What I'm Playing - The Witcher

Prior to playing The Witcher, I really knew little to nothing about the source material from which the folks at CD Projekt made this great game from, and now I'm curious enough to track down the English translations of Andrzej Sapkowski's written works.  Combine a great story, great characters, and a beautiful game engine (CD Projekt makes incredible use of the Aurora engine from Bioware), and you have by far one of the best role-playing games released in recent years. 

The basic story is one of self-discovery, as you take on the lead role of Geralt of Rivia, a "Witcher" - hunter of monsters and demons of all shapes, sizes, and races.  You begin the game having somehow returned from being presumed dead, and as you explore the plot, you find old friends who inform you as to who you were, as well as guide you toward who you will be.  There are real choices to be made during the course of the game, and you get to delve into the true definitions of the word "monster" in a world that responds to your moral and ethical choices along the way.  Sides will be chosen, battles will be fought, and in the end you will be a deciding factor in the future of the realm.

The game mechanics take a tad of getting used to, particularly the combat model.  It's somewhere between a "click and hold" and your typical "click until dead" game - you initiate an attack on an opponent by clicking, then you have the ability to perform combo moves as the fight progresses, based on the timing of your clicks in response to changes in the cursor.  The engine is also flexible, allowing you to play from an isometric or 3rd-person view as you wander the countryside and save the world.  There's also a very basic magic system (Geralt has five spells that grow in strength according to your choices as he levels), as well as a very broad "alchemy" system.  In fact, mastering the alchemy system is both fun and necessary, as your stock of potions can often be the deciding factor between success or failure, particularly during the more difficult battles.  And, to make matters slightly more interesting, each potion "poisons" Geralt to some extent, so you can't simply haphazardly down every potion in your sack.

Finally, the game DEFINITELY earns its "M" rating - from the language to the overt sex scenes (both of which can be "enhanced" by patching the censored U.S. version), and of course, the blood.  This is most definitely not a game for kids, but it is quite simply a work of gaming art for adult fans of the role-playing game genre.