|System: X360, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: CD Projekt||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Atari||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Fall 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
January 6, 2009 - For those of you who haven't played CD Projekt's outstanding RPG for PC, The Witcher, you're in luck. The game is getting revamped and re-released for PS3 and Xbox 360 with the new moniker, The Witcher: Rise of the White Wolf.
Since the release of The Witcher to PC in 2007, the title has sold over one million copies (not to mention how many more copies were pirated). The Witcher is recognized as one of the most innovative and engrossing RPG experiences to hit the PC platform in years. As such, the devs and Atari have decided to bring the game to console gamers everywhere.
News of the upcoming release was detailed at the Atari Live event on December 2, 2008. The crew at CD Projekt RED has been hard at work improving the game's already tight visual presentation, translating the PC keyboard and mouse setup to more user-friendly console controls, and making combat even more dynamic.
The acclaimed story of The Witcher will remain wholly intact for the console version. Though players already familiar with the yarn spun by the original will find nothing new in terms of narrative, newbies and console-only players will finally be treated to the excellent tale. Created by best-selling Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, The Witcher: Rise of the White Wolf will have players take on the role of Geralt, a white-haired, monster-slaying badass who was reared in the ways of the Witchers. Mutated to be faster and more agile than regular humans, Geralt possesses arcane and regenerative powers unique to his heritage.
However, unlike the rest of his kind, Geralt still feels largely human. As such, he experiences emotions that don't influence other Witchers. Accordingly, players will constantly be faced with difficult decisions throughout the game. "Geralt is a reluctant hero who nonetheless finds himself all too frequently in the heat of battles that are not his own. In this world there is no right or wrong, only decisions and consequences." This will lead to a host of unlockable endings depending on how you play. This should make for a more genuine role playing experience and increase the title's shelf-life. It sounds like questionable morality and getting your hands dirty will be part and parcel of The Witcher: Rise of the White Wolf.
The art style encompasses a dark world that's full of detail and strange enemies. Geralt himself is a brooding, necromantic, warlock-like character that is a lot more skillful than he is pretty. According to Atari, Geralt "exists on the fringes of a complex society troubled by the kind of problems more commonly found on the front pages of newspapers than in a fantasy universe." So, hopefully you're open to crazy Cthulu-like beasts rather than just traditional high fantasy baddies!
Unlike most PC ports, Rise of the White Wolf is getting completely revamped. The developers are taking the very best of what the PC version had to offer and are supposedly making it even better for current-gen consoles.
For starters, the graphics are getting a lot more polish. CD Projekt is using a completely new graphical engine to ensure that the classy visuals of the original are well translated to consoles. France's WideScreen Games has teamed up with CD Projekt by providing them with access to their DaVinci engine, a cross-platform development tool. This new graphics engine allows for fully dynamic lighting and more realistic and detailed environments. Also, the care being put into the new animation sets is impressive. If the initial game trailer can be used as a litmus test, the in-engine motions being fleshed out should also look amazing. Moreover, the devs are spending a lot of time improving textures to give the world and characters a more lived-in feel.
Also, the devs have been challenged by console controllers. Instead of replicating the controls found on the PC, they have gone for a more intuitive, context-sensitive approach. In other words, button presses will often serve double-duty depending on what's going on in the game. This should give the game a cinematic look and feel, and it will also make the gamer feel empowered. To many gamers, the prospect of a simplified control scheme raises red "easy" flags, but Tomasz Gop, the game's executive producer, insists that this is not the case, and it is essential to make things more intuitive when translating the game to home consoles. In fact, combat should be even more engaging than ever before due to the obliging user interface.
Though The Witcher: Rise of the White Wolf promises to be a dynamic and brutal single-player RPG, don't expect any multiplayer action this time around. Instead, the developers are setting the stage for the game to make a splash in the console market by enhancing the original title's strengths rather than getting bogged down by new, ill-conceived, console-specific additions. If Rise of the White Wolf does well in terms of sales, expect DLC, sequels, and new features, such as multiplayer content, to follow. For now, we'll have to remain contented by the devs' insistence upon releasing a quality remake for home consoles. Look for The Witcher: Rise of the White Wolf to hit stores in fall 2009.
CCC Editor / News Director