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The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

PC | Xbox 360
Genre: Role Playing
Developer: CD Projekt Official Site:
Publisher: Atari Classification: MA15+
Release Date:
17th May 2011
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Review
Review By @ 10:57am 25/05/11
If you’ve watched the first episode of HBO’s epic new fantasy series Game of Thrones, at the very least you would have marveled at the production values, acting, and maturity of the story being presented. But chances are you were also left a little confused, what with all the name dropping involving royalty, nobles, distant lands, inter-family feuds, mythical dragons, and the death of an important person with the job title The King’s Hand. The fact that the show was presented in a “watch it, but don’t expect villains in black or puffy shirt nobles to talk in massive chunks of exposition” style proved to be an incredibly bold approach, and one that succeeded quite considerably and paid off in dividends in future episodes.

The first few hours of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings shares many similarities, as even though you will marvel at the visuals, art direction, great voice acting and incredible music score, you will also be left a little confused. Because apart from learning about a hand job ending in an untimely demise, you will need to pay attention as you’re introduced to a fantasy world as rich, dense, and unpredictable as the one seen in Game of Thrones. In addition to being both detailed and complex, the world of The Witcher is also quite gruesome as it’s centered on a compelling story with no real obvious moral center. With an unknown party systematically assassinating various kings, the Northern Kingdoms are thrown into chaos with all imaginable problems centered on race, class, greed, revenge, and war becoming a part of everyday life.

In the game’s first town, Flotsam, built next to a remote riverside trading port, the full effect of this chaos is felt across every character as well as the town itself. Overrun by a corrupt official hell bent on implementing a state of militia rule as well as persecuting any and all non-humans, such as Dwarves but more importantly an elven race of forest dwellers known as the Scoia'tael, the town is also beset by a large underwater monster. A monster so large and menacing (it has huge tentacles for a start) that it has also put a halt to all trading in Flotsam, in addition to the usual wanton killing and destruction.

With rampant racial and gender prosecution, poverty, greed, and murder putting the very fate of Flotsam in question, players will take control of renowned Witcher and monster slayer, Geralt of Rivia, as he not only tries to unravel the conspiracy surrounding the royal murders and a plot threatening to change the world itself, but also the fate of Flotsam. Slaying the monster will be no easy feat and throughout this quest he will need to deal directly with all factions within and around Flotsam, choosing to aid or alienate the corrupt official, deal with the Scoia'tael, and choose to investigate or ignore a dark part of the town’s history involving torture, rape, and spectral curses.

Based on this description alone, you would assume that Flotsam would be a grim place to visit, let alone somewhere you would want to spend a considerable amount of time in. In fact, thanks in part to its mature themes and diverse cast of characters, the overall world of The Witcher sounds well, like a pretty shit place to live. But the very first impression one has with this game, is a general sense of awe at the visual fidelity on display not only in terms of pure graphical and technical excellence but in the astounding art direction and detail put into each environment that literally brings the world to life.

Take Flotsam for example, a place that sounds like it would be a dark, grimy, and overall “grey” place to inhabit. As presented in the game, Flotsam is a rustic looking trading town, with classic architecture, all brought to life with wonderful detail and more importantly, an amazing use of colour.

Walking through the streets at night, as your surroundings are lit by the blue moonlight, the orange glow of fire will add light to nearby walkways whilst also masking a tiny layer of mist and fog that rolls though the streets. As you turn into a back alley, you’ll be confronted by some thugs, looking to make a quick score by claiming the bounty on your head. Although the colour of their varied clothing has dulled from the moonlight, their blades glisten, and as you spill their blood onto a nearby window that seemingly glows from the light and the heat emanating from inside.

As impressive as it is seeing rays of light pass through individual branches of the many large, impressive, and vibrant trees in the game’s forest areas, or even viewing fires rage all around you as you make your way through a battlefield during sunset, the fact that the game looks absolutely amazing during quiet night-time sequences speaks volumes to the overall level of detail and care that has gone into making this one of the best looking RPG’s to date. And even though you can speak to various characters and pick up side-quests that will send you exploring into the surrounding areas, such as the dangerous forest outside Flotsam, the sheer beauty of the environments themselves in most cases, will be enough incentive to go for a wander to see what lurks just around each corner. From river beds to moss covered stone artifacts, to lush vegetation surrounding a waterfall the world is quite something to behold, and always looks and feels natural. But it’s also a dangerous place, as these strolls are never quiet and usually end up with you being surrounded by a group of creatures, such as the imp like Nekkers, ready to violently put an end to your adventure.

