The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – Enhanced Edition. Game ReviewComments Off
Developed by CD Projekt. Published by Namco Bandai / Xbox 360 (PC version is available) / £39.99
Reviewed by Phil Lunt
Based on The Witcher series of books by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, the game continues the story of Geralt of Rivia, one of the last of the Witchers: monster-hunters trained and mutated from an early age, across a land simply known as The Continent.
From the intro movie you can see that this is going to be a messy, bloody, affair. And it is. Assassinations ahoy, but then that’s in the title so you’d probably be annoyed if there weren’t.
The game then runs in sweeping chapter arcs where your actions really do count and affect the direction of later gameplay. Missions can be picked up from lead characters throughout as well as you optionally taking up “side-quests” from notice boards. Geralt is a monster-hunter by profession, after all, so why not do the public a favour by hunting monsters for gold?
Combat is a mix of fairly standard “strong yet slow” and “weak yet fast” attacks combined with parry/riposte defences, magic and thrown object/placed trap moves. I might be getting old but this can be damned tricky to deal with at times, especially when dealing with multiple foes… There is a simple and effective targeting mechanic in place but these guys don’t hold back, whether it’s humans or pointy-teethed, goblin-like, Nekkers that you’re fighting. This is excellent gameplay and shows off some good computer AI but can be bloody frustrating! It’s definitely a game that requires you to save often and get used to seeing the “game over” screen.
It firmly has a place amongst all other RPG games, too. If Kingdoms of Amalur:Reckoning is The Hobbit and Skyrim is Lord of the Rings then The Witcher 2 is most definitely Game of Thrones (even though The Witcher series has it’s own film and TV versions, internationally named The Hexer, I’ll admit to never seeing them so can’t use it as a point of reference here.)
However, contemporary games may have spoilt us a bit. For example, some folk might bemoan the lack of any form of “fast travel” in The Witcher 2. Important quest locations are not always indicated. The map is good but purely illustrative for the most part. Wandering around, exploring intentionally or otherwise, and picking up everything you can find is key to the nature of the game. Your knowledge of the world around you is increased and added to your journal as you go along. All those things you pick up can be used to make potions, traps, bombs and enhancements to armour and weapons so they can be vital.
All in all I found it took a bit of getting used to but once immersed in the game, The Witcher 2 is dark, gritty, morally ambiguous and really rather excellent.