Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings - First impressions

When you come across a game such as the first Witcher, with such an enthralling plot, great dialogue and overall good content, you must assume it comes from a very creative mind and with lots of background information to form a cohesive, immersive story you're part of. Such is the case, as that first game was based on stories that go all the way back to 1986, when polish author Andrzej Sapkowski submitted his short story "Wiedźmin" to a fantasy magazine's contest. His story came third, but he built upon it and 20 years later with several novels and graphic novels expanding his original tale, a video game based on his universe came out to general praise and acclaim.
It features something that is very often absent from games and which many people appreciate: mature content. I'm not talking about just sex or erotica, that doesn't make something 'mature' by itself, but the general seriousness of things going on. You could just feel the tension of the politics and stratagems, having to often choose sides, making important decisions that could change the entire story, with believable dialogue and great graphics to complete the experience.

So while I enjoyed the first game, do I like the second one?

So far I've only played a tiny fraction, or so it seems, of what looks like a great story to dive in to. After the events of the first game we reprise the role of Geralt of Rivia, a Witcher - magically modified monster hunters with improved strength, dexterity, agility and even some magic powers, with the downside of being sterile - who we find in chains in a cell for unknown reasons.

The first mission is a prologue where it's explained what lead our character to jail. It is also, as one would expect, a sort of tutorial setting for new players and to explain gameplay changes to those returning.
This is where you see the first differences. The crosshair is completely gone. So interacting with the environment is a lot harder now, whether if it's to pick up something from the floor, or to attack, it's a complete fuck-up.
The combat is completely different, at least for this first part of the game. You no longer have attack styles, just a fast attack with your left mouse, and a strong attack with your right mouse. No indication if you're chaining your attacks properly so that's all up to you to figure out. As far as tutorials go, this wasn't the most helpful I've come across.

Then there's the sheer difficulty of numbers. Right away you'll be faced with multiple enemies. For the first missions alone, it will be rare to face against one single guy, it's always a 3 or 4 on one gang up, and you get completely clobbered! At one point you reach a fight where you have to face off against 6 guards, 3 of them heavily armoured, on your own. This took me an hour to get by, honestly.

You'll be seeing this a lot
So that's my main complaint about this game at the moment, it's hard, very hard. But not one of those "challenging hard" that you get satisfaction for beating, it's more of a very frustrating hard where you have to come up with some way to kite your enemies around and pick them off one by one cos there's simply no way not to get killed when you're getting attacked from 4 sides at the same time!

There are some quick time events that you have to go through, like when you get into a fist fight or when you're rescuing the king from an angry random dragon that decided to show up and barbacue a couple hundred soldiers.

As per usual there's the character development screen and when you get levels you'll spend them on improving yourself, so maybe later in the game you won't be so ill equipped to handle a couple of guys on your own. Still, I feel this initial brutality could turn some less experienced gamers away from this role playing game, or the whole genre if this is their first go at it.

The graphics are awesome as expected, I specially enjoyed the water shader used on this one, it looks fantastic. There was a moment at the end of the prologue when your fellow adventurers are waiting for you on a boat so you all can escape the city, and I just stood there looking at the water, and the moon reflecting on it...
The sound and music is great and the voice acting is top notch once again, which goes along well with the perfectly written script.

I will post another short review once I get further along the story and see more of the game mechanics.

If you're a fan of the first game, of fantasy RPGs, or action adventure, I recommend you check this out.



  1. sounds great, thanks for sharing

  2. I really need to get this game. I really do.

  3. Oh yes, this looks like an awesome sequel, not many of those around these days!

  4. looks great, but if it's as hard as you say it is, I'll have to pass. Reminds me of ninja gaiden *shudder*

  5. I love the combat in this game.

  6. Seen the teaser/trailer- I'm interested.

  7. Like that game, but didn't have the chance to play it yet...

  8. Ohh wow this looks like a kick butt game

  9. Sounds Good, i like a challenge. Nice review.

  10. Damn, I really want this game, wish I had the money :(

  11. I've only played bits of it so far, not a big fan of the controls but besides that I'm enjoying it so far