Hindsight – The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Review

Debuting back in 2007, The Witcher has quickly become one of gaming’s most prestigious and well respected series to date.

WELCOME TO TEMERIA, WITCHER

SPOILERS BELOW

Polish developer CD Projekt RED brought The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings over to the Xbox 360 from the PC, introducing console gamers to a new experience previously exclusive only to PC gamers in the Role Playing genre. It is a deep, gorgeous game that was handled with care and it is evident.

It isn’t necessary to have played 2007’s The Witcher in order to jump into Assassins of Kings. I had no pre-existing knowledge of the universe before diving into this. Events from the first game are mentioned but not relevant to the main plot, so context was not imperative.  Knowing that most Xbox 360 gamers wouldn’t have played the original, it was a good decision to port the franchise over to the console. It was relatively easy to pick up on the politically focused plot early on through the menu screen’s journal entries of past events and this felt like a launch game in a series as opposed to a sequel, which is what most developers strive for.

STORY

The story revolves around Geralt of Rivia. Geralt is (as you may have guessed) a Witcher, one of the last of his kind. A Witcher is a genetically enhanced and specially trained human with magic-like powers. To begin the game, Geralt is in prison, accused of assassinating the King of a land called Temeria. You play as Geralt and are interrogated by a man named Vernon Roche, a commander for the Temerian army. The events leading up to the assassination are told in flashback style through Geralt’s recalling of said events.

witcherdialogueThe game teaches you how to fight in an arena-like setting. The sheer amount of options you have and how to fight can make learning the game intimidating, but Projekt Red does a great job of easing you into things and building a foundation.

After the tutorial and after a few more sequences of Geralt’s flashback, Roche decides that he is telling the truth and moves to help him escape the prison. A few questions arise, such as why was a King assassinated? Who is behind the murder? Are more soon to follow? It’s up to you to trail the killer and find out.

trissmerigoldThe story is an interesting one and I felt it ultimately reached a satisfying conclusion. Geralt is a unique lead character. H comes off as gruff, despite having a soft, smooth voice. It took me some time to warm up to him, but I look back fondly at his presence in the game. This couldn’t have been pulled off without superb voice acting. Geralt’s love interest and partner in combat is Triss Merigold. Triss is a Sorceress. A Sorceress is similar to a Witcher, but they utilize more natural magic as opposed to fabricated magic through alchemy and potions. I loved flirting with Triss and felt attracted to her as Geralt. The two make a fine pair and clearly have a history with eachother. Vernon Roche is your other main counterpart (depending on which path you take). I would like to specifically mention that his real-life voice actor nailed the part and kept me immersed any time he spoke. Roche was one of the few memorable characters in the game.The world is populated with hundreds of characters you can interact with, but most felt empty. Their backgrounds and stories just didn’t keep my attention. It’s a good thing for RPGs to have many options, but it doesn’t always make the game better. Projekt Red did a nice job populating the world to feel full and lively, but the side characters rarely helped move the plot along. Most felt like filler material. I dabbled in side missions early in Chapter 1, but quickly decided to stick to the main path after this realization.

GAMEPLAY

The Witcher 2 features a unique feel when it comes to the way you fight. Sure, you can hack and slash your way through certain enemies but more often than not, you will need to use a mix of swordplay and magic. The combat wheel serves as your hub for selecting which primary weapon you will use and possibly more importantly, which spell you will be utilizing. I couldn’t just mash buttons to fight – I had to utilize a strategic combination of parrying, dodging, swinging my sword, and Magic.

witcher2-quenMagic is one of the focal points of combat and can’t be thrown by the wayside. Immediately, you have access to five different abilities; Quen, Igni, Yrden, Axii, and Aard. At different points throughout the story, you will need to utilize each of these. Quen creates a shield around Geralt that doesn’t eliminate all incoming strikes but helps to keep your health meter running a bit longer. While Quen seems to be the popular choice among gamers, my favorite and most frequently used was Igni, which deals a ball of flames in your opponent’s direction. Yrden was my second favorite function, as it lays down a small electrical bear trap to freeze enemies momentarily. In one particularly challenging boss fight, I had to use Yrden to trap a beast’s tentacles. Axii is used as a mind control, forcing your chosen enemy to turn on his friends much like Starkiller’s ability in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. Lastly, Aard is used to force push (I know, another Star Wars reference) items around. As the game goes on, you can upgrade the strength and potency of these magic items.

Alchemy is another function of The Witcher 2. Here, you are able to pick up certain items found in various environments and use them to craft and combine to form potions. For example, one such potion allows Geralt to see in the dark via night vision-like perception. Each potion is timed, meaning it is best to drink the concocted potion just before a battle. I was not in love with this system, as there were seemingly too many options to choose from and it felt diminished because of this. The system could have been laid out better if it had been simpler. Geralt is also limited in the amount of weight he can carry, with each item being assigned a numerical unit.

PRESENTATION

The Witcher 2 is one of the Xbox 360’s most gorgeous looking RPGs and is certainly one of the most detailed games in general. Though it was truly built for PC, the port to the Xbox 360 by CD Projekt Red is quite impressive. Environments are not as detailed as the PC version, but it was no easy feat to capture this on the 360’s comparatively limited software specs. There are certain points when textures pop in, but that’s no crime in a game as large and ambitious as The Witcher 2.

1334667322-witcher2Facial features for the characters were noteworthy. Though there were times when side characters’ animations simply looked goofy, the main characters looked consistent and had personality. I can’t wait to see what the developer can do on next-gen hardware.

 

FINAL SCORE

8.25/10

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is an impressive, detailed RPG that is worth taking the time to play through. It’s one of the best RPGs you will find on the Xbox 360.

witcher 2 cover
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition was originally released on April 18, 2012.

 

+ Interesting world and pretty environments.

+ Challenging – successful combat takes strategic balance of parrying, use of magic, dodging, and striking.

+ Story is full of choice – no morality meter, just different outcomes.

+ Magic is fun to utilize in combat and keeps combat fresh over the course of the campaign.

– In certain aspects, too many options. Bigger is not always better, more is less.

– Uninteresting side characters left me desiring to stick to the story’s main path.

 

What is a hindsight review? It’s an article in which a Geekiverse writer reviews a game that they have never played before and is outside its launch window. It offers a fresh perspective and shows which games in your backlog are worth playing through.

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings was reviewed on the Xbox 360. It is also available on PC.

 

Josiah LeRoy is The Geekiverse’s Senior Editor. Stay tuned for our coverage of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s launch and review!

For all things on The Witcher, follow The Geekiverse on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

<sources: supercheats.com, giantbomb.com, n4g.com, youtube.com>

 

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