The Witcher: Rise of the White Wolf Preview
When Atari unveiled their software lineup for 2009, we were quite happy to see titles like The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena and Ghostbusters: The Video Game, but perhaps we’re most intrigued by The Witcher: Rise of the White Wolf. We love our RPGs, and although we had a few great ones on the PlayStation 3 towards the end of 2008 (Eternal Sonata and Valkyria Chronicles), we could always use a few more. For many, next year is all about White Knight Chronicles, but perhaps this console iteration of a solid PC title could be a definite gem for fans of the genre. The good news? The days are gone where the PC version of a game is always superior, especially when the console version comes later. Developer CD Projekt Red have already said the version that shows up for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 later in 2009 will be the best available, and that alone is enough to keep us excited.
But hey, we can’t make an entire preview based solely on that one piece of information, so onwards we go. Rise of the White Wolf will use new technology, which makes it more of a remake than a port, so gamers can expect better implementation of certain game mechanics, like control and combat. Of course, the issue for this platform leap is always the same: due to the vast number of possibilities for the mouse/keyboard combo, it can be difficult to assign the same number of options and commands to a gamepad. But according to GameSpot, CD Project says they won’t losing anything in the transition, and they’re also featuring a new a context-sensitive system that “allows different moves according to your character’s situation.” This is good news, although we’ve already had multiple examples of PC RPGs that enjoyed the jump to consoles without losing any of the depth or dynamic style. Remember, because the days of the turn-based RPG are over – and Western developers never really adopted that type of combat, anyway – we’ll need everything right at our fingertips at all times.
If you’re not familiar with The Witcher, you play as the silver-haired Geralt, who embodies the title of the game: a “Witcher” is a certain breed of humans that have gone through several mutations, which allows them to have better speed and stamina, and can even add supernatural powers. For example, Geralt is not only a supremely competent fighter in the field due to his enhanced physical abilities, but he can also regenerate. This may not sound like anything too original, but bear in mind that while Witchers don’t typically maintain the standard set of human emotions during the transformation, Geralt somehow did. This means you’ll have to continually make moral decisions throughout the course of your adventure, and this will result in one of three possible endings in Rise of the White Wolf. However, although you may instantly start recalling games like Knights of the Old Republic and Jade Empire, Good and Evil aren’t always black and white in this dark, sweeping epic. We’re not entirely sure how complex and involved the plot will be, but we’re counting on a script and a plot progression that makes us think. Otherwise, all this talk about moral decisions isn’t so encouraging.
As for the combat, you’re looking at a straight-up action system that has you attacking, guarding, and casting spells in real-time. Geralt can not only launch a series of magical spells at an enemy from a certain distance, he can even lop off limbs with an ultra-effective slash of his sword. We’ve also heard about combination attacks and large amounts of blood and gore, which seems almost out of place in a RPG. Then again, it shouldn’t be out of place, considering the massive amount of battle that commonly takes place in role-playing titles, but we’re just used to seeing super-bloody encounters in the action genre. Toss in the up-close-and-personal camera angles, though, and The Witcher is shaping up to be one of the most graphic titles of the new generation, so all you gore aficionados should apply…if only for the in-your-face brutality. These days, genre categorization is becoming increasingly difficult; the lines between the genres are becoming blurred, so it’s not surprising to see action elements in RPGs and vice versa.
Thing is, many are going to call this game more of a “Action/RPG” due to its fast, intense and bloody combat, although you won’t be able to ignore the plot and storyline that is customary to a standard role-playing title. Furthermore, Geralt increases his skill as time goes on, so it’s not just about hacking ‘n slashing. Lastly, we’ve heard that CD Projekt is supposedly planning exclusive content for both the PS3 and 360 versions, so as soon as they reveal the good stuff, we’ll let you know about it. For now, we take solace in the fact that Rise of the White Wolf should be better in just about every way in comparison to the original PC version, and we look forward to seeing how the developers have streamlined the action for consoles. We also have high hopes for the moral decisions we’ll be forced to make; freedom is always a bonus! Stay tuned for more; we’ll keep an eye on this one next year.
Oh, and check out the new debut trailer, too
12/8/2008 Ben Dutka