The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings… Goty already?



Overview
The sequel to 2007’s The Witcher is finally here! Geralt of Rivia is ready to show us once again that every choice has a consequence, but is The Witcher 2 being considered by gamers all over as Game of the Year material already?

CD Projekt RED has definitely stepped up their game with the release of The Witcher 2 for PC. Opting for a completely redesigned game engine dubbed the RED Engine, The Witcher 2 peacocks it’s gorgeous graphics, stuns many a gamer with its tactical action based combat, and rocks your socks when you see what your early choices bring to the table later in the game. This game is truly a marvel in 2011 and it’s pretty amazing that this small Polish based company has put a few of the bigger named companies under a microscope due to their more recent lazy rpg releases… (I’m looking at you game which shall not be named).
So let’s see what The Witcher 2 has to offer.

Release Dates
INT (PC) May 17, 2011
INT (Xbox 360) Scheduled: Nov 15, 2011
Developed by: CD Projekt RED
Published by: CD Projekt RED (PL); Atari (NA); Namco Bandai (EU); 1C Company (RUS); Comgad (CZE)

Story

Story

Taken from The Witcher 2 game guide:

A dark, foreboding forest… A wounded witcher, Geralt of Rivia, flees pursuit… He falls down…
The assassins are getting closer…

It’s only a dream. Unfortunately the reality proves to be just as bleak, if not worse. We’re in a cell in a dungeon; the two guards watching us start to beat us up as soon as they notice we’re conscious. Our back bears the marks of recent floggings; our hands are shackled in chains. Then another man appears and leads us away for interrogation.

He introduces himself as Vernon Roche. The discussion implies that he’s a member of the Temerian Special Forces. If we won’t cooperate, we’ll surely end up on the scaffolds. What choice do we have then? We begin telling Roche what happened before we were imprisoned.

We can tell the story in any order… Maybe we should begin from the start.


The events that lead up to this part in The Witcher universe are right on the heels of the first game, and this is how Geralt’s story begins in The Witcher 2. We start of with the Prologue that is split up into four parts, and you can go about it as you see fit. However based on the name of the game, we can only assume what Geralt is imprisoned for…

Gameplay

Gameplay

Even though I think The Witcher 2 is the best PC game of 2011 (so far), it seems that the online community for The Witcher 2 is split down the middle on their likeability of the game. The main reason for that would most likely be the combat.

~Combat~
Taking inspiration from games such as Demon Souls and even Batman: Arkham Asylum, CD Projekt RED threw out the twitch-click fest of the first Witcher and went for a more tactical action oriented game that requires the gamer to use all of the tools available (at least in the beginning of the game).
Sword attacks have been relegated to a quick light attack, and a slow hard attack which you can chain interchangeably. Attacks from enemies can be blocked, but not indefinitely as blocking requires Vigor. The Vigor bar kind of acts like a Stamina/Energy bar, and blocking still does a little bit of damage. The only solutions to blocking would be to pick up the counterattack skill Riposte, another skill that reduces damage from blocking by 100%, or not to block at all.

Six Signs (your magic) are available for use in Combat as well, although 5 of them use Vigor.
Side note: Quen received a huge overhaul in comparison to how it was used in the first Witcher. Actually Quen is so powerful in Normal mode that you could technically keep it up all the time and breeze through the game.

The sixth Sign is available if you specialize into the Magic tree.
Use Quen for Trial by Fire!!

Now the huge difference between the aformentioned games and The Witcher 2 is the way you are introduced to combat. Modern games usually go for a “hold your hand” approach in terms of the beginning introduction, but The Witcher 2? They practically throw you into the prologue and show you super quick tooltips explaining combat as you go.
This is one of the reasons why many in The Witcher 2 community have complained about early combat in the game. Although this issue can be alleviated by just opening up your journal and reading whatever you missed.

