The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – Review

Platform | Release Date
PC | May 17, 2011
X360 | TBA
Developed by CD Projekt Red
Published by Namco Bandai

The Pitch:

The second installment in the RPG saga about the Witcher, Geralt of Rivia, features a thoroughly engrossing, mature storyline defining new standards for thought-provoking, non-linear game narration. In addition to an epic story, the game features an original, brutal combat system that uniquely combines tactical elements with dynamic action. A new, modern game engine, responsible both for beautiful visuals and sophisticated game mechanics puts players in the most lively and believable world ever created in an RPG game.

Playing The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings for a few scant minutes should be all it takes to prove that CD Projekt RED’s acclaimed success with the original Witcher game was no fluke. Without a doubt, this is the most beautiful roleplaying game I have ever played. It is what you likely expected to see when you first sat down to play Dragon Age, or its sequel, only to be underwhelmed with the end result. The cinematic delivery of the story and action is exquisite and the amped up production values are readily apparent even within very smallest details. I cannot think of an RPG that comes remotely close to having as complete a package that The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings offers.

Geralt of Rivia continues to rid the countryside of monsters; a Witcher’s work is never done. Memory loss is a major hurdle for him and stands in the way of really understanding what happened – how he should move forward, or what alliances to make or avoid. Throughout your adventures you will unlock memories, match wits with the Kingslayer, bed a woman or two, and perhaps even help out a drunken troll. The cinematic delivery of these experiences is top notch and the entire experience is very memorable.

My jaw dropped when I first put Dragon Age in my Xbox 360. It didn’t drop because what I saw looked fantastic, just the complete opposite. All of my expectations and excitement from the screenshots and videos that BioWare spoon fed me over the years had me expecting to see something grandiose. Instead what stood before me was a game teetering on being subpar visually with a passable storyline that barely prevented me from being too disgusted to turn away. My jaw was down on the floor again when I first played The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings on my PC, for completely different reasons.

Rarely has the landscape in a videogame been so life-like. The forests and grass lands are a thing of beauty. With “Uber Sampling” turned on, it’s just that much better. CD Projekt RED’s attention to fine detail is on display everywhere. Within the backgrounds of cut scenes, and each small niche of a seemingly unimportant alley in town, there is so much realism that I really felt like this was an active community full of residents going about their lives.

Many of the combat related frustrations people endured through the original Witcher game have been toned down and become more accessible for those not interested in a strict timing based affair. No longer will you have to activate a particular fighting stance to have a better chance at defeating specific foes, which just unnecessarily complicated things. Having a rhythm or timing based attack along with a certain stance never sat well with me in the original and I was overjoyed, like many other will be, to find that it has been removed. I cannot count how many times in The Witcher that rapid mouse clicks resulted in a grunting noise, and a pause from Geralt, only to open myself up to a huge damaging attack and wanting to throw my mouse across the room in the process.

Thankfully button mashers like me will not feel like quicker mouse clicks are detrimental to their success in The Witcher 2, because it is all but completely removed. CD Projekt RED continues its trend of not providing in-depth game mechanic information. Relying on trial and error is usually the way around this, though there are some that took longer to figure out than I would have liked. I initially had great difficult having any success with the arm wrestling mechanic, enduring many losses to learn the proper way of approaching it. Quests felt much more tangible and significant compared to the original Witcher where I was needlessly running across the entire map artificially adding to the playtime clock.

For the majority of my playtime I used the default keyboard and mouse combination, which did not have any flaws. I tried using a Xbox 360 controller and found it serviceable, but found the “Run Always” setting made it more difficult to be within range of looting without overstepping constantly. It was frustrating enough resorting back to the keyboard and mouse. Being able to craft items and brew alchemical items returns with many more options at your disposal, though the player character equipment is far more scarce and uninteresting when compared to other popular RPG’s.

Audio adds great realism to The Witcher 2’s world. Whether it is a forest full of animals with birds chirping, a roaring waterfall splashing onto the rockes below, or townsfolk bitching about the last time they plowed a prostitute, everything comes off feeling extremely genuine and fitting for this mature fantasy setting. It immerses you into the gritty world that you are playing in; a refreshing change compared to most roleplaying games in recent memory. I found the voice acting very smooth and fitting for the visuals of the character as well as their roles played throughout the game, which was a huge stumbling block in the original Witcher.

If you like RPG’s, there is no excuse for you not to play The Witcher 2 in the near future. You will not be disappointed in the slightest bit. It screams quality through its entirety and it’s plain to see that this is a labor of love from CD Projekt RED and should be in your collection.

About @artayd2

@artayd2 can be found traversing hills of toddler entrails while searching for the last pint of unicorn blood to quench his ever present thirst.
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