The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Review
When I saw the Witcher 3 at E3 this year, my jaw hit the floor. It was without a doubt my game of the show, and I was really excited for it. Having never played the previous games, I was very happy to see that the Witcher 2 was on sale for a mere 10 dollars on Xbox Live. I had no idea what to expect, but what I got was an involving, challenging, and mature role-playing experience unlike any other I have played. This impulse buy turned out to be one of the best RPGs I have ever had the pleasure of playing through.
The Witcher 2 is a very challenging game. It is difficult, but it never feels cheap. As Geralt of Rivia, a superhuman monster slayer, you will of course, slay monsters. You will also be fighting a variety of human enemies as well. You have a light chained attack and a heavy damaging attack to use against your foes. Depending on the situation, either can be very helpful.
You also have access to 5 magic spells, ranging from fireballs to shields to magic traps. These spells add a great deal of strategy and depth to the combat, as you must use them and every other tool at your disposal to defeat your foes. You can also craft traps and bombs with different effects to use in combat as well. You end up using these weapons, and not one feels over or under powered. You can use your stun spell to keep foes away while you dart them with daggers, or trap them with a spell and hack them to death with your sword. The combat will play out the way you want it depending on what items you use, and you can upgrade either your magic, alchemy, or swordsmanship when you level up.
This game differs from most RPGs in that it forces you to rely on your skill rather than your stats to get you through combat. However, you do have a chance to boost your stats before combat by meditating and crafting potions and poisons. These can increase your health regeneration, deal more sword damage, let you see through walls, and all sorts of other crazy effects. The catch is, you can't use them during combat, you must instead equip them for combat. This forces you to be smart about your crafting and adds a more realistic feel to the game. Even with all these tools at your disposal, Geralt is still flesh and blood, so save often.
The story in the Witcher 2 is an intricate mix between political, personal, and magical dilemmas. After the events of the first game, Geralt has been trusted as the personal bodyguard of King Foltest. After a mission gone wrong, Geralt is accused of the king's murder and sentenced to death.
After a quick escape, he decides to clear his name by tracking down the king's killer, but this will prove no easy task. He will need allies to help him, and those allies in turn need him to help them in their vast political struggles. Geralt will be forced into a war between the Scoi'atel, an army of non humans fighting against oppression and the forces of the northern kingdoms.
As these events unfold, Geralt will make some very tough decisions that have a huge impact on how the story plays out. One choice in particular towards the end of the first chapter will lead you down drastically different paths, resulting in nearly two games in one. And even with those paths are even more decisions that can lead to 16 different endings.
Needless to say, this game has some serious replay value. Along the way, Geralt must also recover his memory, as he has amnesia and cannot remember his past life. Combining all these different story threads into one game makes for a very involved experience, and if you aren't paying attention, you can easily get lost. Fortunately, a well written and detailed journal is available to keep you up on quest stories and characters and their motivations.
The graphics on this game are absolutely incredible. The detail in the environments and the subtle facial expressions made by the characters further immerse you in the experience.
The sound design is also top notch. Combining great voice acting with what is now one of my favorite gaming scores makes for a fantastic audio experience.
There was some occasional texture pop in on the 360 version but I'm sure that is nonexistent on the PC. Towards the end of the game however, I did notice some odd glitches. Sometimes the world wouldn't load all the way and the ground beneath my feet looked like thin air, and sometimes the follower AI wasn't the best, but for the most part is a stable experience.
I went into this game having no idea what to expect, but I came out with one of the best RPGs I have ever played. The challenging tactical combat and deep story lines kept me involved in the experience the whole time as my eyes were glued to the screen, and the fantastic visuals and sound didn't hurt either. When I was done, I immediately wanted to play it again just to see how different events would turn out, and if you thought I was excited for the Witcher 3 before, I am now amped up beyond belief. If you haven't yet played this game, I'd advise you to try it out, especially considering it is about the price of a lunch at Burger King. Glitches be damned! This was an unforgettable RPG.