Witcher 2 Review
Developer: CD Projekt RED Studio
Publisher: Atari, Inc
Though typically I prefer my play styles to be unmeshed (no need to get my peanut butter in anybody’s Final Fantasy) there has always been something fun about any game that has just a dash of RPG to it. The most popular of this is the Action RPG, which you typically see in games like the Elder Scrolls series and the game I’m about to talk to you about here: The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings. Originally released in May of 2011 for the PC, due to public pushing it was later released on the Xbox 360 in April of the following year. After releasing the Xbox version CD Projekt RED released the Enhanced Edition to all subsequent releases of the game (which include fixes to gameplay and the user interface, more gorgeous cinematic scenes to drool over, and about four extra hours of gameplay). The game has a fantasy setting based off of the books by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski which also follows the exploits of Witcher Geralt of Rivia.
All of the Action RPGs I’ve played have tried to do their own little twist on gameplay to make it “NEW” and “EXCITING”, but typically it just becomes “STALE” and “REPETITIVE”. The Witcher 2 manages to quite brilliantly *not* do this by giving you gameplay that’s challenging, but also quite adaptive to how you like to play. You can run into a nest of undead, silver sword swinging in the air, spells blasting them to and fro, and probably not die too much by constantly dodging and parrying attacks. Or, you could take the more strategic route and stalk your intended victims; lay down traps, ingest specialized potions, and coat your blades in mystical goo. The skill trees allow you to invest points that give you little perks to your stats or unlock new abilities so that you can customize Geralt to whatever tickles your particular fancy (not here to judge…well not you at least).
Speaking of judgement, this game really has none of it. You are presented with choices at every turn and time and again you have to make a choice that will affect the entire world around you. But these decisions aren’t exactly black and white. There are no “Push the evil-looking guy twirling his mustaches into a well to save some kittens” situations. Every one of these choices will make you stop and seriously wonder what mark you want to leave on this beautifully flawed world.
Of the improvements from the first Witcher game the graphics are definitely the most striking. It’s a beautifully rendered game that goes for a more realistic style and accomplishes it swimmingly. The in-game visuals are quite lovely, but the cinematic sequences are where they really shine. I have started up Witcher 2 countless times and I still sit through the entirety of the opening scene and find something new to fall in love with. Another interesting little stylistic approach they use is the introduction of comic-style flashbacks to help tell the history of Geralt with a dark, Sin City kind of feel to it.
Audibly, the sound goes hand in hand with the graphics in pulling you deep into the story of the game and regretfully releasing you when you must forage for sustenance. Everything from crickets chirping to the far-off cry of a monster. The soundtrack manages to slide in underneath and add to the overall gloomy, medieval tone that’s all the Witcher is and should be.
Do I recommend this game? Absolutely. It’s most definitely one of those rare games that hits every point that it tries to make without having to sacrifice anything to get there. It has tons of story that can be poured over and picked apart, the choice system offers a great amount of replay value, and with the set of mod tools just released you know that those wacky modders will have you slaying monsters in a duck suit before you can say “Why did I download this?”
That being said I do have some caveats. The story is brutal and quite thick. If you can’t sit still and pay attention to it you won’t get half of the enjoyment you should from this game. You also should not play this game before playing the first. You will miss out on an incredibly large amount of back story that is crucial to understanding just why you’re stabbing this guy in the chest.
I give it 6/6 beer cans.
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