The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Review

I’ve been waiting for The Witcher 2 since it was announced.

I loved the first game (mainly because of the involved story, and fantasy universe), so I was able to pick it up today from Fry’s electronics.

One nice surprise was that even though it retails for $50, and the sticker was $50, Fry’s had the game for $34!

Package Contents

The game comes with a bunch of extras you should know about.

Right out of the box you get 2 DVD’s and a booklet (from top left) A bonus DVD with the official game soundtrack and Trailers, Developer’s diary’s, pictures and promo shots.

Next is the game guide, which seems to be an overview of every mission and place in the game.

Next I have the game case, and the dual DVD install discs.

On top of that, it also comes with a bunch of extras – a little penny sized coin with a skull with octopus body on it, an old looking envelope with a letter describing a strange creature (“A hog named Henselt”), a bunch of cardboard cutout sheets titled “how to make your own paper craft”, and the user manual WHICH HAS THE CD KEY ON THE BACK.



Additionally, it includes a fold out map of “The Northern Kingdoms” and on the other side “Pontar Valley”.

Install Process

The install was fairly long (1/2 hr?) from 2 DVD’s, but the total install size is 13 GB.

At the end of the install, it asks you for your game code, which you’ll find on the back of your user manual, inside your game DVD, which was somewhat hidden, since the installer doesn’t tell you where you might find it.

UPDATE: Securerom protection – refused to activate my license installed fine, updated fine, but activation would not go. Apparently the serial will do everything else fine but YOU MUST ENTER DASHES IN THE SERIAL TO ACTIVATE.

I almost had to search for alternate methods!

Is the American Version Censored?

I was wondering if the US version would be censored as was last time, but in one of the opening scenes it shows full nudity of Triss Merigold. Also, in the first town, you can have “relations” with the ‘working girls’ on the lower level of the bar, and it is much more graphic than the first witcher (nudity, they look like they are actually doing stuff- not much more graphic than television aside from being able to see full nudity).
So more realistic- but no cards 😉

One of the less Risqué moments in the in game "relations"

Another one of the less Risqué moments in the in game "relations"

It does make the world feel more like a good science fiction- the hero gets the girls, and it’s not “babied down” from what you would expect from a professional, sterile monster hunter in a fictional universe.

New Engine

The New Engine looks great! The animations, models and light look very nice.

Some interesting things though are that many of the voices seem “dulled” or quiet compared to the rest of the noises. When Geralt first speaks in the dungeon, it sounds like they are having a muffled talk under their breath. I turned down the music to about half, and it seems to have helped – but still the “action” noises are much louder than the voices.

Another strange occurrence is if you minimize The Witchder 2, the sounds will still play, instead of stopping when it loses focus like the first game.

The game also takes a very long time to start up at first(maybe about 3 minutes from the time you click on The Witcher 2 start option). This is obviously because it handles Saves and loads so well. Saving and loading a game is almost instantaneous.

In Game Shot in the Forest

In a Cave Under a Waterfall

In The Forest

View From the Cliffs in Chapter 2

Combat System

The Combat system could be called more frustrating than before. Before, if you clicked correctly when the flaming sword appeared, geralt would continually deal out damage to foes, and could be almost invincible.

In the Witcher 2, you either have a normal left click for attack, and right click for “strong attack”. Additionally ‘E’ allows you to parry attacks, ‘Q’ lets you use the currently selected power, ‘space’ makes you jump out of the way of attacks, and ‘Ctrl’ allows you to open a quick combat menu.

All of these tooltips go by blindingly fast, so if you need to see what the 5 second popup on the screen said, and if it was important (it probably was), push ‘J’ for journal and click on the ‘tutorial’ tab.

All in all this really only amounts to one thing- Geralt getting his ass handed to him repeatedly when facing multiple enemies. Attempt to attack one enemy- get hit by two or three others. Use “Aard” to knock one back for a few seconds, get pounded on by two or three others. Parry with ‘E’, get pounded on several others- you’ll get the message.

So you’ll being experienced repeated saving and loadings as you try to fight – get wailed on, run away, get wailed on and die, over, and over and over again.

Looking up on the review on IGN- they use the ‘Ctrl’/Quick menu more,which led me to find out that you have access to ALL of Geralt’s magic signs at the beginning of the game!

As soon as I used “Quen” – which now apparently makes Geralt able to take a hit while dishing it out (“protects Geralt for 30s”), combat wasn’t so painful.

Another thing I found playing through the game- at the beginning combat is impossible without using ‘Quen’, but at the end you are near invincible with more points spent on it. This makes for a very frustrating start of the game, and quite a bit easier end of the game. So I recommend using ‘Quen’ a lot, and probably playing on ‘Easy’ setting at first, which is probably equivalent of most other game’s ‘Hard’ setting.

Things Missing So Far

So far, one of the most helpful things in the game missing is the ability to hold down ‘alt’ and see things in the game you can interact with/ items that can be picked up.

So instead of holding ‘alt’, seeing who you can talk to, which items have collectible items in it, you have to run around randomly clicking, hoping that you end up clicking on a person that you can interact with, or finding an item container.

Another VERY frustrating thing is quest tracking/ important location tracking. When trying to find the location of your next quest objective, or even a shop, the map will show you where they are- but if you go to that location, you won’t find anything. Turns out the quest item is under/ above you, and you need to go through a door on the other side of the map to get to the quest location… So sometimes you’ll have to live with just wandering around like an idiot hoping to come across the quest location, being able to see it on your map, and no idea which doors/ area will lead you to the correct area.

