Demon's Souls, Batman:AA, and TES: Oblivion had a baby, his name is Geralt. Everything you want to know about Witcher 2.
The simple breakdown of "The Witcher" is like so…
Graphics/Character Performance and Animation – 10/10
Fun Factor – 9/10
Story – 10/10
User Interfacing – 8/10
Learning Curve – Fairly steep
Sound – 8.5/10
Value - 10/10
Total – 9.2 / 10
Jump down to my "All in all" if you only want a brief summary. I have also put key-words in CAPS to indicate what the bulk of that specific paragraph is discussing to make the review easy to navigate to points of interest.
You play the game as Geralt of Rivia, a Witcher. What is a WITCHER? I am glad you asked. A Witcher is a special type of human who is no longer human. After undergoing an alchemical ritualistic process, in which only two out of five survive, the human body is forever mutated into what is known as a Witcher. The mutation varies from subject to subject but several attributes are always obtained; superhuman speed, agility, dexterity, metabolism, and the ability to use magic. During your specific Witcher's mutation his hair turned white and his pupils construed to a vertical fixing making Geralt's eyes appear as those of a cat's. The mutation is a means to the end of gaining these superhuman enhanced attributes with the hopes of procuring an upper-hand in their deadly occupation of professional Monster-Slayer.
Geralt's tale is a MATURE AND RIVETING STORY to undertake. The game opens to Geralt incarcerated in a dungeon. His back is riddled with whip marks and flayed in multiple directions and his wrists have bruises around them from their long stay in shackles. The signs of torture and prolonged exposure to medieval dungeon conditions are blatantly apparent. Geralt is summoned to an interrogation chamber; he begins to tell the man who summoned him, Vernon Roche, a tale. The prologue is told from a framed narrative in which Geralt explains the events of "The Day of the Assault". The day that a king conquers a war front and escaped the deadly jaws of a fire-breathing dragon only to meet his end at the hands of an assassin. Geralt starts his tale in a war camp littered with troops training, praying, playing dice, and watching in amazement as sling-catapults bombard the enemy before the troops enter battle. Geralt is in bed with Triss, his lover from the first game, and the evidence of whip wounds and shackle bruises are absent. The tale is obviously now being told back before his current dungeon predicament. After lying in bed with Triss a guardsmen comes into their tent and informs Geralt that the king has summoned him to the front lines. After reaching the front lines the Witcher and the king ascend a large siege vehicle that is headed to the castle walls. As you climb ladders and talk to the king many, troops can be seen getting ready, slaver-type people turn a massive gear (suggest the people pushing the mechanism is what makes the siege engine move), other commanders cry war chants, and a catapult projectile crashes through the siege vehicle's walls. This is one of the first real displays of the game's magnificent attention to detail and realism. The siege vehicle stops. The heavy doors slam down and Geralt and the king's men charge into battle. After slaughtering several warriors and pushing onward your ban is halted by a well-placed barricade and archers. Geralt must get down to a ballista and fire it at the barricade. Unlike "The Witcher 1", Geralt can now drop-down like a parkour artist, hurdle over objects, press against walls, climb up ladders and vault onto important environmental places. After clearing several obstacles and escaping the jaws of a fire-breathing dragon by the hair on your chinny-chin-chin you and the king reach the desired location where his two bastard children are being held. All of these different parts of the prologue act as a tutorial for the player and when Vernon is interrogating Geralt you have the option to tell the section of the story you want or you can skip to where the king is assassinated, essentially bypassing the tutorial if desired. After the assassin kills the king he escapes and Geralt looks to be the only one there and is framed for the murder. This is why he is currently in the predicament in the dungeon. Vernon Roche believes your story of a different assassin and slips you a key to make your escape from the dungeon after he has departed with the promise of you finding the "king slayer". Your real adventure begins.
The Witcher 2 has what most games save for their epic climatic ending in its prologue…massive war scenario, dragons, and an assassin making an attempt on a king. This is a truly epic introduction into this specific fantasy world's nuances and a look into the life of a vagabond monster killing mercenary known as a Witcher.
