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The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (Windows)

89
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100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
4.3
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Written by  :  Jeanne (75620)
Written on  :  Jan 12, 2012
Rating  :  4.71 Stars4.71 Stars4.71 Stars4.71 Stars4.71 Stars

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Summary

A terrific sequel that continues Geralt's story and leads us into the next chapter

The Good

Version played: GOG European release, English, patched to v1.2 (1st play) & then 2.1
CPU: Pentium 5, Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550 2.83Ghz
OS: Windows XP Pro SP3
RAM: 3.25GB
Video Card: 1GB GeForce 9800GTX+

Story
The main objective in The Witcher 2 is to hunt down and destroy the "kingslayer" who assassinated King Foltest, or so we're lead to believe in the beginning. Like all great stories, there is much more to it, influenced by intricate layers of political and moral motives. We must make decisions based upon available information as well as our own feelings. This leads to even more branching story threads than in the first game, and ultimately to one of the sixteen endings. Even what appears to be the most insignificant dialog selection can lead you down an entirely different path. Those decisions may (or may not) effect the end-game, but most definitely will have an impact on future happenings. Playing through multiple times and making different choices is the only way to see the game in its entirety. Fantastic!

World
Three chapters, three locations - and, again, never the need (or option) to go back to previous areas. That's just the way it is. Those who prefer a wide open, free-roaming world might not like it, but it works in this game.

Each location is open to you, though, and there's plenty to do. Take on as few or as many side quests as you like. There are castles, towns, forests and caves to be explored; conversations to have with NPCs and transactions to conduct. Diversions exist too including playing dice poker, competing in arm-wrestling and fist-fighting, or spending a few hours collecting reagents for making potions, bombs or to use in crafting.

Combat
Combat in general is much improved, although I missed the special attacks from the first game. Use of the WASD keys plus the mouse is more akin to other games in this genre. The responsiveness of the keyboard wasn't always perfect in my case, which I chalked up to lulls affected by long play periods. Usually it was better after deleting a chunk of older saved games or starting after a fresh system boot.

So many other RPGS base their monsters on the Lord of the Rings, but there are none of them here, and it's a refreshing change. (You'll find no orcs in this game!) In addition to human and elf opponents, I was impressed by the sheer number (and types) of unique monsters. They are intelligent, cunning and ruthless monsters that swoop down from above, spring up out of the ground, and chase after you with unrelenting speed. They have vicious teeth, claws or tentacles, and some spew noxious gasses at you.

Character Relationships
Love relationships take a back seat in this game compared to the first Witcher. After his stint in prison, Geralt gets sexual relief with Triss, yes, but afterwards the conversation is casual and without commitment. The lack of "love" interests disappointed me at first, but later I realized why the developers wanted Geralt to go down a different path. We eventually learn that Yennefer, his sorceress wife, previously presumed dead, may be alive. It stands to reason that no other relationship can be nurtured until the mystery of Yennefer is solved, although it's obvious that Geralt and Triss care deeply for each other.

Graphics & Sound
Without a doubt, Witcher 2 is a beautiful game with lush and engaging graphics. It's obvious that time and care were taken while designing each and every graphic aspect. All characters are unique in look, actions, voice and personality. The buildings and forests looked and felt very realistic to me. Geralt is still as sexy and manly as before. All of the women look gorgeous, with and without their clothes.

The game sports an original, orchestrated musical score that is both pleasant to listen to as well as unobtrusive. Sound effects help with the immersion factor. There are special sounds to warn you when a fight is imminent, for instance. Each of the monsters has its own, unique battle sounds too.

The Bad

Game Design Issues
My particular preferences for RPGs may be different than yours, so you may not agree with my assessments below. These need improvement in my opinion.
  • Inventory: Again, the inventory is unsorted so finding things is tedious. The items are put into categories, true, but placed there in the order you acquire them. Being able to sort them alphabetically, by weight and/or price would enhance this area.

  • Buying and Selling: First of all, what you have equipped is not visible in the buy/sell screen making it impossible to compare items. Secondly, you sell items for pennies although the same item is worth an unreasonable ten times more in a merchant's store. Thirdly, there aren't enough merchants in each location.

  • Crafting: I think the entire crafting system in Witcher is outdated. After Geralt purchases the proper diagram for a piece of armor or a weapon, why not allow him to create it himself? That would mean you could craft something even while out in the wilderness. There are also some inconsistencies in object names. For instance, the diagram for Solid Cloth actually makes Robust Cloth. This is true for at least one potion too .. the formula called "Whirl" makes "Healing Potion".

  • Journal/Knowledge base: Information about monsters is included in 2 separate areas (the Journal and in the Character section). Why not put them together?

  • Exploration: You can't go through the bushes or over a hill, even though it might look like a viable pathway.
Other Comments
Making a game challenging with seemingly unbeatable enemies has its merits. However, if a player can't seem to move on, the ensuing frustration may result in uninstalling the game rather than finishing it. That happened to me in several spots during Witcher 2. Sometimes reasoning out strategies helped, while other times I had to change the difficulty setting back a notch. However, some problems were not my fault and were instead the result of lulls in the engine and/or lack of keyboard responsiveness during action-rich sequences.

The manual could have included more information about the new mutagens and how/when to apply them.

Although patch 2.1 added storage at each of the inns, there's still an issue with Geralt's weight limit. The storage helps, but we're still constantly having to decide what to keep and what to get rid of (by dropping or selling). I was disappointed in the final chapter when I hadn't saved one component for a powerful sword or piece of armor that would finish a quest. I don't know if I used it in a potion or sold it, and of course it could not be found anywhere in that area. How was I to know?

Glitches (still present after patch 2.1):
The ESC key didn't work sometimes. This was a show stopper.
When trying to restore a game, I was dropped back to the Launcher unexpectedly. This happened pretty often, and was only fixed by deleting 75% of my old saved games.

The Bottom Line

The CD Project Red team obviously put their hearts and souls into The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, and improvements over the first game are evident. I, therefore, wholeheartedly recommend this to all fans of the RPG genre.

This is a decidedly different game than its predecessor and does a very good job of continuing the tale of Geralt of Rivia, the phenomenally talented monster-slayer. Since Geralt's memory is not yet fully recovered, and he still doesn't know what became of his wife, Yennefer, this game leads us right into another chapter, which hopefully will not be too long in coming.