on May 17, 2011
(NOTE: I am reviewing only the Witcher 2 and not the software security protection (DRM). The version I purchased was DRM free, therefore I can't discuss any issues with its implementation. I know many PC gamers, have strong feelings about DRM, and I understand the attention the subject garners as strict DRM can be very aggravating for game owners. If this issue is important to you, be aware that avenues for obtaining DRM-free copies of this game can be readily available. Now, on to the game review.)
I gave this game 5 stars, and I feel it easily deserves each one. Plain and simple, I like this game. It may not be 100% perfect but it's engrossing and vastly pleasurable. There are several PC game sequels of late, which have been more concerned about their playability and reception on home console systems than being true to the original quality that won them acclaim (I'm glancing at you Dragon Age and Crysis). Thankfully, the Witcher 2, feels like a glossy more gracile version of the first incarnation, while still hitting the spot for the PC crowd.
The Witcher 2
The Witcher 2 is an exceptional game. The pacing is better than the first iteration and the story is arguably more engrossing. If you are new to the Witcher games, you may feel a little lost during the first 30 minutes, but you will soon be acclimated and well on your way to becoming a deft monster-slaying machine. If you are reading this review to see if your child will enjoy this game, you can stop right here. This game is made for adults. The language, violence and intense sexual themes lend themselves to a mature audience.
The character models in the Witcher 2 are far better looking than the Witcher original enhanced edition. The characters feel alive and their movements look fluid and natural. The skin models are more realistic than ever, with the lead character showing the deep skin gouges and scarring one would expect from such a dangerous profession. However, the real graphical achievements in this game might be the structures and environments. Some are simply stunning, while others lend themselves to the mood of the area whether it's a dark damp cave or a dimly-lit forest. Unlike, some of the console-friendly sequels that have come to market lately, this game allows the user to adjust a myriad of graphic settings such as : texture scaling, texture memory, shadow quality, LOD distance, bloom, light shafts, blur effects, anti-aliasing, depth of field, rain and wet surface effects, motion blur, resolution etc. This is a great game to show off your high-end graphics card, or to simply revel in PC-superiority in terms of gaming visuals. I have a pretty decent gaming rig (my system specs follow my review at the bottom), and I was pleased that I was unable to play the game at the maximum graphics settings without my system sputtering a bit.
Wow. The sweet sounds of the Witcher 2. The music is fantastic adding to the mood and excitement of each moment in the game, it's a soundtrack worthy of a $40 million dollar summer blockbuster film. The voice acting is a bit better this time around. You still encounter the occasional character who sounds a little less than natural, but there is not much to complain about overall. The main characters (such as Geralt) sound believable, sinister and downright cool.
The gameplay in my opinion is vastly improved. In the original game I occasionally had issues making Geralt perform the action I wanted, or hit the enemy I intended. That issue has been remedied and instead the player is left with an obedient avatar slaying and playing the way he/she intends. The combat system is more dynamic, too, no longer do your spells take up their own mouse button- nor is switching between spells a cumbersome task. In the first game, I disliked the idea of having to switch to a fighting mode, whether it be group, strong, or fast. I also grew bored timing my attacks to the hit indicator (like a constant and repetitive mini-game)in order to string longer combo's together. I wanted the fights to be more fluid without me having to tinker with what "mode" I was in. Thankfully, the developers seem to have agreed and replaced the system with a more seamless combat system. Gerald can now fight a group of enemies, without having to change the fight style or account for what armor the enemy is wearing. The fighting is not easy, you will have to block and evade in order to overcome enemies. So, if you are like some, and wanted to stand in the middle of a group of enemies and swing your sword like Conan to slay them all in one swoop, this is the wrong game. It requires, technique, something a master-swordsmen would likely possess. Be wary of some of the comments others are making about the combat system, it's obvious they have not progressed far enough into the game to have unlocked some of the more deadly and impressive fighting techniques. Those techniques will come in due time and Geralt will become significantly more deadly, easing some of the normal battle encounters.
On the cerebral, emotional side of things, the dialog choices the Witcher2 forces the player to make are ambitious. The consequences of choices bear real weight. I often paused to reflect on my dialog options before settling on a response knowing that the outcome could shape my entire experience. Occasionally when you pick an option in the dialog Geralt will surprise you (normally by being overly aggressive or confrontational) while this might be against the players intentions, it's often rather entertaining.
When the game prompts you to choose your difficulty, take it seriously. If you are a skilled RPG player and you choose EASY you will likely still die a handful of times through your journey. If you choose NORMAL, you might die within the first 10 minutes of gameplay depending which dialog options you chose (as this may give you a difficult initial sequence). Choosing HARD, will make battles seem at times laborious and incredibly challenging, you will die often. Now, if you choose INSANE (and my hats off to you brave witcher), it's just that, insane. Should you die in this mode its game over, there is no re-loading and trying again. Cool option to have though, right?
In fact, if you are not a hardcore gamer I would recommend you put the game on easy. If you read some of the negative reviews here on Amazon it is often due to difficulty, which then the reviewer blames on the game- when they could just opt for an easier setting.
Game Length and Size
The game is rich and weighs in about 15.9G of data (take that SSD!). The game lasts about 40 hours, per the developers claim. Yet, the replayability is quite high, as there are a variety of different endings and paths to take.
The Bottom Line
If you are hungry for an RPG with rich graphics,challenging combat, a gripping non-linear story and a level of polish rarely seen in games, purchase the Witcher 2. The development team behind the Witcher 2 is arguably one of the coolest around and obviously poured their hearts into this project. In fact, they provided some of the best free downloadable content for their original game long after most of the sales were finalized. If you have a question about the game, feel free to leave a comment. I will try to answer ASAP. Happy hunting.
- Great Graphics
- Fun Story
- Dialog is well-written and inventive
- Multiple endings
- Rewarding system for leveling
- Downloadable content
- Designed for adult audiences
- well-developed characters
- engrossing world to explore
- excellent story-telling devices
- developer support
- Difficulty may be out of scale, easy is not easy.
- Occasionally unresponsive controls (button presses every once in awhile will not elicit a response)
- (very)Minor story flubs (Elf character spares a defeated enemy, the next scene he swears to kill him once he finds him)
- Some users report bugs(not me, but I have seen enough people mention them to validate the claims)
- Not for Children (Strong sexual content and language)
- Endings feel abrupt, rushed and non-climatic, there are great moments in the game, the endings are not one of them.
MY System Specs While Playing The Witcher 2:
CPU: Sandy Bridge Core i5 2500k, Overclocked to 4.4ghz, Antec Kuhler 620 H2O CPU cooler.
