was particularly entertained by Geralt's backflips and kept trying to catch a good screenshot of one (and about a million tries later, I succeeded). But there are a few other cool moves, especially some brutal finishers that splatter blood all over the place - and if you know anything about me afer all these reviews, you know I am quite entertained by violence in the games I play.

Geralt's inventory is more user-friendly too. It has been separated into Satchel and Alchemy Sack, and each now includes an auto-sorting button plus filters that highlight whatever type of alchemical ingredient you may be looking for in your bags.

Usually when you like something so much, it's difficult to find something bad to say about it... but fear not, I can still find something to complain about! My dreams were crushed with no ability to name my game saves. Well, no, not really, I'm just being dramatic here. But it would be nice if I could label them, since I like saving before major choices to go back, reload and play from there in a different way if I want to. Eventually I lost track of which save was what.

Also - and I know this happened to others, so it's not just me - if you load up a pre-TWEE Price of Neutrality game save, you won't have voice acting, but it will be just fine if you begin a new one.

Personally, I am truly enjoying playing The Witcher all over again. The changes in the dialogs make the story feel even more compelling, and the new motion captures are great. I was particularly pleased with the Geralt and Adda event during the party, which before was just a "I stand over here, you stand over there" scene but now conveys the sexual tension perfectly. But even in general terms, the entire game seems to look better, not to mention I can now have everything on high and not crash every 5 minutes. I never realized before that Abigail's dress actually has a subtle pattern to it...

What makes all of this even more of a great improvement is that those of you who already have The Witcher don't need to pay extra for the upgrade. You can simply download it at the official site. If you choose to purchase the retail version, you can expect to get all the goodies (soundtrack, music inspired by the game, behind the scenes DVD, D'jinni Editor, The Witcher short story, game guide and a map) for about the same cost of a regular PC game instead of a collector's edition price tag.

CDPR has listened to their fans quite a bit to bring everyone this improved version of what already was a fantastic game. I guess all that is left to do is sit back and wait for their next masterpiece. In the meantime, I'll be wating for the English release of second book in November, and finishing my Geralt and Abigail Halloween costumes as my way to say thank you.

Special thanks to Tom Ohle, Dan Zlotoff, Atari and CD Projekt Red for providing a copy of this title.