The Witcher: Buffs Done Right

I have many complaints about The Witcher: the combat system sucks, the UI is poorly designed, the movement and character animation is glitchy, the writing and voice acting leaves a lot to be desired, the plot seems to be an endless chain of fantasy cliches and the main character has about as much personality as a slab of granite. But if there is something the game done right, it is the way buffs from potions work. They are designed to work for a long time.

In my previous post, I compared Witcher’s alchemy interface to that of Oblivion. I still think that Bethesda game has a superior UI, and larger variety of potions you can make but the Polish game actually wins on how the concoctions you prepare work in the game. In Oblivion I pretty much gave up on using any type of buff potions – I would make them, and then immediately pawn them off at the nearest store. Restorative potions (healing, magicka regeneration, restore attribute) were very useful – and so were the potions. But pure buffs were useless 90% of the time because of extremely limited effect durations. For example, a typical potion of Night Eye you could purchase or make would last anywhere from 30 seconds up to a minute. Anything lasting over a minute was usually exuberantly expensive and extremely rare.

In witcher you can only do alchemy by a fireplace or by resting in someones house. In the wild you actually have to find a fire to sit by. You can't just build one where you are standing.

A minute is not enough time to explore a dungeon though. Hell, it is usually not enough time to last a whole encounter with a room full of enemies. If you are relying on potions for dungeon exploration you better have shit load of them with you, and be prepared to gulp them up at an astonishing pace. Same goes for water breathing potions. 30 seconds is probably enough to quickly swim under some rocks to access a hidden part of a dungeon, but clearly not enough to explore a complex of flooded chambers or a sunken ship. Combat buffs are even worse – you have to drink them in combat. If you drink a potion prior to entering a scary dungeon, you can be sure it’s effects will run out long before you encounter your first enemy.

The game actually encourages you to experiment with alchemy, but the interface does not make this easy.

Potions in the Witcher are quite the opposite. Their duration is usually measured in the in-game hours. For example, the Cat potion (equivalent of Night Eye) would last around 7 in game hours. I had my character drink it just after entering a crypt overrun with Ghouls. I proceed to fully explore the crypt, clearing it out of any hostiles, then went back out, turned in the quest, then took a wrong turn and found a cave of some sort. Upon entering it, I realized I still had the “see in the dark” effect active. Furthermore, there were several in game hours left before this effect would wane.

That’s how it should be done folks. Heroes should be able to “juice up” before a big battle – not during. When your character gets drunk, he should remain drunk for the remainder of the night. There is one mission in the game where a guy hires you to kill some overgrown monster plants in his garden, but he insists that you drink with him as you negotiate the price. When you finally agree upon a contract, Geralt is so wasted you are essentially seeing everything double, and stumbles around at half speed. This state doesn’t just go away after a few seconds though. I cleared out the guys garden, collected my payment and then decided to head out. I got halfway towards the village I decided that stumbling around while drunk is pointless, and that it would be faster for me to just sleep it off and continue adventuring the next day. So I stumbled back to the guys house, and collapsed on some sort of a sleeping roll he had laid out on the floor.

I really wish there was a potion that would make all the voice acting in the game better.

So yeah – the game has at least one redeeming quality. I’m actually finding more of these as I play. The game is slowly growing on me, and as I learn to ignore it’s obvious flaws, and plot deficiencies. Now if I could only find an option that makes Geralt’s voice actor to do that whole acting thing when you don’t speak every sentence in the same exact monotone voice, that would be great. I’d also love a button that would stop NPC’s from fidgeting while they talk to me. It’s seriously weird when halfway through the sentence they suddenly start looking up at the ceiling, or become fascinated with their feet.

Did this ever happen to you? Did you ever encounter an average game with one feature that was kinda-sorta cool? You felt that the feature didn’t really redeem the game, or anything – but you thought it was a good idea, and wished other games used it?