So big minuses for:
-Not being able to see items to pickup easily
-Not being able to see NPC’s that will actually talk with you easily
-Quest tracking pointing to absolute location – not where you actually need to go

Improvements Over the First Witcher

One of the nicer things about The Witcher 2 is the inventory. You’re no longer constrained to one of each type of weapon and a very small inventory. Instead, the inventory system is limited on weight- you have a maximum weight you can cary, and going over that, Geralt can only walk slowly.

GamePlay

The game is fun, aside from combat and needing to click on everything in hopes it is interactive….

It is fun wandering through the world, looking at new places, interacting with the people (that you can), and going through missions.

One very interesting thing about the witcher 2 is there seems to be no “right or wrong” answer to a quest normally. You chose how you think the witcher would chose, and it doesn’t necessarily penalize you for it.

In one instance- you find an elf woman being harassed by the guards- go look to find if she led some other guards to their death- find out she did, and can either tell them the truth or not. If you tell them that they were, you can go with the girl to show you “proof” that she is innocent, and get ambushed. If you do the opposite- you’ll meet her in the forest later, find out she did lead the guards to their death, and get ambushed.

Neither path is “correct” or incorrect- you don’t seem to lose anything by choosing either paths, so you’re free to make whatever decision you think is best.

At the same time- when talking to an enemy elf in their camp – if you piss him off enough he’ll have you shot down by arrows.

Strategy

So far, the strategy seems to be stay away from multiple guys. Anytime the witcher gets in a fight with multiple guys, he almost always dies.

Next, use ‘Quen’ any time when fighting- and run around like any idiot until it replenishes if you have more than one guy to fight.

Later on when you start leveling up, you might be able to handle 2 guys at a time without Quen, but in general the game’s rules appear to be to always use Quen, although this should have been explained and repeated int he tutorial many times.

Overall rating

Overall Rating: 9

Graphics: 10
Story: 10
Characters: 10
Believable World: 10
Combat System: 6(although if you don’t know to use Quen, I would rate this a 0 – as in unusable)
HUD/ User Interface 8 (-2 for not being able to differentiate in game interactive objects)

This is assuming you know to use Quen for every fight- otherwise overall a 6, for being horribly frustrating, due to dying 100’s of times against 3 guys.

Summary

The Witcher 2 is a very beautiful looking game, with a depth in story and gameplay not normally seen in RPG’s in a long time.

Many design details were very well though out, while others seem like they would have been caught with play testing.

The combat system is frustrating, the tutorial screens go by very fast, and there are practically no visual aids for finding NPC’s or items to interact with. The combat system is more usable if you know to use ‘Quen’, but I feel this should have been explained- multiple times throughout the tutorial level, seeing as how it’s almost impossible to play the game without it.

It is a very fun game aside from those things, the story is immersive, the graphics are beautiful, the characters are well done, and the world comes to life.

For someone that finished ‘The Witcher’ a few days before ‘The Witcher 2’ came out, I think the combat system and user interface (with regard to spotting interactive items in the game) need some work, and can imagine less hard core gamers giving up without scouring the internet for tips on being able to play the game.

So I’m afraid ‘The Witcher 2’ won’t be as successful as it could be, due to being frustrating enough in the demo levels for people not to continue playing.

Tips

Chapter 3, to find the sewers: The sewers are in the middle of the map, near the long row of merchants. It is a big dip in the ground with two guards. You will find it locked- but there is no key. The way to actually get in is a silver door North of that. Not the first one, but go up (you’ll find a guy impossible to arm wrestle), but north of that on the right/East side of the map. No key is needed- you just go down a long, downward slanted corridor, and arrive in the sewers.

NOTE: going through the sewers or getting captured (by telling the Temarians near the bar/inn on the East side of the map they smell and getting in a fist fight, or supposedly by just losing to the guards), you’ll still have to watch a sorceress’s eyes being “scooped” out….

To help other people stuck here, the next 3 screen shots are of the sewer entrance for chapter 3 (no key is needed)


The map location of where the sewers are located in Chapter 3 of The Witcher2


The door you need to go through to get to the sewers in Chapter 3 of The Witcher 2


The door you need to go through to get to the sewers in Chapter 3 of The Witcher 2 up close

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3 Comments

  1. “So far, one of the most helpful things in the game missing is the ability to hold down ‘alt’ and see things in the game you can interact with/ items that can be picked up.”
    Well, there is a way. Just press Z (activate amulet) and everything you can interact with turns orange (exept for npc’s I think)

  2. Not sure why you got so frustrated with the beginning combat. I played the game for the first time on dark and rarely ever use Quen. Also, I am glad they didn’t have spot on quest locations. It makes it so you have to indulge at least a little into the quests. Additionally,I hate it when game dumb down everything so you can be practically be invincible and just look at the map for where you need to go. It makes games boring and discourages diving into the story.

    • Did you play the updated version?

      Before the patches is when I played, and they supposedly tilted the difficulty curve quite a bit. When I played you could only take on one guy at a time- two would chop you down like a block of wood, because it wouldn’t let you attack when you have been hit.

      I like how they did the story- and don’t think they really need any gimmicks to make people “explore more”. I see it as more of bad game design when you can’t find where the heck you need to go. Skyrim and The Witcher both do a fairly good job of putting neat stuff in between goal points, so you usually have to stop and explore new things that pop up along the way, and sometimes get distracted doing stuff that is not part of the main quest because it is interesting.

      I’ll have to play again with the ‘enhanced edition’, and see how it has changed/ been improved.

      Thanks for the comment!

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