Video Game Review: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition (2011)

Details: Played on PC for about twenty eight hours.

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is an action, role playing game released back in 2011. The Enhanced Edition was released in 2012.

As I played through the game, it was clear that the developers tried to create something many games try to: they tried to create a large, complex story that gave the player choices with real consequences. They also tried to make it so that there were no correct choices. Whatever you choose, there will be consequences both good and bad. Consequences will not be what you expect them to be. In this regard, the Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is a resounding success and wonderful adventure.

That’s not to say there aren’t flaws. The primary flaw is unfortunately related to this games greatest accomplishment: its story. There is just so much story and the Witcher 2 does not spoon feed you its lore or its story. It instead throws you into the deep end head first. So many names and countries come your way that it is easy to get lost and to feel apathetic to everything going on. You really have to try to care and remember what things are and — if you do — you will be rewarded with a deep story and a detail oriented world. I did not play the first Witcher game, but I imagine that would have also helped in immersing myself in this world. There are also a series of books the game is based off of if you want even more immersion.

With that said, the story is pretty great. It’s all very Shakespearean/Lord of the Rings-y/Game of Thrones-esque with all the blood, guts, nudity, and sex you’d imagine. There are numerous choices which branch out in meaningful and distinct ways. One decision in particular during the first act/chapter drastically changes the whole story for the rest of the game. To truly get the full experience from this game, you would have to play through at least twice so as to make both decisions and see how they play out.

It’s an impressive and daring way to design a game. Most games of this genre often have choices in them, but build into the game a canonical story line. This is sometimes called the “true,” the “complete,” or the “perfect” story line which the player only achieves if he makes the “right” choices and completes all the necessary quests provided in the game. The Witcher 2 does away with that by creating a story line where bad and good things happen regardless of the choices you make. There is no right choice in this game, no “perfect” course of events and that is an amazing things. When I played this game I played it a little like real life; I made my choices to the best of my ability and I lived with the consequences. Some players might play the game twice so that they can see everything, but I did not. I treated my choices and this story with respect because the game treats the gamer with respect. There is no definitive right or wrong in the world of Witcher 2 and no matter what you choose, things often don’t turn out the way you expect.

Also worth mentioning is that this isn’t an open world game. This is a linear story and you travel to new locations as you progress through this story with no option to return to prior locations. There is some element of exploration, but it is very minor.

As for gameplay, the Witcher 2 is an action RPG somewhat reminiscent of Dark Souls/Bloodborne. You run around, swing your sword, do a dodge role, cast magic, lay traps and throw bombs. It’s all very fun and maybe a little simplistic. There is certainly some difficulty involved and the player is expected to treat the combat like they would treat the story: with respect. With that said, all I really did was hit the dodge button, roll around, attack, rinse and repeat. The gameplay could use some tweaking.

The graphics and art direction are amazing. Easily the best part of this game. It is a very detailed, gorgeous world and pleasure to look at. The only thing that bothered my were the shadows. I thought something was wrong when I saw them but, after searching the internet, it turns out they were intended to look that way. They look kind of cross-stitched at times. I mostly forgot about it as I progressed through the game.

The music is wonderful. Large orchestral pieces as expected of the fantasy genre. The more action-y parts were well scored, too.

Score: 8/10 Great game. Hyped me up for The Witched 3: Wild Hunt. I will probably get Witcher 3 sometime in the future, after the two expansions are released.

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