Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Witcher - Gameplay Basics

Click here for a list of all our walkthrough posts for The Witcher (Enhanced Edition).
In this post, we will go over various aspects of gameplay which are not covered by the Prologue tutorial and which you may not have considered.

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  • High Isometric point of view drastically reduces combat difficulty since you have a better sense of the battlefield. You are also less likely to be hit from behind and not know what is going on. Over-the-Shoulder is probably the hardest because of targeting and screen scrolling issues.
  • Running is faster and generally safer than double-click dodging. Remember that the further your cursor from Geralt, the longer the pointing arrow, and the faster Geralt will run. If the cursor is too close, Geralt will walk.
  • Status effects are only scored (or are very hard to score unless) you use the correct type of weapon. (e.g., Strong Silver will not inflict Bleeding on humans) and if your attack has the corresponding effect (e.g., Strong Steel will not inflict Knockdown even if your weapon has a bonus to Knockdown). There are exceptions, such as Disarm, which is not tied to a type of attack.
  • Except the torch, all non-sword weapons do have finishing moves, but typically they look like a regular attack. NPCs using the same weapon may have a different finishing move.
  • Dual weapon wielders cannot be disarmed (?).
  • You can try the "wrong" style on a creature. If your skill and level are high enough, you can still score a hit. In this way, you can choose what special hit effect to land on the target. Also, Strong Style inflicts more damage, so in general using that will make for shorter fights.
  • If you switch styles, your attack sequence resets. If you switch opponents, it does not. When you are fighting more than one opponent, they typically try to surround you, and Strong or Fast attacks force an opponent back and you automatically move to follow up. After each attack chain, you may want to switch opponents, especially if one is affected by Pain or other momentary incapacity, so that you can keep more opponents engaged and to busy in hit reactions to attack you.
  • Higher level attack styles (e.g., Group Steel 2) do more damage because the sequence involves more hits (and therefore takes longer). If you are using Strong Steel or Fast Steel, this can result in your being flanked by enemies you are not actively attacking. You can abort an attack sequence with another command, such as a move or dodge). You cannot abort a finishing move.
  • Bleeding, Incineration, and Poison all work against enemy health percentages instead of taking off a flat amount of enemy health per second. For this reason, Strong styles and Igni are very strong as the game progresses since enemies have more Vitality, so each percentage takes off more Vitality. In contrast, weapons do flat damage and as the game progresses, you do more damage because your attack chains get longer (assuming you are not interrupted).
  • Fistfighting
    • When you see your opponent pulling either arm back to make their attack, you can immediately attack, and your quick jab (or kick, if you have unlocked all moves with a Talent) will inflict minor damage but interrupt their attack and they have to start all over gain.
    • Each successful attack pushes the opponent back. If you can move them out of the fighting area, they immediately forfeit the match. Same if it happens to you.
    • You can typically bet up to 2x the starting amount. "Tough" Fistfighters can go up to 2.5x in Chapter 3.
  • Monster Glossary entries are not always correct. It is usually worthwhile trying Aard to get a long enough Stun or Knockdown result and a finishing move to quickly kill a foe.
    • If you can knock them down with Aard, you probably have some kind of chance to inflict Knockdown or Stun, although not always long enough to use a finishing move.
    • Aard works better when the foe is injured, so if it doesn't work right away, try again later.
    • For the strongest foes in a given Chapter (e.g., Kikimore Warriors in Chapter 3), Aard enhanced with a Ritual of Magic usually as a decent chance of a long enough Stun or Knockdown for a finishing move. This is better than using the power-up for extra Intensity.
    • Certain monsters, like Ifrit, are completely immune -- you cannot even force them back with Aard.
  • You have one Silver Sword and one Silver Sword equipment slot. You can put them in the Inn storage, but not in your backpack. This means that when you are awarded a Silver Sword, you end up dropping the one you have. You can get around this by using the Item Stacking and Equipment Slots mod or Weapon Slots Unlocked mod, which lets you put a weapon in any slot.
  • When you burn Runes into a Silver Sword, it replaces the Silver Sword you have (even unique silver swords). Also, since you have only one plain Witcher Silver Sword, this can be very annoying if you want to have a couple of rune swords. To get around this...
    • Install a mod that lets you put a weapon in any weapon slot, such as the two mentioned above. Equip only one silver sword, in the usual Silver Sword slot.
    • When you go to a blacksmith, wait a while once you enter the dialogue. This will let the game calculate what swords can be purchased based on what runes and ores you have in inventory.
    • Open the blacksmithing dialogue to see what silver swords you can purchase.
    • BEFORE you buy any silver swords, MOVE the Silver Sword you have into one of the other slots so that the Silver Sword slot is empty.
    • Buy a silver sword.
    • The blacksmithing dialogue should close and you should now have both your original Silver Sword and the Silver Sword you just bought.
Combat - One Opponent
This is the simplest case as there are so many options available to you. However, even with just one opponent, you will typically want to cheese them. Starting with the Beast at the end of Chapter 1, enemies will start to employ all sorts of annoying status effects on you, such as poison, stun, and incineration. If you are not careful, you will end up losing a lot of Vitality in combat, forcing you to wait to recover, use a potion, or withdraw.