The game still utilizes "artistic" CUT-SCENES to narrate important plot points like the first game did. The first Witcher game had Geralt narrate over a still-illustrated-image as the camera panned across it while Geralt talked about the events depicted in it. Now, the plot narrations have made a return, but they're more animated and feel like a 1500's medieval-style live action fresco painting of sorts. They remind me of the first "KILL BILL" when one of the movie's chapter turns from live action to animation. It is a really great artistic choice and shows appreciation to and complements a more abstracted 2-D medium in a game that pays immaculate attention to realism and detail. A fitting breath of fresh air in a game (and industry) filled with realism standards. The animated sequences are a fantastic contra-standard to the rest of the work.
CONVERSATION CHOICES have made a return and are better than ever. Sometimes you can choose between several different options to pursue your interactions with people through dialogue. For example, your water spell from the first game that took over an enemy's mind to help fight on your side can now be used to try and "Jedi mind trick" people into telling you what you want to know. You can also try to persuade people with insightful words or hurt them. One conversation event I don't like is when an hour glass appears next to the choices and forces you to make a split-second decision before the timer runs out. This feature is pretty cool, but I am not a very fast reader and I rarely get a chance to read all of the options let alone choose the one I want…but that is kind of the point.
IMPORTANT PLOT POINTS are mixed throughout the entire game because even SIDE-QUSTS in this game feel like most game's main storyline's quests. You make pivotal decisions fairly often that will affect the entire world. You also make numerous amounts of smaller choices on side-quests that affect your personal story. You need to try not to be shortsighted as personal choices could bite you in the arse several chapters past where the initial decision was made. This game has something like 14 different endings depending on the choices you will have to make. The quests feel important and are never entirely run-of-the-mill. Witcher 2 has basically done away with the extremely simple Witcher 1 quests like any other average RPG might have which is the RPG standby of the famed kill and fetch quests. For example, a quest that only contains "go here…kill "X" amount of a certain bad guy's face and bring it back" have been removed. The quests might be similar, but they at least require some thought or some reading. Sure, a quest might ask for you to "go close all of the Nekker nests" which is basically a kind of a kill and fetch quest, but it has been rethought and is more interesting and involving. Furthermore, these nests are like giant anthills in the ground and you are going to have to learn a new bomb formula so you can "fire in the hole" these guys with some serious boom. These quests usually take you into the massive hostile environments of the game outside the man populated areas and can throw things at you that might be there one time and not the next. Like, one time when I was attempting to destroy the large Nekker anthills I stumble across a Scoia'tael patrol. The Scoia'tael are Elvan rebels and they don't take kindly to anyone who even resembles human. The Scoia'tael patrol started to fight me, and then Nekkers started to hear the commotion and emerged from their underground lairs. The Scoia'tael where immediately attacked by the Nekkers and ceased attacking me to face their new more threatening enemy. These quests and the environments they take you to are amazing and filled with different types of situational action that can change from one experience to the next.
As for the GRAPHICS AND ENVIRONMENTS, you may have probably seen graphics like these before. Environments on the other hand, I would say it's like from "this game or that game" but truthfully…you've never seen anything like it. I used to believe that Demon's Souls had the best level design and rendered environments I had ever seen (well, I still do for that time in gaming), but Witcher 2 destroys how good those environments are. It is these true-to-life environments that make what are "seen before graphics" and transforms the game into what appears to be an evolutionary step in gaming graphically. Have you ever walked in a forest? The environments feel like that. You feel as though you could easily get lost and turned around. It is only through traversing the same paths multiple times that you feel you could venture into this forest with confidence as to where you are going and how to find your way back. The environments are ENORMOUS and none of it feels like it is copied or the same anywhere throughout its entirety. Every tree body and branch direction feel unique and hand crafted. Leaves seldom trickle down like a feather. Birds chirp and scurry when you are near. Light beams only breakthrough in sparse areas of the forest's mighty canopy. Atmospheric perspective is flawless and background objects fade into sight as you venture closer to them. Every aspect of each environment is breath takingly striking and amazing. The environments have the feel and scope in size of something like "Oblivion" without any of the repetitive nature in their crafting like the beauty and immaculate level design of "Demon's Souls".
