What prevented The Witcher from being considered an exceptional RPG were some gameplay and technical issues. And the patches that were released afterwards have shown that there is room for decent improvements in both directions.
Many bugs concerning different quests and items were repaired, the enormous loading times were reduced, and the number of CTD (Crash To Desktop) dropped as well. More than that, CD Projekt Red promised to bring some changes a bit more profound to the game, changes that eventually were wrapped up in a new retail version, titled the Enhanced Edition.
The effort of the producers to add voices and subtitles for more foreign languages is impressive, but what I liked the most was that the English version was remade. The characters now benefit from more dialog lines and an enriched vocabulary. Also, the animations for the characters with an important role in the story were also tinkered with. Now, the body language from the cut-scenes is a little more close to reality.
Another visible improvement is that the looks of some creatures is more diversified when it comes to colors. Moreover, the number of characters that looked identical, but had different dialog lines, was reduced by the introduction of new clothing pieces. Also, some scenes from Enhanced Edition now have a more a brighter color palette, with a positive impact on the scenes which include sunrises and sunsets.
Those who played the original version know about extremely long loading times, which were such a problem that they could make you quit and uninstall the game with no regrets. In the Enhanced Edition, the loading times have been reduced considerably, so traveling between zones is faster, and getting inside a house takes place instantly. Also, the autosave is now optional.
On the other hand, despite the improvements brought, the frequency of the CTDs still remains a serious motive for hitting the table and swearing for the lost time since the last save. At the same time, although the game is generally more fluid, the framerate drops are still severe during the scenes populated with many NPC, which shows the technological limits of the Aurora engine related to its scalability against the increased performance of modern PCs.
The pathfinding of the characters and creatures has been improved as well, especially for Geralt, but there are still problems when he has to go from point A to B by passing through an altitude difference. Also, the bug where a creature is tougher than it should is still present.
You can test this by engaging a group of monsters and killing them off one by one. You will be surprised by the considerable amount of damage which can be taken by an enemy whose comrades with the same statistics have fallen from a few sword thrusts.
The dialog system has also remained unchanged. Just like in the original version, I recommend that you choose the dialog lines from the bottom to the top. The first option in the menu is the most important and choosing it first can make others disappear.
Which means that certain choices regarding the relationship with the character and quests can be lost this way. However, this approach isn’t necessary when it comes to dialogues that influence the main story.
Consistent changes can be noticed at dice poker as well. For example, I haven’t met situations in which the NPC has 3 dices of five and doesn’t change the other two, so the matches are more engaging. On the other hand, as well as the original game, a method to obtain a couple of extra bucks is to let your adversary win a few matches.
He will start betting bigger and bigger sums, and after you will empty his pockets, you will find that the money you’ve won exceeds the total you and your adversary originally had.
Coming back to the more significant improvements, Geralt’s inventory has been increased and is now divided in two sections. The first for general use and the second dedicated exclusively to alchemy. Both the Satchel, and the Alchemy Sack now have a sort button for different objects and ingredients, which assures a more efficient management when the inventory is full and you’re not decided on what objects to dump.
But you still can’t store any other weapons besides the ones which reside in the four inventory slots available. And seeing as only the two swords are connected to the fight styles of Geralt, the use of other weapons is pointless. Same thing goes for spells. Besides Aard and Igni, the other three "signs" have a practical utility close to zero, even on the highest level of difficulty.
As in the original version, the variety of weapons and armors is very limited considering the extent of the game, and the drops that aren’t related to the important quests are embarrassing. Their role is purely economic, but only in large quantities.
Fortunately, it’s no longer necessary to search every corpse. Just keep CTRL pressed and with one mouse click the drops are transferred automatically to the inventory.
On the “should have been fixed list” is also the High Isometric perspective, which has remained unchanged. And which is still a little too close to the ground level. Just like a year ago, there were situations in which I felt the necessity to have a more distant perspective of the character.
Another immersion-breaking aspect is that you can still freely search the houses, even if there are people inside. For some odd reason, they don’t seem to mind that you’re going through their stuff. The credibility of the world drops even more when you find valuable objects in chests and closets, even though the owners are complaining about poverty and starving to death.
Beyond these changes brought to the original version, The Witcher Enhanced Edition comes with two new adventures, The Price of Neutrality and Side Effects. Both can be played whether you finished the game or not, because it’s not possible to import the single-player character.
You will be given a certain number of talents which you then use to customize Geralt, which further underlines the fact that the two adventures represent different entities, even though their story is connected to the main quest.
In a way it’s an understandable decision from the producers. The game, depending on the number of quests, gameplay hours and difficulty level, can be finished with values for the main character’s level that can range between 32 and 50. To balance the two adventures according ly would have been, if not hard, at least very time consuming.
The Witcher Enhanced Edition is an excellent purchase for RPG fans that haven’t come in contact yet with the universe created by Andrzej Sapkowski. Players that have finished The Witcher won’t have much reason to replay the game.
But besides the two new adventures, they will find content specific to a Collector’s Edition, like the map and the sound track of the game, a "Making of" DVD and the D’jini editor that allows fans to create new adventures.
And the fact that all these materials (minus the novel written by Andrzej Sapkowski) are available for free for the players that have bought the initial version, is yet another praiseworthy decision from the producers.