Even before combat starts, plant a Yrden trap. If you need to fall back or if the enemy is so dangerous that you really don't want to engage them in melee, lure them to walk into it. Open combat with Aard. If you can score a long enough Stun or Knockdown, you can kill an opponent of any toughness with any sword (i.e., any weapon with which you can use Witcher styles) with a Finishing Move.
If Aard doesn't work, but at least knocks them down or knocks them back, then you can try it again or much later when their Vitality has been whittled down.
If you have enough Endurance, you might as well use Igni on them and hope for incineration.
Alternatively, if you didn't get a chance to put up Yrden or drink your potions or apply your oils, you can either use Quen to put up a barrier and do that; or you could use Axii and try to turn your opponent to your side. Axii, however, is chancy and you typically do not want to rely on it.
Now that you have exhausted your other options or readied yourself, you can engage them in melee either to finish them off or wear them down. Larger opponents might suffer no hit reactions and even while you are attacking them, they could attack you (with no corresponding animation because of animation timing -- but the underlying mechanics could still calculate a hit, and you take damage). Faster opponents are also sometimes able to score hits before or during your attack sequence, despite hit reactions.
If it is too dangerous to fight, draw them back into your Yrden (or run away until the enemy withdraws, then set up a Yrden). If they are knocked back, they typically do not go around the Yrden and will keep walking over it and suffer damage (but there is no floating text feedback). Even ghouls and weaker vampires can be killed by simply letting them walk into your Yrden repeatedly. Meanwhile, you can recover Endurance for another spell.
If an enemy walks through your Yrden, pull back so that they are completely clear, then engage them in melee or hit them with Igni or Aard to push them back, thereby causing them to trigger the Yrden again. In the best case they are completely through and past your Yrden, so that they need to walk through it yet again to reach you. If they are too dangerous to engage in melee, you can either run around and lead them to walk over the Yrden again, or double-click behind them to somersault over (doesn't work against large or tall creatures), then have them chase you through your Yrden trap.