Did I mention that there is basically no LOAD TIMES whatsoever when free roaming the environments? Strategically placed rocks you need to climb or doors you have to walk through "block" your way so that you have to interact with them. While Geralt is going through his animation of scaling the rock or walking through the threshold of the door an extremely brief load time can be seen taking place. That is about it as far as load times and exploration go. The world is not as completely free roaming as a game like "Red Dead Redemption" or "TES: Oblivion" are, but it is just as big and is by no means linear or constricting feeling. The reason it is as big but not as free roaming is because each chapter has its own gigantic zone. Then, after completion of a chapter you can no longer backtrack to previous chapter's environments.
MAP AND TRAVEL are fine. You still travel everywhere on foot and the map is not very difficult to navigate. I don't like the map as much as in the first game, but it is barely worth mentioning. The map doesn't indicate important character's homes or where they are most likely spending their time during the day. I remember one time I needed to find an elf I talked to earlier because I didn't buy a bomb recipe off him that I needed for those Nekker nests and it took me forever to find him again because even when tracking the quest the map would not indicate his current position and or where I had first met him. Because the environments are so detailed and large when you're new to a zone you think to yourself…"is this where I met that guy before?" Sometimes the enormity of the maps can be a bit overwhelming.
EXPERIENCE AND LEVELING SYSTEM are pretty much completely revamped. You still go up levels in the same manner as before through gaining experience points. The talent point system has changed a lot though and they got rid of Bronze, Silver, and Gold talent points. Talents can be spent at your leisure. The leveling attribute trees; Stamina, Strength, Dexterity, and Intellect have been removed. Swordsmanship, Alchemy, Magic, and Training are now what exist to customize your Witcher's combat prowess. The skill trees are a true "web system". Meaning, you don't have to have all connecting parts to get a desired skill. Any single strand in the webbing that touches the talent you want can be used to link to said desired talent. Each talent in the game has 0/2 possible points to distribute into each talent. The game does not follow a traditional method of where usually the second point into a skill will just do the exact same thing as the first point did except double its effects. For example, level 1 of "Riposte" in the swordsmanship tree unlocks the ability to counter an opponent's blows. Level 2 of "Riposte" gives the chance of an instant kill after a counter attack of +10%. There are some skills though that do just double the effect of the skill's first level. Like, "Harvester" in the alchemy tree which the first level does +50% when gathering ingredients and level 2 does +100% ingredients when gathering. Not every skill has a totally different second level upgrade, but more than not do and the second level of a skill is usually greatly more powerful than the first with incentive to distribute your talent to get that second level of the same skill.
You will have to waste 6 points at the start in the "Training" tree to open up the 3 real skill trees. 35 is the max level. So, with the 35 cap and 6 points wasted into the "Training" tree you're going to have 29 points to customize Geralt to your desires. You'll reach your 6th point to open up the rest of your trees very early in the first chapter.
The DIFFERENT SKILL TREES are designed in such a way that it is easy to get early skills that are in one tree that can greatly benefit a person more focused on a completely different tree. Someone who wants to focus on magic can do so and still get some really great and useful skills from the other two trees while not sacrificing their ability to be a powerful magic user. For example, in the swordsmanship tree there is a skilled called "Feet Work" which enhances distance covered when dodging by 100%. This can be useful for any spec and is very early in the swordsmanship tree. Another example is early in the alchemy tree and is called "Potion Specialization" which level 1 gives +10% potion duration and level 2 gives +40% potion duration. These skill trees offer up a great variety in depth of different possible character builds and customizations.
Swordsmanship, of course, focuses more on being "in the thick of it", on melee abilities, and "toughness" which makes your Witcher able to negate more damage upon receiving it.
Alchemy is more of a hybrid type specialization, but more focused on melee as well. It is a special type of fighting though which gives incentives to actually take too much potions and raise your toxicity to get poisoned. In this spec whenever Geralt is poisoned from toxicity his combat prowess is greatly enhanced.
Magic is also just what it sounds like. Though your magic abilities are greatly enhance and in the later stages of the game you might be able to be strictly a caster-type class, but a Witcher needs to use their melee swords no matter what.
