The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Review

By on June 7, 2011

A true RPG gem.


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First Impressions
My reaction is
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RPGs have always held a special pace in my heart, and I have played my fair share of both good and bad ones over the years. Having tried the original Witcher game back in 2007, I was eager to see what was in store for gamers the second time around. Needless to say, I was left dumbfounded.

For the uninitiated, The Witcher centers around your character, known as Geralt of Rivia; a character that yearns to learn more about past events, but at the same time must always keep a firm footing in present events. You posses extraordinary skills in slaying monsters, as well as some handy magical and crafting talents. If you didn’t play or end up finishing the original game, Witcher 2 quickly brings you up to speed on things. The game’s opening scene shows Geralt captured and being tortured by guards, which then effortlessly glides into a rather civil interrogation by one of the game’s primary characters. The interrogation serves as a flashback to key moments in the first game, and also serves as a brief tutorial on the game’s controls and Geralt’s abilities. As a witcher you are no stranger to using a sword (or even a chunk of wood) to dispose of your enemies swiftly.

Geralt also has access to ‘signs’, which are magical sigils that produce various effects such as fire, mind control, or even a shield. There are useful tips that pop up often to familiarize yourself with the controls, but trying to read the tiny text while charging into battle can be exasperating. But once you’ve mastered the cat-like grace in which Geralt moves, you’ll be dispensing of your enemies before they can even unsheathe their sword. The combat system is fairly straightforward – lock onto a nearby enemy and click away to cause some serious damage. While this at times prove to be slightly clunky to master (combined with casting signs and rolling/parrying attacks), it’s a formula that for the most part works well to get you through the various battles. There are also moments where the action turns to Quick Time Events, so simple taps of the keyboard or mouse is all you need to get through a brawl or accomplish a task. You can also craft items and potions if you enter a meditative state, which is also a great way to fast-forward to a particular time of day if required. You’re also awarded with experience points as you complete main and side quests, which you can use to unlock further skills in a very comprehensive skills tree.

Post-tutorial the game’s main storyline opens up, revealing a land at war and plagued with political unrest. While Geralt is mostly neutral at the start of the game, he will later be challenged to pick sides in this political ménage-a-trois. While he is neither loved or hated by the various characters he meets, he is still a key player in the game’s events, and your neutrality will not serve you any good here. This is where the game makes its first stellar reveal – the storyline is delicately yet tightly woven with the decisions and sides that you choose. Whilst this is true of most RPGs, it is employed with full force here and greatly affects both the ending and the course of events in the game. You may choose to spare a family in one act, only to have them come to you in another scene to give you a gift as a token of their appreciation – there is no clear indication of who is a friend or a foe here, unless they’re waving a sword in your face, and even then you still can’t be sure. The character design also works extremely well, with every NPC behaving differently towards Geralt. Lines such as “Blood always follows a witcher” are not uncommon as you brush past people in the streets, and most characters will be brief in their conversations with you. Still, it’s wonderful to see the attention to detail that went into creating each character’s unique personality, and it’s a asset that helps to guide your journey along.

At the heart of Witcher 2 though, is its absolutely stunning visuals. This time around the team utilizes its own home-grown engine, and this decision clearly has paid off. Everything is rendered in gorgeous detail, right down to the shrubbery that breaks off as you move past. The outdoor lighting bathes everything in light and shadow, and quickly panning the camera produces a momentary (though potentially overdone) blur. Flames lick the walls as you traverse through dungeons, moonlight glistens on the water – there is just so much to take in at every turn. Of course you’ll need a decent enough rig to really appreciate the graphical capabilities of this game, but it’s well worth the effort. There were a few issues with clipping and characters occasionally popping out of cutscenes, but this will be sorted out in upcoming patches. The audio this time around has also been greatly approved, with some terrific voice acting that brings each character to life. The background score is subtle and never overpowering, and sets a distinct tone for each area you explore.

The Witcher 2 is a game that is so much more than just beautiful visuals. The intricately designed storyline has plenty of surprises in store with both friend and foe blurring into a single domain. While the combat does take a little time to master properly, it’s not enough to deter you from enjoying the game in all its glory. If you’re looking for a new RPG that has a stellar storyline accompanied by amazing visual work, then this is the game to get.


The Scorecard
GAMEPLAY
9
An eccentric mix of swordsmanship, witchcraft, and stealth.
GRAPHICS
10
The homegrown engine clearly is a winner with some great level and character design.
SOUND
9
Great voice acting that helps to bring each character’s personality to life.
VALUE
8
A stretched out single player campaign with plenty of twists certainly calls for a second play-through.
FUN FACTOR
9
Approach the women in the game with caution…you’ll soon find out why.
OVERALL
9.2
An RPG that is just begging to be played, packed full of visual treats and substance.

About

A former IT & Marketing Manager turned full time Editor, Nick enjoys hurling fireballs and tinkering with the latest gadgets. Follow him on Twitter as @theregos

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Comments
  • http://www.ActionRadius.com/jdl karar

    didnt witcher get banned in UAE? :O


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