Combat - Two Opponents
Strangely, this is the most dangerous situation because you can no longer score Knockdown with Group Steel or Group Silver since that requires at least 3 opponents. The problem with fighting two opponents is that while you are engaging them with Strong or Fast styles, the other one is sneaking up to attack you.
All the one-opponent options work well, except that if you incapacitate one opponent even temporarily (e.g., Pain), you will want to attack the other one because you need to keep both in hit reactions or incapacity so that neither gets a chance to attack you. Pain lasts only until you attack the foe again, so the optimal use of that status effect on your opponent is actually to do something else.
If you can still hit them reliably with Group attacks, then that is what you want to use since you can now keep both in hit reaction. Since Group attacks have range (see below), ideally you can position yourself so that only one of the two opponents is in melee range.
Axii is also an alternative since it affects only one opponent anyway. This reduces your opponents to one. There is a chance your temporary ally will kill your enemy and you lose the XP for that kill, but enemies are all over the place so losing any kill XP is really an unimportant circumstance.
Watch out for opponents that are very hard to hit with Group attacks as you will waste time and they could get a free swing. Drowners, Drowned Dead, and Assassins are in this category. Either Aard them and use a Finishing Move on one (or incapacitate it and attack the other) or run around and find a third opponent and use Group attacks. Against human opponents, Igni is probably better because you inflict damage and could temporarily incapacitate one with the Incineration Pain effect.

Combat - Three or More Opponents
Strangely, this is less dangerous than fighting two opponents. The key things to remember are to not be surrounded since attacks from the rear are much more likely to hit and can keep you stuck in hit reactions. Being surrounded lets you hit more enemies, but you need to get your attack chain in, and that can be tricky when they are constantly assaulting you.

What makes multiple opponents an even safer situation than one or two opponents are the Trip and Knockdown Talents. Your first attack sequence could lay everyone flat on their back, buying you time to reposition (safest idea if you are surrounded), hit someone else, or use a Finishing Move on a critical target (with the possible trade-off that other foes can cheap-shot on you while you are doing that).
Unless you can position yourself correctly, Aard will generally be too hard to use since you can't take advantage of Stun or Knockdown without being exposed to free attacks from other foes. Go for Igni instead as that has a wider arc of effect (at Silver and Gold level, it basically hits everyone around you) and also briefly forces opponents back.

Quen could let you position yourself to hit a lot of them, but remember that the shield goes down when you make your attack, so you get the one chance. You could, however, raise another Quen shield once everyone is Knocked Down. However, the Endurance is typically better spent elsewhere, such as on Igni, which could have Incineration, Fear, and Blinding effects.
Because being surrounded is bad (except for setting up a wide-angle Igni), after getting Trip and Knockdown on Group attack level 1, it is not as important to get the higher-level Group attack skills. This said, since there are enough Bronze skill points to (at the maximum character level) get all Bronze Talents, there's no reason not to improve Group attack if you don't have anything better to spend points on.

Group attacks are also great for engaging dangerous bosses because they affect an AREA. That is, you do not need to be able to reach foes with your sword to inflict damage and knockdown on them. You just need to be able to hit any one of them, and you can choose whoever is easiest to hit with your attack. As long as there are 3+ in a certain radius, AND they are targeting you and not someone else (?), you can easily use Group attacks. For example, if you are on a narrow bridge and the enemies are packed close, but only one can actually engage you at a time, you could switch to Group attacks, hit the one and score damage on those behind it.
This means you can position yourself to hit a minion, and if the boss is close enough (e.g., behind a minion and unable to get to you), you can score a hit on them as well. In this way, you can whittle down the health of the boss and set them up for Aard.
Knocked down enemies count toward the 3+ you need for Group attacks, but apparently do not take any damage until they start getting up. If you don't want to be exposed while doing a Finishing Move on an opponent, wait until one of them starts getting up and hit that one with your Group attack.

Watch out for situations where there are a lot of targets but your Group attack can't hit anything, as if you had just one target. It is not clear what causes this. It could be that they haven't switched targets to focus on you yet, and therefore don't count toward the number you need for a group attack. You need at least 2 for a decent chance at hitting, but even then, against creatures like Drowners, two is sometimes not enough for Group attack.

  • When performing alchemy while resting, you can make multiple potions in the same one hour period.
  • Focus on Rubedo-primary potions so that you can get healing without the extra toxicity from Swallow. Use Swallow only if you need in-combat healing. Rubedo potions give you decent in-between-combat healing.

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