in Review

A Bewitching Game

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

I was a little nervous going into The Witcher 2. The first game didn’t seem as fun to me as everyone else seemed to think it was and I never got that far into it. Like the Elder Scrolls and Fallout franchises, I just didn’t see what they saw in the game. But I could tell that it wasn’t bad and The Witcher 2 came out right when I graduated from college, so I took a leap of faith. I’m glad I did, because I can say, unequivocally, that this is the best game that is a sequel to a game I didn’t play that much of and is also based on a popular series of books I never read. And that’s something.

Geralt of Rivia, the witcher you heard so much about, begins Assassins of Kings locked in the dungeons. This isn’t uncommon for him, since witchers are humans that mutated themselves to become monster hunters. There is a lot of racial tension in this world, with plenty of humans taking a strong anti-elf and dwarf stance. Since Geralt isn’t quite human, he’s an outsider. But more importantly, he’s been accused to killing the king. The game catches you up a little bit and then Geralt is off on a quest to clear his name, one way or another.

The structure of The Witcher 2 is simple enough, each chapter you have a hub town where you can accept quests and explore. There’s plenty to do in this game, especially if you choose to replay it. At a certain point you’re forced to choose between two paths, and the entire game is different from that point. What I liked about that choice, and many of the choices Geralt makes, is that it wasn’t a clear good or evil decision. In this world, everyone’s a jerk and you can never be sure exactly who you should side with, since they might betray you as soon as they’re done using you. It makes the story a lot more engaging than I expected, especially since I came in with practically no lore knowledge.

This is a game that embraces newcomers, while dropping in enough to give returning fans a kick. When Geralt meets up with characters I assume were in the last game or the books, conversations never get too referential, just enough that even I can understand their relationship. I get that Triss is a love interest and Dandlion is a wannabe loverboy without having to have them explained to me. It’s good writing and that’s something I can appreciate.

Assassins of Kings takes a bit of time to learn to play, which isn’t helped by the game’s general lack of tutorials. The first sequence you’ll play through is somewhat demanding for new players, and the game doesn’t help you out. I found the controls a little floatier than I would have desired and lacking in basic functionality and customizability. I ended up playing most of the game with an Xbox controller, which seemed better in some aspects, such as the inclusion of a “loot all” button, something keyboard controls are missing.

This can be quite a difficult game, if you let it. To do well in battle, you’ll have to carefully plan ahead, setting traps and drinking potions to increase your combat ability. Swordplay is simplified to just heavy and quick attacks, forgoing the styles and timing mechanics from the last game. Leveling is a bit more straightforward too, and I made myself quite a beast, making most battles fairly simple by the end of the game. Then again, I played on normal. Maybe I should have adjusted the difficulty when things got too easy.

But I was never not enjoying The Witcher 2. This a great RPG that does everything you could ask of the genre. It engages you with the story, puts a premium on player choice and gives plenty of motivation to explore and quest. That’s about everything I’m looking for. In fact, I better start a new campaign pretty soon, I want to see more of the alternate path.


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