Combat in the game is presented in a very action-heavy way, almost to the point where a passerby might mistake it for a standard hack-and-slash game, where spamming buttons and performing combos are the order of the day. In actual fact, the combat system implemented is quite different, and extremely difficult to come to grips with thanks in part to a tutorial system that is largely absent and a difficulty curve that could be described as ‘sadistic’. This no doubt, will be the main point of contention for anyone who plays this game, and will probably move many to turn the game’s difficult down as a means to make it more palatable - but there’s something a little old school about not really caring if players can’t keep up with the game mechanics.

So yes, the first few enemy encounters in the game are ludicrously difficult, and you’ll quickly realise that when faced with a group of enemies they’ll quickly work together to surround you and try and hit you from all angles, including the time-old classic of a sword to the back. Being an RPG, getting hit in the back means that the damage taken is amplified as is the time taken to recover from being stunned and be able to retaliate. Combat-wise you’re definitely thrown into the deep end with no real tutorial or even strategy clearly presented, meaning that the early parts of the game can get frustratingly difficult, and at times feel more than a little ridiculous. But eventually (with the time depending on your natural gaming ability) you’ll come to the realisation that being a Witcher means that you’ll have no choice but to use a combination of magic, bombs, traps, ranged weaponry, in the addition to standard sword-play to better your foes. This is when the role-playing nature of the game truly becomes apparent.

It’s quite an impressive system that has been implemented, with leveling up tied directly to how you fight. If you find that building traps and bombs, in conjunction with swordplay is the strategy that works best for you, then instead of leveling attributes, you add skill points direct to numerous abilities along a specific skill tree. This means that you can add points to increase the effectiveness of all potions and bombs you create as well as the ability to be able to strike multiple enemies at once after you’ve managed to stun them. For the most part this works exceptionally well, but in later parts of the game, with the right skill distribution the combat can become incredibly easy and a polar opposite experience to the one had within the first ten or so hours of the game. Again it’s quite an impressive system, and one that definitely works, but it’s also one that is executed quite clumsily.

With the role-playing aspect of RPG here clearly tied to the role of controlling the white-haired Witcher Geralt of Rivia across combat, the same is also applied directly to the story. Although presented in a linear fashion, there are a surprising number of choices to be made within the game that extend beyond picking a side between two feuding parties, that branch off the narrative that can even effect locations visited and the number of quests available. This means that two players can have very different experiences when playing the game depending on the choices they make, including many that aren’t really telegraphed like other games tend to do, and many that will be made based on incomplete information on hand, and based purely on trust.

The narrative and gameplay however does fall short of truly being epic, as there are many moments in the game that feel like they could have been improved or even expanded upon. The ending although satisfying and impressive in the way it leaves many questions answered, does feel a little rushed in the quick manner players are almost forced to reach the climax. Ambiguity in a narrative, especially one that is based on a complex story is something to be commended, but in a game it can be a tricky thing to pull off, and The Witcher 2 almost gets it right.

But as an RPG, currently exclusive to PC, this comes highly recommended as it provides a compelling and mature story, great combat (eventually), all wrapped up in what is clearly one of the most visually impressive games to be released in a long time.
What we liked
  • Incredible visuals that push the genre forward
  • Detailed and rewarding narrative that doesn’t pull punches or hold hands
  • Great skill-based leveling system
  • Impressive gamepad integration
What we didn't like
  • Inventory menus are a little clunky
  • Insane early-on difficulty spikes
  • Half-baked mini-games should have been a lot better
We gave it:
Latest Comments
Posted 12:10pm 25/5/11
This game eats PCs for breakfast
Tanaka Khan
Posted 12:28pm 25/5/11
Once I got it working I loved this game.
Posted 12:33pm 25/5/11
I've been playing it, it is an excellent game. At first I thought Skyrim would be the better of the two, however Skyrim will be having a hard time topping the story, voice acting and general atmosphere. I think Skyrim will have a bit more on the Role playing side though.
Posted 12:39pm 25/5/11
Definitely want a super high end system to run this at max unfortunately. hopefully the next round of patches and drivers will settle it down a bit.

the game itself is absolutely fantastic though.
the animation is great save for jumping from forwards to diagonal when running, they got lazy there for some reason.

the story is ridiculously rich with history and back stories. I find myself skipping through huge parts of dialogue because I'm not that invested in it but for people that like being completely immersed in a game world, this is a good one to do it in.

single other gripe is with the doors/climbing/jumping/looting left click system. annoying to have to get your position just right to operate but it's not game breaking by any means.

definitely deserves 9/10
Posted 01:11pm 25/5/11
Probably worth pointing out that for many people removing Nvidia's 3D drivers can dramatically improve performance.
Posted 02:45pm 25/5/11
Having trouble running the witcher on your fast PC?

