Picking up where The Witcher left off in 2007, The Witcher 2 takes place in a profoundly dangerous world filled with intrigue and beauty. Based on the novels by Andrzej Sapkowski, the mature themes and violent instant kills head the "Not Safe For Children" list. Following in its predecessor footsteps, the graphics are superb, the story is captivating, and the gameplay is challenging. I have a few bones to pick with the short story and unexplained details, but The Witcher 2 is still a must have for any RPG gamer.
The story begins with Geralt of Rivia, a white-haired Witcher, being interrogated by Vernon Roche, commander of the Blue Stripes and the man responsible for the investigation of the king's death, for which you have been blamed and arrested. This encounter leads into Geralt reliving the events of the day that the king was murdered. The Witcher 2 blurs the lines between good and evil, as nothing is simply black or white, and everyone from friend to foe has a secret agenda. Geralt must clear his name while he gets some beast slaying done along the way. With exceptional graphics, a well thought-out storyline, believable characters, and a non-linear approach, The Witcher 2 could top the charts for RPG storytelling.
If you were blamed for killing a regal figurehead, you wouldn't be smiling either.
You come across many NPCs in your journey through Temeria. Some are out to kill you, others to give you a helping hand. Overall, the ally NPCs, from companions to soldiers, are not very effective in combat. Allies seemed to be useful only in stopping the opponents from mobbing you but do no real damage of their own. But that's why powerful Witchers like Geralt exist. That being said, the actual interactions between characters is very well done. Throughout the story, you are prompted to make conversation choices that effect the outcome for Geralt. For example, in the beginning of the game when you are being interrogated, Vernon holds out his hand in greeting. Since your hands are tied behind your back you can politely say, "I would if my hands weren't tied," or you can tell him to sod off. A big drawback here is that, despite the decisions that alter the branching plot, the game had a disappointing ending and many questions were left unanswered.
As for the music, it was good but by no means unique. The various melodies do not make the adventure any more memorable, but not every game can be like Oblivion. However, the voice acting fits the characters and the sound effects seem authentic. As with any game of this size, there were some glitches that will be easy to fix with a patch, such as Malena periodically becoming mute.
Slaughtering monsters for a living is sure to come with some bumps and bruises.
There is something beautiful about playing in an open environment, non-linear game, as long as you have the PC components to match. In The Witcher 2, you can explore the world, making some quick coin to satisfy your living needs. It is refreshing to see that CD Projekt took the time to construct a believable world that does not simply rely on graphics but also pays attention to general design. From elaborate castles to filthy backwater towns, each scene fits perfectly into The Witcher 2's puzzle. However, no game is perfect. Geralt cannnot swim, and jumping and climbing can only be performed when prompted to do so. Even these imperfections are artfully executed and do not detract from the polish that colors the rest of the settings.
The Witcher 2 is not for a gamer who is simply interested in a quick playthrough, though. The main quest can take 20-40 hours to complete, and that time can be easily doubled with the creative and numerous side quests. If you didn't play the original Witcher, you may find the complex controls unintuitive, and the tutorials are very short and unhelpful. A list of key bindings in the options menu would have been extremely useful.
The Witcher 2 captures the essence of its novel inspirations.
In terms of abilities, The Witcher 2 takes a fresh approach to skill advancement. With each level earned, you gain a talent point that you can place in one of four categories. The four categories are magic, training, swordplay, and alchemy. The beauty behind this system is that you can customize your character according to your play style, and that all four skill trees are equally effective. For instance, if you simply plan on mowing down the enemy with brute strength, you will most likely choose skills from the training and swordplay trees, but if you are looking for more elemental means to slaying your enemies, you might decide to focus on alchemy so you can add poison to your sword or wield magic that throws man and beast about with resounding force. Another advantage is your ability to apply mutagens towards improving stats like damage, armor, hit points, etc., but be careful because you cannot change them later on.
Alchemy really is one of the gems of the game. To use alchemy, you have to purchase diagrams of different potions from vendors and then gather the ingredients. You might find the ingredients by natural exploration of Geralt's world or looting the innards of dead creatures. By investing talent points into this skill, you can new perform feats like increasing the amount of time a brew lasts or how many potions you can drink. Unfortunately, you cannot mix or drink potions in the heat of battle, which sticks with the realistic theme. Overall, using alchemy can be cumbersome, but with a little planning, the effect it can have on your gaming experience can be profound.
Let the hate flow through you.
But sorry kids, The Witcher 2 is for adults only for thanks to its consist employ of nudity, foul language, and violence. Compared to other games in this M rating, The Witcher 2 turns these aspects, which are generally done poorly, into a sophisticated, tasteful quality of the world. The foul language is used in a way that speaks about the lowliness of the characters that utter them. The sexuality consists of full female frontal nudity, and although Geralt can have sex with a several protagonists, but the game itself does not focus on these attractions. As for violence, it is not overdone; you won’t feel like you're watching a horror movie. Yes, there is minor blood splattering but not in a beheadings for the sake of beheadings kind of way.
The Witcher 2, with its excellent graphics, thought provoking storyline, revealing characters, and beautiful, open-ended world, could be definitely placed along such hits like Fable, Final Fantasy, and Shadow of the Colossus. For a genre in desperate need of a rebirth, The Witcher 2 sails beyond its lofty aspirations, but only on top tier gaming PCs.
Developer: CD Projekt RED
Release Date: May 17, 2011
Number of Players: 1
Platforms: PC (Reviewed)