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The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Review

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On 07/15/2011 at 09:42 AM by Stanton Daries

"He who fights with monsters might take care lest he therby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into the abyss, the abyss gazes into you." - Nietzsche

For anyone looking for an amazing RPG and is willing to take the time and effort to learn about the world.

The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings is arguably the best role playing game to have come out this year and can easily be ranked as one of the top Western RPGs in the last decade. It is that rare game where you can tell the team over at CD Projekt Red truly loved the source material and put in all the effort they could to convey the story of Geralt of Rivia, as faithfully as possible, to anyone who plays the game.

And, for the most part, they succeeded wonderfully at creating a rich and detailed world with an intense attention to detail and environment. Unfortunately, perhaps as a side effect of being only surrounded by other lovers of the series the game is not an easy entry for newcomers to the world by any means.

Geralt is the main protagonist of a Polish book series appropriately titled “The Witcher” (or “Wiedzmin” in Polish), set in a very morally ambiguous fantasy world. Geralt is a monster hunter, known in this world as a witcher. Witchers are a very special group of people who were taken in as orphans and prepared from the point of childhood to take on the role. With a series of potions and chemicals, they are transformed into a mutant, giving them a better chance against the monsters in their harsh world, but subsequently branding them as an outcast and separating them from regular human society.

The Witcher 2 takes place immediately after the first game, and you are fully expected to have played it. There is very little exposition explaining what happened or who major characters are. In fact, that statement applies pretty much to the entire game in both story and in combat. The game can never be accused of holding your hand or letting you skate by an encounter. If you are someone who can’t stand the idea of spending game time in a dusty library reading about the next monster you are going against or the geography of the region then you will find yourself at a distinct disadvantage in the game and may even find it impossible to finish.

The central reason for the difficulty is the world you are set in. Geralt is definitely a very mean and capable fighter, but he is still just a mortal man living in an environment that once required witchers just to keep the hordes of monsters at bay and humanity alive; and just because the number of monsters has diminished doesn’t mean that they are any less deadly. Don’t expect random encounters just to easily toss you a few experience points and make your life easier, if you walk into a fight and haven’t researched what attacks you will face, what vulnerabilities your foe has, and appropriately plan for it, then you will more than likely die.

Planning usually involves the use of alchemy, the central skill available to witchers and the reason they went through their mutation in the first place; a regular human would be killed by consuming any of your potions. When you know you will be facing a creature that likes to hit with toxic saliva, then preemptively taking some Mongoose would be a good move. Additionally you can make oils to coat your weapons in various nasty ways and bombs as a quick help in an encounter. For most fights you will have two primary weapons, a steel sword and a silver one. Every enemy you fight will be more vulnerable to one of these metals than the other; the usual is mortals get steel and monsters get silver. While this is a relatively good rule to follow it is still important to research this vulnerability as well.

What doesn’t help matters is that the combat system has the occasional share of bugs that will pop up, specifically dealing with targeting. In order to attack you click at your foe and I found myself regularly diving over my intended target to attack someone else; this was resolved with a few tweaks but was still a minor annoyance in large group fights.

The gravity of the world doesn’t extend just to the fights though. The Witcher is one of the very few games that truly embraces the “actions-have-consequences” mentality by disallowing you to back away from the chosen path. Your decisions alone make you experience different acts in chapters and will even determine what towns you can actually play in, cutting off entire maps from you. What makes this even more impressive is that there is seldom a true good versus evil choice. Often it comes down to two sides making their cases, both having valid arguments for why they are doing what they do and it is up to you as the player to decide with whom you agree more.

Thankfully the world itself is anything but gray, and in fact has to be one of the most beautiful gaming experiences I have had. The graphics are exquisite and every detail has been considered with little clipping or cut corners. The sound matches the same production quality and you will easily find yourself immersed in this medieval world.

If the Witcher 2 has any major negative, it’s the abruptness. Playing the first two chapters of the game and investing 20 hours, I felt that I hadn’t even scratched the surface of the story and was deeply involved in where things were going. Then chapter 3 just finishes things with entire threads left open or forgotten and a general sense of incompleteness to it. Even if it was a prelude for a Witcher 3, it was still very abrupt and felt as if they just ran out of time and/or money.

Even with the knowledge of the unsatisfying end I still think anyone who loves RPGs should pick this game up and invest the time to learn the world, for it is full of remarkable moments.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

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A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.




06/26/2012 at 07:43 PM

Nice, very nice..

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