It’s not often that a relatively small company gets so much attention when releasing a new game, but then again it’s not often that you get a sequel to one of the PC’s surprise hits of the last few years, The Witcher. CD Projekt Red has taken all that was good about their first foray into the world of the Witcher and have created a masterpiece of a sequel that is The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings.
We once again take control of Geralt, a Witcher created to hunt the beasts that lurk the lands, designed to be the best at what they do. Joining Geralt amid a feverish dream running through a forest, when he awakens we find him shackled and whipped raw in a dank dungeon and from here the game rarely let’s up. The games prologue is presented as a tutorial, taking us through the events that led up to Geralt being accused of regicide, showing you the basics of control and Sign casting whilst kicking off the story involving a castle raid, dragon attacks and the eventual assassination of a King. The oft talked about choices that many a RPG use are well in effect here with your actions, even early on, affecting the outcome of the game so be wary of who you kill.
The gameplay is a solid mix of adventuring and action and though Geralt is unable to jump around. the mêlée action is very similar to action games like Assassins Creed, with plenty of blocking, parrying and special finishing moves to try out. Unlike our favourite Italian assassin, Geralt’s style requires a lot more thought than just rushing in and taking on all-comers, for starters he has two swords to choose from, a steel blade which is good for dealing with human foes and a silver sword that is more effective against the monsters that lurk around the lands darker corners. Another area to consider whilst in battle is Geralt’s Vigor bar that is directly linked to his defence and Sign casting, with each block and special power using a segment. The Signs on offer are a mixture of defensive and offensive moves like the telekinetic push which can stun enemies and also be used on certain environments to unearth hidden walkways, a temporary shield that negates the need to block and a mind control that when successful will cause enemies to stand side by side with you in an attack. The Signs that Geralt uses are identified by an emblem which initially is a little confusing as to what you are selecting as they are described by game names like Aard and Igni, time to scrub up on my Witcher Signs translation.
Of course with any RPG you have abilities and equipment to play around with to create the perfect Witcher and depending on the difficulty played allow even more customisation options. As you rank up you earn points to spend on abilities under three main paths (not including the training which is compulsory), where you can either concentrate on one set or mix it up a little which will give you a broader field of experience but will lose out on some of the more powerful special moves. Swordsmanship can improve attacks like a higher chance of an instant kill and unlocking a special group finishing move; Alchemy will increase your chance of finding ingredients and a berserker mode and Magic unlocks even more tiers to your equipped Signs.
With a job that requires being alone in the wilderness for long periods of time Geralt is also able to create and craft (with some assistance) items which can boost stats when taken in his meditation state before a fight like slow health recharge or even place oils on your blade like poison to give you an edge in battle.
Though a PC game with the standard controls you would expect from an RPG, The Witcher 2 also supports game controllers, mapping every button perfectly onto my PS3 pad with easy to use quick menus plus it makes the action infinitely better. It’s not all good for Geralt though as there are a few stealth moments that feel a little tacked on, with you sneaking around dungeons and snuffing lights with your powers whilst trying to avoid detection from eagle eyed guards or take them out with a fiddly to pull off stealth attack that never seems to work.
To break up the non-stop action, the villages you visit during your quest also offer a variety of mini games to earn extra cash with pub games like Dice Poker, arm wrestling or if you talk to the right people you can arrange a fist fighting tournament.
The presentation of The Witcher 2 is simply stunning and instantly pulls you into an amazing world giving you a Hollywood blockbuster feel with immersive settings, great voice acting and sound effects. Graphics are of course the joy and bane of many a PC gamer and The Witcher 2 offers plenty of sliders and tick boxes to get the most out of your PC. The graphic pre-sets do a decent enough job of offering the best available to you with even the minimum specs looking quiet detailed and not really deterring from the gameplay. Of course the better your kit the more of a visual experience you will be treated to and the high/ultra settings are simply stunning, with amazing detail from fires spewing their shadows all over a dark damp wall to the stitching on armour you are in or a visual treat with very few games offering such rich variety of environments and characters.
Though widely available via download there have been a few issues with these, with 9GB patches and difficulty registering the game, throughout CDProjekt Red have kept everyone up to date via the games forums. The retail special edition used for this review worked 100% straight out of the box and offers a few regular special edition extras like a making of DVD and a selection of tracks from the outstanding soundtrack, a guide book plus a beautifully designed map, a pamphlet and a rather pointless and small cursed coin (no bigger than 20p) and two papercraft characters which offer something to do whilst installing.
Whilst not a huge sprawling affair like Oblivion and other RPG’s it nails everything it aims to do, making it a joy to experience and play. The Witcher 2 successfully bridges a gap between PC and console games with an accessible control system that is perfectly suited for a game controller and graphics that a console gamer would die for; could this be the game that makes gamers return to their PC’s? Only time will tell, none the less, this is a must have purchase even if you have a minimum spec PC.
Rating: Excellent Review policy
You can order The Witcher 2 (PC | Collector’s Edition) at ShopTo.