Second issue in Combat would be the infamous combat input lag. I honestly don’t know if this was intentional or not, but their are various instances of input lag when coming out of rolls and even when trying to chain specific Signs. I honestly don’t mind it myself, as I figured out how to chain sword attacks into a Sign cast, but the Sign casting out of rolls does put a damper on things. Maybe this will be fixed by CD Projekt RED in a future patch?

Last Combat issue of note is the bad arse factor. I guess because everyone was expecting an action game, they were expecting to waltz into a group of enemies and decimate them since Geralt is supposed to be a super mutant monster hunter. I would say in the beginning parts until about about the middle parts of the game, if you run up to a group of more then 2 enemies you will most likely die or be very close to it. Each encounter requires the gamer to step back and re-strategize their plan depending on the enemy. Enemy has a shield, then flank it. Enemy likes to charge? Throw down Yrden to hold them in place and hit them in the back of their head. Four enemies grouped together? Throw a Bomb with shrapnel damage into the group to get them all.

There are so many ways to go about combat it’s pretty rewarding (at least to me) when you finish those hard packs of monsters or even that one big monster.
I personally like the combat, and if you can adapt to situations you will probably enjoy it a lot too. This is what a tactical action rpg should be.

But let us not forget that Alchemy helps with Combat as well.

~Alchemy, Crafting, & the weighty yet invisible backpack~
Since Alchemy is pervasive in the Witcher universe you cannot get rid of it so you are left with improving it. CD Projekt RED improved the system by allowing you to meditate anywhere… as long as there are not monsters close by. When you meditate you have the option of creating new potions to augment your strength, you can drink potions, or you can create bombs and sword oils.


Unfortunately Alchemy hasn’t evolved into a completely unfaulty system. The ingredients that are required, usually use the best item in your inventory which can cause a headache if you accidentally use a quest item. Not only that, even if you subsitute a lesser item for alchemical creation that item does not stay in as the default… requiring you to substitute it each and every time or just say screw it. Hopefully this will be fixed later as well.

The creation of Alchemy potions, sword oils, bombs, traps, weapons, and even armor can only be made as long as you have the correct recipe or diagram.


Although Alchemy creation is nothing new to the Witcher, crafting new weapons and armor is and this allows you access to some of the best items in the game. (As long as you have the right diagram!) Unfortunately unlike Alchemy, to craft new weapons, traps, and armor you must seek out a craftsman, and you must have the required materials which leads us to a brief explanation about the crappy inventory system.

The inventory even though split into different categories does not have a sort function. So you have to scroll through most of the items. Almost every item with the exception of books and quest items has a weight! Even diagrams and recipes have a weight. I’m not exactly sure whose idea that was, but in my opinion it is something they should have done away with. It’s no wonder The Witcher 2 community is using a weightless mod to enjoy the game ;).

~Everything Else~

  • The graphics in this game like I mentioned before are very good looking. Even on low end computers! Check out my image gallery & videos to see what I mean.
  • There are 4 difficulty settings: Low (easy), Medium (normal), High (hard), and Insane (wtf). Insane mode doesn’t allow you to reload your save if you die… so umm yeah.
  • The level up system has received an overhaul as well with the max level of 35 and 4 skill trees to put points into. The initial skill tree Witcher Training requires a minimum investment of 6 skill points before you can move onto the Swordsman, Magic, or Alchemy trees.
  • Once you get to the end of your specialization trees you can customize those skills by adding mutagens. Which basically adds various stats to your character. Also of note are the special finisher moves available close to the end of the 3 later trees. These finisher moves allow you to do group insta-kills, do more damage, or even slow down time.
  • Books are no longer required to pick herbs. You actually don’t even need them for monsters either. As long as you fight the monster enough times you can eventually learn it’s weakness. Books just make it faster to learn said weakness.
  • Minigames have returned are really only useful for shenanigans, and making a little extra money. The mini-games available are Fist Fighting, Arm Wrestling, and Dice Poker. Actually check out how lucky I was on this Dice Poker game.
  • Speaking of mini-games, there are some quick-time events associated with the fistfighting and some bosses. I think you can only turn off the QTE’s for bosses though if it’s really frustrating you. :)
  • Every choice you make has an interesting outcome later in the game so be weary of what you do. There are no real only good and only bad choices, as The Witcher universe usually has things in shades of gray for outcomes. Conversations allow you to talk normally, persuade, intimidate, bribe, or even charm whoever you are talking to.