MUTAGENS are a new addition to the game and add yet another level of possible character customizations. Mutagens boost your talent tree skills that allow for a mutagen slot. There are only 8 skills in the game that utilize a mutagen open socket; Fortitude, Arrow Redirection, Mutant, Amplification, Magical Sense, Control of the Power, Combat Acumen, and Whirlwind. Mutagens can be looted from defeated enemies or you can crate them as a byproduct of alchemy. Mutagens usually take one of three forms: Lesser, Basic, and Greater. Each of these forms raises the character's statistics, but by varied amounts.
-Critical Effects- Increases the chance of causing critical effects.
-Range- Increases the range of your sings.
-Vitality- Increases HP.
-Power- Increases sword damage.
-Strength- Increases damage reduction.
-Concentration- Increases Sign damage.
-Madness- Armor +2 and Vitality +5.
COMBAT in The Witcher has been changed. The main meters of combat are vitality (your HP), vigor (your mana and or parrying capabilities), adrenaline (built-up to execute powerful skill tree talents), and toxicity (how many potions you can take before you die from consumption). MELEE combat still incorporates the use of a steel sword for animal and humanoids and a silver sword for monsters and supernatural enemies. Sword stances have been replaced with a simple left-click for quick weak attacks and right-click for stronger slower attacks. Simple doesn't mean bad, melee can be very fun. Parry has been added as well to melee's repertoire. I do wish that you could hold parry and walk very slowly to really engage in a proper cautionary duel with someone or something, but when holding down your parry function Geralt is stationary. Your parry and ability to cast signs are on the same meter, vigor. SPELLS and parrying being on the same meter requires sound and tactical decision making during combat. All five signs from the first game have made a return with the addition of one new sign added to the second-to-last ability in the magic tree. Such spells still include conjurations of fire, force pushes, ground traps, protective force field, and mind control. The new sign is the "Heliotrope" sign and it is an area of effect time-slow spell. MOVEMENT and rolling are similar to the first game, but revised with Demon's Souls qualities. You jump and roll out of harm's way as often as possible and try not to expose your vulnerable backside to enemies. No true "lock-on" mechanic can hinder the combat experience occasionally. It can be frustrating to designate your desired target of attack. Combat at times feels very fluid and one attack can go in tandem from one opponent to the next with graceful poise in a deadly dance. The almost free flowing fluidity of the combat can feel a bit like "Batman: Arkham Asylum" at times and is very satisfying. All of these different fighting elements combine for a very interesting and malleable player customizable combat experience.
STEALTH is a newly added feature of the game. It is situational and a bit problematic. The game implemented this feature at only specific points in the game. So it is not like a player choice to be a rogue or assassin-type of a character through stealth movements and attacks. You're only able to sneak when the narrative calls for it. You can use your "Aard" sign to silently extinguish a nearby torch to further the cover of shadows to aid you, allowing you to more easily sneak up behind a foe and elbow-bash the back of their skull for a quick take down. At times NPCs seem to get a line-of-sight on you when it is clearly impossible and or at times spot you when the exact same circumstances have delivered a clean knockout or get away. What i am saying is the need for narration to enter stealth and mechanic inconsistencies downplay what could have possibly been an extremely enjoyable implementation to the game. Stealth is still fairly fun though.
ENEMIES in the game have been show a lot of love…let's face it you are a monster-slayer, it is a pretty big deal in a game like this. Besides the aesthetics of the creatures they have been improved with more vicious fighting technics as an individual or try to swarm you in packs depending on the nature of the beasts. Fire-breathing, acid spitting, mob wrenching, and intelligent opponents full this game to the brim with excellent combat and battle scenarios.
BOSSES in the game are FAR more epic in scope, mechanic, and unforgivability than ever before. Bosses will chew you up and spit you out. You are going to die…easy as that. Their scope and feel seem to be directly influenced by a "God of War-esque" scale and their difficulty and range of mechanics pay homage to Demon's Souls. They're truly epic and MEAN.
This impart is why the LEARNING CURVE seems so steep. Normal enemies can be a tough challenge and some bosses can be easier than some "world found" enemies. Some bosses can be downright a blast to fight even though they take you and smear you to the wall. The learning curve is quite steep because you never know how hard one situation will be from one moment to the next, luckily though the game's difficulty can be adjusted at any time.
