Holy crapping crap, crapping some bricks! This pretty much sums up my experiences playing The Witcher 2 thus far. This game is absolutely downright amazing all across the board. Frankly I haven’t been this excited about playing an RPG since Lost Odyssey a very long time ago, and I can say that I like it a lot more. From character growth and storyline to sounds and graphics, this game has everything to make a wonderful experience for any mature gamer. Yes, I did say a ‘mature’ gamer. For once I can really agree with the rating for a game, as this is defiantly not a game for the younger audience. The developers held nothing back in making the storyline and gameplay feel as realistic as possible in this fantasy RPG. Something, that in all honesty I really wish there was more of. Due to the very (emphasize very on this) graphic content, it really feels like you are put into a medieval world, and in a sense it feels like more of a literary art than just a game, with a story that is like being engulfed in an exceptional ‘choose your own adventure’ novel, with a multitude of choices and endings. You as the player really take control as being Geralt (White Wolf) of Rivia.
At first though I was rather worried when starting the game. When it all starts out you’re in a prison and you really don’t know how you got there. Initially I thought that maybe not having played the first Witcher was going to hinder the feel for the story and put me at a disadvantage. Luckily as the story progresses, back story was filled in by a prologue that the developers added that gives you a grasp of the events in the first game. Thankfully for those who haven’t played, it does so without giving away too much so the first game would not be ultimately ruined (which is great because I am defiantly going to be playing that as soon as time frees up). After finishing up the prologue the true beginning of the game takes place, with your goal being to find out who assassinated King Foltest and sullied Geralt’s name by framing him. While the prologue finishes and the first act begins, records are placed in your journal which greatly helps in filling the gaps a new player may have. Organized and in depth about the places and characters, this journal becomes invaluable to understanding and appreciating the time put into making this wonderfully complex story, one that really engages the gamer and sucks them into the world. Emphasizing the realism in situations that could be found in medieval history, including incestuous on-goings of the monarchy and the creation of “bastard children” for example, it almost feels as though you are looking at some of earth’s historic records. Add that with the realistic conversations that, believe me, do not hold anything back what-so-ever, you have a mix that really keeps you on the edge of your seat wondering what will happen next as the adventure continues.
With that stated, the story wouldn’t fulfill itself without the addition of a wonderful cast of characters that are well developed as the game progresses and events unfold. All the characters seem to have different, and often hidden agendas within their larger goals. When looking at the hero, and his case of amnesia, presented in the first story, his development is non-stop throughout the game. As recollections of events from his past unfold, he becomes deeper and starts acquiring a great richness to his personality. Plus because of the characteristic of the gameplay, being that of choose you own path, as the revelations occur the player and Geralt begin to understand the motives of certain main characters and the histories they share from a mysterious past. Although the amnesia bit has been employed in many games in the past, it seems to me that the execution in this one is very well played. Additionally, since it is a remnant of the first game and it’s happenings were not completely divulged in it, it enables a very nice transition in his development between the two games, making the game seem like it actually is a continuation rather than just a forced sequel to make some extra money; sadly seen way too much in today’s gaming industry. Add dialogue between characters that moves smoothly, and voice overs (in the English version) that are actually performed by quality voice actors, the characters’ personas are greatly accented throughout your gameplay.
With such great story and characters, it is no wonder that there was obviously just as much time dedicated to the environments that the hero roams. As shown by an environment reel presented by the developers at CD Projekt, anyone can see that world is nothing less than spectacular visual eye candy:
Looking at the smallest details within the world tended to leave me awestruck as I explored the different areas while taking on different side quests. Not to mention the love that I had encountering the different types of creatures within the areas I was in. Monsters were disgusting and vile like monsters should be, the darkness in there creation was amazing. At times it reminded me of styles found in Diablo and Diablo 2, but of course much more detailed. Additionally quite a bit of my time was spent looking at the full splendor of the forests as you walked through them. All of their components seemed so natural and really brought out the beauty of what a real forest would look like in the day, and the frightful ambiance of one at the witching hour. Combined with the sound effects, it totally felt that if you closed your eyes and just listened you could imagine yourself right there in this great forest, surrounded by its wildlife and rivers, or in the dampness of the caves underneath. If you find a spot where you are absent the threat of danger, I would actually recommend turning the music low and sound effects up and sitting down to meditate (maybe on what your next choice should be in the story). Or maybe vice versa, as the musical score in this game is a wondrous engagement to the ears as it truly sets the situational mood.
