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The Witcher 2 Review: Swords, Sex, and Sorcery!

Updated Tue, May 31, 2011 by jeffprime

witcher 2
The sorceress Triss
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings has caused quite a stir among those in the RPG crowd since its release. Developed by the Polish game company CD Projekt, Witcher 2 has hit the gaming hordes like a baseball bat to the head. While many are distracted by the fact that your character can have R-rated sex in the game, others point to the vibrant world setting, nuanced choice selection, and mature themes as elements that elevate the RPG model.

The overall plot of the game is that the player plays as Geralt, a Witcher (monster hunter) who has been falsely accused of murdering his king. Geralt must seek out the real assassin to clear his name, and by doing so, becomes embroiled in epic plots and conflicts that effect entire kingdoms. Is The Witcher 2 the new single-player RPG king? Read on and find out!

Cautions

Witcher 2 is rated M for Mature. The game contains a lot of foul language, some gore, nudity, and sexual situations (R rated, not X).

Gameplay

90GreatThe gameplay of Witcher 2 is fantastic with a few caveats. To begin, this isn’t your typical fantasy RPG game. This game is a fully mature, adult game and it uses those themes to the hilt. The world of Witcher 2 feels authentic, lived-in, and alive. NPCs go about their daily lives no matter what you’re doing. Wait too long to visit the merchant and you’ll find yourself staring at a closed shop, forced to wait until the next day to transact your business. As you walk around, conversations abound and there’s plenty of salty language to be found in them. While I wouldn’t call the tone of the game tawdry or sordid, I would call it bawdy and earthy. While the game is fantasy, its base is that of the late medieval period and the devs get the feel and tone of that period right. (I have a medieval history degree.) Lords have tremendous power over those who are beneath them socially. Fair trials are not a given if the local lord wishes to dispose of you. The political intrigues between rival kingdoms, not to mention the problems of monastic succession and the threat of civil war between various noble houses really set the tone of near anarchy throughout the land.

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The world of Witcher 2 is incredibly immersive and alive.

The greatest strength of the game is the quests and the choices available to you in them. While you can finish the game in about 16-20 hours if you focus exclusively on the main plot (and are damn good at the fighting), there are dozens of side quests for you to undertake and flesh out the world. Even better are the choices you're presented with during those quests. Most RPGs have a clear cut good or bad choice for you to make. Here the choices are much more nuanced. You might have to decide to back one faction over another, but yet each faction might have legitimate reasons for you to take their side. There are choices that look good or bad, but can end up having the opposite consequences. You can be a good guy, but still be a bonafide prick. Early on you can save a group of innocent people from being burned alive, but you can then demand payment for your services. They’ll complain about how they’re poor, and one of the options given to you is, “Poor don’t mean broke.” At that point, you can opt punch one of the poor bastards in the gut and force them to pay up.

The choices you make do have consequences. Piss one guy off and he might send killers after you later on. Make a good impression or help a person out and they might return the favor later on in the game. There are plenty of repercussions for your actions, so it’s a good thing that you’re a bad-ass.

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Combat in the game is unforgiving.

Combat is fluid, dynamic, and deadly. You will live in mortal fear of being flanked, because if enemy attacks you from behind, you're dead. You will do quite a bit of dodging and parrying, not to mention setting up traps and snares, to survive the brutal combat found in the game. You are also able to cast a small number of spells ranging from a protective shield to shooting fire at your foes.

On the negative side, combat can be aggravating. It took me awhile to learn that I can't parry if I don't have any Vigor. Attacking the wrong foe may move you out of position, allowing you to get flanked. You will die…a lot. Get used to it. I stopped counting the number of times that I died during the tutorial. Yes, I said tutorial. I got angry, I got enraged, and I practically broke my keyboard punching it in frustration….but I kept coming back. Combat is insanely deadly through most of the game. Towards the end of the game, combat becomes much easier due to the fact of your increased abilities. So much easier, in fact, that this is a slight knock on the game.

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The game recreates the gritty late medieval period in costume, architecture, and attitude.

Combat leads us to the biggest negative of the game. In most games, you’re gently led through the mechanics and gradually introduced to the game setting and plots. In Witcher 2, you’re thrown into the deep end of the pool at the very beginning. While there are hints that pop up, you’ll do a lot of trial and error. Make sure to look at your journal (J) and click on the “tutorial” icon for all the help hints given out. It’s pretty much like signing up for flight lessons and, on your first day, you’re told to take the controls and fly the plane yourself. Make sure you read the manual for all the pertinent info and check your journal entries often. As an added bonus, they’re well written and fun to read.

I must point out that there is sex in the game, and this gets a lot of fanboys (and possibly their parents) fanboys in a dither. Yes, you can sleep with prostitutes and some female NPCs. (A friend of mine confided to me that he couldn’t afford better gear because he spent all his money on whores!) By doing so, you’ll be treated to a short cutscene of the activity in question. These cutscenes are R-rated in nature. Personally, I feel that they add to the game . Rather than becoming a distraction, the game's treatment of adult themes reinforces the earthiness of the game and contributes to its immersive nature.

Graphics

95OutstandingThe graphics in Witcher 2 are gorgeous. The world, while somewhat dreary looking with run down villages and crumbling ruins, is incredibly detailed and colorful. The architecture looks realistic and is simply beautiful in places. The outfits worn by the NPCs are representative of the time period and look incredible. I found myself staring at the multi-patterned and multi-colored clothes on the NPCs a great deal of the time in admiration while talking to them. The armor is especially well-done and looks authentic. There’s none of that nonsense cybernetic-post-apocalyptic-football style of armor found in most other games. The armor found in Witcher 2 looks both real and damn cool. The monsters, from dragons to trolls to undead, look amazing.

Overall, the graphics really help immerse you into the gritty world of Witcher 2. From castles to villages to wilderness areas, the game is incredibly detailed and looks lived-in. You get the sense that a lot of history has occurred before you arrived on the scene.

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Armor that looks realistic and cool? Anime fans may want to look away.

Sound

95OutstandingThe sound in Witcher 2 is a major strength of the game, helping to immerse you more fully into the fantasy world that's been created. From the clashing of swords, growls from various monsters, and the chatter of NPCs as they go about their business, the sounds really draw you into the setting. I spent a lot of time just wandering around and listening to the conversations between the NPCs for fun, and it’s not just conversations. Hearing a bawdy song or a tale being told really makes the setting come alive. The voice over work in the game is extremely well done. I couldn’t find any fault with the voice acting in the game. My only nitpick with the voice acting would be that it didn’t always sync up with the animation, a casualty of the game's localization. Likewise, the background music is well done, but can become repetitive over time.

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CD Projekt Red releases new REDkit development tools to craft RPG adventures based on the tools used to make The Witcher 2.

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Mon, May 13, 2013
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The Witcher 2 has conjured tons of hype. Jeffprime reviews the game to see if it can live up to its name and bring fresh life to the RPG genre.
Reviews
Tue, May 31, 2011
jeffprime

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