Periodically - usually while imbibing grog - I lament the glut of promising RPGs that have received inadequate post-release support. My inquiries as to why this happens are always met with a circular blame game: developers of these flawed gems routinely fault chintzy publishers who weren't willing to pony up extra moolah for patches, while their more stoic publishers typically refuse to publicly assign blame, but when cornered in establishments with free-flowing grog, their representatives' loosened tongues inevitably wag about developers' lack of professionalism.
But players don't care whose Brahmin-dung is less smelly. All that matters is that Knights of the Old Republic 2 left plot points unresolved, Gothic 3's combat never worked as advertised, and Troika somehow prematurely released three successive RPGs (Arcanum, Temple of Elemental Evil, and Vampire Bloodlines) for three different publishers. Nobody bemoans the fate of crappy games, but those RPGs were all pockmarked with creative brilliance, yet their full potential was merely sampled.
Fortunately, there are also companies like Blizzard, BioWare, and Bethesda, that routinely reward customers with well-polished (though not necessarily bug-free) RPGs that are actually supplemented post-release. With the release of the Enhanced Edition patch/new retail version of The Witcher, CD Projekt has joined the list of RPG good guys and shattered the preconception that a publisher's name commencing with the letter "B" was a prerequisite for membership.
The Witcher (PCG score: 90%, January 2008) was already an outstanding RPG, and our very deserving 2007 RPG of the Year. It's a massive story-driven game that effectively melds gripping, action-oriented combat with meaningful RPG choices. Its artistically rendered cut-scenes and its novel low-magic, gritty fantasy setting give The Witcher a truly distinct style. Its world and characters have soul, and unlike in more generic fantasy settings, they also seem burdened with genuine history.
The Enhanced Edition's revisions are both substantive and subtle: there are two completely new mini-adventures to play; the tedious loading delays of the Neverwinter Nights Aurora engine have been almost entirely eliminated; toilsome inventory fiddling has been minimized by introducing an alchemical reagent storage bag and an autoloot feature; there are additional NPC models; and key characters have new animations and an expanded array of facial expressions, although there are still moments where characters will inexplicably focus their gaze skyward.
But the most notable significant change is to the dialogue. The Witcher's original English release was missing large swaths of the Polish source material, largely to avoid the expense of additional voice-acting. It was still loaded with rich dialogue, but some conversations seemed abrupt or unnatural, and background lore was regularly culled when it wasn't crucial. The initially snipped English dialogue has now been voice-recorded by the original actors and reintroduced into the Enhanced Edition. If you want to get all artsy, you can instead use English subtitles and listen to the characters speak in the original Polish dialogue (or any of 10 localized versions).
The Witcher is definitely an M-rated game, and there's no shortage of crass colloquies. Some of the reintroduced conversations are even more vulgar than the edited versions they’ve supplanted, which is perhaps indicative of the different manner in which languages use curse words. But, despite clearly being a game for not-easily-offended adults, amazingly, the U.S. version of the Enhanced Edition is still missing the very soft-porn nudity contained in international editions. It's absurd to believe that anyone who is mature enough to play a game saturated with decapitations and NPC banter advocating inter-species sexual assaults needs to be shielded from gazing at a Nymph's nipple. Unofficial patches can restore NPC voluptuousness if you don't like pasties.
The new edition is an incredible enhancement to an already magnificent RPG, and original purchasers can download the new improvements for free at The Witcher's
October 22, 2008