The EQUIPMENT and OPEN-GEAR-SLOTS at your disposal is much more plentiful than the first Witcher. The first Witcher had several sword slots, full body armor slot, and ring slots for rings that didn't do much of anything. The Witcher 2 has done away with the ring slots, but now implements slots for boots, gloves, leggings, torso armor, silver sword, steel sword, and a trophy socket. Whenever changing out gear Geralt's physical appearance is altered due to the aesthetic of the corresponding equipped item. The game doesn't support an amount of items like a game that is basically an "item hunt" like "Diablo II" or "Torchlight", but has a wide range of different pieces of equipment for each open-gear-slot. If you have played Demon's Souls think along the lines of that, except for a bit more.
Weapons and armor can have OPEN-SOCKETS in them. Whereas before, in Witcher 1 yellow, blue, and red meteorite rock were combine to create steel swords and yellow, blue, and red rune stones were combine to create silver swords. These (and other) runes are now used as enhancements to be placed in a desired open-socket in a weapon. Armor has open-sockets as well and armor enhancements can be placed in them too. Like, "Diamond Armor Reinforcements" for +10 vitality and or "Endrega Hide" for +10% resistances to poisoning.
ITEM CRAFTING is vastly superior to the first Witcher game. The game's item crafting systems for equipment and weapons is more along the lines of very in-depth crafting systems found in most MMORPGs. You need multiple crafting components and some are only dropped from bosses or rare to find. (This is where I would normally talk about inventory and items and whatnot, but items and inventory had to get pulled down to the "bad" section of the review.)
The WITCHER'S MEDALLION is still worn around Geralt's neck and still contains the same abilities as before of sensing magic and monsters. In most CRPGs, Witcher 1 included, the alt key is for displaying different items and people you can interact with in the environment. In The Witcher 2 they have taken the alt function and the medallion's previous abilities and combine them into a single "Z" button press. A delightfully sounding and eye-pleasing spell-like animation "shockwaves" out from Geralt and highlights everything in the room, tavern, forest, cavern, or wherever that Geralt can interact with. Downside is that the "shockwave search function" is on a cool-down timer and alt has no function and neither "Z" nor alt tell you where or displays NPCs name's above their heads. This can make it hard to find desired locations and persons.
ALCHEMY in many aspects is the same as Witcher 1. On the other hand, many things have been modified, rethought, or done away with. No alcohol, grease or fat, and powder bases are needed anymore to create potions, weapon oils, and bombs. Many of the old potions return from the first game, but like I said many have been modified or rethought. The potions that have been modified basically now have to take into consideration the fact that there is an alchemy skill tree, so some potions are not nearly as powerful as they were from the get-go in Witcher 1. "Swallow" for example was a very powerful health regeneration potion. Now, "Swallow" is barely useful with a slow and weak +1 health regen. The alchemy skill tree has a talent that is early in the tree and reachable no matter what your desired specialization you wish to go with is. This skill is "Catalysis" and the first point into the talent adds +15% to potion benefits and -30% from potion negations with the first point and +30% and -80% with the second point (most negative effects of potions only reach -30%, so the percentages go from negating the negative effects with the first point of Catalysis to turning them into buffs after the second point). "Cat" has changed to be more of a way to help guide you through some of the harder stealthy parts of the game. "Cat" no longer only allows Geralt sight in otherwise pitch-black areas, now it also gives Geralt a pseudo-X-ray vision like that of one of Batman's detective modes in "Batman: Arkham Asylum". After consuming "Cat" the screen filters everything to black-and-white, your hearing feels amplified, and the only thing that has color is the intensely bright inner workings of foes that you can see through into their veins, nervous system, and beating heart. In the end, alchemy's core functionality is basically the same as before. You consume potions for benefits and they ingest toxicity into your system as side-effects.
Sword oils are basically the exact same as before where you coat your weapon in an oil for an enhanced weapon effect with the desired coating. Some oil coatings include "Arachnid Oil" which adds an 80% chance to poisoning your target or oils like "Whirl" which adds 10% damage.
Bombs have a much larger variety than before and the addition of traps is a great improvement. Such bombs are "Beehive" which adds the condition of "wound" to all it hits or "Dragon's Breath" which disperses a flammable cloud that can be combusted with the use of the Igni sign.
Potions, oils, and bombs make alchemy a powerful ally and add a sophisticated combat experience.
