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PC Review - 'The Witcher Enhanced Edition'

by Tim McDonald on Dec. 15, 2008 @ 1:01 a.m. PST

The Witcher Enhanced Edition, CD Projekt's action/RPG, adds changes to the game's mechanics, better graphics, shorter load times, improved stability, the recently released D'jinni mod editor, two new adventures, making of DVD, two soundtracks, etc...

Genre: Action RPG
Publisher: Atari
Developer: CD Projekt Red Studio
Release Date: September 16, 2008

I'd like to start off by disagreeing with most other games journalists — not only ostracizing myself from my brethren, but causing you to lose all faith in me — by pointing out that I really liked The Witcher. It was flawed and at times deeply immature, but it was an enjoyable romp with an interesting take on the usual moral choices. Say what you will.

The Witcher: Enhanced Edition doesn't really change too much, so go and read our original review, which was written by an extremely sensible person who recognized it as a decent game. In this review, I'll be focusing largely on the changes, and as a lot of these include the contents of the box, this may not look that much like a standard game review.

The biggest, and most immediately noticeable, change is that the English translation has been rewritten, and most of the speech rerecorded. This is a vast undertaking, and it warms my heart that there are still developers and publishers out there who are willing to do things like this to improve their games. The script in the original release was, to be kind, "a little patchy," with some lines coming out of nowhere, others making little sense, and the hub of the conversation trees generally being non-sequiturs culled from an initial line of dialogue. It didn't help that the voice actors often seemed to have no idea of the context of their lines. While the new version doesn't come close to the heights of dialogue found in Planescape: Torment or Knights of the Old Republic, and still has some problems (particularly a few of those conversation hubs), it's now far better than it was, and is certainly more than adequate. It's still nice that it's wholly unsanitized; it's always good to see a fantasy game with characters who swear more than anyone else I know and make some hilariously vulgar comments.

The game apparently also features extra animations, models, skins, and the like, but by and large, I found this hard to tell. I didn't spot that much in the way of obviously new textures, but it seemed like there was less repetition in the crowds in cities, at least.

One of the other major changes in the title is something that was practically a game-breaking issue with the original release: load times. These are vastly, vastly improved, and I can't overstate the importance of this. In The Witcher, the loading times were bad enough that wandering in and out of houses become a chore, and my desire to explore or just hunt through other people's belongings was destroyed. In TW:EE, the loading times are hugely improved. You no longer groan every time you have to go into a small house. You no longer groan if you accidentally do. Exploration is fun again. This was fixed gradually over the first few patches for the game, but it seems an awful lot better here, once again.

What else is in the box? Well, there are two music CDs, which are okay, if you like the music in the game, although the "Music Inspired by the Game" collection raised a few eyebrows. There's a making-of DVD, which is fairly entertaining. There's a map of the world, which is a lovely touch. There's one of the short stories from "The Last Wish," one of the books the game is based upon, which is in fact the story that the game's staggeringly beautiful intro is based on; it's well worth a read. It sets the scene fairly well and goes into rather more detail than the action-oriented introduction. There's also a guide to the game, which is somewhat unexpected, but certainly welcome. It goes over a few of the more annoying points in the game in some detail, though it skips over a few things I'd have considered helpful my first time through. Still, as stated above, it's a welcome addition.

There are two other, major additions. The first is the D'jinni toolkit — the kit used to make the game — which is, frankly, far too complicated for me to use. If you've got the skills, then you can doubtless make some fantastic new adventures in this, but for laypeople like me, it's a little overwhelming. The second major addition is the two new adventures created using said toolkit.

Neither one will take very long to complete, so I won't go into much detail, but they showcase the capabilities of the toolkit well. The first new adventure, The Price of Neutrality, revolves largely around one choice and the repercussions surrounding it, much like the choices in the main game, but with the caveat that said repercussions are visible immediately, rather than a few hours later. The other adventure, Side Effects, finds Dandelion — a bard and friend of the protagonist — in a spot of bother, requiring the player to get together some money in order to save him. Neither is particularly long, lasting between two to four hours depending on your speed and style (hence this short overview of them), but both are entertaining enough, particularly for those who've finished the main quest, and they slot in a little bit more backstory.

So, the burning question: Should you buy The Witcher: Enhanced Edition? Well, if you had put off playing The Witcher, there's no better time to start. For the price, the TW:EE pack has a tremendous amount of value and the sort of extras usually only found in a Collector's Edition. It's still a marvelous game, and everything included fixes most of the nagging flaws that were initially present. If, on the other hand, you do have The Witcher, then don't bother — not because it isn't worth it, but because absolutely every part of TW:EE is free to download online from the official Web site. All of it: the guide, the map, the making-of videos, the adventures and the new translation. If you don't have a speedy, unlimited Internet connection, or if you want physical copies, then you may of course wish to purchase the boxed version, but it's fantastic for fans of the game that they've been rewarded in such a way.

If you didn't buy The Witcher before, then you've got little excuse now. And if you did, then The Witcher: Enhanced Edition is the perfect opportunity for a second playthrough.

Score: 8.8/10

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