Home
Twitter
RSS
Newsletter
Denny Markovic
30 May, 2011

The Witcher 2: Assassins Of Kings Review

PC Review | A CDProjekt guide on how to make an amazing RPG.
CDProjekt are a company that have built one very strong reputation in only a few short years since their inception. Their debut game, the novel-inspired RPG The Witcher was critically acclaimed and financially successful, introducing a mature, well thought out and powerful RPG experience which, though flawed, was loved by many and considered somewhat of a masterpiece in its own right. Then came along their other creation, Good Old Games, which brought many forgotten games back from the dead with extra features, no DRM and an incredibly low price. So what's not to love about this company? It's a rarity in this day and age for a studio to look after and listen to its consumers so well and with that deliver incredibly polished games at the same time. So, now that the highly anticipated sequel, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is finally out and about, does it still retain the originals flare and go on to pave the way for RPGs? The short answer is an absolutely enormous yes.

While trying not to delve into too many details of the narrative, The Witcher 2 begins four months after the ending events of The Witcher. The protagonist, Geralt of Rivia, has just barely stopped an assassination attempt on the Temerian King Foltest's life, and is surprised to discover that the assassin bears the same cat-like eyes that he has - a sign that the assassin was also a Witcher. With this knowledge in hand, Geralt becomes Foltest's trusted bodyguard... that is until Geralt ends up in a prison, accused of murdering the King during a battle to quell a rebellion in Temerian territory. Here is where Geralt's new journey begins, and what a journey it is.

Throughout the 30+ hour game, Geralt will visit many locales, encounter many different characters (both returning and brand new), and be caught in an enormously complex tale of political corruption, conspiracies, loyalty, warfare, and not to mention a personal journey for Geralt himself as he recovers much of his lost memory and rediscovers who he really was prior to his amnesia. It's also incredibly dynamic, as choices made throughout the game significantly affect the flow and direction the story takes so no two playthroughs are exactly the same. In fact, it's so significant that there are entire areas that you won't see depending on choices you make, and like the original game, these decisions aren't easy. While most modern RPGs go for the black and white kind of decision making where you're either good or bad, The Witcher never really distinguishes what is good or evil in this world; it's all based on shades of grey. This very much reflects the stance of Witchers in Sapkowski's (the author of the books) lore, where they are a very neutral band of monster hunters that try not to take any sides in situations but strive to pick the lesser of two evils if forced to.

Geralt as a character is wise and extremely intelligent and has a level of depth that is rare in video games. This also applies to a substantial amount of the supporting characters too, who all seem to have some personal agenda and goal behind all their motives and relations with you. It is without a doubt one of the most mature, intelligent and borderline brilliant stories in a video game to date that is also highly replayable, especially considering the multiple endings, pathways, secrets and revised and renewed gameplay mechanics.

Yep. In-game.

Yep. In-game.
Close
Gameplay in The Witcher 2 is based off the core mechanics of RPGs: leveling up, some stat building and quest tracking. However, it also applies a very deep, robust and challenging combat system that could be described as a fusion of Arkham Asylum's free flow combat with Demon's Souls methodic approach and relentless difficulty, except more so. While Witchers are considered to be some of the greatest swordsman in the known world, combat still requires a careful and tactical approach involving the use of potions, traps, bombs, sorcery and swords, and this is applied almost perfectly into the game. Prior to jumping into a fight or travelling into the wild, it's always highly recommended you make sure you're well prepared, as monsters and humans alike can cut you down in seconds if you're not careful. The alchemy system returns from the previous game, where you collect herbs, organs from monsters and other such ingredients to concoct the aforementioned powerful potions, oils, traps and bombs. These can help you out in battle, whether it be a potion that buffs your health regeneration or damage, or an oil that when applied to your silver sword increases damage specific to certain monsters, or is just a general damage buff. Potions are limited in their use as too many buffs can raise toxicity levels and kill you, so caution is required. Meanwhile, bombs and traps utilise a fair amount of resources but when used in the correct situation can lead to some devastating effects.

