Right after finishing the Witcher 1 (review available here!) I started playing the Witcher 2: the Assassins of Kings.
The Witcher 2 was once again made by CD Projekt RED and was released on May of 2011 for PC and Xbox. As I do not have an Xbox, I played mine on my baby PC! I had the chance to play the enhanced edition since that was what was available to me.
Geralt of Rivia returns as the protagonist along with his witch lover Triss. Geralt has recovered more of his memory since the first game and recalls his old lover Yennefer. Geralt is accused of committing regicide and needs to clear his name with the help of either Temerian Secret Service Agent or an elven terrorist. Triss, despite mixed feelings, is willing to do whatever it takes to help Geralt clear his name and find long lost Yennefer. Unfortunately, she is involved with a secret organization know as the Lodge of Sorceresses.
Letho of Gulet is the main antagonist of the Witcher 2. He is the kingslayer, another Witcher, and has many secrets. He knows Geralt well, and sees Geralt as a friend to a degree as Geralt has save him in the past. As usual, Geralt does not remember due to his amnesia. He reminded me of Bane from Batman, this guy is huge, fast, and very intelligent. He is familiar with Geralt’s movements as he too is a Witcher. Unlike Geralt who is from Wold School of Witchers, Lethos is from Viper School.
Vernon Roche is the head of the Blue Stripes, which is kind of like secret services. He is investigating the kingslayer and frees Geralt from prison to facilitate that. He is very racist and one of the sides Geralt needs to side with.
Iorveth is a Scoia’tael terrorist that wants to unify all non-humans under one banner for freedom. Geralt has the choice to side with his cause for freedom. Between him and Vernon Roch, I chose to side with Iorveth and saw his side of the story.
Judging by the title, I don’t think it is a spoiler to say kings die in this game. Foltest, the King of Temeria whom you helped in the events of the Witcher 1, is assassinated. Because of the circumstances, Geralt is accused of being the assassin. With help of good networking he did, he is secretly freed so he can clear his name and bring the real kingslayer to justice. One thing that really complicates things is that the assassin is another Witcher who know little something something about Gerlat’s past.
Like the first game, Scoia’tael, the non-human revolutionaries that fight for equality, makes a return. This time, they are lead by Iorveth, an extremist that many see as a terrorist. They are somehow related to the kingslayer Letho and Geralt needs to figure out what exactly is going on.
Very early in the game, in chapter 1, Geralt has to choose to either side with Iorveth or with Vernon Roche. From what I heard, the game plays completely differently depending on the choice made in chapter 1. I chose to side with Iorveth and helped his revolution for freedom instead of helping Vernon Roch and his political businesses.
As a game, the Witcher 2 feels very different from the first game. Let’s talk about combat first. Before, there were 3 styles of combat in which you choose then click on enemies to activate the animation. Now it feels like it plays more like an action RPG game, I guess similar to Dark Souls. One thing that irks me is in the first game, to use Signs (or magic) it was the right click, here right click is for heavy attack and Signs got demoted to “Q”.
Now there is Quick Time Events in the game. And …. I don’t really like that. It feels out of place. Sometimes in the game, Geralt, since he can be kind of a sassy dick, gets into fist fights. In the original game, the fist fights played similarly to the main combat. But here, it is now QTE.
Picking up items and going through Inventory have become a nightmare. In the previous game, all you had to do was click on the item to pick up. Now you have to be at a vague proximity to the time, cannot be too close, and have the camera be at the right angle to register the item’s existence. Once you do that, you can see what items are in that loot then pick out what you like. This is definitely a step back in design. And once you have the item, you have to go through all these tabs to find what you are looking for. The first game’s inventory was simple and easy to use. This one is …. a downgrade from that. I believe the inventory was changed to this design for the console players.
I am not sure what exactly triggers this, but sometimes when Geralt kills something, it does this mini cutscene kill animation. It’s cool yeah, but it really breaks the flow of the game. And when the battle resumes, I was hit by enemies because of the delay in input…
I believe tutorials are extremely important part of games as they are the first impressions and suppose to teach you gameplay. Some say 80 percent of Portal 1 was a tutorial. And to do a tutorial right can be very difficult. In many games, especially meh JRPGs, I seen a terrible block of text that was suppose to be tutorial. Witcher 2, suffers kind of the opposite problem. The tutorial in the beginning of the game infuriated me since it gave too little information too frequently. And the tutorial sometimes floated on screen as you were suppose to do as it requested, while covering 1/3 of the screen. I had nowhere near this frustration with the tutorial of the first game….. let’s move on.
