The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings PC Review - www.impulsegamer.com -

Gameplay 9.5
Graphics 9.4
Sound 9.0
Value 9.6
Distributor: Namco Bandai
Classification:
MA15+
Review Date:
June 2011
Reviewer:
Gary Wilson

9.5


The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

There are probably two games released every year that will consume your very life and years later, you'll look back and think to yourself... wow, what a game. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings by developers by CD Projeckt RED is that game and wow (yes), what an experience. With that said, the biggest problem with role-playing games of today is that they have been consolised and much of the in-depth content that made these games a complex collection of ideas, gameplay and overall enjoyment has been cut down to appease those couch gamers. Thankfully the Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is not part of this new mantra but rather, is a very intricate RPG that offers more than just a casual hack and slash experience.

The story of the Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings take place after the first game, however if you have no background on the original game, you will not be penalised by not knowing the story. You can easily pick up the story and more importantly, it will probably make you want to finish the first game. In the game, players control Geralt of Rivia, a broken man whose torture has only made him stronger. Unfortunately for Geralt, he has amnesia and throughout the game, his memories will play an integral part to the story. Unfortunately Geralt was framed for the murder of King Foltest and although your goal is to find the real killer, there are turbulent politics involved, fighting, war and nefarious evils.

The story is also quite graphic, both with the violence and the sex scenes but it actually suits the game quite well. Given this fact, Geralt definitely has his choice of women and the game does not shy away from nudity or his love making antics. Your journey basically begins once you have escaped your jailers in your search of the king slayer. Nevertheless my interpretation of the game is more about the connection between the player and Geralt and linking together his memories in discovering who he is. This is where the game shines because you know just as much as Geralt does, especially in relation to this intricate world.

The world of The Witcher 2 is huge and the game contains a wealth of amazing characters that you will come across from generals to drunken dwarves or dangerous harpies and a whole world of people that you can interact with, both physically and mentally. Even though the story is quite dark at times, there is a healthy amount of humour thrown into the mix as you complete the three chapters of this game. Another highlight about the RPG aspect of this title is that your verbal choices to the characters that you meet do impact the story and when I challenged some guards about their prisoners, they actually came true with the threats and murdered them in cold blood much to Geralt's disgust! The game even boasts four different beginnings and 16 different endings that will easily rack up at least 40 hours of play and then another 40 if you play it again. This is as engaging as RPG's get.
 
In essence, The Witcher 2 is reminiscent to games such as Oblivion but the environments that you explore are not as open. It's good that the developers have kept things more closed because sometimes total freedom does hamper the game but through smoke and mirrors, it's almost like a true sandbox experience. There's quite a bit of customisation included for your character and the menus are relatively straight forward without it being overtly complex. As you are awarded experience, you can select your own path for Geralt to follow such as selecting witcher, swordsman or alchemist.

At times, The Witcher 2 does feel like grinding but your choices do impact the direction of the title which goes beyond the traditional dungeon crawls.  Unlike Dragon Age II where your choices really didn't impact on the story, this is not true in The Witcher 2 and certain choices will ultimately impact the outcome of your story. As the game is seriously THAT good, you can easily play this title another time in order to see the story pan out differently which is definitely a highlight of the game.

Asides from character interaction and exploration, combat is a key element to the Witcher 2 and the mouse/keyboard controls work extremely well. For those that enjoy the more console-like experience, a gamepad option is available that works well, however for me, the accuracy of the mouse is far superior. As you switch between silver and steel weapons, silver for monsters and steel for humans, you have a variety of melee attacks plus the options of spells. Combat is not easy in The Witcher 2 and although it can be quite frustrating at times, the rewards of defeating those difficult enemies and working out their weaknesses is almost a victory in itself. Even so, I love the way how Geralt fights, especially with his deadly sword.

Add in a variety of very cool RPG-inspired items such as my favourite, traps and you have a very engaging title with all the bells and whistles. You can also visit shops to purchase items or have them create items for you and if you get stuck in the middle of a forest, you can take the gamble to create your own potions. I'm not a huge fan of tweaking items in games or creating them but The Witcher 2 definitely changed my mind.

If you are down of money, you can participate in local fights to help boost your coinage which is one of the several mini-games in the title from fighting to arm wrestling which is a nice distraction but plays out too much like a console game. Needless to say, The Witcher 2 is a huge game with almost unlimited scope in how the game will play out. The choices are definitely up to the player which makes the connection to this game a very addictive experience as you get lost in the rich worlds of The Witcher 2.

Of course this game would not have been a success without the amazing graphics that grace this title. Often as I explored these ancient forests and strongholds, I stopped to literally smell the roses as the attention to detail was amazing. From the detailed characters or environments that you explore to realistic lighting and special effects that transport you to another world, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is pure PC eye candy. I don't think I have been this captivated by a game for awhile and whether you're watching the sunset or the detailed textures of the various characters that you encounter from beautiful maidens to trolls or the more vile monsters that you encounter, this is as good as gaming gets on the PC.

A mild spoiler is the majestic giant dragon that you encounter which really pushes the capabilities of the DirectX 9 engine and although the game has a feature to automatically detect your PC configuration and adjust the settings, you really need a high-end PC to truly experience the graphics without the unsteady frame rates. Voice acting ranges from mediocre to excellent but thankfully the main characters are well done, apart from a few of the "maidens" and drunken dwarves but it's all part of the fun right? The soundtrack of The Witcher 2 is quite haunting and is easily one of the best musical experiences on the PC in quite some time. If you do purchase the premium edition, it comes with a plethora of extra that include the making of DVD, official game soundtrack, world map, game manual/game guide, pamphlet and cursed coin plus two paper crafts.
 
Conclusion

In the end, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is a visually impressive game that contains a very sturdy gaming engine. If you haven't played a traditional RPG in awhile, the learning curve is a little steep and challenging at the start but once you have the experience under your belt and selected a direction for your character, battles will slowly become easier but fortunately there is always something along the way to challenge you. This is what RPG's are all about and I sincerely hope that this game will become the template for games to come on the PC.

Highly Recommended!






 
 



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