This generation of gaming has produced some really captivating role playing games with the likes of Mass Effect, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and Dragon Age. But it is safe to assume that the Polish developers CD Projekt have outdone themselves and have given PC gamers one of the most immersive game till date. Witcher 2 is a sequel to the original where Geralt, the White Wolf has been accused of assassinating the Temerian King Foltest. The game starts with the Witcher running away from the Blue Stripes, a group of Temerian forces, but ultimately he gives up and gets captured. The Witcher is then taken in to a prison and is interrogated by the leader of the Blue Stripes: Roche. It is later learned that Letho, another witcher was actually behind the assassination of Foltest. Thus begins the tale of Witcher 2 with Geralt teaming up with a number of people during this fascinating quest, trying to recover his lost memory as well as wanting to clear his name. The story gives the player to take a number of decisions which may be political or personal, hence giving rise to an intriguing plot line.
Stealth sections are intense and a ton of fun.
Now let us talk about the element of the game that will immediately catch your eye: the breathtaking visuals. Normally in my reviews I tend to discuss the visuals a little later on, but in this case I am making an exception, just due to the fact that it is perhaps one of the most beautiful looking games I have ever played witness to. The world size is small compared to what other role playing games like Fallout 3 or Oblivion have, but what is there in Witcher 2 is amazing. One of the things that need to be talked about is the stunning view distance. The player can see small elements of the games like huts on mountains or a stationary cart, literally miles away. Characters like Geralt and Triss have been rendered with intricate details like the scar on our hero’s face, not to mention that the armour and the clothes of soldiers and kings alike look wonderful up close. The environments are lush with amazing shadow effects, both in day and night. The fire effects are horribly close to real life and the water flowing through the valley gives a soothing effect to the eyes. All in all, Witcher 2 simple sucks you in with its amazing vistas, let alone it addictive gameplay.
Much like other role playing game, combat is a crucial element in Witcher 2. But there is a fine line between becoming an out and hack and slash game, something which Dragon Age 2 almost became. The developers have done a smart job of balancing the combat mechanics in the game. The situations will actually not force the game to lean towards an all out hack and slash gameplay by dynamically changing certain elements like reducing the number of enemies that will attack Geralt. Much of the combat takes place with the help of swords. The game offers two kinds of sword: Silver and Steel with each of them having their own unique advantages/disadvantages in the game. For example the Silver sword will be more proficient in taking out monsters and the Steel sword will be helpful against normal enemies. Other then the swords, Geralt can also use traps that can be placed on ground and catch a wandering soldier by surprise, daggers for quickly taking out foes from a distance and use bombs to incinerate or stun the bad guys. If that is not enough Geralt has access to a plethora of magical abilities which have been detailed below:
- Axii: Used for charming an opponent. The opponent will aid you in your fight for a short time. I actually found it to be pretty interesting to use in situations where I was outnumbered by the enemies.
- Quen: One of the magical abilities that will be used a lot against the big monsters and boss fights that you will face. Quen provides a shield and almost any damage can be absorbed while this is in effect.
- Yrden: Use to magically trap enemies. This came in to use in to a number of boss fights in the game. Is extremely useful but you have to lure the enemy to the place where you have placed the Yrden.
- Igni: Used to incinerate enemies and does not necessarily work against all the foes you will come across in the game.
- Aard: Pops out a telekinetic wave to stun enemies. If used at the right moment, Geralt will be able to stun enemies and deliver a finishing move.
0_o…The draw distance is insane.
Witcher 2 features some really intense boss fights. One of the early fights will pit you against an 8 legged octopus like creature named: Kayran. This battle requires you to not only use your sword and magic, but also be alert to some quick time events that the battle will throw at you. Some boss battles like the Dragon that you will face towards the ending of the game can last a full hour, not to mention it almost made me pull my hair out. In all, Witcher 2 throws some really challenging and lasting battles with enemies that will take some skill and courage to take them out.
If you want to take your combat skills to an altogether different level then the developers have provided potions that will increase your efficiency as a killing machine. In order to make a potion, you will need to collect materials from the game’s world. Now drinking particular potions will give you unique advantages. For example drinking the CAT potion will give the player the ability to see through walls, which is useful if a stealth based section is in play. Some potions give Geralt the ability to cause more damage to the opponent but at the expense of vitality. So it’s all in the hands of the players to balance out between the above mentioned factors.
Players will be able to earn experience and level up, just like in any other role playing game. Geralt can level up in four branches, namely:
- Training: The player must unlock at least six abilities on this before the other branchses can be accessed. Some of the basic abilities that come along with this branch are arrow redirection and increase in vitality.
- Alchemy: Players can increase the duration of potion effects, unlock berserk mode, cause more damage than usual and increase damage caused by bombs.
- Magic: Here the players can enhance their various magical abilities which were mentioned above.
- Swordsmanship: Factors such as damage caused, instant kill and dodging attacks can be bought here.
Players would have to normally play through the game a couple of times in order to unlock all of these abilities.
Players can level up in four different branches.
The sound acting in the game is excellent to say the least. Geralt sounds ‘oh so cool’ even in dangerous situations. The NPC’s do a great job of depicting their side of story as well and the Kings in the game do sound as Kings. The music in the background matches the visuals and the environments perfectly, so I guess there is nothing to complain in the audio department.
Witcher 2 might have sounded like a perfect game till now, but unfortunately a pretty long list of technical bugs drag the score down. One of the most common issues that I came across was the lack of proper collision detection. Geralt’s attacks would sometimes make no connection with the Dragon (boss fight), which might actually frustrate some players. Characters disappear all of a sudden when a conversation ends and sometimes the player can’t enter an open door.
CD Projekt were kind of enough to send me the Digital Premium Edition which sells for about $45 at gog.com and the game was packed in with extra goodies like art books, pamphlets, game guides and more. For me that offer is a steal. Not to mention that the game in itself is an achievement, but these small add-ons goes a long way in deciding the value for money factor for gamers. It was also recently revealed all DLC for the game will be free which I think will add a lot of value to an already great game. With Witcher 2, CD Projekt have shown the video games industry that money can take a back seat and gamers will be put first. Overall, Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is a landmark game in the esteemed history of PC gaming.
This game was reviewed on the PC.
Eye candy visuals, Solid combat system, Story is intriguing, Geralt is a bad ass protagonist, Long and challenging boss fights, View distance is a sight to behold, Decisions can lead you in to interesting situations and stealth sections are enjoyable.
Lots of technical glitches/bugs and the game is pretty short.
Witcher 2, despite its share of glitches is a phenomenal achievement and is perhaps one of the greatest role playing games of all time.
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