The copy protection is casusing a 40 to 50% slowdown in FPS, if you use the GOG (DRM free) version or a cracked version you will get MUCH better fps. There is a thread about it on GURU3D where the Developer posted saying they will fix it in a future patch.

But for now if you want to play try and research the top (cant post links to such stuff) and you will find how to fix it.

Get the latest Nvidia Beta drivers 275.23, these fix issues and give better perf.
These drivers also enable SLI by default, and if you have DRM free version they will activate SLI... DRM also has issues with SLI...

Remove/uninstall 3D Drivers from the PC (nvidia related) to get better perf too.
Posted 03:18pm 25/5/11
This game is fkn awesome.
Posted 03:40pm 25/5/11
Punched in about 27 hours already. Absolutely love it.
Posted 03:43pm 25/5/11
Been waiting for an immersive game like this for awhile. F*****g love the environments, and im still only in the prologue. The environment & ambient sound, seeing the tents on the horizon looking so very real & in game, makes you feel so immersed & maximizes the gaming experience.
looking forward to getting home and playing more tonight.

Posted 03:47pm 25/5/11
is it necessary/recommended to have played witcher 1 in order to fully appreciate the story or can you pick up 2 and not be left too in the dark?
Posted 03:53pm 25/5/11
It's a bit hard to follow regardless taggs :P

I would recommend playing through the first if you can, as it helps a lot.
You can even import a save from the first like you could in ME2, but I haven't tried it as I played through a long time ago.
Posted 04:07pm 25/5/11
Never played the first but I'm gobsmacked at the amount of content and visuals (Kayran?) in this game. Everything just oozes awesomeness.

It's like Assasins Creed on PCP with 100x more s*** and a wicked dark sinister undertone.

9/10 fo sure

last edited by arclore at 16:07:00 25/May/11
Posted 06:09pm 25/5/11
yer i didn't play the first and i had no f*****g idea what was going on, the whole recap the first game via the intro is kinda cool though. PC runs it fine although i did just get a new i7 2600k and a 580gtx :p
Posted 08:46pm 25/5/11
Probably best to play the first game initially as there is zero introduction to what is going on. I think it needs a better tutorial personally, though I have been enjoying the game.
Posted 09:08pm 25/5/11
this game is great i did an all nighter on it last night!! i love the fact how u always ultimately decide the fate of a person when npcs ask u wat u think. so detailed and vibrant in graphics but i had an issue where i couldnt change the texture quality of the game but eventuallly figured out wat i did wrong lol!! id say it deserves a 9 easy!!
Posted 09:42pm 25/5/11
Also the fact that the lack of tutorials hurt it, when i was playing on insane or w/e the hardest difficulty is that first part is a f*****g nightmare with the dragon. Cause i had nfi about his spells :p
Posted 04:08pm 26/5/11
@raider you do know there is a journal and several popups during the first couple of hours tht explain all of tht but it seems your just too lazy even ingame to look at tht i managed to figure out how to play this and use all his abilities quite quickly after reading the journal stuff ingame!!
Posted 05:32pm 26/5/11
The pop ups are pretty s*** and i can see how they are easily missed, show up for two seconds, and half the time you're busy in combat. Of course you can look in the journal for tutorial history, but then again you might have missed the fact you can do that as it was a popup telling you about it.

I think if you played the first you would know how to play as a lot of stuff is tweaked, e.g. they took away "group style" but along the sword upgrade path are talents that let you hit multiple opponents, im not sure that would have been totally apparent to someone who hadnt played the first? One think that was annoying me was the block key seemingly wouldnt work, didn't realise it took stamina to use it, it was probably shown in a two second popup somewhere...

The inventory is pretty crap, the alchemy could be heaps better.. e.g. i make a potion and it auto chooses diamond dust as an ingredient, rather than the 100 trash mushrooms i have, so if i want to make 5 potions i have to change that each time.. and check all the other ingredients just in case they are rare that i might need for crafting or something.

Apparently you can transmute your abilities somehow with mutagens, i think i saw that in a 1 second popup, but i have nfi how.. maybe its unlocked later on? I know theres an alchemy skiill that improves this talent, which is good but still...

