The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
When I first started playing The Witcher 2: Assassin’s of Kings I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. From everything I heard about this title from reviews of the original PC game that come out early last year; I knew that it was probably an awesome, mature, dark fantasy game, which seems like a tailor-made game for me. I did not, however, know how it played because I don’t own a PC powerful enough to run this graphical behemoth. So when I heard that the enhanced version was going to be ported to the Xbox 360 I was giddy with excitement at the prospect of being able to play as Geralt of Rivia for the first time.
After finally playing this game for myself, I can attest to two things: I am fairly certain that Geralt is a medieval Jedi, making him one of the most badass characters in gaming history, and that The Witcher 2 is one of the greatest RPGs ever created.
As mentioned before, you play as Geralt of Rivia, who belongs to a warrior order called “Witchers.” A witcher is mutated by mages from birth to have magical powers and enhanced abilities in order to deal with the monsters that inhabit the world.
The game opens with Geralt imprisoned for the assassination of a king, whom he was tasked with protecting. Through an interrogation scene we see flashbacks of what really happened and learn that a mysterious massive man killed the king and fled before Geralt was able to catch him. The captain conducting the interrogation reluctantly believes Geralt and sets him free, thus starting the quest to clear his name.
It turns out that the assassin has killed another king as well which means Geralt must not only clear his name but unravel the truth about the assassin and the conspiracy behind the regicides. Of course being a 30 hour RPG, this is not the only quest you go on as the story has you deal with corrupt magistrates, a guerrilla fighting elf group, cursed battlefields and the politics of different kingdoms.
The story of The Witch 2 is one of the deepest and most engaging stories I have ever experienced in a game. The world feels more alive with each character and location you interact with. The reality of the world stems from the motivations of the characters that inhabit it. Everyone seems to be motivated by things that motivate us in the real world, things like money, freedom, sex, and power. The fact that the developers were able to make all of these motivations seem real, and not have the typical “I am evil because I am evil” or “I am a shining example truth and justice” characters makes the game more interesting than many games out today. Even the main “villains” in the game are motivated by trying to obtain a sort of freedom (although it is one that leads to an unfair balance of power.) Overall the story as a very Game of Thrones feel and fans of both the HBO series and George R.R.Martin’s books would likely enjoy this game.
My one warning for those getting into the game, especially those who did not play the predecessor, is that much like Game of Thrones be prepared to have a lot of lore thrown at you early on. It took me awhile and a lot of time reading the journal to figure out all the nuisances to The Witcher universe, but once I did it, I did more fully enjoy the story. I would suggest putting in the extra effort to understanding the world, which might be a turn off for some.
Throughout the story you have to constantly take sides on different issues, many of which have no clear-cut right or wrong side. Unlike many games that give the illusion of hard decision, The Witcher 2’s decisions fall often in the area of gray. I personally felt uneasy while maiking some of the decision , which is a good thing. Some of these decisions have to be made quickly, making the choice that much harder.
There is even a choice that you have to make in the first chapter that will branch the storyline in two different paths that are so different from each other it is almost like two separate games. All of these decision ultimately leads to one of 16 different ending that are very different from each other, *cough* Bioware take notes *cough.*
The gameplay of The Witcher 2 is separated in three parts. The decisions, as mentioned above, the combat and exploration. Through exploring the three different hub towns in each of the three chapters you can find hidden loot, side quests and monsters to defeat for contracts and leveling. Although the side quest are few compared to a game such as Skyrim, all of the side quest are fleshed out and interesting which gives added incentive to complete them. One major downside to exploring in the game is the lack of a fast travel system, which can be frustrating at times.
The combat consist of three parts, magic, swordsmanship, and throwable items such as bombs and daggers.. There are six different magic spells that Geralt can use that range from a force-push type attack to a magic defensive shield that will absorb damage. There is even a spell that will allow Geralt to control his victim’s minds and have them fight for him (in some situations he can use this in dialogue to sway someone’s thoughts, see medieval Jedi.)
The swordsmanship consists of using a steel sword against human enemies and a silver one for monsters. There is a light and heavy attack combat system that, combined with other moves such as parrying, counters and dodges, makes The Witcher 2 king of combat when compared to other WRPG’s such as Dragn Age and Skyrm, in my mind.
The game is also very difficult as enemies will frequently surround you and force you to stay on your toes. Preparation is key, and before combat it is wise to drink potions that will buff your stats as well a coat your swords in oils and poisons that will add buffs and effects to their strikes. As there is no health potions, each battle with enemies is tense as there is not true way to heal back other than the slow health regeneration.
Bombs, throwing daggers, and traps are also used to keep the enemies at their distance although I found that I only really used bombs that had strong effects most of the time. Potions and consumable weapons are made from both crafting and alchemy which makes finding ingredients and supplies in the game a necessity to surviving the combat, which could make some gamers who just want to slash their way through annoyed.
Overall the combat and exploration are, in my opinion, some of the best in the genre. There were some moments where I felt the combat was too hard but I eventually realized that I had to prepare better in order to get past that section. There are not many bosses in the game but when they include monsters such as a massive dragon I see it as quality over quantity. The only other flaw I can see is that saving can be a bitch, as the autosave system won’t save frequently and combined with hard difficulty I found myself having replay large portions of a quest in order to get back to where I was. This just forced me to manually save constantly but it was frustrating nonetheless.
The graphics in The Witcher 2 is some of the best you’ll see on the 360. The landscapes that you will transverse looks beautiful and the design of the character give the game a unique feel compared to other fantasy games. There was some screen tearing and textural popins but I can easily forgive that. With that said obviously the PC version is the superior graphically and since the developers saw fit to give all the enhanced edition perks free to PC owners who previously bought the game, I would suggest getting it for PC if you have a rig that can handle it.
Now for the topic everyone always discusses when The Withcer series is mentioned: BOOBS!!!! Thankfully the game does not deal with nudity in the same way I just wrote that. Yes there is pretty much full nudity of some female characters in the game but it is never used to a sensational effect. To me the use of both nudity and the cursing in the game to enhance the mature setting that the game take place in. Essentially the game treats you as an adult and doesn’t hide that sex is an important part in the world and is given the R rated treatment rather the Bioware’s PG-13 treatment of the subject.
Overall I would say that anyone who enjoys a dark fantasy story and fast combat should pick up this amazing game despite some minor flaws. I may have found a favorite RPG in this and cannot wait for the inevitable sequel. Do yourself a favor and buy this game a plough it, plough it gently and sweetly.