Motherboard: Asus Sabertooth P67
GPU: (2x SLI) MSI N560GTX-TI Twin Frozr II/OC GeForce GTX 560 Ti (Fermi) 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card
MEMORY: G-Skillz 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory (overclocked)
PSU: Antec Truepower 23754 TP-750 BLUE LED 750-Watt PSU NVIDIA SLI Certified 80 Plus Bronze Advanced Hybrid Cable Management Power Supply
CASE: Silverstone Raven-02EW
on November 26, 2011
I just wanted to answer a few questions that I had before downloading this game from amazon, and I saw a few others had the same questions too. This was my first time downloading a game from amazon and with the exception of the painfully slow speed, everything went as smooth as butter. I will leave the review of the actual game to the others on here, they have already done a much more in depth job than i would have, and lets be honest we all know this game rocks anyway.
1) You do not have to download the entire game before receiving your activation key. You will receive an email with instructions on how to access it from the amazon site in your account somewhere.
2) Your activation key will not work with steam (darn) This is probably a no brainer for most of you, but I really was hoping just to buy a key from amazon and let steam do the rest. Unfortunately that is not possible.
3) The download was, for me at least, painfully slow. Granted the file was large, at least 5 or 6 GB for the installer, but it was still slower than steam by a longshot. You are looking at about 12 to 13 hours from the time you click 'buy' till the time you are patched and in game.
4) Steam advertises that their version of the game is version 2.0. This amazon version is the same as the steam version, it just has to patch several times to get there, but it handles it all automatically, all you have to do is click ok as each patch is applied. After the huge patch 2.0 is downloaded, another brief installer will bring you up to date. Everything happens automatically and is quite painless, given you are not impatient to play. At the time of writing, it stopped patching at version 2.1
That's about it. At the time I am writing this it is Black Friday and this game cost 16 bucks to download from amazon vs. $26.73 on Steam. Even though the price was better and the install and patching went smoothly, I would have paid the extra 10 bucks to get it from Steam if I could do it over again. And knowing my luck, this game will be 16 bucks on Steam tomorrow anyway, but now I'm just rambling. Its time to do some WITCHING!
on September 10, 2011
"The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings" is from the developers CD Projekt RED and published again by Atari, same as the first installment of the franchise released in 2007 was. The Polish developers have based and made the game in heart of the famous Polish novel "The Witcher" and still follows the same protagonist. Sophisticated gameplay, mechanics, environments, character customization, and other great features are all attributes that make The Witcher a fun and riveting adventure to undertake. Almost all of the features that could've been improved on over the first game have been improved, BUT many of the smaller features that were completely fine in the first Witcher game have been rethought as well and they didn't need to be to begin with and are not as good as the first game's systems. If you didn't play the first game you won't notice the difference and they are obviously not a huge deal as my score of the game would entail. If you can sit through the chinwag I'll talk about everything good, lessened, better off, and absolutely amazing about "The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings".
The simple breakdown of "The Witcher" is like so...
Graphics/Character Performance and Animation - 10/10
Fun Factor - 9/10
Story - 10/10
User Interfacing - 8/10
Learning Curve - Fairly steep
Sound - 8.5/10
Value - 10/10
Total - 9.2 / 10
Jump down to my "All in all" if you only want a brief summary. I have also put key-words in CAPS to indicate what the bulk of that specific paragraph is discussing to make the review easy to navigate to points of interest.
You play the game as Geralt of Rivia, a Witcher. What is a WITCHER? I am glad you asked. A Witcher is a special type of human who is no longer human. After undergoing an alchemical ritualistic process, in which only two out of five survive, the human body is forever mutated into what is known as a Witcher. The mutation varies from subject to subject but several attributes are always obtained; superhuman speed, agility, dexterity, metabolism, and the ability to use magic. During your specific Witcher's mutation his hair turned white and his pupils construed to a vertical fixing making Geralt's eyes appear as those of a cat's. The mutation is a means to the end of gaining these superhuman enhanced attributes with the hopes of procuring an upper-hand in their deadly occupation of professional Monster-Slayer.
Geralt's tale is a MATURE AND RIVETING STORY to undertake. The game opens to Geralt incarcerated in a dungeon. His back is riddled with whip marks and flayed in multiple directions and his wrists have bruises around them from their long stay in shackles. The signs of torture and prolonged exposure to medieval dungeon conditions are blatantly apparent. Geralt is summoned to an interrogation chamber; he begins to tell the man who summoned him, Vernon Roche, a tale. The prologue is told from a framed narrative in which Geralt explains the events of "The Day of the Assault". The day that a king conquers a war front and escaped the deadly jaws of a fire-breathing dragon only to meet his end at the hands of an assassin. Geralt starts his tale in a war camp littered with troops training, praying, playing dice, and watching in amazement as sling-catapults bombard the enemy before the troops enter battle. Geralt is in bed with Triss, his lover from the first game, and the evidence of whip wounds and shackle bruises are absent. The tale is obviously now being told back before his current dungeon predicament. After lying in bed with Triss a guardsmen comes into their tent and informs Geralt that the king has summoned him to the front lines. After reaching the front lines the Witcher and the king ascend a large siege vehicle that is headed to the castle walls. As you climb ladders and talk to the king many, troops can be seen getting ready, slaver-type people turn a massive gear (suggest the people pushing the mechanism is what makes the siege engine move), other commanders cry war chants, and a catapult projectile crashes through the siege vehicle's walls. This is one of the first real displays of the game's magnificent attention to detail and realism. The siege vehicle stops. The heavy doors slam down and Geralt and the king's men charge into battle. After slaughtering several warriors and pushing onward your ban is halted by a well-placed barricade and archers. Geralt must get down to a ballista and fire it at the barricade. Unlike "The Witcher 1", Geralt can now drop-down like a parkour artist, hurdle over objects, press against walls, climb up ladders and vault onto important environmental places. After clearing several obstacles and escaping the jaws of a fire-breathing dragon by the hair on your chinny-chin-chin you and the king reach the desired location where his two bastard children are being held. All of these different parts of the prologue act as a tutorial for the player and when Vernon is interrogating Geralt you have the option to tell the section of the story you want or you can skip to where the king is assassinated, essentially bypassing the tutorial if desired. After the assassin kills the king he escapes and Geralt looks to be the only one there and is framed for the murder. This is why he is currently in the predicament in the dungeon. Vernon Roche believes your story of a different assassin and slips you a key to make your escape from the dungeon after he has departed with the promise of you finding the "king slayer". Your real adventure begins.
The Witcher 2 has what most games save for their epic climatic ending in its prologue...massive war scenario, dragons, and an assassin making an attempt on a king. This is a truly epic introduction into this specific fantasy world's nuances and a look into the life of a vagabond monster killing mercenary known as a Witcher.
The game still utilizes "artistic" CUT-SCENES to narrate important plot points like the first game did. The first Witcher game had Geralt narrate over a still-illustrated-image as the camera panned across it while Geralt talked about the events depicted in it. Now, the plot narrations have made a return, but they're more animated and feel like a 1500's medieval-style live action fresco painting of sorts. They remind me of the first "KILL BILL" when one of the movie's chapter turns from live action to animation. It is a really great artistic choice and shows appreciation to and complements a more abstracted 2-D medium in a game that pays immaculate attention to realism and detail. A fitting breath of fresh air in a game (and industry) filled with realism standards. The animated sequences are a fantastic contra-standard to the rest of the work.
