On the surface, The Witcher: Versus is an online fighting game. In it, you and other real-life people engage in one-on-one combat, trying to knock each other out. In reality, however, you’ll spend most of your time looking at menus. Oddly enough, this isn’t a bad thing.
The reason for all this menu-gazing is that this is an asynchronous online game, meaning that you and your opponents don’t have to be online at the same time to fight each other. Normally sticking a bunch of dry menus in a fighting game would take all the fun out of it, but The Witcher: Versus is more about using RPG elements to build your character into a veritable wrecking ball.
When you first boot up The Witcher: Versus, you’re blocked out of doing anything until you sign up for an account. This is an off-putting way to start a game– particularly since it requires an e-mail address. But once you jump through the hoops, you can select your character and get started. Unfortunately, there are only three character models to choose from, so you’ll be fighting the same characters over and over again.
You’ve been critically cut. Call 911!
The gameplay is a lot like rock, paper, scissors. It goes like this: After you select an opponent from a list, you pick a series of attacks to place in a timeline. These are the attacks you’re going to use, in order, during the fight. Then you pick a series of defensive moves, and press the “fight” button to send your challenge to your opponent. The next time your opponent plays the game, he’ll be prompted to select his moves, after which the battle plays out. The actual fight looks basically like Street Fighter IV, except that the characters take turns attacking, and you have no further control over the fight.
The moves at your disposal are based in three different classes: Strong, Fast, and Magic. During the fight, if your character does a Magic attack when your opponent defends against a Magic attack, you deal no damage. But if you use a Fast attack when your opponent defends against a Strong attack, she takes the hit and loses health points. Just like in rock, paper, scissors, lots of luck is involved.
It starts to get interesting when you level up. With each level you gain, you get skill points that you can use to learn new moves or upgrade your existing ones. For instance, if you pump skill points into a Fast defensive move, you might be able to block a portion of the damage from Strong attacks. On top of this, you can spend both in-game currency and real-life money on items to make your character more powerful.
Menu, menu, menu… Menu.
We love the freedom that comes from asynchronous online gameplay, but it’s something of a double-edged sword here. It’s great that you don’t have to be online at the same time as your opponent, but sitting idly by as a fight plays out can be a snooze. Also, tapping through menus to plan more than a couple of matches in a row quickly becomes repetitive.
The game also contains a number of other small annoyances. In the shop, it’s often unclear why some moves and items are unavailable to you at any given time. Do they cost too many skill points? Are you not at a high enough level to use them yet? Also, the ‘New Challenges’ list mixes all of your fights together. Shouldn’t the ones that require your attention be separate? Lastly, the app crashed on us several times.
Despite its considerable flaws, we found ourselves enjoying The Witcher: Versus. The trick, it seems, is to play it in small doses. If you check in on your character a couple times a day, play a few matches and buy upgrades when necessary, then you’ll probably have a decent time with the game. But if you’re looking for action, or for a highly polished experience, search elsewhere.