The game is still good despite these faults, but youd have to be pretty oblivious to not notice them or discount them out of hand.
Posted 11:12pm 26/5/11
acquired Game of Thrones...looks like it's right up my alley - thanks!
Posted 12:31am 27/5/11
fantastic game
Posted 03:16am 27/5/11
@bah yea i had those sort of issues with it too but still it is a gd game
Tim Tibbetts
Posted 07:00am 27/5/11
The 1.1 patch is out now which apparently fixes a lot of bugs.
Randy Cambell
Posted 10:17am 27/5/11
Finished allready im sad
Posted 05:27pm 27/5/11
Loved it. The story was immersive once I got over the initial shock of trying to remember people and places from the prequel and also learn the names of new characters (is it just me, or does it feel like every medieval name sounds the same? And all these titles!). The environs are incredible. The light and detail are absolutely beautiful, the voice acting is fantastic and I really enjoyed getting to know the new characters. The first game sucked me in like nothing else, and this one was exactly the same whilst being ten times more visually appealing! It doesn't have the bleak darkness of the first game and there's no shortage of glorious sunsets and emerald forests.

It took a bit of adjusting to get used to the controls for me, though I think that learning curve was just because I expected it to be more like the first game. I didn't like the fact that every time I got swarmed by a group of monsters - even weaker varieties like nekkers - I'd drop dead in a matter of seconds. Once I'd upgraded my skills and had better equipment, this happened less, but it made me pretty damn apprehensive about going into any caves that required me to jump off a ledge into them. I didn't have any technical issues with my game aside from two random crashes, and my computer eats games for breakfast so it ran beautifully on the highest specs. I wouldn't attempt this with a lower-end PC... it will probably explode at the mere thought of running W2.

I've only played it through once going down the Roche path in the second chapter, and I'm working on my second play through now to side with Iorveth. I love that the game can go anywhere based on your choices... I'm deliberately doing the opposite to what I did the first time around and there are variations I didn't even expect, such as deciding to let Aryan La Valette live and the story that progresses from there.

I was left with a sour feeling in my gut at the ending because I felt that it was cut off quite abruptly and I think a game should transition smoothly into an ending. When the credits started rolling it was quite unexpected... I wasn't really left with that satisfied feeling you get when you complete a game, it was really a 'What the hell?!' moment for me.

All-in-all... easily in my top favourite games. And I assume there will be a sequel, so I guess I'll twiddle my thumbs for another five years waiting for that.
Posted 11:44am 28/5/11
New patch lets me invert the mouse... yay!
Posted 02:05pm 28/5/11
Tanaka Khan
Posted 02:39pm 28/5/11
New patch took away my voices, I have to set the sound to 2.1 to get the voices working
Posted 03:15pm 28/5/11
I got a bug where voices or ambient sounds went missing, loading an earlier save, then from that save loading my current save seemed to fix it, this was pre-patch though.
Posted 04:16pm 28/5/11
Yer I had that bug, but to fix it I had to start a new game, then reloaded my old save and it was fine. Pre Patch.
Posted 02:11pm 01/6/11
So just got time to finish it.. overall a pretty good game, except i hate a few things about it.

1. You get the best armour / weapons in probably the last 1% of the game, you have like 5 fights total with it, really sad.

2. Boosting alchemy in order to boost mutations doesn't effect skills which are already mutated + no respecs = f*****g retarded, apparently the only way you can respec is a reward from a quest for 1 side and i went with the other.

3. Insane difficulty can be at times.. f*****g insane and bat s*** frustrating, fighting multiple mobs and getting knocked down once is basically a death wish, especially when you're short attack basically does 3 flips before u get to them and they hit u before u hit them :\ Making you stay in closer then you want to.

But yer 9/10 sounds about right :p
Posted 02:29pm 01/6/11
Yeah you really want to max out your Quen shield which leads to a sort of chain lightning stun effect. Really helps out a ton. Deffinatly isn't a game where you can just mash an attack button over. you gotta time your s*** well.
Posted 03:38pm 01/6/11
had some trouble with the end boss (not letho) then got a technique down pat and owned him. i could probably do it without getting hit next time.

Now for insane difficulty.
Posted 03:39pm 01/6/11
Deffinatly isn't a game where you can just mash an attack button over. you gotta time your s*** well.
Once you get to chapter 2 and level up a bit it is, although that said some battles can still f*** you up if you get too lazy.
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