CONVERSATION CHOICES have made a return and are better than ever. Sometimes you can choose between several different options to pursue your interactions with people through dialogue. For example, your water spell from the first game that took over an enemy's mind to help fight on your side can now be used to try and "Jedi mind trick" people into telling you what you want to know. You can also try to persuade people with insightful words or hurt them. One conversation event I don't like is when an hour glass appears next to the choices and forces you to make a split-second decision before the timer runs out. This feature is pretty cool, but I am not a very fast reader and I rarely get a chance to read all of the options let alone choose the one I want...but that is kind of the point.
IMPORTANT PLOT POINTS are mixed throughout the entire game because even SIDE-QUSTS in this game feel like most game's main storyline's quests. You make pivotal decisions fairly often that will affect the entire world. You also make numerous amounts of smaller choices on side-quests that affect your personal story. You need to try not to be shortsighted as personal choices could bite you in the arse several chapters past where the initial decision was made. This game has something like 14 different endings depending on the choices you will have to make. The quests feel important and are never entirely run-of-the-mill. Witcher 2 has basically done away with the extremely simple Witcher 1 quests like any other average RPG might have which is the RPG standby of the famed kill and fetch quests. For example, a quest that only contains "go here...kill "X" amount of a certain bad guy's face and bring it back" have been removed. The quests might be similar, but they at least require some thought or some reading. Sure, a quest might ask for you to "go close all of the Nekker nests" which is basically a kind of a kill and fetch quest, but it has been rethought and is more interesting and involving. Furthermore, these nests are like giant anthills in the ground and you are going to have to learn a new bomb formula so you can "fire in the hole" these guys with some serious boom. These quests usually take you into the massive hostile environments of the game outside the man populated areas and can throw things at you that might be there one time and not the next. Like, one time when I was attempting to destroy the large Nekker anthills I stumble across a Scoia'tael patrol. The Scoia'tael are Elvan rebels and they don't take kindly to anyone who even resembles human. The Scoia'tael patrol started to fight me, and then Nekkers started to hear the commotion and emerged from their underground lairs. The Scoia'tael where immediately attacked by the Nekkers and ceased attacking me to face their new more threatening enemy. These quests and the environments they take you to are amazing and filled with different types of situational action that can change from one experience to the next.
As for the GRAPHICS AND ENVIRONMENTS, you may have probably seen graphics like these before. Environments on the other hand, I would say it's like from "this game or that game" but truthfully...you've never seen anything like it. I used to believe that Demon's Souls had the best level design and rendered environments I had ever seen (well, I still do for that time in gaming), but Witcher 2 destroys how good those environments are. It is these true-to-life environments that make what are "seen before graphics" and transforms the game into what appears to be an evolutionary step in gaming graphically. Have you ever walked in a forest? The environments feel like that. You feel as though you could easily get lost and turned around. It is only through traversing the same paths multiple times that you feel you could venture into this forest with confidence as to where you are going and how to find your way back. The environments are ENORMOUS and none of it feels like it is copied or the same anywhere throughout its entirety. Every tree body and branch direction feel unique and hand crafted. Leaves seldom trickle down like a feather. Birds chirp and scurry when you are near. Light beams only breakthrough in sparse areas of the forest's mighty canopy. Atmospheric perspective is flawless and background objects fade into sight as you venture closer to them. Every aspect of each environment is breath takingly striking and amazing. The environments have the feel and scope in size of something like "Oblivion" without any of the repetitive nature in their crafting like the beauty and immaculate level design of "Demon's Souls".
Did I mention that there is basically no LOAD TIMES whatsoever when free roaming the environments? Strategically placed rocks you need to climb or doors you have to walk through "block" your way so that you have to interact with them. While Geralt is going through his animation of scaling the rock or walking through the threshold of the door an extremely brief load time can be seen taking place. That is about it as far as load times and exploration go. The world is not as completely free roaming as a game like "Red Dead Redemption" or "TES: Oblivion" are, but it is just as big and is by no means linear or constricting feeling. The reason it is as big but not as free roaming is because each chapter has its own gigantic zone. Then, after completion of a chapter you can no longer backtrack to previous chapter's environments.
MAP AND TRAVEL are fine. You still travel everywhere on foot and the map is not very difficult to navigate. I don't like the map as much as in the first game, but it is barely worth mentioning. The map doesn't indicate important character's homes or where they are most likely spending their time during the day. I remember one time I needed to find an elf I talked to earlier because I didn't buy a bomb recipe off him that I needed for those Nekker nests and it took me forever to find him again because even when tracking the quest the map would not indicate his current position and or where I had first met him. Because the environments are so detailed and large when you're new to a zone you think to yourself..."is this where I met that guy before?" Sometimes the enormity of the maps can be a bit overwhelming.
EXPERIENCE AND LEVELING SYSTEM are pretty much completely revamped. You still go up levels in the same manner as before through gaining experience points. The talent point system has changed a lot though and they got rid of Bronze, Silver, and Gold talent points. Talents can be spent at your leisure. The leveling attribute trees; Stamina, Strength, Dexterity, and Intellect have been removed. Swordsmanship, Alchemy, Magic, and Training are now what exist to customize your Witcher's combat prowess. The skill trees are a true "web system". Meaning, you don't have to have all connecting parts to get a desired skill. Any single strand in the webbing that touches the talent you want can be used to link to said desired talent. Each talent in the game has 0/2 possible points to distribute into each talent. The game does not follow a traditional method of where usually the second point into a skill will just do the exact same thing as the first point did except double its effects. For example, level 1 of "Riposte" in the swordsmanship tree unlocks the ability to counter an opponent's blows. Level 2 of "Riposte" gives the chance of an instant kill after a counter attack of +10%. There are some skills though that do just double the effect of the skill's first level. Like, "Harvester" in the alchemy tree which the first level does +50% when gathering ingredients and level 2 does +100% ingredients when gathering. Not every skill has a totally different second level upgrade, but more than not do and the second level of a skill is usually greatly more powerful than the first with incentive to distribute your talent to get that second level of the same skill.
You will have to waste 6 points at the start in the "Training" tree to open up the 3 real skill trees. 35 is the max level. So, with the 35 cap and 6 points wasted into the "Training" tree you're going to have 29 points to customize Geralt to your desires. You'll reach your 6th point to open up the rest of your trees very early in the first chapter.
The DIFFERENT SKILL TREES are designed in such a way that it is easy to get early skills that are in one tree that can greatly benefit a person more focused on a completely different tree. Someone who wants to focus on magic can do so and still get some really great and useful skills from the other two trees while not sacrificing their ability to be a powerful magic user. For example, in the swordsmanship tree there is a skilled called "Feet Work" which enhances distance covered when dodging by 100%. This can be useful for any spec and is very early in the swordsmanship tree. Another example is early in the alchemy tree and is called "Potion Specialization" which level 1 gives +10% potion duration and level 2 gives +40% potion duration. These skill trees offer up a great variety in depth of different possible character builds and customizations.