As an example, we created a lure for the undead creatures known as Rotfiends, but also planted an explosive trap directly under it, so once the Rotfiends ran in to grab the bait they were met with a fiery explosion, softening them up. Directly after this we threw a Dragon's Breath Bomb into the group of delirious Rotfiends which emits a flammable gas, and then shortly following this we cast the Igni spell, which you guessed it, emits a small fire ball from Geralts hands, lighting up the flammable area and incinerating a good portion of the Rotfiends. After all this softening up, we finally ran in to finish them off using dodges, parries and consistent sign usage combined with a silver sword to dispose of the Rotfiends once and for all. This is just one of hundreds of different ways you can approach the combat, and it's a fast paced, tactical and downright punishing system which rewards creativity and strategic approach, and it's utterly fantastic to watch and play.

Depending on which method of combat you prefer as well, you can expand upon it in the skill tree where experience points can be applied per level gain. There are four trees; The Witcher Training Path (which must have some points applied prior to unlocking the other trees), The Swordsman Path, The Sign Path and Alchemy Path. Each tree has several different abilities which allow you to expand on your options in combat and all are significantly different from one another. Want to be up close and personal? Fill up The Swordsman Path almost purely, and you'll eventually unlock group finishers, which are superbly well animated scenes of Geralt finishing off multiple enemies. However, range is this path's biggest weakness, but The Sign and Alchemy paths can excel in it. There's a huge level of customisation and variety available to you and it makes the combat much more personal and satisfying, rather than clinging to poorly recycled animations and repetitive kind of tactics. Just keep in mind that CDProjekt have certainly not made it a cake walk. Much like Demon's Souls you WILL be punished if you make a mistake, and the tutorial at the beginning of the game only scratches the surface of what's possible (though, that's what reading your journal is for). We played through the game twice on hard with completely different builds and both times proved to be a challenging, but highly rewarding, experience. With that said, don't be afraid to lower the difficulty when it gets too hot, as that's exactly what the option's there for.

You'll visit many places like this.

You'll visit many places like this.
Close
With all this stellar gameplay and storytelling also comes presentational flare, and to be perfectly blunt this is pretty much the new benchmark in several areas. CDProjekt's proprietary RED Engine is an incredibly robust and beautiful piece of work, with amazing technical horsepower behind it. From Ambient Occlusion to enormous draw distances, Witcher 2 has almost every high end bell and whistle at its disposal, which when maxed out is utterly breathtaking. All this power needs a strong art style behind it, and dare we say it The Witcher 2 has one of the best artistic directions we have ever seen come out of a game - not necessarily due to its uniqueness, but due to passion and attention to detail.

The first village you travel to, Flotsam, is a perfect example. As you arrive on the shores, the town slowly becomes visible through a veil of mist - a densely populated, grimy old village, situated on the coast of an enormous forest that can be seen fading into the fog in the distance. Walking through the town, you'll hear the chatter of villagers discussing the latest gossip, whining about their under-performing spouses and singing songs together. As the town descends into nightfall, wives go home to sleep and many of the men go over to the Tavern to drink, dance, sing and flirt with the local whores. Things are dirty and often times vulgar, but you grow to love it as it feels like a home. This sense of warmth and life you get from the environments in The Witcher 2 is something only a very small amount of games have been able to achieve, and it's an extraordinary feat for a developer to make an imaginary world feel so alive. Throughout the game you'll visit places just like Flotsam that have a real feeling of history behind them, and it's with this you know that The Witcher 2 is a very special game with some incredible talent behind it. Not to mention, the textures are the best you'll ever see in a game (no really, there is nothing better). If you can max this game out, you're in for something truly special.

Even on the audio side of things, you'll be completely mesmerised with the voice work and especially the music. The voice work and writing has gone up a significant amount in quality compared to the first game, ranging from extremely well spoken, poignant performances to downright hilarious and vulgar tones. There were moments where we literally laughed out loud due to the idle chatter and conversations you can have, and it's that sense of humor mixed in with the more serious tones that add an immense amount of realism to the story and voice work, successfully blending together to further pour life into what is already an absorbing piece of gaming. And then there's the music which follows the same tone as the first, with soothing and melodic folk-inspired tunes for the calmer points, and heart-pounding, thunderous tunes sometimes with a mixture of guitar riffs for the combat-focused, intense moments. It's beautifully balanced and rarely lets up, combining with the visuals to create a world unlike any other.

Geralt demands you buy this game.

Geralt demands you buy this game.
Close
Prior to this review, we completed The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings twice to see just how different things can be, and are now beginning our third playthrough, as we're curious about what other massive changes can happen throughout. CDProjekt have only made two games since their inception, with the first being something of a flawed masterpiece and the sequel now arriving to abolish the flawed part. We can happily say it's just about succeeded in that aspect, although the game is held back by initial launch bugs and issues that hurt the overall package. Full-screen errors, some crashes and controller malfunctions in the middle of combat are but a handful of some of the bugs encountered, and these did hurt the game overall.

