Review: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition
By now most of you will have slain numerous dragons in Skyrim and tried to convince everyone that Earth needed saving in Mass Effect 3. I’m guessing by now you may have had your fix of RPG’s, but thanks to The Witcher 2 you may just want buckle up for one more ride. Console owners have been throwing envious glances at PC owners who have been playing this game for the past year, and it’s been worth the wait. Developers CD Projekt have added an extra four hours of gameplay and a new interface designed for consoles. As 360 owners you shouldn’t worry about whether your PC owning friends have got the better deal because you won’t really notice any difference.
Before you get down and dirty with the story you are given the opportunity to go through a tutorial, you need to make sure you go through this otherwise you will find yourself struggling for a good few hours into the game. It’s a well thought out tutorial, covering all you need to know to set you off into the story on the right footing and at the right difficulty.
Once you are past the tutorial the fun can begin, you play as Geralt of Rivia, a monster hunter who has a few memory problems, who is not only a hit with the ladies but pretty handy with a sword too. He has been dragged into to a complex political storm that will see him branded a criminal and will see him dragging up his past whilst trying to care about all that is going on around him. Unlike Skyrim this game is a lot more adult, there is some choice swearing & plenty of sex and violence, but also you’re required to understand and empathise with the people around you. This world has a complex history and there is a huge amount of tension between all of the different races you encounter, some choices will force you to choose between the lesser of two evils or options that are shrouded in ambiguity, you’ll hit the ground running, be warned.
The story is really well written, there is a substantial amount going on and the game isn’t afraid to throw it at you and then expect you to keep up. There is plenty of dialogue and all the characters have a broad range of accents with their own slang and sayings as well as some drunken songs too. Each district feels very much alive and draws you in to explore even further.
The Witcher 2 has some great quests and I love the way some of the side quests added value to the main story. It reminded me slightly of how Mass Effect 3 dealt with side quests and made you feel like you were not just off running around on little jobs for the sake of it. Whether it’s helping drunken trolls or searching for ghosts, the missions felt a lot more entertaining and well thought out. Some side quests got you to make choices that could affect parts of the story that you were not expecting. Even just heading over to the local tavern to get into a fist-fight or taking part in some gambling may end up giving you leads.
The Witcher 2’s stands out because of its fantastic sword and magic based combat system. It’s a real challenge, especially if like me you have come straight from playing Skyrim. There is a lot more flexibility to the combat but the enemies are a lot more relentless and you’ll need to make sure you are prepared for battle when the need arises. Geralt has great moves when it comes to his swordplay but he also has some cool tricks up his sleeves too. your main weapon can be enchanted with different oils that will change the properties of your blade and you can also dip into your radial menu to cast one of 5 signs (or spells to nonhumans) that will stun, confuse and damage your opponents, you can also hold on to things like throwing knives or traps that may stun your opponent to give you that extra advantage. As you open up the radial menu the game goes into a great looking slow-motion sequence as you make your next choice, it can feel a little fiddly at first but you soon get used to it. Before the bigger battles begin you can prepare for battle by buying or creating potions to enhance your abilities, recipes can found throughout the game and they can also be bought from vendors you meet along the way.
One thing the tutorial doesn’t mention which will help you significantly is that you don’t always need to go into battle, you can just run off and save yourself some time and health, especially in open areas such as the forest where you can quickly become outnumbered, sometimes just running a few feet gets you past the invisible barrier that makes enemies turn round the other way.
As you defeat enemies and complete quests you earn experience points which go towards earning talent points that in turn will allow you to upgrade your talents via the character tab in the menu, there are four branches that can be upgraded, these include the very skills you learned through the tutorial that will eventually upgrade your heath and allow you to throw daggers. Swordsmanship, once upgraded will allow you to perform better and more lethal attacks, as well as being to take less damage when attacked from behind. The Alchemy branch will allow you to make more potent and longer lasting potions and also improve your chances of survival when poisoned. Finally the magic branch will see the different signs upgraded which will really help in the bigger battles.
The rest of the menu contains lots of information and has been really well thought out, it’s really easy to navigate and find what you need quickly. The journal lets you manage your quests and also find out information on pretty much everything in the game from locations to characters and you can also refer back to your tutorial information when needed. You can also navigate your inventory and filter by different categories to help you manage your gear. The only letdown for me is the map, it isn’t very well laid out and there isn’t enough detail when you try to zoom in to local areas.
I mentioned before that you shouldn’t feel like you PC owning friends were get a better deal than you and when you look at the game you will know why, it looks amazing the very first cutscene is superb and I still sometimes sit through it because it’s that good. Once you are in-game you will also be pleased with how everything looks, whether you are talking to characters from the main quests or just residents in the various districts you can tell a great deal of effort has gone into them. The scenery is brilliant and there is so much to explore, the only slight letdown when navigating some of it is when you are going down a ledge you have to press ‘A’ and wait a few seconds as Geralt moves into place to jump down, it’s only a niggle though. I’m also a huge fan of the soundtrack, in fact it is one of my favourites for a while.
CD Projekt have done a brilliant job bringing this title over to the Xbox and if you don’t have this on PC you’ll be glad you got the chance to experience it on a console.
Review: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition Results
What we liked:
Excellent range of quests, always kept me interested.
Visuals are awesome and the soundtrack is first class.
Each area feels alive and the range of characters is brilliant.
What we disliked:
Poor in-game map, lots of work could be done to improve it.
Story can be overwhelming at times.