Swordsmanship, of course, focuses more on being "in the thick of it", on melee abilities, and "toughness" which makes your Witcher able to negate more damage upon receiving it.
Alchemy is more of a hybrid type specialization, but more focused on melee as well. It is a special type of fighting though which gives incentives to actually take too much potions and raise your toxicity to get poisoned. In this spec whenever Geralt is poisoned from toxicity his combat prowess is greatly enhanced.
Magic is also just what it sounds like. Though your magic abilities are greatly enhance and in the later stages of the game you might be able to be strictly a caster-type class, but a Witcher needs to use their melee swords no matter what.
MUTAGENS are a new addition to the game and add yet another level of possible character customizations. Mutagens boost your talent tree skills that allow for a mutagen slot. There are only 8 skills in the game that utilize a mutagen open socket; Fortitude, Arrow Redirection, Mutant, Amplification, Magical Sense, Control of the Power, Combat Acumen, and Whirlwind. Mutagens can be looted from defeated enemies or you can crate them as a byproduct of alchemy. Mutagens usually take one of three forms: Lesser, Basic, and Greater. Each of these forms raises the character's statistics, but by varied amounts.
-Critical Effects- Increases the chance of causing critical effects.
-Range- Increases the range of your sings.
-Vitality- Increases HP.
-Power- Increases sword damage.
-Strength- Increases damage reduction.
-Concentration- Increases Sign damage.
-Madness- Armor +2 and Vitality +5.
COMBAT in The Witcher has been changed. The main meters of combat are vitality (your HP), vigor (your mana and or parrying capabilities), adrenaline (built-up to execute powerful skill tree talents), and toxicity (how many potions you can take before you die from consumption). MELEE combat still incorporates the use of a steel sword for animal and humanoids and a silver sword for monsters and supernatural enemies. Sword stances have been replaced with a simple left-click for quick weak attacks and right-click for stronger slower attacks. Simple doesn't mean bad, melee can be very fun. Parry has been added as well to melee's repertoire. I do wish that you could hold parry and walk very slowly to really engage in a proper cautionary duel with someone or something, but when holding down your parry function Geralt is stationary. Your parry and ability to cast signs are on the same meter, vigor. SPELLS and parrying being on the same meter requires sound and tactical decision making during combat. All five signs from the first game have made a return with the addition of one new sign added to the second-to-last ability in the magic tree. Such spells still include conjurations of fire, force pushes, ground traps, protective force field, and mind control. The new sign is the "Heliotrope" sign and it is an area of effect time-slow spell. MOVEMENT and rolling are similar to the first game, but revised with Demon's Souls qualities. You jump and roll out of harm's way as often as possible and try not to expose your vulnerable backside to enemies. No true "lock-on" mechanic can hinder the combat experience occasionally. It can be frustrating to designate your desired target of attack. Combat at times feels very fluid and one attack can go in tandem from one opponent to the next with graceful poise in a deadly dance. The almost free flowing fluidity of the combat can feel a bit like "Batman: Arkham Asylum" at times and is very satisfying. All of these different fighting elements combine for a very interesting and malleable player customizable combat experience.
STEALTH is a newly added feature of the game. It is situational and a bit problematic. The game implemented this feature at only specific points in the game. So it is not like a player choice to be a rogue or assassin-type of a character through stealth movements and attacks. You're only able to sneak when the narrative calls for it. You can use your "Aard" sign to silently extinguish a nearby torch to further the cover of shadows to aid you, allowing you to more easily sneak up behind a foe and elbow-bash the back of their skull for a quick take down. At times NPCs seem to get a line-of-sight on you when it is clearly impossible and or at times spot you when the exact same circumstances have delivered a clean knockout or get away. What i am saying is the need for narration to enter stealth and mechanic inconsistencies downplay what could have possibly been an extremely enjoyable implementation to the game. Stealth is still fairly fun though.
ENEMIES in the game have been show a lot of love...let's face it you are a monster-slayer, it is a pretty big deal in a game like this. Besides the aesthetics of the creatures they have been improved with more vicious fighting technics as an individual or try to swarm you in packs depending on the nature of the beasts. Fire-breathing, acid spitting, mob wrenching, and intelligent opponents full this game to the brim with excellent combat and battle scenarios.
BOSSES in the game are FAR more epic in scope, mechanic, and unforgivability than ever before. Bosses will chew you up and spit you out. You are going to die...easy as that. Their scope and feel seem to be directly influenced by a "God of War-esque" scale and their difficulty and range of mechanics pay homage to Demon's Souls. They're truly epic and MEAN.
This impart is why the LEARNING CURVE seems so steep. Normal enemies can be a tough challenge and some bosses can be easier than some "world found" enemies. Some bosses can be downright a blast to fight even though they take you and smear you to the wall. The learning curve is quite steep because you never know how hard one situation will be from one moment to the next, luckily though the game's difficulty can be adjusted at any time.
The EQUIPMENT and OPEN-GEAR-SLOTS at your disposal is much more plentiful than the first Witcher. The first Witcher had several sword slots, full body armor slot, and ring slots for rings that didn't do much of anything. The Witcher 2 has done away with the ring slots, but now implements slots for boots, gloves, leggings, torso armor, silver sword, steel sword, and a trophy socket. Whenever changing out gear Geralt's physical appearance is altered due to the aesthetic of the corresponding equipped item. The game doesn't support an amount of items like a game that is basically an "item hunt" like "Diablo II" or "Torchlight", but has a wide range of different pieces of equipment for each open-gear-slot. If you have played Demon's Souls think along the lines of that, except for a bit more.
Weapons and armor can have OPEN-SOCKETS in them. Whereas before, in Witcher 1 yellow, blue, and red meteorite rock were combine to create steel swords and yellow, blue, and red rune stones were combine to create silver swords. These (and other) runes are now used as enhancements to be placed in a desired open-socket in a weapon. Armor has open-sockets as well and armor enhancements can be placed in them too. Like, "Diamond Armor Reinforcements" for +10 vitality and or "Endrega Hide" for +10% resistances to poisoning.
ITEM CRAFTING is vastly superior to the first Witcher game. The game's item crafting systems for equipment and weapons is more along the lines of very in-depth crafting systems found in most MMORPGs. You need multiple crafting components and some are only dropped from bosses or rare to find. (This is where I would normally talk about inventory and items and whatnot, but items and inventory had to get pulled down to the "bad" section of the review.)