With that said, it's possible that these issues will be rectified in due time (with some already completely fixed), and if you can ignore them completely or begin your playthrough prior to a patch... you can see where the score would go. While the gameplay is by no means perfect, and the story may not be to everyone's tastes, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is an in-depth, complex and powerful RPG with an immense level of detail poured into every nook and cranny. This is a game that paves the way for what RPGs of this kind should strive to be.
The Score
If you've got the PC for it, you must buy The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, as it is not only an incredible experience but one of the best RPGs ever made. 9
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related The Witcher 2: Assassins Of Kings Content

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Xbox 360 trailer
17 Aug, 2011 A plowing good time.
The Witcher 2 for Xbox 360 delayed
01 Aug, 2011 Death to the Squirrels!
E3 2011 Feature: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings 360 Preview
11 Jun, 2011 Eyes-on the White Wolf, Console style.
42 Comments
2 years ago
Ok so the plan is order it from OS next week so it arrives the week after exams - my will power isn't strong enough to let it sit on my desk whilst I study Workplace and Tax law...
2 years ago
I was half expecting your review to just be this picture posted repeatedly.
2 years ago
I was going for that bit for some reason they didn't wanna approve it.
2 years ago
So the question is, do I need to to complete the first game first?
2 years ago
Depends.

What I mean by that is if you've finished the first, you'll have a strong familiarity with the world and many characters, so there'll be a lot of nostalgia and you'll get things a bit better.

With that said though it's not mandatory, it's just nice to have beaten the previous as you'll click in with a lot of what's going on almost immediately.
2 years ago
perfect aside from the battle mechanics
2 years ago
My hat off to you sir Denny, an excellent review.
I posted earlier that I was having issues getting back into The Witcher 1. Don't get me wrong, it's an excellent game, but having played it numerous times already, a third playthrough was too much. That said, if you haven't played it, do so immediately.

I've only seen the beginning of Witcher 2 but so far I'm amazed. The graphics are amazing and the attention to world detail is masterful. Be warned, the game requires an elite rig and while not necessary, it would be almost sinful not to play this game in its full glory. A word of warning, even with the first patch I've encountered a number of bugs, nothing groundbreaking, but I'm thinking this may be a game that would be polished in the near future and thus might be worth waiting for.
2 years ago
waiting for the Xbox 360 release =D
2 years ago
I seriously could not image playing this game on a console OropherX, the current gen just wouldn't do it justice.
2 years ago
I know you've got a beast of a machine Denny, but any word on how well it scales for lower end systems? The first one seemed to scale fucking horribly, chugging up on my pc that can run far newer and prettier games without a hitch.
2 years ago
To give you an idea Benza, my rig follows;
core2duo E8500 @ 3.8GHz
Radeon HD5850
4GB Kingston HyperX DDR2800
Asus P5B Deluxe mainboard
Dell U2711 Monitor @ 2560 x 1440

I haven't had too much time to mess around with the settings for Witcher 2, but at 2560x1440 with no AA, full distance, medium settings and SSAO turned off, the game is generally smooth (I'll update with an FPS later). SSAO turned on absolutely kills the frame rate, I would say it hovers around 20 fps and dips when busy.
2 years ago
Benza wrote
I know you've got a beast of a machine Denny, but any word on how well it scales for lower end systems? The first one seemed to scale **** horribly, chugging up on my pc that can run far newer and prettier games without a hitch.
It actually scales pretty well. On the official forums there are some people playing it on some pretty dated hardware (although on low). I think graphic card wise the oldest you could have would be around a 9800. CPU wise my brother has a Core2Duo 2.4 and he can play it on medium.
2 years ago
Cyph wrote
To give you an idea Benza, my rig follows;
core2duo E8500 @ 3.8GHz
Radeon HD5850
4GB Kingston HyperX DDR2800
Asus P5B Deluxe mainboard
Dell U2711 Monitor @ 2560 x 1440

I haven't had too much time to mess around with the settings for Witcher 2, but at 2560x1440 with no AA, full distance, medium settings and SSAO turned off, the game is generally smooth (I'll update with an FPS later). SSAO turned on absolutely kills the frame rate, I would say it hovers around 20 fps and dips when busy.
Have you updated to the first patch yet? If you purchased it through retail it could add like 10-20 fps by getting rid of the DRM. If you are having trouble installing the patch like I was, just uninstall the game and when it reinstalls it will automatically update and download the DLC as well.

