Reviewed: June 21, 2011
Released: May 17, 2011
Being a gamer is a great experience though it does have one major drawback. There is not enough time in the day to play and experience all of the games that Iíd like to play. One such title is CD Projekt REDís The Witcher, which I sadly never got around to playing. The award-winning RPG featured a choice based adventure that showed that itís not good or evil, but the consequences of actions that can change the outcome of events in a story. CD Projekt REDís newest PC release, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings continues that idea in one of the most enjoyable RPG's that Iíve played since Oblivion.|
The Witcher 2 continues the story of Geralt of Rivia, a monster-hunter (or Witcher), who has been supernaturally altered via experiments to make him harder to kill as he fights extremely dangerous enemies. His body having lost all his pigmentation, including his hair, shows off his scar riddled body, pointed ears and golden slit eyes earned him the name of ďGwynbleidd, the White WolfĒ. The greatest Witcher alive must find a way to clear his name after a tragic event leaves him branded a murderer in this new adventure that will take you through monster filled forests, castles, a beautiful dwarven city carved into mountains, an evil spectral fog and an eternally bloody battlefield.
Geraltís story in The Witcher 2 is a fairly complex one with all its possible choices and paths but not nearly as complex as its gameplay. In classic RPG fashion there are a lot of things to do besides the story such as doing side quests, fun mini-games like fistfighting, and crafting useful and much needed items such as swords, traps and potions. I loved getting into fistfight matches as a change of pace and also a source of income as money can be hard to come by occasionally.
I noticed this almost immediately the first time I went to craft an item needed for story progression and was initially a few Oren (currency) short to make it. You can earn cash by completing several side quests as well as selling the items that you donít need or canít use anymore. If you start carrying too much gear, weapons and items you will actually be slowed down and unable to run or roll even in combat. Its very important to sell, sell, sell and pick up crafting diagrams as your actions could very well seal off getting certain valuable weapons and much need armor. It is especially important when youíre in the dwarven city of Vergen as there is an armor diagram that canít be attained anywhere else.
The Witcher 2 is a third-person RPG that features pretty solid controls both with the standard keyboard and mouse setup and a 360 controller. Both options work surprisingly well with the controller setup gaining the ability to auto-loot when you pick up enemy drops. For this review I stuck with my more familiar keyboard and mouse setup as I just found it easier to control Geralt. The only things that were a bit annoying is that if you want to interact with anything you have to be in just the right spot or angle to do it. There is also the slightly unnatural climbing animation that I noticed a lot. If you are standing off center when you activate a climbing interaction Geralt sort of sidesteps in position before ascending. There is also the small matter of NPC always getting you way from time to time. This happened a lot especially when I was in the dwarven mine in Vergen. These problems are pretty minor though.
Combat is actually quite easy to get a hang of though there is a bit of tactic involved in it. For instance until you develop your character a bit you take 200% more damage if you are hit from behind. Blocking in The Witcher 2 is just as important as choosing the right sword and attack to use on any given enemy. For example sentient beings (such as humans and elves) are best dispatched by normal swords or axes while monsters such as nekkers, trolls, wraiths and other creatures are destined to meet your silver swordís razor sharp edge.
Fighting well however will not save you alone. You will need to master magical signs such as the fiery Igni and my favorite charming sign Axii. Axii came in handy when I was surrounded in tight spots. A few charmed enemies to fight on your side can easily change the tide in battle. Itís also important to invest in bombs and traps as well. This is particularly true when fighting Harpies so itís always good to carry a stock of them. All weapons, armor and items can be either purchased or made at a cost of materials and Oren.
As with most RPG's, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings features character advancement for Geralt by using talent points to tailor your character to your play style. There are four areas that you can spend points in: Training, Swordsmanship, Alchemy and Magic. The Training path is an absolute must to max out but after that you can go your own way. For the purpose of this review I chose to mix things up and focus my points in the Swordsmanship and Magic paths. The only downside in doing this is that you may not be able to learn the more powerful skills at the end of your chosen trees such as the Berserk ability in Alchemy or Group Finisher Move from Swordsmanship. Itís amazing how much freedom you have to tailor your Geralt the way you want him.
Through all the fighting it is perhaps the story that I find myself most drawn to. Unlike a lot of RPGs that Iíve played recently, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is easily the most mature one in both style and audience marketing. The Witcher series gets its origins from Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings while conveying an awesome story features a few intimate moments that are more than quick peak and fade. There is also a bunch of creative language that is wellÖ awesome actually, but not really meant for younger audiences. I also love all the fantasy and game references that it contains including a few that you would expect in a game like this.
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings not only has a great story but awesome graphics as well. The attention to environmental detail such as the hearty stone architecture in Vergen to the beautiful elven ruins found near Flotsam is remarkable. The different atmospheres definitely make this adventure constantly enjoyable. One of my favorite locations is the forests surrounding the fortified town of Flotsam. Navigating through the maze of tree with enemies coming from possibly anywhere and the sunrise cutting through the trees in blinding brilliance is one of my favorite parts of the game.
Iíve played a lot of fantasy games over the years and I have to admit The Witcher 2 has some of the coolest elven designs that Iíve seen in a while. The elven rebels of the Scoiaítael are unlike most of the elves that you see in games. These elves are not the pretty versions that you see in a lot of newer titles but a less lofty and somewhat downtrodden race. Even the ďdomesticatedĒ elves that live in the towns seem to be in the same state. The nonhuman hatred that you see from the humans especially in Flotsam makes you really feel bad for the elves and even the dwarves.
To complement the visuals, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings also features an awesome score that has some truly moving pieces as well as upbeat tempos to get you in the mood for any fight. Most of the titleís ambience is created by the overall scoreís dark and harrowing melodies. It really drives home how much is at stake in Geraltís world. There is even a metal inspired track that I heard during one of the more interesting moments in the story that I quite enjoyed. The voice acting is another area where this adventure shines. There isnít a bad voice actor to be heard here. From Geraltís low almost gravely voice to the sweet voice of Triss Merrigold and the hilarious dwarven dialogue I couldnít get enough. I also love the accurate sounding weapons and traps that you get to use as well as the monsters that you encounter. If you listen carefully you can tell what is in the area by their growls or cries.
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings not only comes with a lot of in game content but both the standard Premium Edition DVD and the DRM-free Digital Premium Edition via GoG.com(which Iím reviewing) comes with a bunch of extra goodies. Among these is a 97-page game guide, a MP3 version of the Official Soundtrack, behind the scenes look at the making of the game, a 197 page art book as well as a bunch of additional cool stuff. This is an exceptional package for being the base version of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings release.
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is one of the finest examples of how great an RPG can be. The fighting is fast paced, the story is grown-up and deeply intriguing with a multitude of possible outcomes depending on your choices. Do you pursue you love interest between Triss or ignore it on quest of vengeance to clear you name. Will you try to resolve sticky situations with words or end conflicts with the sharp end of your sword? The choices are entirely up to you and it beacons you to play it again and again to take those other paths not taken. This is a must buy for the adult RPG fans out there. You wonít be disappointed.