MEDITATION is a bit different than before. It can be use anywhere now and doesn't require flint and a campsite. Meditating can be used to pass time, brew potions, and now you have to go into a meditative state to drink potions (this is not good, I'll talk about it later), but can be done basically anywhere now.
VALUE. The average video game nowadays takes something like 15 hours to complete. The average most RPGs shoot for is 30-40. The Witcher 2 can easily make you clock-in 50+ hours with side-quests and main storyline. Also to mention, the game supports something like 14 different endings depending on choice nuances made in the game. In combination with really versatile skill trees this time around and multiple endgames, The Witcher 2 could easily provide a potential of hundreds of hours of entertainment. The value is 10/10 for certain.
You may think many people are getting their knees dirty with praise of this game and those praises are not hollow, but the game is not without flaw.
Most of the "bad and ugly" fall under the "it wasn't broke why did they try to fix it" category I mentioned in the introductory first paragraph of this review. Like I said before, if you're not a returning player form Witcher 1 you can basically skip past "the bad and the ugly" because what you will see in Witcher 2 is "just the way it is" for you.
If orens (gold) is what you need then the Witcher games always supply MINI-GAMES for the player to take part in as a way to make some quick cash. Such moneymakers include dice poker, brawling, and the new addition of arm wrestling.
I loved DICE POKER from the first Witcher and I have to say it was basically perfect. Now poker matches are not best-out-of-three and the dice have been changed. Before the dice were normal six-sided die, but now they're more fantasy-looking with a triangle to indicate a "3" and a five-tipped-star to indicated a "5" and so on. This change is fine. The changes that I dislike through and through are the matches being a single "hand" (not best of three) and the way the game makes the player roll their dice now. Before you would click an icon that depicted a hand rolling dice and the game would throw the dice for you. Now, you have to roll your own dice and the game gives you an awful camera perspective and the bundle of dice that are supposed to indicate where your hand is does not have a shadow under it. The lack of a shadow and bad camera angle let their powers combine to ruin the entire experience all together and make it hard to even get the dice to land on the board. You find yourself trying to just hover your hand over what appears to be where might be a safe spot to drop your dice…and they do just that, drop. When "throwing" your dice in this manner they don't roll and they barely do much of anything. I don't understand why they changed it from the first game at all.
ARM WRESTLING is just dumb and thrown-in. A small meter inside a longer one moves across the full length of the long meter to indicate where your arm is in relation to the table; middle being the vertical starting point where both participants are equal, left being them pushing your arm down, and right being you wrestling their arm down. You have to keep your "hand" on the smaller meter that slides along. If you are able to keep your hand inside the little meter you continuously push their arm in your favor. You move your mouse left and right as the little meter moves. Your hand placement over the little meter feels "icy" and basically all you do is just gently move your mouse to not fall off of the little meter and you win. Sounds like a lot of jargon, but it is extremely easy and trivial.
BRAWLING seems like a "Fight Club" style of animation bouts, it is more primal, skin slapping, and blood spittingly satisfying than before. Victories from brawling are achieved through the use of quick-time-events against the opponent. It is simple and fairly easy, but really fun to watch and take part in. Brawling doesn't deserve to be in the "bad" section, but fits into the overall talk about the mini-games so here it is.
INVENTORY has changed for the worse. Bad lay-out of the inventory interface slowdown navigation and a small window for item specs make them forcibly and extremely slowly scroll through an item's specifications (I will touchdown on more of this in the "ugly" section of the review). The inventory no longer shows a grid with all of the icons to indicate each item. Your items are a list of text that you scroll through. There are still icons, but only when you are on a single specific one that you happen to have your cursor over is the item's icon on display. The inventory does have a nice "heading" at the top that breaks-down categories for each item archetype like; crafting material, weapons, armor, trophies, books, etc…which is nice.
