The Witcher 2 PC BoxGame: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
Format: Windows PC
Developer: CD Projekt RED
Publisher: CD Projekt (POL), Atari (NA), Namco Bandai (EU), 1C Company (RUS), Comgad (CZE)

Regardless of whether you played the original “Witcher” or not, you will know about it and for good reason.

Possibly the biggest surprise of 2007, “The Witcher” was the breakout hit for CD Projekt, and they have taken everything that worked so well in the first game and refined¬† / tweaked it so it does so even better in Assasins of Kings.

With particular mention to the exceptional graphics engine, the scripting and voice-work and the seamless and beautifully delivered inclusion of a number of enjoyable mini-games there is much to praise, but where to start?

Well, a good place seems like the beginning, so it’s there we go, with a brief background to the game, it’s developer and then a deep dive into the game itself..

So, as a way of introducing those new to the franchise, and to serve as refresher to all you seasoned “Witchers” out there, let’s get the basics out of the way first.

“The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings” is the latest work of Polish studio CD Projekt, which, before the release of the original Witcher, had been known mostly for it’s translations of international hits such as Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale and others.

It takes their collaboration with famed, home-grown, Polish fantasy maestro Andrzej Sapkowski to the next level by seriously broadening the scope of the story told, whilst continuing to view it from the central perspective of it’s ever present, and dramatically white haired, protagonist; Geralt of Rivia.

And this collaboration really takes off here with a huge quantity of well fleshed out characters, amusing and exciting quests, serious dilemmas to consider and major plots to support or scupper.

Witcher 2 Screenshot 1

Some of the in-engine gameplay shots are stunning…

Players of the original will certainly be pleased that the game’s sound design builds on the work of the “Enhanced” original, rather than the first Witcher release, and really does provide very well executed audio across the board. Everything from the changing sound of footsteps on different surfaces to the living, breathing natural world and the characterful voices of some of the less morally rigorous inhabitants of the villages and towns you will travel through are all clearly lovingly crafted. Particular praise here for the work done on Geralt’s small “team”, who all bring something individual and fresh to the table.

Witcher 2 Screenshot 2

You should never judge a book by it's cover…

Quest variety is also superb with an almost complete lack of the “bring me 26 goblin ears” nonsense some fantasy games have abused, instead offering a real variety of quests covering everything from pure character interaction, multi-stage boss battles, exploration and crafting, mini-game tournaments and stealth based sneak-&-peak action to name but a few.

But let this not detract from the frankly “bewitching” (*snigger*) combat system. A system so tight that once your in it you are likely to suffocate if not careful. Again, all types of players catered for here with numerous weapon choices, ranged magics and traps a plenty there are any number of ways to tackle the plentiful foes the games throws at you. Only die hard archery lovers are likely to take pause as it’s throwing daggers only from a ranged point of view if magic isn’t your thing. If there were one overall flaw in this otherwise very enjoyable system it would be the sometimes exasperatingly sluggish response time to some instructions, which, to be fair,¬† only really become a serious issue in certain boss encounters.

Witcher 2 Screenshot 3

Epic combat, in a field, at sunset… nice…

Equally worthy of praise is the character progression system, which whilst a little obscure to begin with, quickly unfolds into a rewarding and highly personisable process, the crafting system is similarly engaging, without being onerous or boring, a thin line any role-play game must walk, and which The Witcher 2 does admirably.

As previously stated the graphics really are something to behold, with the lush forests particularly well delivered and the changes between, morning, noon, afternoon, evening & night fantastically done. Add to that some superb facial detailing and some of the best costume design ever to grace a video game you really won’t be short of eye candy at any stage.

With a game as good as this it is beholden on it’s reviewer not to spoil it in any way for any who are lucky enough to play it, so I shall simply conclude my review with the summary below…

Review Round-Up

Graphics 5/5 : Exceptional. Already hailed by many as a “console killer” for this generation of gaming hardware the engine’s flexibility is outdone only by the beauty it is able to deliver. Whilst quite playable on systems up to 3 or even 4 years old, there are very few gamers who will be able to even engage the show-piece technology of CD Projekts “uber-sampling” technique (which, in essence, renders each scene… wait for it… multiple times, providing a composite display of the rich, living, world it can thus create!).

Sound 5/5: Superb. From ambient, forest sounds to the shrieks of shadow-shrouded monsters to “colourful” chatter of the world’s inhabitants everything is spot on.

Gameplay 4.5/5: Engaging, fluid combat, intuitive difficulty settings, clear and concise quest journaling and support for multiple play-styles makes this a game easy to recommend to almost any level of player. Parents be warned however, one of the game’s biggest strengths is that it’s fantasy world is a mature and complex one. This is certainly not one for the kids, but 16s and over are in for a real treat. The only minor criticisms are that each “chapter” is fairly self contained meaning that towards the end of each a little claustrophobia can set in, we also hope the very minor niggles with the game menu systems and responsiveness of combat controls are resolved in the next update.

Longevity 4/5: With a wealth of play-styles supported and enough characters and scenarios to sink a large merchant vessel, there are plenty of reasons to return again and again should you so desire. And you would be well advised to, for the fantastic plot and lovingly scripted dialog welcome you everytime you visit.

Overall: 4.5 out of 5

Now, how to sound bite such a game…

Have a PC? Then buy The Witcher 2.

There, that was a lot easier than I feared it might be!

– Richard “Rax” Burley