The Witcher Adventures: Deceits

I’m playing through the bonus Adventures included with The Witcher. Read about the earlier Adventures, along with an introduction to the game, here. Also remember that you can click on images to view larger versions.

I’ve finished with the Adventures made by original developers CD Projekt RED. The next Adventure on the list, Deceits, is by Rafał “Magun” Bielicki, and was the winner of the D’Jinni Adventure Editor Contest. It came packaged with the 2011 v1.5 patch for the main game, and it’s pretty much what I envisioned before I started playing these Adventures: a short tale in which Geralt arrives in a village, offers to solve the villagers’ monster-related problems, and uncovers a few dark secrets along the way.

The Adventure reuses the riverside village location from Chapter IV of the main game, which came as no surprise to me. Chapter IV is perhaps the highlight of the game, and was certainly the most memorable part, barring a few specific scenes in the finale. This is because it’s closest to the feel of Andrzej Sapkowski’s short stories, acting as a respite from the increasingly political story unfolding elsewhere in the game. Here we find a peaceful village with a twist on the classic Arthurian legend, where the most important event is an upcoming wedding, where restless spirits roam the fields, unable to pass on. This is where we see the influence of the fairy tales that inspired many of Sapkowski’s stories, and where the thematic differences between The Witcher and nearly any other fantasy role-playing game are most evident. Why other games do not look to the same sources for inspiration, I don’t know, but it works extremely well here. I loved the rest of the game too — the aforementioned political storyline is surprisingly interesting, and that finale is excellent — but when I recommend The Witcher to someone, I’m usually thinking about Chapter IV.

In Deceits, this map from Chapter IV is used as a new location, for a village strangely named Deceits. I do not know why anyone would name their village Deceits, and it’s certainly not what I thought the title of the Adventure was referring to, but there you go. Geralt had only intended to pass through Deceits on his way elsewhere, but the bridge is out, so he finds himself looking for work locally while waiting for repairs. Even in such a tiny village, there’s plenty going on: some ghosts and other monsters are roaming nearby, a sheriff from the closest city is hunting for a fugitive, and the local noble’s maid has just been murdered, with the primary suspect nowhere to be found. Geralt, of course, soon finds a common thread running through it all.

Deceits feels a little less magical than the riverside village from the main game, but it does copy the techniques that CD Projekt RED used to bring life to such communities. The villagers all run on their own schedules, working, unwinding at the inn, and sleeping at appropriate times each day. I especially liked the pagan ceremony by the shrine on the hill every morning, devoutly attended by some villagers and ignored by others. The Adventure also does a good job of balancing all of the different things that made the main game great. There’s just the right mix of conversation, alchemy, combat and clue-hunting. And Deceits doesn’t forget about the social parts of the game (highlighted in Side Effects) either. The inn features drinking and brawling, of course, but also a fully-fledged dice poker tournament, complete with a shifting scoreboard for the participants that must have taken some canny programming. I was disappointed to find that Geralt’s opponents can never win the tournament, instead hovering just below the maximum score while waiting for Geralt to catch up and claim victory, but it was still impressive, especially for a fan-made project.

Deceits even has Geralt tracking down a trophy monster. In the main game, Geralt could sometimes be hired to hunt a particularly tough beast, and he would carry its head back on his trophy hook as proof. These beasts are usually extra-deadly variants of standard monsters, and while they never quite provide the prolonged monster hunt many players desired (something that CD Projet RED are hoping to correct in the upcoming Witcher 3: Wild Hunt), they did place a bigger emphasis on preparation before battle, which I certainly appreciated. While the other adventures have featured plenty of monster hunting, none so far has had a trophy hunt, so it was nice to see one here.

In fact, it seemed that a conscious effort was made to include everything from the main game in this Adventure, as if checking ingredients off on a list. But I didn’t mind — it’s clear it was done out of love for the game, each piece included with excitement rather than obligation. When I wrote about the first Adventure (and the only other fan-created Adventure I’ve played so far), Damn Those Swamps!, I noted that it played like a stripped-down version of the original game, reduced to its most basic components. Deceits, on the other hand, celebrates the details, showcasing all of the little things that flesh out the experience of playing The Witcher. Playing it felt like playing the main game, just on a smaller scale, with a story reminiscent of Sapkowski’s short stories rather than his more involved novels (which, admittedly, I haven’t read yet, but I gather that the main game has a similar tone). And that’s what a Witcher Adventure should be.

The next Adventure on the list is The Wraiths of Quiet Hamlet, which, while using the same location as Deceits, manages to feel very different. Stay tuned!

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