In many respects in eyes of many, the first “Witcher” game was so impressive it made RPG fans that used to do all of their questing in console based form wonder if it wasn’t finally time to effectively learn the mouse & keyboard method of playing. The original game “The Witcher”, based on the lore of the books written by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, created quite a stir in the gaming world for it’s stunning beautiful visuals, wide range of plot altering choices, and dark adult content, and therefore it’s with little wonder that some of the expectations placed upon the sequel, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, are about as high as the bar can be set. With these kinds of lofty expectations placed upon a sequel, the difficulties for the writers, programmers, artists, and the rest of staff involved in such a highly hyped project were undoubtedly, greatly daunting, if not down right intimidating. Now, with the arrival of this sequel finally here, comes the assessment of whether The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, meets or exceeds the expectations created by the first.
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The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings starts out with the game’s protagonist/hero Geralt of Rivia, and it is right from here that is so much telling of what the overall experience of The Witcher 2 shapes up to be. The graphics are simply astounding, with attention to light, shadow, and fine detail that simply can not be truly absorbed or appreciated with a quick glance. This a compliment handed to many games today that makes the level of what we’re attempting to convey in mere print here near impossible, but suffice it say the look of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings rivals the graphics of the very best available today to the point that simply freezing the action would provide what would be a highlight, “still picture” cut scene on other games.
The next highlight of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings? The amount of choice in how Geralt can execute his objectives and further the story. Without giving away actual story lines, there are several methods that Geralt can use to implement his escape, free or abandon other prisoners, and ignore of befriend NPCs along the way, all that have far reaching consequences into how the overall story will unfold. The clear bonus of this amount of far reaching choice in how The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is played, would be the obvious bonus of the new material that can potentially be uncovered on subsequent playthroughs of a game that purportedly provides the RPG fan with a minimum of 40 hours of darkly beautiful questing, and that’s apparently not including considerable side quest material.
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings introduces a new system of combat over the original, with one sword of steel for use mainly against humans, and another of silver for use against the grotesque monsters Geralt encounters, and of course a multitude of spells that can be cast against one’s enemies. Spells that burn, spells that stun, spells that bind enemies to one spot while Geralt rains damage down upon them, all present and accounted for, and Geralt’s bag of tricks doesn’t end there either. Between battles, potions can be mixed, and traps can baited and laid, giving Geralt quite a range of options of how he carries out combat. The actual animations of Geralt’s style of combat is detailed enough that it appears quite “real world” effective, and when he unleashes his magic, fire and lightning burst forth with a fury that matches that of Gandalf himself.
The only knock that can really be placed against The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, is that because of the massively ambitious and detailed storyline, and the plot twists and turns that happen as a result of Geralt’s choices as the quest unfolds, in some cases it can be difficult to really understand the cause and effect of the detail of these choices, and in some cases character sub plots seem not sufficiently fleshed out, others ending too abruptly and anti-climatically. Let’s put these criticisms in perspective though, for a game like The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, that provides this level of non-linear play, having every character’s sub plot fully explored, and every storyline played out to an epic ending would asking an amount of writing, terrain creation, and all the details that go along with that could span over multiple games, and truly justify a serious hike in price tag. So while The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings does become victim of it’s own ambition at times, it shouldn’t be too heavily berated for it. Overall, with 4 different beginnings and 16 different endings, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is mature and dark, detailed and beautiful, and should be rightly recognized as an epic adventure with very few equals.