Also ATI are releasing a new driver soon that is expected to improve The Witcher 2 performance.

For people with NVIDIA cards, download the latest BETA driver (Version 275.27. Released the day after launch if I remember so it had support). Also uninstall the 3D vision drivers. They cause the game to run slower for some reason that I do not know.
2 years ago
Yeah I did. As I said, I haven't had time to tweak the settings (if anyone knows a good tweak guide, please share it).
2 years ago
Cyph wrote
Yeah I did. As I said, I haven't had time to tweak the settings (if anyone knows a good tweak guide, please share it).
Make sure ubersampling is turned off. It is meant only for the biggest of the big. You really don't need draw distance at max, it is fairly large at any setting fom the middle up. Turning motion blur off gave me a fair FPS boost, 5-10, and it made me feel sick anyway.
2 years ago
Heh yeh, definitely have ubersampling turned off.
I can't remember if motion blur is turned off, I think I did turn it off as I also don't like it. I'll mess around with the draw distance and see how that fairs.
2 years ago
Benza wrote
I know you've got a beast of a machine Denny, but any word on how well it scales for lower end systems? The first one seemed to scale **** horribly, chugging up on my pc that can run far newer and prettier games without a hitch.
Yeah it scales pretty well. I tried it on my old setup as well and with medium-high it's far more optimised than the first. The first had an issue with high memory usage and leaks (primarily due to the engine they had at the time from what I know), but yeah this one is far far easier to run. On max I can easily say it's about on par with Crysis in demand (and even more so if you turn on ubersampling), but medium-low you'd be looking at a standard UE3 game imo, which are mostly quite easy to run.

Cyph wrote
I seriously could not image playing this game on a console OropherX, the current gen just wouldn't do it justice.
Definitely agree that consoles will have a hard time running this especially with the texture work, but I REALLY want this to go multiplatform, solely because it deserves the attention more so than any other game this year imo. This is the best, most polished and in-depth cRPG I've played since Baldurs Gate II and even though it's great to have a PC exclusive that also goes on to use the full power of PC, no gamer should be denied their right to play such an incredible game.
2 years ago
This review went up the same day as my copy finally arrived.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
2 years ago
I don't want it to go multiplatform, ultimately it never goes well and the core product is diluted for the general audience.
2 years ago
Cyph wrote
I don't want it to go multiplatform,
Then it will continue to sit around in obscurity.
2 years ago
That's fine by me, they've hit the ball out of the ballpark in their first two outings. A game doesn't need to be multiplatform to be successful. Done right, then great, but on the current gen platforms, as I've already said, they couldn't do The Witcher justice.
2 years ago
Cyph wrote
I don't want it to go multiplatform, ultimately it never goes well and the core product is diluted for the general audience.
The Witcher 2 was made with consoles in mind.
2 years ago
as long as the lead was the pc i don't see why it matters....i don't care if it was done in 8 bit graphics as long as the game is fun
2 years ago
Cyph wrote
That's fine by me, they've hit the ball out of the ballpark in their first two outings. A game doesn't need to be multiplatform to be successful. Done right, then great, but on the current gen platforms, as I've already said, they couldn't do The Witcher justice.
So you don't want CD Project to make lots of money on it that they can put into further development?

The Witcher is an incredibly niche title simply because it was PC exclusive. I think I read somewhere it might have even lost money on the first one. If they want to continue to develop at this scale they will need to go multiplatform.
Add Comment
Like this review?
Share it with this tiny url: http://palg.nu/4LY

N4G : News for Gamers         Twitter This!

Digg!     Stumble This!

| More
  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  5/5/2011 (PreLoaded)
Publisher:
  Namco Bandai Partners (Atari)
Genre:
  Action RPG
Year Made:
  2009
Players:
  1

Read more...
Currently Popular on PALGN
Australian Gaming Bargains - 08/12/11
'Tis the season to be bargaining.
R18+ Legislation
R18+ Legislation
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations Preview
Hands on time with the game. Chat time with the CEO of CyberConnect 2.
PALGN's Most Anticipated Games of 2007
24 titles to keep an eye on during 2007.
PALGN's Most Anticipated Games of 2008
And you thought 2007 was populated.