As described by the video made by Super Bunnyhop linked here, I too felt that the Witcher 2 felt more generic than the first game. In the first game, you had to read up on monsters to learn their weaknesses, spend time to brew potions to fight later, and act like a detective to figure out the larger plot. But here, learning about monsters is lackluster, making potions seems like just a thing that was there to give you more items, and people just tell you what is happening rather than figuring out yourself.
The game took me about 25 hours finish. When I got to the Epilogue of the game, I was like “really, already?”. You can assume from that reaction I was hoping to get more out of the game. I checked the first game and I spent over 36 hours in that game, and when the game ended, I was satisfied. I am NOT saying that longer games are always better, but this one felt a touch short. Maybe if there was 1 more chapter in before the Epilogue I may have been satisfied. But of the time spent, I had fun.
Visually, the game looks amazing. I thought the environment of the first game were beautiful, but here everything stepped up. Everything looks real instead of crappy game. The colors are saturated so they look more vibrant, I mean just look at that fire! I am not sure if this is for better or for worse, but the graphics and the tone of the game was darker, grittier, and more serious than the first game.
The game feels a lot more personal and intimate than the first game. Geralt’s friends, Triss, Zoltan, and Dandelion are way more significant in the plot. They take active roles in higher positions in the world rather than watching from the sidelines. And it’s always good to see Zoltan again. Actually, when it came time to choose between helping the elves or the humans, I thought which route would let this group of friends still exist, and then the decision was easy to make.
The scale of battles is so much larger than the previous game. There were no gigantic monsters for Geralt to fight in the first game. The biggest one I think may have been the Greater Brothers, but here, the first big boss is the Kayran, which is freaking enormous! When I saw this beast, I knew there are potential for this game to throw larger and tougher enemies for Geralt to prove his skills! And if you finished the Prologue, then you know there is a dragon in this game, and boy it’s huge.
One huge improvement in the game is the sex scenes. They are as funny as ever and are actually animated this time. Unlike the first game where Geralt can sex anyone, here is more of quality over quantity. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say Geralt and Triss have sex. It was well animate, well lit, and funny as hell. During this scene, I think one dwarf caught on that something sexy is going on and he looked so uncomfortable, it was great!
Minor thing, but the Witcher 2 imports the save data from the first game to this one. From here, the relationship with the factions and some items carry over. As I sided with the Scoia’tael against the Order of the Flaming Rose in the first game, when they saw me, they started to attack me on sight, I laughed while being surrounded and murdered, it was great. Some of the more iconic equipment from the first game is imported here. For me I got Raven’s Armor (best armor in the first game), the silver sword given to me by the Lady of the Lake when she knighted me, and the steel sword I received from late King Foltest when I saved his daughter Adda from the curse. Sure the items were nerfed since it was the beginning of the game, but this made the transition from the first game to the second one more seemless. You know in sequel games sometimes the hero has no equipment from the previous game or lost all his powers for some weird reason? Well not in the Witcher 2!
In the end of the game, you meet Letho the Assassin of Kings face to face. Geralt and Letho can have a long discussion. Letho says since this will be the last time they will have a chance to discuss, he will tell you anything you need answer to honestly. This is where I was surprised. All the loose ends and questions that I was wondering showed up, like 20 questions I can ask Letho. These question contain but not limited to information on the Wild Hunt, whereabouts of Yennefer of Vengerberg, and why Letho did the things he did. And here, you can see a lot of humanity in our “villain”. And the last thing in the discussion is whether or not to engage in a battle to the death. And after hearing what he has to say, I felt for him as his situation is awfully close to Geralts, and he genuinely believes even now that the two are old friends. So I decided to let Letho go free. And I was very happy with this decision. I loved how he answered all my questions and how I can decide not to fight him.
- Will I play this again? From what I have heard, this game is essentially 2 games in one depending on whose side you are on. So I may play this a second time around, and if I do I will let you know!
- Do I recommend this? This being a very narrative driven game, playing this one one first … I cannot recommend that. But if you played the first game, I highly recommend it. If not, you can see Zoltan and the gang in much better quality than the first game.
- Overall thoughts? While not as memorable as the first game, definitely a great game. I have no regrets playing this. I enjoyed every minute of it (except the damn tutorials) and I cannot wait to play the third game!
As I am writing this, the Witcher 3: the Wild Hunt is being downloaded onto my computer. It took me awhile, but now I am back to the third game. I am so glad to try out this series, and now the Witcher games are among my favorite Western RPG games I played. Since I think Witcher 3 will take awhile to finish, do not wait for it, meanwhile I will have some other Witcher posts ready!
Have you played the Witcher 2? What did you think of it, did you like it better than the first? Leave in the comment section below!