Noteworthy
Here are my personal Pros & Cons about this game:
Pros:

  • Challenging Combat
  • Excellent storyline with fun, and funny sidequests
  • Geralt feels like a beast once you start getting more points into the various trees
  • Various scenes with Triss…

Cons:

  • Backwards difficulty: Hard in the beginning and super easy close to the end
  • Combat lags sometimes
  • Chapter 3 is really short
  • Loss of key items due to Alchemy

~Misc~

  • On your very first playthrough completing most sidequests I would say The Witcher 2 is definitely over 30 hours long. However if you decide to skip a lot of sidequests and ram through the storyline I think the game could take anywhere from 15-25 hours. These are just various accounts I’ve heard and assumptions. As always it comes down to how you play :)
  • Hey… don’t forget that Steel Swords are for Humans. Silver Swords are for everything else (monsters).
  • Don’t forget in between all of the scandals, and various conversations that Geralt is a monster hunter. So go get some traps, and bombs and go make some money!
  • There is a decent amount of nudity in this game, so don’t play around children or grandmas with bad hearts! (Some nudity may be censored if you have the Australian version)
  • Seeing as how Triss is Geralt’s main love interest in this game… Shani is nowhere to be found.
  • You can still ‘mess around’ even though Triss is your main love interest though.
  • If you import your save from The Witcher 1, you can bring over specific weapons and armor, and depending on what you did some characters will comment on your past.
  • The Swordsmanship Path tree is by far the easiest to play on normal mode.
  • Once you choose a skill you cannot undo it, so either reload or deal with it.
  • There is a lot of replay value to be had in this game so your total game time could skyrocket, and you will see the most replay value in Chapter 2 I believe.
  • The slight confusion at the endings… let me explain. This game has different ‘endstates’ that take place in the epilogue all depending on what you did in the game. So you can receive a few or all of them if you did the corresponding actions.
  • There are various bonus skills you can gain by finding easter eggs, or doing very specific things in combat and conversations. And yes these skills are missable after you leave certain parts of the game. How many skills have you gotten so far?
AC Easter Egg

Image Gallery
This image gallery contains screenshots, wallpapers, art, and concept art for The Witcher 2. Enjoy :)
Note: Once you click an image, you can use the navigation bar, or the Left or Right arrow keys to move through images on that page.
1 more note: The thumbnails with no picture are high quality and huge when viewed in full screen! You’ve been warned

Videos

Early Combat Gameplay part 1

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Early Combat Gameplay part 2 (Spoilers at the end of vid: showing a mini-boss.)

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Later Combat Gameplay – Swordsman Path

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The box below contains some boss battles that I thought might be major spoilers. Watch at your own risk.

peek inside SelectShow

Words from Z
This in my humble opinion is probably the best (mature) rpg game of 2011. Is it game of the year material? In my eyes yes. No doubt this game has a few flaws, but no game is perfect. I just wish those supposed metacritic scores that are floating around told more of the truth on this game versus the game that shall not be named, and other games. We have a beautiful world, a good storyline, and challenging combat. Everything us rpg lovers crave in a rpg. So I guess it’s up to us to support the small game developers like CD Projekt Red so they can continue to make games like this for our community.

I guess now I just need to be patient for Skyrim & Human Revolution to see who truly wins 2011 Game of the Year.

So have you played The Witcher 2 yet? If you have let me know what you thought about it. :)

(p.s. I’m ready for The Witcher 2 expansions already)

News & Updates

  • June 2, 2011 The Witcher 2 for Xbox 360 announced.
  • June 3, 2011 Patch 1.2 for the Witcher 2 was released and can be found here.

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