The Witcher 2 is a masterpiece, improves the cons of the prequel and adds more action without being a button-masher.
the product, the development attached to a young and talented, but inexperienced, team and some marketing strategies that were considered some kind of modern-day "Hara-kiri" (exclusive game for the PC, a stagnant market, less profitable than home-systems nowadays; no DLCs announced before the game and so on). Time told and taught us that all our past prejudices were wrong, thankfully.
The Witcher 2 begins exactly where the prequel ended. We are Geralt of Rivia,a monster-hunter for hire also known as "The Witcher", skilled fighter, expert in potions and poisons and dangerous wizard. During our new adventure we'll interact with some old acquaintances, like the bard Dandelion or the sorceress Triss Merigold, or new faces like the elf Iorveth and the mysterious Kingslayer known as Letho.
What made the "Witcher" franchise so successful is not only the great spectrum of charismatic and credible characters in their Fantasy/Middle Age setting, but also the insane amount of interaction between every single men and women like Kings, soldiers, bartenders, prostitutes, hermits, thieves, etc.
Every single person, from the main character to some anonymous drunk time-waster, has his own story to tell, missions we are asked to accomplish, challenges or simple dialogues with us or some other NPCs.
Technical wise CD Project RED already surprised us back in 2007, so we expected more than slight improvements; we wanted some more work on the open-area environments, especially in the "detail" department. Fortunately all our expectations are fully met. The graphics of this game are among the best ever in the entire video games history, both artistically and technically, thanks to the new RED Engine. One fine example of what we are talking about is
one of the beginning stages of the game, a large and luxuriant timber; every leaf, every tree, every tussock moved by the wind comes to life. Of course the game does not lack in the "dark and decadent" settings department like filthy and rat-infested prisons or ill-famed docks populated by pirates and smugglers. The polygonal models of the characters are improved in details and animations, especially during combat sessions. Facial animations are improved too, but they aren't always 100% accurate, especially in the
interrogation at the very beginning of the game. These are just minor and rare hiccups, immediately forgotten once we are aware of the greatness of the graphics, a pure state of the art. Despite the movie-like style choosed for the story-telling, the cinematics and the highly criticized QTEs, you will never play an "interactive-movie", The Witcher 2 is a REAL old-school video game where both brain and fingers have to work together in order to reach the ending credits. The scenes with the Dragon (the winged beast does have a more important role of what you may think at first) are simply unforgettable.
An epic soundtrack, a great voice acting in english language with decently readable and well translated subtitles are the icing on the cake for this masterpiece.
The gameplay does have very few changes indeed, but the original formula used to be, and still is, great, so CD Project rightfully threw some improvement without twisting the old mechanics, avoiding self-inflicted wounds, like adding blind button-mashing element to the basic
combat. The gameplay can be examined by splitting up the game formula in three different but mutually influenced basic elements: dialogues, combat/exploration and the level-ups of your character.
Eloquence is of utmost importance in this game because well-Thought and well-spoken words can benefit us, allowing Geralt to live longer by avoiding useless fights, gain more money, a larger number of allies or seducing women with ease. Of course the choices, and their consequences, are up to us. We are given a limited amount of time to answer and choosing our favourite reply. If this is your first journey into the universe created by Andrzej Sapkowski, be aware that every single choice you take will affect on the in-game politics
and society; aligning yourself with a faction, for instance, will determine who will be your ally or enemy. The choices you made in the prequel can be imported in "The Witcher 2" by loading the savedata.
Fighting is the aspect of gameplay that received greater changes and additions. Even though the previous fighting system was good, it had his shortcomings due to some bug (Geralt used to freeze pretty often in the midst of a sword combination) and the dullness of some mechanics rooted in a unstoppable sequence of actions. In this second chapter we can cast a
spell in the midst of a duel without stopping the previous sword slash. The repertoire of animations is largely increased and improved, enemies can be wounded and mutilated now.
The already mentioned QTEs are a new addition, but they can be avoided and the mandatory ones are rare. The difficulty level is always above average, thanks to a great AI from enemies and allies. The behaviour of the latter can be influenced by our choices, but they are not playable, like the previous title. This game is pretty hard even on "Normal" difficulty, but the hardcore gamers may try the "Insane" option, which will test their patience due to impossibility of loading the previous savedata in case of death.
Another aspect of the game that has been enlarged without substantial changes is the alchemy, with a larger array of potions, ointments and other substances capable of regenerating our health and mana and other effects. New Armors and new swords have been added, but there are just minor and aesthetic differences between them. Geralt will move with the same grace and nimbleness regardless of what kind of heavy armor he is wearing or
heavy sword wielding.
The level-up of the main character is significantly improved and now is more focused on which aspects of Geralt we want to develop. Generally we can follow a predetermined and specific path about the three main elements of combat: sword abilities, magics and alchemy; however, we can branch and balance our choices.
There's a shameful number of main quests and secondary tasks and, if you're not satisfied yet, there are mini-games all over the game, like the returning dice-poker and bar brawling, and the new comer "arm wrestling".
The Witcher 2 won't be forgotten in years because it's a great game. A masterpiece really worthy of your money, a mandatory presence in your collection, one of the very few titles worth of an upgrade of your PC's hardware. This game is plenty of charismatic and credible characters, immersive storyline, addictive gameplay and a great durability and replayability (40+ hours of gameplay without sidequests). The Witcher 2 is the "Mecca" of
videogaming, you HAVE to play it at least once in your life.