The WITCHER'S MEDALLION is still worn around Geralt's neck and still contains the same abilities as before of sensing magic and monsters. In most CRPGs, Witcher 1 included, the alt key is for displaying different items and people you can interact with in the environment. In The Witcher 2 they have taken the alt function and the medallion's previous abilities and combine them into a single "Z" button press. A delightfully sounding and eye-pleasing spell-like animation "shockwaves" out from Geralt and highlights everything in the room, tavern, forest, cavern, or wherever that Geralt can interact with. Downside is that the "shockwave search function" is on a cool-down timer and alt has no function and neither "Z" nor alt tell you where or displays NPCs name's above their heads. This can make it hard to find desired locations and persons.
ALCHEMY in many aspects is the same as Witcher 1. On the other hand, many things have been modified, rethought, or done away with. No alcohol, grease or fat, and powder bases are needed anymore to create potions, weapon oils, and bombs. Many of the old potions return from the first game, but like I said many have been modified or rethought. The potions that have been modified basically now have to take into consideration the fact that there is an alchemy skill tree, so some potions are not nearly as powerful as they were from the get-go in Witcher 1. "Swallow" for example was a very powerful health regeneration potion. Now, "Swallow" is barely useful with a slow and weak +1 health regen. The alchemy skill tree has a talent that is early in the tree and reachable no matter what your desired specialization you wish to go with is. This skill is "Catalysis" and the first point into the talent adds +15% to potion benefits and -30% from potion negations with the first point and +30% and -80% with the second point (most negative effects of potions only reach -30%, so the percentages go from negating the negative effects with the first point of Catalysis to turning them into buffs after the second point). "Cat" has changed to be more of a way to help guide you through some of the harder stealthy parts of the game. "Cat" no longer only allows Geralt sight in otherwise pitch-black areas, now it also gives Geralt a pseudo-X-ray vision like that of one of Batman's detective modes in "Batman: Arkham Asylum". After consuming "Cat" the screen filters everything to black-and-white, your hearing feels amplified, and the only thing that has color is the intensely bright inner workings of foes that you can see through into their veins, nervous system, and beating heart. In the end, alchemy's core functionality is basically the same as before. You consume potions for benefits and they ingest toxicity into your system as side-effects.
Sword oils are basically the exact same as before where you coat your weapon in an oil for an enhanced weapon effect with the desired coating. Some oil coatings include "Arachnid Oil" which adds an 80% chance to poisoning your target or oils like "Whirl" which adds 10% damage.
Bombs have a much larger variety than before and the addition of traps is a great improvement. Such bombs are "Beehive" which adds the condition of "wound" to all it hits or "Dragon's Breath" which disperses a flammable cloud that can be combusted with the use of the Igni sign.
Potions, oils, and bombs make alchemy a powerful ally and add a sophisticated combat experience.
MEDITATION is a bit different than before. It can be use anywhere now and doesn't require flint and a campsite. Meditating can be used to pass time, brew potions, and now you have to go into a meditative state to drink potions (this is not good, I'll talk about it later), but can be done basically anywhere now.
VALUE. The average video game nowadays takes something like 15 hours to complete. The average most RPGs shoot for is 30-40. The Witcher 2 can easily make you clock-in 50+ hours with side-quests and main storyline. Also to mention, the game supports something like 14 different endings depending on choice nuances made in the game. In combination with really versatile skill trees this time around and multiple endgames, The Witcher 2 could easily provide a potential of hundreds of hours of entertainment. The value is 10/10 for certain.
You may think many people are getting their knees dirty with praise of this game and those praises are not hollow, but the game is not without flaw.
Most of the "bad and ugly" fall under the "it wasn't broke why did they try to fix it" category I mentioned in the introductory first paragraph of this review. Like I said before, if you're not a returning player form Witcher 1 you can basically skip past "the bad and the ugly" because what you will see in Witcher 2 is "just the way it is" for you. "The Bad" is personal perspective whereas "The Ugly" is not good for anyone.
If orens (gold) is what you need then the Witcher games always supply MINI-GAMES for the player to take part in as a way to make some quick cash. Such moneymakers include dice poker, brawling, and the new addition of arm wrestling.
I loved DICE POKER from the first Witcher and I have to say it was basically perfect. Now poker matches are not best-out-of-three and the dice have been changed. Before the dice were normal six-sided die, but now they're more fantasy-looking with a triangle to indicate a "3" and a five-tipped-star to indicated a "5" and so on. This change is fine. The changes that I dislike through and through are the matches being a single "hand" (not best of three) and the way the game makes the player roll their dice now. Before you would click an icon that depicted a hand rolling dice and the game would throw the dice for you. Now, you have to roll your own dice and the game gives you an awful camera perspective and the bundle of dice that are supposed to indicate where your hand is does not have a shadow under it. The lack of a shadow and bad camera angle let their powers combine to ruin the entire experience all together and make it hard to even get the dice to land on the board. You find yourself trying to just hover your hand over what appears to be where might be a safe spot to drop your dice...and they do just that, drop. When "throwing" your dice in this manner they don't roll and they barely do much of anything. I don't understand why they changed it from the first game at all.
ARM WRESTLING is just dumb and thrown-in. A small meter inside a longer one moves across the full length of the long meter to indicate where your arm is in relation to the table; middle being the vertical starting point where both participants are equal, left being them pushing your arm down, and right being you wrestling their arm down. You have to keep your "hand" on the smaller meter that slides along. If you are able to keep your hand inside the little meter you continuously push their arm in your favor. You move your mouse left and right as the little meter moves. Your hand placement over the little meter feels "icy" and basically all you do is just gently move your mouse to not fall off of the little meter and you win. Sounds like a lot of jargon, but it is extremely easy and trivial.
BRAWLING seems like a "Fight Club" style of animation bouts, it is more primal, skin slapping, and blood spittingly satisfying than before. Victories from brawling are achieved through the use of quick-time-events against the opponent. It is simple and fairly easy, but really fun to watch and take part in. Brawling doesn't deserve to be in the "bad" section, but fits into the overall talk about the mini-games so here it is.
INVENTORY has changed for the worse. Bad lay-out of the inventory interface slowdown navigation and a small window for item specs make them forcibly and extremely slowly scroll through an item's specifications (I will touchdown on more of this in the "ugly" section of the review). The inventory no longer shows a grid with all of the icons to indicate each item. Your items are a list of text that you scroll through. There are still icons, but only when you are on a single specific one that you happen to have your cursor over is the item's icon on display. The inventory does have a nice "heading" at the top that breaks-down categories for each item archetype like; crafting material, weapons, armor, trophies, books, etc...which is nice.
A part that goes hand-in-hand with inventory is the fact that the game now implements a WEIGHT SYSTEM. Like I have said before the game supports a plethora of goods to be found, looted, and scavenged with a large range of different types of items. From equipment, to crafting materials for gear, to alchemical components, to trophies, books, and recipes this game supports a TON of various items. Be forewarned though...there is absolutely NO STORAGE!!! Geralt's personal inventory complemented by a...Finish the last few paragraphs at the address below
In 2007 a small Eastern European game developer (CD PROJEKT)...teaches BIOWARE how to use their own Aurora engine. The original Witcher was the game that Neverwinter Nights had promised to be. Two years later BIOWARE picks up the glove and comes back with a strong response, the masterpiece Dragon Age: Origins. Unfortunately, its 2011 sequel does not live up to expectations. And this is all the opening the perfect sequel needed to come in and, once more, steal the show.
