The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Updated Hands-On - Tales From Captivity

We spend some time playing through the opening segments of The Witcher 2.

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When we last saw the stoic Geralt of Rivia, he had been tasked with investigating the mysterious murder of a young man and its possible connection to a local succubus. Now we've returned to take on the role of the witcher, an ancient profession that excels at the study and extermination of supernatural creatures, and explore the initial areas of this third-person action role-playing game. Be advised that this story focuses on the game's opening and may contain minor plot spoilers.

They don't like Geralt's spooky eyes, do they? Maybe the witcher should relieve these prison guards of theirs.
They don't like Geralt's spooky eyes, do they? Maybe the witcher should relieve these prison guards of theirs.

From the title screen we had the option to import our previous save data from the original Witcher. We decided to start fresh instead, and loaded up a new game. Our adventure began with our hero, Geralt of Rivia, shackled within a dungeon. We were in unfamiliar surroundings, and the only insight the two portly guards could offer was that we were sure to hang tomorrow. After they finished gloating, a hooded man appeared and ordered that we be led into an interrogation room. Fearing the worst, we were left with little choice but to comply. However, instead of torturing us, he simply sat us down for a chat. After a few exchanges of vulgarity, we began to recount the events that had led up to our imprisonment.

The tale was broken down into four parts, but we won't cover all the juicy details here. To summarize: it involved Geralt, a certain monarch, and a rebel uprising. Jumping ahead to the middle of the tale, we found ourselves in the midst of an assault on the rebel's stronghold atop the walls of the enemy's keep. We were beset by enemy soldiers almost immediately. In The Witcher 2, the rhythmic swapping between stances has been done away with in favor of a more traditional combat control scheme. The left mouse button controlled our light attacks, while the right controlled the heavy ones. By exploring different combinations of clicks we were able to string together three- and four-hit combos to devastating effect.

While this worked great against the initial, lightly armed troops, a few soldiers armed with shields soon arrived to halt our aggressive advance. For these armored brutes we had to make our own luck by parrying their strikes, meaning we blocked just as they moved to strike, and then we counterattacked when they recoiled. And if all else failed, we could always tumble out of the way by tapping the space bar. We also had access to Geralt's arsenal of diverse magical abilities. Whenever we found ourselves being overwhelmed, as was often the case, a shield spell proved indispensable as it would block hits without our needing to guard.

Geralt's attempts to weaponize the high five has so far been less than successful.
Geralt's attempts to weaponize the high five has so far been less than successful.

We also discovered another useful tactic for battling large groups of enemies--the combination of the trap and mind-control spells. Essentially, we would lead our foes someplace narrow where they couldn't easily surround us. We would then stun the first aggressor and mind-control the second, their two bodies creating a wall that the other attackers couldn't advance through. And while our new ally kept the enemies at bay, we were free to cut down the original foe.

With the rebel soldiers out of the way, we turned our attentions to a discarded ballista. Using this massive siege weapon, we could provide some assistance to our brothers-in-arms who were being pinned down by archers stationed in a nearby guard tower. Interacting with the massive weapon brought up a simple prompt letting us load and properly align the contraction by repeatedly clicking a mouse button. Once it was squared away, we cut the massive bolt loose and watched as it decimated our ranged aggressors.

Further into the battle, it looked as if victory were just within our grasp. That is, until the dragon showed up. Obviously, it was going to take more than a few fireballs and a steel sword to topple this beast, so we decided to flee. After dodging and weaving around a few deadly cones of fire, we found ourselves in an all-out mad dash back across the castle walls with the fire-breathing beast hot on our heels. This cinematic sequence was accented with a few quick-time events as we ducked and dodged out of the way of its attacks. Finally, we managed to lodge our rusty sword in the creature's mouth and sent it packing, hopefully with a bad case of tetanus as well.

Leveling up lets you advance your character in one of four areas: swordsmanship, training, magic, and alchemy.
Leveling up lets you advance your character in one of four areas: swordsmanship, training, magic, and alchemy.

We'll go ahead and cut the story off there, but suffice it to say that things did not end up going as planned. Graphically, The Witcher 2 was a beautiful game to behold, with its soft, muted color palette and realistic-looking sunlight. On the high graphical setting there was an impressive amount of detail on both the character models and the environment. The Witcher 2's revamped gameplay, impressive visuals, and dark storyline make for an exciting role-playing sequel. You can track down The Witcher 2 on May 17 for the PC.

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