It didn't take me long to believe that I was in fact, truly, playing an epic. Geralt of Rivia (played by Doug Cockle), is a professional monster hunter who possesses a good deal of special powers. You'll honestly feel like such a character, as every role-playing game's intention should be.
"A TRUE HERO
FORGES HIS OWN STORY"
A bit of tagline on the back of the Xbox 360 game case. The case doesn't lie. It implies that forging of stories as Geralt of Rivia is evident.
It's hard trying to explain Geralt of Rivia's character. People play games differently from one another, and The Witcher 2 embraces that. Right off the bat however, I'd mostly say that Geralt is a medieval Donald Draper (protagonist of the hit television show Mad Men).
The game throws you in a rather dark, mature storyline. A storyline I found to be extremely immersive. It's not overly pretentious. Execution is well.
Quests in The Witcher 2 are unique. Not excruciatingly generic like other typical RPGs. A certain amount of player skill is required to successfully handle these quests. I learned that the hard way.
Going through with a quest that had me exploring a macabre sort of cave, I did not expect to be ambushed by dozens of little nightmarish monsters, called Nekkers. I was outnumbered. My mind had to work quick. On instinct, my first thought was to murder every single one of the bastards with a lengthy spear I picked up in the prologue. Health became almost non-existant, so I rolled my way into an open area. Decided to quickly place a few traps while I held them off with my magic attacks. They got to me sooner or later, and I had already made use of my traps and bombs. Geralt of Rivia just kept rolling until the Nekkers cornered him. It was over.
Just one example of how difficult the game can be. If you're not prepared, the many monsters will rip you to shreds. I soon realized, after attempting the quest around 15 times, I had numerous sword enhancements at my disposal. Liquids and oils that I could douse over my weapon, giving me an advantage to last me for 3-5 minutes. Along with those enhancements, I had potions which increased health regeneration and offered other perks, along with some fair disadvantages.
This is part of the reason why I've grown so much in love with The Witcher franchise. You never know what can happen; to an NPC, or to you.
Like every contemporary RPG, you've got dialogue choices during conversations. You can be intimidating or kind. You can lie, or tell the truth. Quest endings depend on your choices, basically. One particularly great aspect of the conversation parts, is that there are instances in which choices are timed. That's right. You'll only have a few seconds to respond. It's intense, and adds a new layer of immersion to the game.
There's a learning curve planted onto the several gameplay elements. It really helps to play the tutorial. The tutorial may not seem like much, but anything that can aid you should be welcome. Once the training wheels are off, it's up to the player to figure out how they'll play.
I found the controls to be quite well. Combat is fun and intuitive for the most part. I do feel annoyed at some of the context-sensitive controls, however. At times I see the button flash on the screen for a quick instance, but I'm too late to react, struggling to find the sweet spot, so to speak. A pain when it comes to moments that call for fast action. Though, it's not an often issue that appears every minute, so it doesn't harm the overall aesthetic of the game.
The game's gorgeous visuals compliment everything else nicely. Foliage does not look horrendous.
Geralt is animated well. The world looks beautiful, inside and out. Pro-tip: Make space on your Xbox 360 harddrive to install this bad boy. It's worth it.
Lip-syncing could use a bit of work, but that's just me picking nits. I do yearn for an RPG that makes use of MotionScan.
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is one damn good RPG that offers a fine blend of nonlinearity and dark story. The multiple difficulty modes target all types of players; including newcomers to the RPG genre, but makes sure to allow a fun yet challenging experience for all.
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (Enhanced Edition) is out now for Xbox 360 and PC.
Special thanks to CD Projekt RED for sending me a free copy! Definitely inspires me to keep this humble blog going.