THIS IS HOW TO MAKE A cRPG SEQUEL!
Although there may be Xbox and PS3 versions of this game later on, this is a game designed from start to finish for the PC. In an age when 5-6 years old consoles set the standard this is very important. From the brand new engine to the very last script line, everything that could be worked on was and everything that could be improved shows improvement. The story is now even deeper; the graphics are several notches higher; character development has been both streamlined and more balanced; equipping Geralt is now more detailed whereas loot is abundant.
It is possible (although not necessary) to import your character from the first WITCHER. If, like me, you liked the original game, you will simply love the sequel.
LOOK AT THE SKY: IT IS THE WITCHING HOUR - EVERY HOUR!
The graphics are simply A-MA-ZING! I like the way the rock formations catch the moving shadows and how the wind stirs up dust. I like the subtle movement of the grass and the exploding colors of the wild flowers. I like the textures of the clothes, the shine of the armor and the glint of the swords. I like the way the sun gets in your eyes and the way rays of light play with the tree foliage.
What is also important, these graphics and dynamic lighting are achieved even on medium-built systems (Minimum specs: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.2GHz/AMD 2.5GHz, nVidia 8800/ATI 3850, 1GB of RAM for WinXP/ 2GB for WinVISTA&7).
Even more impressively, the game is set in a day/night cycle, and this is reflected not only on the levels of ambient light but also on the activities of the surrounding world.
THE WORLD AROUND YOU COMES TRULY ALIVE
Remember how in most RolePlaying games approaching a Non-Playing Character (NPC) usually means he or she would utter any one of a small number of preset phrases? After a while, you have heard them all and it got very predictable. Well, prepare to be surprised. Again and again.
This is a world you will truly be immersed into. A world that wakes up, goes to work, gossips, bickers and barters, and unwinds in the tavern. Walk the same streets at night and they are eerily empty. And that is without taking into account the ever changing weather!
The immersion is so total for yet two other reasons: not only is the world fully open from the very beginning (no blocked areas or closed bridges!) but there are no loading delays between areas (only between chapters).
THE LIFE OF A WITCHER IS NEVER BORING
Geralt is a real warlock, combining a mix of sword fighting with potions and spells. These are the three main character developing trees, Swordmaster, Alchemist or Mage. Sword moves, potion ingredients and spells can be combined - and all choices are meticulously balanced.
With the original WITCHER it took me a while to master the timed sword-strokes - but it was really satisfying after that. In the sequel, sword-fighting has been simplified to the classic mod - and that is one of the gripes I have with this game. The other is the short dialogue options. I like my cRPGs wordy.
Now, the story is far from being linear. Choices matter and choosing a path will bifurcate the story, most of the times irrevocably. And the story in WITCHER 2 is as important as the fighting.
What I also appreciated was the return of consequences. Those of you who have played BALDUR's GATE Saga know that bashing or picking the lock of a chest was a punishable offense if anyone saw you. In contrast, in DA-O you could rob the town blind and (quite unrealistically) the NPCs could not care less. Well, in this game, your character better behave or face the ever vigilant guards.
ADJUST TO YOUR ACCEPTABLE LEVEL OF BINDING
Most retail versions of the game come with a simple disc-check, implemented by SecuROM. If you own FALLOUT 3, for example, you have experienced the same thing. Compared to the customer-abusing schemes out there (UBISOFT's and 2K GAMES' ears should be burning at this point) I find this solution not ideal but palatable. And yet it gets better: if you are objecting even to this mild version of SecuROM, the developers made sure to also release the (digital) GOG version of the game which is DRM-free. Just for giving us this option, THE WITCHER 2 gets full marks in my books!
A FINAL SPELL
I have only praises for this magnificent sequel to a great game. It was one of the rare cases when I pre-ordered a game before I knew anything about it and was rewarded with a game that exceeded my highest expectations. I do have some advice for the game developers though.
First, keep showing the same respect to your customers and you will see that gamers know how to repay this with equal respect and loyalty. And finally, when the mega-publishers show up at your door with their mesmerizing bags of money, try to remember what happened to so many great game developing groups in the past that did not resist to temptation.
WITH MY HIGHEST RECOMMENDATIONS!
(and not only because they promised all of their future DLCs to be free!)
I just adored Witcher 1, played through it numerous times, despite its kooky mechanics. Once you got the hang of it, you could move through it and dig deeply into the story and make the choices that made the game so amazing. It had it all, fighting, potions, magic, sex, choices, and a wonderful quirkiness.
I simply could not wait for Witcher 2. I pre ordered pretty early on, and (rare for me at least) counted down the days when it would be released. Now for my thoughts.....
World and Environment:
Just beautiful and immersive. You FEEL like you are in the place. The scenery and artwork are amazing, deep and remarkable. Details abound, with stuff laying around all over the place. There are zillions of NPCs to talk to, and tons of missions to take on. Unfortunately, where Witcher 1 was a massive world that was about as non linear as it comes, Witcher 2 has TOO MANY boundaries. There are just too many places you can't go, and it becomes tiring to navigate. The map system is absolutely terrible, bordering on useless. And sometimes, you can wander around for an hour and end up back where you started. Just awful
Controls and Gameplay:
A MAJOR step backwards, sideways and downhill. What was a quirky yet predictable system for swordplay and inventory management in the first installment, has now become painful and tiring. I'm all for a hard and challenging game, but something is terribly awry here. Controls are just non responsive much of the time, which results in you dying over and over again, because the keys don't do what you need them to do, or they do random things (Darksiders PC did this too, and made a fun game tiring).
First of all, when the game begins it is absolutely beyond difficult. You just die over and over again. I would expect the difficulty to ramp up as you level up, but here its the opposite. Makes continuing really painful. I had to stop and do something else, as it was so annoying, it made me either mad or bummed out.
Next, in general while part of the swordplay has been improved, moving fighting modes to mouse buttons for example, it is pretty unpredictable. Also, the whole potion issue, which is an integral part of fighting now has to be done WELL AHEAD of the fighting, which is totally dumb. Its idiotic because you never know when enemies will appear, so how can you plan. Just dumb. What were they thinking.
Also, while loot from fighting has been moved to a small brown pouch, you either can't find the pouch because of the very brown environment, or if its in a woodsy area, you simply can't find it at all, because you need to be nearly on top of it to find it. In Witcher 1, you could find loot from a reasonable distance, now, you need to be on top of it. Timewasting and annoying.
