The Witcher 2 – Assassins of Kings

After playing Witcher 1, I was eager to play Witcher 2 because the ending of Witcher 1 was left open and I wanted to find out how the story had progressed. After hearing good reviews about the game, I decided to play it. I’m left with mixed feelings about Witcher 2. The game have changed in many ways and while some are wonderful welcome to the series, they should have kept some of the core features that made Witcher 1 a good game.

As soon as the game starts, one thing you notice is the graphics quality. They have made drastic changes to the graphics and now a lot of the graphics are well detailed. For example, I never knew that Gerald had a yellow dragon like eyes. The scars in his body are well detailed and so are his clothing and his weapons. However, because of the quality, it also demands high performance graphic card. Initially the Ultra Spec settings didn’t allow me to play the game smoothly until I checked in advanced settings where they had Ubersampling enabled. Currently most of the cards won’t process it and neither does mine. Once disabling that and leave the rest in ultra spec settings allowed me to play the game at best conditions. However I did notice some blur incidents when Gerald turns around before the graphics loads the environment graphics. I believe it is because of the memory capacity of my card since the game tries to load the environment on the move.

One of the features I appreciate a lot is the way the game loads. Instead of the old Witcher 1 style where every entrance and exit triggers a load, Witcher 2 loads the environment and auto saves while you play the game. So no more long time loading that would interrupt your gameplay. However, depending on your graphic card’s memory capacity and process speed, sometimes on the move loading might end up too much which will then trigger the old loading screen. Compared to the 1st  game, this one definitely loads faster.

Developers must have listened to the user comments about the 1st  game because they have made this game focused on the story and quests than the player running around collecting items or alchemy or other reasons. But they have removed the storage facility and the player is allowed to carry a max weight of 250 for all items (300 if you made a particular choice). So you cannot collect all the rare swords or items and have to dump a lot of it in order to create space for new items. There is a mod that can reset all the items’ weight to 0 so you can carry any amount of items you want. Can be considered a cheat or an alternative solution for storage. Up to you.

The story is more interesting compared to the 1st  one because unlike the 1st  one, this has more powerful players involved. Similar to the 1st  one, this game also has decisions for you to make and face the consequences. However, they have really expanded the consequences by completely branching out the story in many ways. The 1st  big decision would be in Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 and 3 will be based on the decision made in Chapter 1. I really liked that because instead of playing the same scenario in two angles, I end up playing a different story interacting with different characters while the core story remain the same. Unfortunately this game has only 3 chapters and the 3rd  one is pretty short to be considered as a full chapter.

Conversations are much better in Witcher 2 compared to the first one. However, unlike the first one where you can read the text and therefore know what Gerald is about to say, Witcher 2’s choice only shows a slight few words summary that may not be what he ends up saying. For example, in the prologue during the conversation with Aryan, I was given the choices to tell him to “Drop your weapons, Fool” which sounds like an insult provoking Aryan to attack and “Let’s settle this between us” which sounded like an honorable fight. Since I liked Aryan’s background, I thought the 2nd option would save him. But Gerald ended up killing Aryan. Later on, I found out that the 1st option would have convinced Aryan to surrender. When I had to replay because I died in Insanity mode, I chose the 1st option where Gerald said nothing rude but actually reasoned with Aryan convincing him to surrender. So the text displayed do not necessarily mean what you think it means in their conversations. They have however introduced new feature where you can intimidate or physically attack or use Axii sign to will the person to do as you wish. That was pretty cool. But I enjoy being a bully because I find the way Gerald intimidates them funny.

The difficulty has been modified in the game. Unlike the first one where the hard difficulty was relatively easy, this game makes you earn your wins if you are playing in hard difficulty. They also have an Insane difficulty where if you die, that is the end of the game. All your prior saves of that difficulty gets locked and you have to restart again if you want to play the game. There is a way to overcome it (just press escape when you die before it tells you that you’re dead and load a previous save) but if you miss it, then it’s a waste of game play and time. As far as I’ve read, there’s no achievement for finishing it insane mode other than self satisfaction so unless you are really desperate for that, settle for hard difficulty. That itself is a challenge for you to play.

The keys have been changed from the 1st game. I had to get used to the new keys after having played Witcher 1 for a while. The game is also compatible with xbox game controller which is actually better than keyboard/mouse. I had to use the xbox controller simulator to make it work with my Logitech RumblePad II.

They don’t have the combo attacks anymore. The fun in attacking has been taken away because you can just button smash instead of timing it right to execute a series of moves that Gerald executes stylishly. They have introduced blocking which doesn’t necessarily block all the damages but saves you from being stabbed. There are no group style attacking anymore (but you can unlock a talent to attack multiple when in adrenaline bar is filled) from the beginning which makes it difficult when you are surrounded by enemies and have to dodge around to save yourself. Really miss the group style attacking especially when you are playing in hard difficulty.

The talent points are also completely changed now. Now there are 4 branches of talents and you can spend your talents in each branch. They are categorized as swordsmanship, alchemy, magic and training. There’s no bronze/silver/gold talent points. So you have to spend the points you get in every branch. Plan carefully and prioritize the talents because you need to get some abilities as soon as you can (eg. parrying, arrow redirection) if you want to survive in the game.