A part that goes hand-in-hand with inventory is the fact that the game now implements a WEIGHT SYSTEM. Like I have said before the game supports a plethora of goods to be found, looted, and scavenged with a large range of different types of items. From equipment, to crafting materials for gear, to alchemical components, to trophies, books, and recipes this game supports a TON of various items. Be forewarned though…there is absolutely NO STORAGE!!! Geralt's personal inventory complemented by a weight threshold limits your item hording to a very bare minimum. Not only do the miscellaneous items in your bags weigh you down, but your currently equipped gear adds to your encumbrance as well. When Geralt becomes over encumbered he can no long travel at his trotting normal speed which forces him to walk and when his sword is drawn for combat can no longer do rolls or take evasive measures. No storage and a weight threshold are both a thing on their own in a game, but to have a weight problem AND no storage is a bit much. I don't mind the idea of having to pick-and-choose gear and consumables to bring with me when I am heading out into hostile territory, but in a game that feels as though they're influencing item collection through incentives of multiple crafting capabilities and materials it seems counterproductive to those aspects of the game.
Inability to drink potions "on-the-go" makes for a weak game change and is 100% unnecessary. In the first Witcher my bags were stuffed full of potions, oils, and bombs…like that of what I would imagine a Witcher's bags might be stuffed with (besides Drowner brains). This was awesome and allowed the player to think-on-the-go and adapt to the situation they are confronted with. The function of only being able to drink potions while in a "non-combat mode" and in the meditative state seem extremely counterproductive and the implementation of this mechanic basically begs you to have to die to see what obstacles lay ahead then reload the game to actually prepare for said obstacles.
The worst parts of the game are INTERFACING and GAME OPTIONS. Simply put, the game supports a lack in options and the user interfacing for menus have problems that didn't exist in the first game.
LACK OF OPTIONS
The MUSIC in the game is wonderful and the SOUND EFFECTS are phenomenal. The audio falls under the lack of options shortcoming that the game suffers from though. Music has its own adjustment leveler, but NPC voice and ambiance sound effects are on the same dial. Therefore, soft speaking characters (one being the main character, Geralt) get drown out by background noise quite often. At times it almost feels like it could have been a really cool thing, like it was actually very realistic. For instance, when you're in a bar and you are trying to talk to someone across the table it can be hard to hear one another because of chatter, other patrons, and music. Then, you realize that the situation is not realistic because when you're in a bar and you cannot hear what your friend is saying you reply…"WHAT!!!" It would have actually seemed like a cool feature if that would have happened and then the character actually would have repeated themself and spoke louder. But, that never happened and dialogue gets drown out by background noise far too often.
You can't remap KEY BINDINGS through the game's normal options. Maybe I don't want "E" to be my parry. Maybe I want spacebar to be parry instead…and shift to jump around…whatever. It isn't the fact that I actually want to change these things I don't understand how a game with this much attention to detail and immaculate execution doesn't have the ability to redistribute key functions.
Interfacing with the in-game menus like; your journal, inventory, map, character screen, etc… the game shows it's most problematic issues. When crafting through the use of alchemy it doesn't tell you your current weight capacity or how many of any item you might want to craft you already have in your possession. Also, when looking to barter with a trader the interface doesn't indicate whether-or-not you already know a formula, crafting plan, or have read a book before. May seem like nitpicking, but in this game in particular alchemy is a big deal and in RPGs going to your map and back-and-forth to your quest log is common place. These actions may seem small but in games like these you are doing them ALL OF THE TIME and when you are entering these interfaces so frequently it becomes more than just a tedious act and evolves into an enormous annoyance.
===================ALL IN ALL======================
All in all, "The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings" does a great job of trying to turn you into a Witcher and getting the player to enter their mindset. You need to meditate, investigate, interrogate, brew potions, caldron-up some sword grease, cook bombs, cast spells, use both your steel and silver swords, and quickly think on your toes in ways of which to utilize all of these different elements to survive. Combination of these different elements can result in some really tactical and fun combat situations, which can leave the player up to the task of creating their own combat style. The Witcher has excellent qualities of a non-linear feeling world in the way you go about exploration and fantastic varieties in character customization, only not to the degree of a game with a wide range of different class archetypes like; rogue, warrior, barbarian, archer, mage, etc. On the other hand, this game is a superb adventure action RPG in which there is only one malleable class to discover, admire, and master…The Witcher.
"The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings" is mature and intelligent. Minor menu interface issues and lack of some game options can't stop this masterpiece from blasting-off into the stratosphere. Should you play this? Are you a RPG fan? Did you like any of the games I've mention in this review? Then yes. This game is an absolute must play for any action adventure RPG fan.