Another completely stupid thing are traps. When you wander around woods for example, there are traps all over the place, which wound you, but DON'T wound or kill enemies, NPCs or monsters. Huh? There's one place in a lake area, where there are bandits living. Their house is surrounded by 20 traps or so. If you try to get to them, you get hurt over and over again, but the enemies step right through them and nothing happens. If they follow you into the traps, you get hurt but they don't. Crazy and frustrating.
Inventory management is radically changed, not entirely for the best, but not terrible either. It is nicely organized, and you now have a weight approach to maximum stuff, versus total slots like in Witcher 1. Either way is fine, but finding stuff now is painful in inventory because you have to page through 20 categories. Books and recipes are now even more bizarre, where you MUST have some basic things just to play, but no where to find them. While the mission narratives try and clue you in, if you don't know where to get a book or a recipe, you're hosed and wander around like a moron for hours.
Witcher 2 adds Crafting, which is ok, but not necessary. You go to craftsmen to make things, but none of them is particularly meaningful, other than the silver Witchers sword. Crafting is not a bad addition, but not needed.
Navigation and organization:
This is where the game went absolutely downhill. Navigation and maps are now almost completely useless. Most RPGs, including Witcher 1, point you in some direction for your mission. You have at least a CLUE as to where you need to go. In Witcher 2, what feels like 90% of the missions have ZERO directions and locations on the large map. So you wander around for hours looking for a fight. And the mini map is completely useless too, as it has no directional reference (ie North, etc). Completely worthless. Combine this with the severe linearity of most of the game, and you are constantly running into barriers and having to go around obstacles, and ending back where you started. Ouch!
Organization has gone downhill too. Where in Witcher 1, you could bound between your Journal, Map, Inventory, etc on 1 screen, now you can't. One of the nice things about the Witcher 1 approach, is you could see what missions were near you, by selecting one, and seeing where you needed to go on the map. Now, not only can't you do that, but the map doesn't tell you anything anyway. I'm befuddled over this one.
So far, this game is a profound disappointment in many ways. I love the story, the characters, the political intrigue, and the setting. But I just deplore the gameplay and mechanics. I don't mind dying in games, and each game has its quirks that you need to learn to deal with. Witcher 1 was very unique and a bit hard to get into when it first was released. You had to stick with it to get the addiction point, but once there, it was awesome. I have many hours into Witcher 2, and I'm just struggling to connect with the gameplay. I can only play for an hour or so, sometimes less, as its so painful. I don't mind the harder swordplay, but the navigation, the linearity, the obtuse nature of so much of it just makes it a bad experience.
The good news is that CD Projekt is VERY responsive and listens to their fans and customers. Witcher 1 received a total game changing (and improving) update/patch a while after it was released, which made playing it even more pleasurable. I hope they do the same with Witcher 2. Ugh
on January 10, 2012
The Witcher 2 offers a unique action / rpg style game unlike any I've ever played before. The game plays almost like The Legend of Zelda, but features a level-up system. There is a complex menu system for those that really want to delve deep into the game with alternative play styles, such as alchemy, crafting (armor, weapons, etc.), and more. The Witcher 2 also has fantastic customization options: You can change Geralt's hair, weapons, armor, gloves, pants, shoes, and even wear a trophy you sliced from your last big kill. The RPG-style level-up system allows the player to choose from among 3 different general characteristics, almost like choosing a class in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. One can choose to enhance weaponry, alchemy, or signs (basically, magic). The story features two general story lines, each taking 25-30 hours to complete. You can choose to follow the path that aims to follow the "good" people, or, by choosing to react differently to major dialogues, delve deep into the story of a bandit to discover more about your past. Either way, this game is certainly worth playing twice through, and is a must-have for every fan of Action/Adventure/RealTimeRPG.
on January 6, 2012
I played this with my gamepad and had a great time with it.
The plot has me craving gritty RPGs and as a result I've played so many older games in the last few months that I've had to come back and thank the Witcher 2 for giving me these joys!
The voice acting is fantastic. Lets just say it again! Fantastic! Geralt is one of my favorite game characters ever. All of his speech options are wonderful. It's like being the kind of man you would be if you were in fact a Witcher. This is a man who talks like a sailor, and is only good because he wants to be, not because he's been shoved into some nice hero role. Let us also note he is -dreamy-. If we were a random girl, we would totally give him our playing card. That's gone, though. Playing cards have been traded in for mild sex scenes with very few women. I'm not going to lie, as much as I complained about my ladylove being a collectible, I really missed it in this game. Couldn't we of had the sex scene -and- the card?
I love the fact that your choices do make a difference in this game. Yes, the game could be difficult, but it was a good difficult. The options weren't HARD, since you knew you were just going to come back and play again anyways. It's not like Alpha Protocol where you suspect that every single option is going to lead to another replay. Just a few, well placed choices to make your gameplay that much more interesting.
It is an action RPG. I don't really have a problem with that. Some of my favorite games (Mass effect 2) are action RPGs- if you do prefer a more traditional RPG you may want to avoid this and just remember the first Witcher fondly.
The graphics are beautiful! Mmm! And not terribly graphics card intensive, either.
I still preferred TW1, as I loved it's quirky wonderfulness... but I do think this was a 5 star game.
on November 5, 2012
The Witcher 2 leaves off where the first Witcher ended, but don't let that intimidate you. The game does a good job with not making itself beholden to the story of the first and is accessible to newcomers with no knowledge of the Witcher world, though I recommend you try the first one if you can too just to experience it. Do not worry if you have not read the books either- I went into the first game having no knowledge of them, and I was not confused or intimidated. Most of what you need to know is discussed in the game or in texts scattered across the world.
Other reviewers have gone into great detail about this game so I will try to be brief. As far as the game's environment goes, the game does a good job by creating an interesting world. It is a mature one not only for its violence and nudity that netted it a M rating, but also for its more grey representation of characters. There is no "absolute" good or bad, at least for the majority of the characters. There are opposing factions and viewpoints, some of which you will encounter in the game directly that have their pros and cons. I've heard some people compare the way the fantasy world here is constructed to A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) with respect to its grim outlook with spots of moral ambiguity.
The game has a short introductory sequence/tutorial mode where the player can learn to control Geralt, useful for both newcomers and those who haven't played the first game in awhile. The overall mechanism of combat and alchemy in the game have been retained. "Normal" swords and Silver or Enchanted swords still exist, affecting normal humans and beasts/undead respectively. Alchemy is still used for making potions and mutagens for traits. The leveling system is still done such that it probably impossible you will get all the traits in any given playthrough, making the player specialize their character according to what play style they want, done broadly in swords/combat, magic, and alchemy. The controls have been adjusted somewhat from the first, for the better in my opinion. They might be intimidating at first, but by the time you get through the first chapter of the game, you will probably have the hang of it. I was able to proceed through much of the game with out trouble once I got a hang of the mechanics, though I got hung up on the final boss which I found to be a challenge.