In all off the greatness that this game has to offer, my only gripe with it was a couple aspects in the gameplay that I feel could have been tweaked to make it a bit more user friendly. Although it really wasn’t too much of an issue once I started getting use to the gameplay mechanics. I will say that the combat is very dynamic, and very artistically done when Geralt is fighting; leaping around masterfully, swinging whatever weapon he is using. My issue was more that of key (control) placement and the switching of usable items during combat along with time in which the gamer can use healing potions. While under attack by an enemy you have three types of attacks that can be used. The first are your melee weapons, with which there really was no issue, basically keys 1 and 2 are the defaults in switching between the two. Second is your arsenal of witcher spells that are used by the Q key, and third are raged weapons or traps held in your pocket used by the R key. My issue was that to switch between the types of spells you have either two choices, one by cycling through them using keys 3 and 4 or by using the Ctrl key to manually select them. Although like I previously mentioned you do get use to cycling through them, at first I did find it a little uncomfortable, making me think it would be nice for each to have its own separate key. Now as you play, like in any game, new hand positions take some time to master, but it would have been nice to have the presets. And while you can select through Ctrl, which does slow down time, sometimes it seems the mouse gets lost on the screen which is a bit of a minor nuisance. Ultimately it doesn’t affect the gameplay too much, and there may be a way to change the settings, but again I was under some time restraints for the review (If I find a way I will make an amendment to the review, or if anyone can point me in the direction please comment). My other issue was the lack of being able to use healing potions of some type while actually in combat. While you are allowed to use potions while in a meditation status in safe areas you can’t in combat, which would have been nice while fighting harder enemies like bosses or when you get surrounded. Although the developers made up for this by making potions last for certain amounts of time designated by a timer, like in the Elder Scrolls games, you don’t have the option whilst in combat. It does add to the complexity of the game, but maybe they could have cut back on time duration if used in battle. Yet, even though this problem is there, I really don’t feel that it takes too much from the gamer’s enjoyment, and although I did die quite a bit at first and at some bosses I did not find myself going into a nerd rage and quitting the game in frustration. If anything, these challenges made me more addicted to the game and kept me trying harder.
Finally its more non-linear storyline than most RPGs was a breath of fresh air compared to games like Final Fantasy XIII, being far too linear for its own good, and Elder Scrolls, being so massive and having an open ended-ness that always made me feel somewhat lost, The Witcher 2 snugly placed itself in the middle. Leaving a quasi-linear storyline if you choose to just follow the main narrative, with of course the non-linear aspect being how your decisions drastically change the storyline as you progress, while also giving a multitude of side-quests and mini-games that many RPG players have come to love. I will also say that some of these mini-games can make you quite a bit of coin if you are in a pinch, especially if you do a common save and reload trick. I would have to say my favorite is the Dice Poker mini-game that I could see myself playing with friends or possibly turning into a drinking game. Furthermore, I find some of the side quests to be extremely humorous and can really help to add additional fun character dialogue to the adventure, along with some nice rewards and some very provocative cut scenes.
In the end, I can easily say that this has to be one of my favorite RPGs that I have played in a very long time. So much that I would gladly put it within my top 5 favorites, and offer major congratulations to the developers at CD Projekt and a loud thank you to Atari for publishing it. Although I have some minor issues with some of the gameplay mechanics, overall they seem to be miniscule in the grand scheme of the game. With such an in-depth and amazing storyline and such compelling characters, along with a graphical and realistically rich environment that has a no-holds barred style of gaming design and storytelling, I will blissfully place this at 9.9 out of 10 on my scale. Furthermore, I would readily encourage any major RPG gamer or gamer in general (assuming they’re old enough) to buy this game and play it! I really look forward to what this group of individuals is making next and when it will be released; an absolutely amazing game leaving others high standards to follow. Since I feel trailers really helps to bring the point home I decided that it would be a great final part to this review.
Final Rating: 9.9/10
CBR Break Down:
Console Played On: PC
Approximate Time to Completion: Unable to complete within review time. Approx. 40+ hours depending.
Gamer Score Earned: N/A
Price Bought at: N/A – Review copy furnished by Atari
Current Price: $49.99 (PC Download Copy at Atari.com)
Recommend Purchase Price: Agree with the price, worth every penny.
Guess what, we have a code for a digital copy of The Witcher 2 to give away! Atari was kind enough to give us a code to be redeemed in their online store, what’s more is that currently all purchases of The Witcher 2 also get a copy of the original Witcher along with it! (We cannot guarantee how long this promotion will last though, so officially just consider this a possible bonus) End result? You may be getting two full length PC games this time around; this is by far CBR’s biggest contest ever!
Do to a lack of responses I’ve decided to alter the contest. You can gain up to 4 total entries!
First and second entry: We want to know why you love gaming! Simply tell, or even show us in the comments below. Do that and you will get 2 entries into the contest!
Third entry: Follow us on twitter and send the following tweet for one entry:
@ClearanceBinRev is having a #contest for a digital copy of The Witcher 2 on #PC! More Details: http://bit.ly/k5xWYW
Remember that you have to follow us; any winner (via Twitter) we attempt to DM via Twitter who isn’t, automatically forfeits their win. If you enter via Twitter include your twitter name in your post below, winners who have their twitter listed will receive their codes immediately after winning.
Fourth entry: Like our Facebook page and then simply like the post on our wall for this article. Simple as that. (Keep in mind the article may be lower on the Facebook page towards the end of the contest and it may take a minute or two to post on FB) Do that and you will gain one entry.
Start snapping photos, writing your reasons, or whatever, and posting them below! Don’t waste any time, this contest will only go until Sunday (the 5th) at 8pm CST!
Contest will go until Sunday at 8pm CST. Due to the value of the prize we will require a minimum of ten entries into the contest. A winner will be randomly selected and will be notified shortly after the contest ends. CBR reserves the right to disqualify any entry we feel either violated the rules or spirit of the contest, including attempts at duplicate entries. Winner selected with no twitter name provided will be notified by email and have 24 hours to respond. We do not always announce the names of contest winners, but do encourage them to post about their win. By submitting your entry you are agreeing to let CBR use any information, original content, etc., submitted for promotion or otherwise.