The Witcher 5-Years Later ReviewGuest_Jim_* - December 11, 2013
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Even though The Witcher was released years ago, and every aspect of it has been documented and detailed for you to read, I am still going to try to avoid spoilers as much as possible.
At times I wonder if there was a convention of video game developers, where it was decided that characters in RPGs must have lost their memory or are otherwise left with no story (and occasionally no name) prior to when you start the game. Apparently those at CD Projekt RED either missed that gathering and were relying on somebody's incomplete notes, or something was lost in translation. Yes, Geralt has lost his memory when the game beings, but you do get to discover and even determine his past as the game progresses. Due to the political intricacies of the world, you are forced to take a side, based on what you have learned since you started playing. When you do this though, you learn that it is also what the 'old Geralt' would have chosen, so the 'old Geralt' will depend on your choices, just as the current Geralt does. If nothing else, it is a nice take on RPG-amnesia that gives the character more of a persona than just that of the destined hero.
Those choices you make mostly relate to whether you support the Scoia'tael or the Order of the Flaming Rose. The Order is one of the groups that has formed to fight monsters, but they also have a somewhat racist agenda. Knights of the Order have little compunction from killing or otherwise harassing non-humans. At times even heavily-armed Geralt is treated as an inferior, just because he is not human. The Scoia'tal, on the other hand, is a group of non-humans that fight against the Order for freedom. While the decision of which to support may seem obvious at this point, there is more. The Order, though racist, most often acts in a defensive manner, only seeking out and killing non-humans who have committed crimes. For comparison, the Scoia'tael will turn to violence against civilians whenever it feels it may serve their cause.
Where you do not have a choice is in the destruction of Salamandra, a powerful and secretive group that is trying to take control of the world and will manipulate those visibly in power. Eventually you will discover the purposes of the group, as well as their leader.
Throw in the complexities of aiding your friends, old and new, as well as a love interest, if you take that path, and you have a rather full story experience. Many of these side interests do return to the main story eventually, such as a person whose life you spare coming to your aid. Also they can provide you with information to better understand what is happening in the main story. The multiple romances you can have, however, do not reveal more of the main story, just more of the world's women. (Perhaps not as explicit as some games, but The Witcher does earn its M rating for sexual content.)
When put all together this creates an intricate story with so many facets that multiple playthroughs are practically a must. Thanks to its good design, you will only rarely find yourself deviating so far from the main story that you can forget what you are doing. Even if that happens, though, returning to the main story is pretty easy, as I will discuss next.