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6 Responses to The Witcher: Buffs Done Right

  1. JKjoker ARGENTINA Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    you got a point there, the thing i hated the worst about Diablo 2 was that you couldnt “turn on” defensive spells (except for the Paladin) you had to recast them every x seconds, if you played the sorceress you could find yourself in the position of having 5 protective spells with no reason not to use them that you avoid because you are tired of stopping every 200 seconds to rebuff yourself

    I liked the alchemy system in the Witcher a lot (you NEED to be playing the hardest difficulty or it becomes pointless tho)

    I didnt like Dragon Age but one thing they did almost right was making most of the buffs and summons “switch on/off” style (still they failed as half of them turn themselves off for no reason on area change and the fatigue system sucks), Mass Effect 2 had the ammo powers (that again failed because they would turn themselves off for no reason)

    if i had to choose a game i hated but had a redeeming feature i think i would go for Hellgate London, the game SUCKS! but it had one good idea:
    equipment costs strength instead of having a required number so, say you have a character with 50 str, you could wear a 40str armor and 10str helmet or you could wear just a 50str armor

    the system allows for a non arbitrary, logical limitation on heavy and magical equipment without making them class only since you could pump your strength or magic a bit and wear whatever you want (of course the game had to ruin that by making 3/4 the equipment class only but you cant have everything right ?)

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  2. Zel FRANCE Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    One feature I really like about this game is the emphasis on preparation. There are very little ways to restore vitality instantly and the ones that do usually have small effects or heavy penalties (high toxicity). It makes the game more tactical as you stock up on specific potions, oils and bombs depending on the enemies you’ll fight, and buff up beforehand. I like that much more than the incessant gulping of potions in other games.

    As JKJoker said, you should be playing on highest difficulty to make alchemy a requirement instead of an option. It also makes more sense as the main advantage of witchers lies in their potions, not in their physical strength or combat prowess.

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  3. Mr Pete GERMANY Internet Explorer Windows says:

    There actually was a game that had at least two of these features.
    It’s called Arx Fatalis and was released back in 2002 by Arkane Studios.
    Although the storyline difficulty was damn hard and you were struggling to stay alive every few seconds there are two things I still remember:
    Baking bread and sorcery.
    Now, baking bread was the typical take-flour-add-water-put-dough-near-fire-thing but somehow things like that really gave the game an edge over other titles I played back then.
    And sorcery… well, you had to find runes to be able to cast spells. Nothing new there. But then you had to find the scroll explaining which combo of runes caused whatever effect. And you had to draw the runes in the air to cast the spell (using ctrl and mouse)!
    Friggin’ cool when in the middle of a fight you decided blowing the enemy was of more importance than taking another swing with your weapon.
    You draw some runes while the troll comes closer and rises it’s club and then just as it comes down: last rune, spell kicks in and goodbye troll!

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  4. Alphast NETHERLANDS Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    As you probably know, I did a Witcher review about a year ago. I realize now that I was maybe a bit too enthusiastic about the game. However, I stand by my previous point. For a 2005 made game, it still rocks. It is not up the level of Morrowind (which was released 4 years earlier) nor of course Oblivion. This said, one of the main positive points about the game, apart from the one you mention in this post, is about the moral and game choices. There is no good vs. evil scale, nothing artificial, and even NPC’s are absolutely not obvious in their “alignment”. I am thinking about the witch in the suburb level, for instance (don’t want to spoil, but she is a lot more complex than she looks).

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  5. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Linux Terminalist says:

    @ JKjoker:

    Interesting. A lot of games use the STR attribute to calculate some sort of upper weight limit of what you can carry and assign weight to items and have minimum skill requirement that you need to meet to use them. This is interesting.

    But yeah, I heard Hellgate London is beyond horrible.

    @ Zel:

    To tell you the truth I’m a bit scared of the hardest difficulty. I was playing on Normal and I got my ass handed to me several times by tougher groups of opponents teaching me a lesson about the combat styles and potions. :P

    @ Mr Pete:

    Oh wow… That’s actually kinda awesome!

    Heimdal 2 had something similar – sans the drawing of the runes. You would collect rune stones and then you would make spells by putting a sequence of stones on your “spell bar”. Different combinations would have different effects. It was interesting.

    @ Alphast:

    Yep, I’m noticing that. It does have good and bad sides. I think I will talk about those things more in my next post. :)

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  6. Alphast NETHERLANDS Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Funnily enough, your review (although negative) pushed me to play it again the last two days. Admittedly, I was stranded at home with a flu. I am now in the Swamp level and it’s not too bad. I would like to add one thing about the setting, by the way (a thing which become quite apparent in this level): it is not so much a classic fantasy setting. There is a very distinctive central and eastern European flavor to it. Anyone familiar with Russian, Polish, Czech or Yiddish legends and myths will immediately recognize Koshtchey the Immortal, the King of the Hunt, the Golem, the Sephirot of the Kabbalah and so on. This makes me stick to this game a little bit more than I would normally do, due to its horrible playability.

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