As far as exploration goes, the game is similar to the first in that it's not strictly an expansive free-roaming world. Each of the game's chapters is within a specific region where all the main and side quests take place. Within this specific region, the character is free to explore and interact. Once you finish the main quests associated with a chapter, you can not return back to the region, so keep that in mind if you like doing side quests. Like the first Witcher, there are choices that Geralt must make that will determine some of the quests he will end up doing and the specific areas in regions he has access to. This is more pronounced in the Witcher 2 with two broad parallel quest lines depending on who Geralt decides to work with, and this becomes apparent after the completion of the first chapter. I feel that compared to the first game, you are more confined in what you can explore. I guess this is better for the way the game's plot was set up, but it's something I didn't like.
The graphics are very nice- a big upgrade from the first game. I could not find anything bad with it, to me at least. The game can be demanding on your computer though, so be mindful of your specs. When I first played through this game, it was with an older computer, with a 2.6 Ghz dual core processor, a Nvidia 9800, 4 GB of ram, on Windows 7 and it performed well on medium to high settings. There are a lot of adjustable settings though, so you can easily balance performance and quality. The sound is also good- while the music is not too unique it does well enough in setting the mood and atmosphere of the game.
Projekt Red is generous with the content they give in their games. In my digital download, I had a great number of bonus content (like a world map, behind the scenes, guides, etc.) and they have been good with adding free content in their patches, including the most recent one.
Overall, a good buy. Even if you don't replay it, the experience is good enough. The game is on sale quite a bit so give it a try if you like RPGs. It's quite different from other games on the market, in a good way.
on August 26, 2011
A lot of reviews on this page talk about how difficult the game is.
Thank the maker that a video game production company finally listen to the core CRPG community and created a game that does not hold your hand.
You will die. Frequently. You cannot survive being smashed by a 10-ton monster in this game, even on casual mode. This is good.
Dialog is intelligent, expansive, and relevent to the game. Your dialog play choices dictate the path the game follows, and there are many paths. These paths lead to one of 16 possible endings.
It is gritty. There are no overly beautiful people. Even the beautiful people have flaws. Some of the more beautiful female NPCs look sweaty, for example. It is based on a period equivilent to the middle-ages. People crapped in pots in the corner of the room and then dumped the pot in the street. That is how gritty this game is...it makes no coating of sugar for how life was like in that era.
Battles are difficult, as they should be. There is a way to defeat any foe...there is an optimal way...many ways that will work...and much more that will not.
I am grateful to the designers for finally giving me a game that forces me to strategize mid-battle. If I have multiple foes at once, I may have to trap one, freeze another, slash one, dodge, slash another, refreeze one, pummel another, etc. You will not win simply mashing buttons as some claim. On casual mode you can win some battles by blindly mashing buttons, but on easy mode or above you have to think...quickly. But battle are not pace too fast. Unlike Dragon Age II, you aren't swarmed by every enemy at once. Witcher 2 seems to recognize that you can't fit more than a few people into one space for battle...the rest wait their turn, and when a space opens...just like in real sword play, the next person rushes in.
If you were looking for a game that is well written, well animated, and does not insult your intelligence, this is your game.
on June 8, 2011
Shortly before I wrote this review I finished The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, and I wanted to wait a while and collect my thoughts before I posted this for others to see, to fairly assess my experience. After a few hours, I can't really say anything great about this game other than the graphics until I've played through the whole thing again. Though I still don't know if that's a good thing.. This isn't your average RPG, your average action game, your average fantasy setting, your average... anything really.
One Sentence Review (TL;DR): An exceptional game with some painful flaws but a twisting narrative to equal a memorable experience. (That really isn't for kids. The M rating isn't playing around)
This game is, in one word, beautiful. The graphical power is among the best ever made (there with Crysis and Metro 2033), however its use of those graphics to make memorable and engaging environments is sort of the anti-Metro 2033. It's just immersing and atmospheric, but in a fanciful sense instead of a grim and oppressive one. The character models are excellent and for the main characters expresses a lot about them.
Our "hero" (and he is only this in a very loose sense of the word) is Geralt of Rivia, an amnesiac Witcher (a professional monster hunter, basically) trying to piece back together his life and memory, but being in the wrong place at the wrong time forces him into circumstances that prevent his leaving. What follows is a couple dozen hour adventure into a tangled criss-cross of many peoples' and factions' various power schemes vying for political control of the Northern Kingdoms, with Geralt often landing smack in the center of it all. The main draw here is the many points in the game where you make decisions on where the story heads next, best shown by the fact that depending on what you do in Chapter 1, Chapter 2 and 3 are very, very different (even taking place somewhere else entirely).
Due to the sheer amount of information you receive, you'll just have trouble remembering which ones you're talking about. You'll need to keep a pad of paper and pencil handy as names of people and places are often given without context, and the games journal which gives you a breakdown of these is not accessible mid-conversation, often leading to situations where you'll have to make game altering choices about things when you're not entirely sure you know what's going on. To give an example, at one point a character says "Rachel betrayed me! That jerk!", Rachel being an NPC you were introduced to about 3~5 hours earlier and who has not been mentioned since then. Thankfully with the games roleplaying options Geralt can be played as indifferent about these developments as you might be.
A note on the prologue: The most recent patch has made the prologue much more forgiving for people new to the game, and all the complaints you'll read about it no longer really apply.
Combat is a free-flowing melee game similar to Arkham Asylum but with swords and magic, and while the combat is often very satisfying it lacks the visceral punch Batman brought to that series, and with the added RPG elements it brings some issues. There are 3 trees that our main character Geralt can specialize in, and each has its own flaw to annoy you from time to time.
The first is Alchemy, Geralt can brew dozens of potions with varying affects on him in combat, specializing in these allows you to drink more potions and to increase what they do. However, these potions only last a few minutes, cannot be drunk in combat and often cannot be drunk in areas where combat is likely to happen, meaning that much of the time you are fighting you might not even be able to use the strengths your character is playing to. Next are the Signs, Geralts version of magic. The spells are pretty cool and varied, but Geralt sometimes doesn't like to cast signs when you tell him to, leaving me in a sputtering rage as he dies because he was lazy. Last up is swordplay. You'd think, how could this be messed up? Well, it sort of is. If you don't lock onto your targets you will happily bound around the arena slashing at whoever Geralt feels like attacking, often resulting in you getting your stuffing beat out from behind because you rolled past 4 guys to hit your target.
Added onto this are several instances of poorly designed encounters, some of which you WILL have to die and reload to learn the strategies for so that you can defeat them. Most annoying of which are the quicktime events, which are pretty small and a dull orange color, which is really problematic as some of the events occur in environments that are mostly orange. It's pretty annoying. Once you get past these issues or just between times when Geralt's controls get you killed the combat is very satisfying and blowing up monsters and stabbing dudes is just fun.
I'd like to give this game a 3-Star rating due to the sheer number of times I was vexed by some poor game design, however for an experience this responsive to the players will and as a game that is obviously a labor of love, it deserves that 4th star. You just need to know what you're getting into.