Genre: Role Playing Developer: Publisher: Classification: MA15+ Release Date: 17th Apr 2012 Platforms:
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The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is the sequel to the 2007 RPG, built for the PC and released by CD Projekt RED. Based on the writing of Andrzej Sapkowski, The Witcher games follow Geralt of Rivia, one of the few remaining Witchers (read: monster hunters) left in the grim, fantasy world.
Assassins of Kings follows on where The Witcher left off, with Geralt of Rivia assisting King Foltest in his attempts to reclaim his children from their mother and solidify his monarchy. After King Foltest dies however and guards find Geralt standing alone over the corpse, he is accused of regicide and attempts to clear his name.
The problem with building a lot of different choices into your game is clear - and the most obvious reason most games stick to a strictly linear narrative. The size and nature of your changes are directly related to the amount of development time needed to enact those changes - and most people will never see the alternatives. If the changes are simple - killing this person means another is unavailable later - the development time is limited - make the second person mute or disappear them altogether. If the changes are vast however - choosing between two objectives disables all of the quest, plot and storyline elements found in the second - you are looking at hours of your game and hundreds of hours of development time most people will never experience.
This makes the extreme consequences for your actions both The Witcher 2's best attribute and its biggest problem. Once you choose your path and decide your allegiance, you will be regarded as an enemy by all those on the other side - so you can't flip flop and do quests for them - or even be seen by them. In other words, the only way to play the entire game is to play through it at least twice.
This is not necessarily a problem - the first Witcher title required the same - as did Deus Ex and dozens of other games. The under-appreciated Alpha Protocol was almost pointless if you only played through it once. It seems like every game out of Japan has a New Game + feature, with either the promise of added background story or 'better' endings.
As for games with changes though, there is something very gratifying about discussing a game with your friends, only to find out they had a remarkably different experience to you. Likewise, playing through a game again to see how things would have turned out if you'd done something differently can be a great experience in itself.
You need to want to play through the game again however - and this is where Assassins of Kings falls apart. That isn't to say you won't enjoy your first time through - the game is a blast as I'll get to in a second - but once you've reached the end, maxed out your level and are chopping down monsters like they're made of cardboard, it's tough to go back to struggling through fights. And it's tougher still when a game begins as slowly as The Witcher 2 does.
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings begins with Geralt in a dungeon explaining a recent events - similar to this year's other big name fantasy RPG Dragon Age 2. In media res - beginning a story part-way through and recounting it in flashbacks - is a common literary technique, but it received mixed reactions when used in Dragon Age 2. Those who aren't a fan will be pleased to know events transpose in real-time before too long.
After Geralt explains the events which led to his incarceration, it's time to break out and fix his good name. You get your first taste of your consequences during your prison break - when you spoke to one of the nobles keeping Foltest from his children you had a choice of either talking him into letting you through or chopping him down. Talking to him means he is locked up in prison with you, killing him means he is dead. I felt pretty bad as I explained why I killed him to his mother, but she took it pretty stoically.
While his death would come back to haunt me later on in my first playthrough, keeping him alive was a pain in the ass when I started again. The sections in The Witcher 2 requiring stealth are annoying enough without a half dead nobleman weighing you down.
It was when I escaped the castle and reached the first village though that I knew I couldn't play through the game again. While I could have sped through the main story and jumped into the next part of the game rather quickly, the side quests are necessary if you want any experience - and any chance at all during battles.
Unfortunately, while some of the side quests are deeply involving and tell extremely interesting stories in themselves, they are essentially just that - stories - and not as interesting on a second run through when you know what mysteries lie at the end - especially if Geralt has to slowly trot all over the place to complete them.
The other side quests are your rpg standards - clear out the mines, exterminate the pests, etc. These are actually not bad in Assassins of Kings, for one simple reason - unlike the first game in the series, combat is actually good.
It doesn't start off great however, as I mentioned earlier. Battles at the beginning of the game tend to have you rolling and running away and around your enemy more than attacking them. The combat system isn't very well defined in game either, but it becomes obvious once you begin to play.
Stances are gone from the first game (thank goodness) and now Geralt simply builds up momentum when attacking - and as long as you aren't struck or stopped in some way, you can continue to build momentum until the battle is won. While targeting in a group fight can take some getting used to, once you do battles become like a dance, as you roll and weave through enemies, ducking their attacks and slicing them to ribbons.
