Ah, summer is here and so is the gaming drought. The games have piled up and it’s around this time of year that I begin to plow through the slew of releases good or bad. The first game is The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings.
Based on a book series by Polish author Andrezej Sapkowski, The Witcher 2 is a third person action RPG in which you play as Geralt of Rivia. The combat is intense, I’ve already bedded several women, and monsters ravage the lands in calamitous fashion.
At the present moment, I’ve only just completed the first chapter and the experience so far has been brilliant. Aside from the ass-kicking that I took during the prologue, the combat is satisfying. Every ability needs to be used in conjunction with each other in order to fight through the throngs of enemies and monsters. At one point, I entered a cave in search of some side-quest related item. What awaited me there was a horde of Nekkers. These little creatures are ferocious and with my playstyle, I charged at them with sword in hand. I died in a glorious manner and restarted the game. This time, I put down a few traps and tried again. Failure. Ten minutes later, I return to the cave with three different types of potions, enchanted armor, and a specific sword oil designed to deal with these creeps. Victory was mine at last and it tasted good.
Every action that you take in this game matters. You cannot run haphazardly into battle as that will result in your utter annihilation. This is not Dragon Age where you can simply crush your opponents with AOE and chain stuns. There is only Geralt, for the majority of the game anyways, and the game will not hold your hand at any point. In his arsenal are signs (magic), alchemy, and swordsmanship. Even if you are a gungho player and skill exclusively into swordplay, there will come times where chugging a potion can mean victory or defeat.
When I see a game that I enjoy, I try not to watch any of the gameplay footage in order to keep my experience as pure as possible. The prologue gives you several options to choose, you can talk to the king, fight a dragon, or traipse about in some besieged castle. Obviously I would pick the dragon, who wouldn’t? This was not exactly the best of plans as I was plunged right into the heat of battle and running away from the flames of an extremely pissed off dragon. I barely even knew how to use my skills or whatnot. The game will not treat you as a child, it doesn’t guide you through the entirety of the game as others might. If you are going to play this game, I would advise choosing the first option and reading all of the tooltips. A tutorial, there is none.
Story-wise, it’s compelling enough even though it draws heavily upon the previous instalment which I never played. The short comic-styled cinematics are interesting to watch and effectively tells of Geralt’s past. I believe that there are branching paths and various endings to be acquired which means replaying is tempting. Through the grapevine, I heard that depending on your actions in the first chapter, the setting for the second will be completely different. I can already see myself squeezing a lot of value from this game.
If I were to have one gripe with the game, though it’s mostly due to my laziness, it would be looting. There may be a part in the game where you enter a military encampment. Equipment and crates of supplies are everywhere. I am afraid of hitting my Z button to highlight all the lootable things in the area because I know that the entire camp will be glowing a bright orange and begging me to riffle through their goodies. It’s the same thing with games such as Fallout 3 where I see a box and I need to check if there is anything of worth inside of it. This is made worse when I’m over encumbered because I’m that guy who holds onto a feather that I found at the beginning of the game thinking it may serve me well down the road. I know that this has to be in the game, the crafting is superb, but I wish I could have a magical spell that brings everything worth pilaging into my inventory. I’m a lazy chump, what can I say?
Another praise worthy thing about The Witcher 2 is that it was built with the PC in mind. When playing Crysis 2, which was initially a PC title and put Crytek on the map, I found that the textures were muddy and overall horrible. The first Crysis had stronger texture quality than the second and that boggles my mind. The Witcher 2 however, has the most realistic skin that I have ever seen. That may sound strange but it’s true. When I walk into a forest, I can individually distinguish between the bumps in the bark. It’s fabulous.
So far, The Witcher 2 has put forth on all fronts. It has received high scores on several different sites, some hailing it as the best RPG of this year. Coupled with the strong mod support, I can definitely recommend this to anyone who likes to play RPGS.