They have expanded the armor kit for Gerald now. You have armor, gloves, and boots additional to the 2 weapons (steel and silver) and 5 slots and a trophy slot. That is a nice feature to have. Gerald has a hooded look if you wear the blue stripes jacket that is available at the beginning which resembles a lot like Assassin’s Creed game. They have also expanded additional weapons area. The 1st  game had bombs only but this one has daggers, bombs, traps, lures etc. to add to your arsenal. If you can’t buy it, you can get it crafted (will be explained later).

Another feature they have changed now from before is the way the medallion works. In Witcher 1, the medallion is a big one in the top left corner of the screen and it starts shaking and glows red when danger is nearby. It indicates to the player that there is an enemy nearby. Similarly, pressing ALT key shows all the collectable items and character names or locations. Some are in front of the player and some can be further away that the player can follow to. I found that very useful. In Witcher 2, the medallion is smaller and I don’t notice it alerting me of enemy presence. Similarly, Gerald can trigger the amulet which will send out a magical wave to the surrounding area and make all the collectable items glow. However, the glow is not entirely accurate because the glow near the wall may indicate that the item you can collect is in the other side of the wall and not accessible at that time. Personally I prefer the ALT key use for this.

The map is not as clear as the 1st  one. The new map is very messy and not detailed enough to indicate each location. It looks more like an old scroll and you won’t know what it’s indicating until you get to that location. For example shops. In the 1st  game, you can see in the map which shop is in which area and therefore aim for it in the map and navigate there. In Witcher 2, the map simply shows all the shops and you have to visit every location before you can figure out what each shop is. You can’t choose a location where you want the guide to direct you. Some quests are shown in the map and some aren’t. Those aren’t will be a pain to find because you end up going through many houses to find the person or object you are looking for. These are the times you really appreciate this game’s on the move loading.

The game allows you to import Witcher 1 save. I was very happy when I found out this game has that feature because I wanted to use my special weapons I gathered near the end in the 1st  game. Sadly they have ruined it by neutralizing the weapons. So I got the best weapons I had for namesake only. But their abilities are less powerful than a temerian sword which is a common weapon (although there’s a mod for this to tweak the imported weapon’s stats relatively better). Very disappointed with that. Only useful thing I had from importing Witcher 1 save is the decisions I took in Witcher 1 is continued on in Witcher 2. And the decisions are only relevant in very few places.

In the 1st  game, there was an indication in the left side of the screen where it highlights the currently equipped sword type (steel or silver) and it’s style. Since this game doesn’t have style, they have removed that panel completely and therefore you won’t know which sword you are using unless they look very different visually. If the game automatically draws the sword, it picks the right one but the movement of Gerald drawing the sword or casting are very slow and by the time he draws it out, the monster would have started a combo attack on you. It would have been handy if there was an indication of what sword he is currently holding.

They have expanded the alchemy and crafting in the 2nd  game a lot further. Now it’s a bit more complicated because you need to gather the diagrams for crafting before you can craft something. They are similar to scrolls in the 1st  game. You can get the items crafted by many people. They can craft from weapons to traps for Gerald to use to catch monsters. But they have ignored a specific feature in the 1st  game that I found useful in this one. The diagrams or formulas or books are not indicated by whether you already read it or not. In the 1st  game it will indicate if I’ve already read it so that I can avoid buying it. But in this game, I have no clue whether I already read it or not therefore I end up buying it only to realize that I’ve already had it. Then I’ll have to sell it for a very low price. They should have kept that indicator in this game as well. Also, they really failed at the alchemy item listing part. The game does not show the highlighted item’s details when navigating through alchemy. It doesn’t recognize the item that is currently highlighted unless you move the highlight over to an empty slot and bring it back. I found that very frustrating.

Another major issue I had in this game was the sound configuration. They have only 2 options in the game for audio settings. 1 is for music and the 2nd  one is for effects. Voices fall under effects so when there are background noises like ballista which drowns the voices during conversation. So I’d have to turn on subtitles and read them to know what’s being said if I wanted to know the story. I found this very annoying. Usually I’d reduce the music and sound effects lower than voice so that I can clear the conversations. But in this game, I can’t do that and had to suffer in many places.

Note: There is a bug that you may encounter during the 1st  boss battle in Chapter 1 when you are facing the Kayran. The 2nd  part of the attack involves QTE but if your graphic settings are at max (I had my resolution at 1920×1080 with High Spec), then you will have a problem with the button smashing moment in the QTE. No matter how hard you try, the bar will either not get filled or it will get filled but you will still fall off it’s tentacles. The solution that worked for me is by reducing the resolution to a lower one (in my case 1280×1024 with Medium Spec) and play that battle. Worked in the first try. Very annoying bug but had to work around it.

Overall, they have made a lot of changes to the original game. Some are very good and some are less desirable for me. If they had mixed both original game’s positive features with this one, they would have a solid RPG in their hands. The developers have really focused on producing an entertaining visually stunning game that they removed or changed some of the useful features in the 1st  game to accommodate the new features. If they had managed to keep the old feature and implement the new feature, it would have been much better.

  • Morally ambiguous choices lead to game-changing consequences
  • Phenomenal visuals with a grim tone
  • Involving tale of lost memories and political allegiances
  • Combat sometimes ventures into cheap territory
  • Unsatisfying conclusion
  • A variety of bugs
Gameplay - 8
Story - 9.5
Graphics - 8.5

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1 Comment

  1. So sad that many of the changes actually make the game worse than the previous one. Some like the shop item or sword style indicators are pretty annoying, as they were good ideas they just had to keep…

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