Let's face it though, if you've seen any screenshots you'll know that just about everything about The Witcher 2 looks good. While The Witcher was technically graphically impressive - based on the Neverwinter Nights engine as it was - it was still not the prettiest game in the world. CD Projekt RED developed their own engine for Assassins of Kings however and they have done a stellar job. Outdoor environments are the best example of this, but they are followed a close second by characters themselves, who are detailed enough so you can pick out dwarves in minor roles (not distinctively unique in appearance) without getting close enough for their name to appear above their head.
The leveling up system has been simplified in The Witcher 2, with both good and bad results. Geralt now puts a point at each level into one of three different talent branches - after unlocking them not long into the game by filling the Witcher branch. The branches cover magic, combat and alchemy and are designed with filling a path to its zenith as opposed to spreading points out. Geralt maxes out at level 35 - which you can easily reach before halfway through the end chapter - meaning 35 points to distribute.
This allows you to fill out two talent trees, although only with one point in each skill. Mutagens - generally found on various monsters - can be linked to some talents further along the chain to increase Geralt's attributes. Geralt also gains skills at different, obscure points, which give him bonuses in certain situations.
It needs to be noted finally, The Witcher 2 - like its predecessor - is not for children. It opens with Geralt in bed with a naked woman and while the amount of sex is toned down from the almost embarrassing first game, it still plays a part.
That said however, if you are an adult and looking for a decent RPG, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is well worth a look. Some of the design choices are incredibly confusing and you might not want to play it again for a couple of months, but it does an excellent job of bringing Geralt's world to life.
Probably the best game/rpg/action iv palyed in a long time, say what you will this game had me sucked in from the get go.
after experiencing the visuals from this game, it makes everything else feel like its a dodgy ps2 comparison.
The review does it NO justice , I have to say as a critical and harsh reviewer of games, and with all the drivel being churned out now a days in the gaming media, this game was , fun, easy to learn, bes visuals iv see in a game to date, and most fun pc game i have played in a long while.
Graphics - 10
gameplay - 9.5
sound - 9.5
story - 10
ease of use - 9.0
the only downside being that if you haven got a good rig you wont be able to get the best experience out of this game, but lets just say this game justified the money i spent o my rig.
Its mind blowing that the sane critic gave DA2 9 (AAArgh!) and Witcher 2 7.5. Reverse the scores and you get a fair summary. DA2 was a game without any passion or any intention to make a good RPG. its mediocre. W2 tries hard to make a good RPG and is definitely a better game and better RPG. Unfortunately Witcher 2 also has rough edges. It feels unfinished. The interface is clumsy,, especially with potions. Combat is problematic. Role playing is limited to a single character. The game is too hard at the start and too easy at the end. the end is not very satisfying. Despite all these problems, Witcher 2 is by far the better game. The story and gameplay are awesome. Its a flawsed masterpiece but Witcher 2 is a must play game. You play it and think, with a few changes it would be awesome. Dragon Age 2 was so mediocre and boring, its a totally inferior experience.
I'll keep this brief. If you like RPGs in any way, shape, or form, playing this game will cause you to behave like a pig in mud - squeeling and snorting your way through a dark, foreboding high-fantasy RPG world brought to life with what has to be the most powerful DX9 graphics engine I've ever seen, CryEngine included.
Plot choices are real, side quests are actually interesting and challenging, and exploration is rewarded - finding something cool in the world without being led by the hand every step of the way is a wonderful feeling often missed in todays titles that tend to babysit you through the experience.
Combat, skill trees, alchemy, crafting, armor, weapons, it's all here folks in spades. The only disappointment compared to Witcher 1 is that the mutagens implementation is not done very well. You get zillions of the dang things dropping everywhere and yet hardly ever get to use them, and when you do - if you make the wrong choice, you are stuck with the one you picked. All I can say is use "Greater" mutagens and just sell the rest for orens.
I will say you MUST upgrade your version to Patch 1.2 if you want this game to perform as it was intended to. For whatever reason driver issues with both ATI and nVidia (in particular the 3DVision driver) caused severe performance drops on V1 and 1.1.
In summary, a mini-breakdown below to give a 9 overall: