It’s hard to predict what’s going to be a hit in the world of role playing games. One certainly couldn’t have expected a game based on a Polish fantasy series to take off, but it did. The intention of this article is to provide a detailed review of that very game – The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings.
|Type of game:||Action/RPG|
|Developer:||CD Projekt Red|
|Total Play Time:||24-53 hours|
|System Requirements:||CPU: Intel Core 2 DUO
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260 2GB
RAM: 512 MB
OS: Windows 7
HDD Space: 16 GB
The World of The Witcher 2
In this section, we’ll take a look at what makes The Witcher 2 tick. It’s a complex game that’s as much about the amazing setting as it is the nuts and bolts of the gameplay. We’ll take some time to look at the world, the main characters, and the story before discussing the game’s DLC and expansions. The game itself has been received incredibly well, even if it has been recently overshadowed by the final game in the trilogy.
Atmosphere & Location
The game takes place in a highly stylized fantasy world, one that feels both lifted from fairly tales and directly opposed to them. There’s a definitely a strain of quiet deconstruction, with a great deal of mud and decay surrounding locations that could be in a storybook. It’s a world that’s lived in hard and ravaged by world, but that is nonetheless quite beautiful. The atmosphere is a huge step up from the first game in the series and definitely something that should be experienced by gamers.
In terms of design, the game definitely has a unique aesthetic. It’s fantasy-influenced, but not in the usual Western European fashion. There’s a strong Eastern European flair to the design, which makes sense given the developers. There’s quite a bit that’s almost familiar, but usually seen through a wildly different lens. For those who aren’t as familiar with the mythology of that part of the world, it’s almost easy to see the game as a deconstruction.
As a game based on a book series, it’s easy to see from where the influence of the game came. It’s fairly easy to play without having read the books, but a fair bit of the background is locked away within the stories. Beyond the original text, there’s also some clear influences from other historical-fantasy epics.
The main character of The Witcher 2 is Geralt of Rivia, one of the few Witchers still alive. Witchers are mutated humans who use a combination of innate gifts, magic, and alchemy in order to slay the monsters that roam the world. Most have died, but those who are still alive are viewed with a great deal of suspicion. Geralt lives as an outcast, albeit one who is typically in high demand whenever monsters decide to show up.
Geralt is largely the same in this game as he was in the last, thanks to the character’s background as an established fictional character. He’s still somewhat cold and alien compared to many protagonists, but he’s also a bit more of a humanitarian than he lets on. While he’ll claim that he’s only in it to save his own skin – or to get paid – the truth is somewhat more difficult to suss out. He’s largely a good man, if not always for the best reasons.
If there is a second main character, it’s Triss Merigold. A powerful sorceress in her own right, she spends much of the game primarily as Geralt’s love interest. She’s a bit more of a fleshed-out character in the sequel than she is in the first game, which has greatly enhanced her stature among fans of the game.
Both Geralt and Triss are changed by the events of the game, in ways both positive and negative. Unfortunately, a great deal of the character development seems to be wrapped up in the thrid game of the series. As such, players of this game are given a chance to see part of the journey without really knowing where it will end up. This can be a little frustrating, but what development there is will usually help players to understand where the characters are going.
The Witcher 2 picks up shortly after the events of the first game, though it’s not necessary to play the first game in order to understand the story. Early on, the game establishes Geralt as the bodyguard of King Foltest and placed in his service during a war with the king’s mistress. By the end of the prologue, though, Geralt is jailed as the murderer of King Foltest and must then begin to slowly work his way towards clearing his own name.
During the course of The Witcher 2, Geralt will largely be furthering his own goals while dealing with a simmering background plot involving sorcerers. Because of Geralt’s career, this process of clearing his name will largely involve kill particularly gruesome-looking monsters. Each of the chapters of the story places Geralt face to face with not only some kind of deadly beast, but with an important story choice.
The Witcher 2’s story is, at its core, about choices. It’s about who one should follow and what price one should pay for those choices. Most of what Geralt does will have an impact on the world, even if it’s not particularly clear at first. It’s a game of long-term choices and having to decide between short-term profit and long-term goals. It’s also a game that sometimes makes players choose between two equally bad choices in the hopes that things will turn out.
Many of the quests are also very combat-heavy, pushing Geralt to use all of his skills at once. This isn’t a game where one can simply waltz into a horde of enemies and hope to survive, at least on higher difficulties. A great deal of the game involves learning the tactics necessary to become the kind of legendary monster hunter that Geralt is rumored to be. Learning how to survive in the world definitely helps to bring the disparate elements of the storyline together.
DLC & Expansion Packs
Though CD Projekt Red has lately been known for its fantastic approach to DLC, The Witcher 2 is actually fairly light when it comes to downloadable content. There are a few pieces out there that are free, but they’re not particularly compelling – just a small collection of quests and minor game additions that don’t add up to much. It would be easy to complain about this kind of DLC if the producers actually charged for it, but as it is the DLCs make up an inoffensive kind of extra content that works well.
The best way to get the DLC is to buy the Enhanced Edition of the game. This edition incorporates all of the downloadable content into the main game and it’s currently the cheapest way to buy the game. The Enhanced Edition also adds about four hours of extra game play as well as some great new cinematics, making it the definitive version of the game.
The Witcher 2 is a very good game. The combat can take some getting used to and the setting might not be as familiar as some might hope, but those who are willing to give the game some time will find a true treasure. The game is remarkably mature in all the best ways and it certainly sets a tone that one would hope that other games will attempt to follow.
Have you played The Witcher 2? Did you enjoy the experience or did you find it lacking? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment or getting in touch with us.