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Review: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

Nearly 5 years since the The first Witcher game, CD Projekt RED Studio finally gives us The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. A Third Person Role Playing Game for the PC and will soon be out on Xbox 360. The first game was a sleeper hit and surprised every RPG fan out there. An RPG based by a book and created in Poland, yes Poland! which makes it even more awesome! The Witcher was not well-known in the gaming community and soon earned fame by gamer’s first hand experience. With the growing success of the first game, a sequel was well underway. It took them years to work on The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings and the final result is staggering.

Correct me if I’m wrong but This is probably the most demanding PC game to date. This stressed the hell out of my PC on high settings but it was worth it. It’s understandable, since it’s one of the best looking games out there(well for me). When i first ran The Witcher 2, i was blown away on how much detail they put on this game. The lighting of the game is amazing, and the detail on each character from a freckle to a wrinkle was added. Even on the lowest settings, the game is still in par with the current games out now. A worthy accomplishment on a fairly new Studio. This is the Studio’s first game Franchise and the improvements they added on their sequel is amazing. Who’d think Poland would have such talented Game Developers over there? kudos to them.

The Witcher 2 starts months after the end of the first game. You still control the White Wolf, Geralt of Rivia. A famous Witcher with memory loss, still in search of the truth about his past. Do you need to play the first game to understand the story? no not at all, well it might feel a little bit confusing at the start but after you pass the prologue(which is about an hour or so) you are introduced in a completely new story. With Geralt still the hero – this monster slayer was wrongfully accused for killing King Foltest and is now on the hunt for the King Slayer to clear his name.

The story in The Witcher 2 gives you full control on how the story goes. Like literally.  You are give huge decisions that would completely change the course of the story. Chapter 1 provides a lot of starting decisions to shape how the next Chapters will go, to the point that one big decision will give a completely different Chapter 2. With these decisions, multiple playthroughs are definitively needed to experience all of the Witcher 2’s content. The game too is very matured so kids stay away…or just don’t let your parents catch you staring at virtual nudity. We got nudity, foul language and gore that isn’t over the top. The maturity the game shows is one of the elements that separates The Witcher 2 from other RPG’s out there. They didn’t care one bit if it’s inappropriate or whatnot which is fine by us.

The story starts off great though, and gets better and better as you hit midway of the game. All the epic moments in Chapter 1 and 2 were perfect but when you hit the end of the game it felt rushed. Not rushed in a bad way, more like rushed that I wanted more! everything that was happening all concluded in a blink of an eye, and while how it ended for me was great, it still felt like they could have added just a little bit more. The length of the other chapters felt just right but when you hit the last one it was nothing compared to the others. After the credits started rolling though, i felt satisfied and was ready for another playthrough.

Another good thing about Witcher 2 is the character progression. Want to play with the focus of Sword play, Alchemy or magic? it’s all up to you. The game give you full control on how you want to develop Geralt’s abilities. When you level ,you earn points to add in a certain skill tree with each skill having 2 levels each. Your forced to add the first 6 points to the basic tree to unlock the others though but it’s not a problem since you hit that point fairly quick. Customization goes even further with Mutations. Mutation items provide different stat increases like more vitality or more chances to incinerate stun or freeze your opponent on each blow. It’s like an equip slot placed on your skills. You place these Mutations on certain skills that have a Mutation slot. Once you do it though, you can’t change it so there’s a lot of thought on how you want to level your Geralt. The customization doesn’t stop there. There are also Weapon slots and Armor slots. You can add Runes to your weapons or Armor  wraps to your armor to add extra stats or effects. It’s pretty insane and you still have your Alchemy buffs to worry about.

Now, compared to the first game, The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings always keeps you on your toes. The game is packed with crazy encounters. You experience Geralt going against a Dragon, Ghosts and huge monsters with some Quick Time Events to keep you involved all throughout. It has a great pace and you can easily have a few hours pass by without even knowing. Having a world feeling completely alive makes it even easier to get lost in the world of The Witcher 2. Each community visited in The Witcher 2 go by their business. NPC’s don’t feel static and you are hardly introduced with the same NPC twice. As the sun goes down, the citizens of Flotsem for example prepare to head home and leave their shops or posts. These simple features added into the game are greatly appreciated to an RPG where you might spend hours and hours playing.

The fighting mechanic has been changed completely and plays more like an action RPG. It was hard to get used to in the start with the auto targeting but once I had a couple of group encounters and deaths i got used to it. The combat now is very fast and if you’re not careful, you will be seeing the “Game Over” screen a lot. You have to treat each enemy as if they will kill you right away even though you have the advantage. I’ve had countless deaths that pushed me back because i didn’t save thinking i won’t die. Yes, it can get tough.

There are still similarities to the first game though. Aside from the Magic Geralt has, he still has the two types of blades. A steel sword that is best used on humans, and the Witcher’s Silver Sword meant for Monster slaying. It never made any sense why the Silver Sword felt like a slap to the face against human enemies. I guess I can understand the steel sword not being affected with monsters but I think something sharp should still hurt any soldier. They kept the fighting simple for this game with left click as the fast attacks and right for the heavy ones. No more sword stances sadly, it’s more straightforward now but with magic, bombs and traps in Geralt’s disposal, strategy is still key in this game.

Vigor is your magic and block mixed together so you have to plan properly how you use your Vigor.  Vigor regenerates during combat but Vigor is very limited. Will you block the attack or use your Aard sign? With this setup, I was constantly rolling away from danger half the time. Enemies in The Witcher 2 hurt so much it’s crazy how weak you feel sometimes. There are no pots too, health only recovers over time and can increases the rate in which your life regenerates with alchemy or certain equipment. So yea, tough game.

The difficulty ramp of the game is very unusual for the Witcher 2 because of this. The hardest really is only at the start when Geralt is still weak. You have less Vigor meaning your survival rate is low at the start since your dumped with a group of enemies early on. The game still comes out challenging but it gets easier when you have more options for Geralt to do especially with the group finishers and special skills at the end of each skill tree. It’s like, when you finally have that adrenaline bar up, it becomes an “I WIN” button.

Now this game is huge and yes bugs are present. I have experienced instances where I wanted to throw a bomb but it would never come out and left me unable to control Geralt for a short time leaving me with stupid deaths. The slots where you put your bombs, knives and trap don’t get updated, even if you used up all your throwing knives it still shows in the pockets as if it’s still there. There were a couple more bugs but CD Projekt RED released a patch clearing a lot of the other known bugs which is good.

The Witcher 2 requires you to have a beast PC to run it on high settings but just in case you guys are wondering for a console version, it was just announced it’s heading to the Xbox 360 maybe at the end of this year, so you can wait for that instead of building a crazy PC. If you do decide to build a PC around The Witcher 2 you won’t be disappointed I’ll tell you that right now.Were halfway through 2011 but I can already say this is one of the best RPG for this year.

If you want a solid RPG fix, this is the one to get.  Great visuals, compelling story, intense combat and hours and hours of game time is what you will get out of The Witcher 2. it’s a near perfect triple A title and any RPG fan would love to get lost in this world.  The difference with The Witcher 1 and the Witcher 2 are huge. Everything has been improved and while some Witcher fans might not approve with the new change in combat, i think it doesn’t ruin but rather complements everything else The Witcher 2 gets right.

Score: 94/100

Pros:

– Amazing Graphics

– well-written and well-acted non-linear story

-Deep Character customization

– Your decisions in the game will matter

Cons:

– Bugs can get frustrating

– Combat can be hard to get used to for other players

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