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Boobs, they’re one of the first things you’ll see in the Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings, because nothing says "mature" like naked breasts. However, nudity isn’t the only mature subject matter the Witcher 2 delves into, there’s also incest, racism, and terrorism in a morally gray world. Though in the end, the Witcher is all about a guy with two swords who likes to kill monsters, get wrapped up in politics, and bang anything with lady parts.
The Story So Far
Both Witcher games are based on a series of Polish novels by author Andrzej Sapkowski, which star the witcher Geralt of Rivia. Thankfully, Geralt began CD Projekt’s The Witcher with amnesia, so the past doesn’t really matter.
The story for Assassin of Kings picks up shortly after the end of 2007’s The Witcher, where Geralt saved the king from an assassin, and is now the king’s personal witcher. However, something happened along the way, and the game starts with an interrogation. Each answer leads to a different playable section of the prologue, and can be completed in any order. Once you choose, you’re off on a castle siege where magic, duels, and dragons await.
The Witcher 2 is not an easy game. If you jump in and start mashing the attack buttons (like Dragon Age II), you will die, quickly. So, in order to survive, combat has to be approached with a fair degree of strategy, because there is no healing mid-battle.
Geralt can dodge, block, cast spells (called signs), and he has two attacks, fast and heavy. Heavy attacks are powerful, but slow, and having a heavy attack blocked or parried leaves Geralt wide open for attack. Fast attacks are quick and not very strong, but good at crating an opening. Blocking is essential, but along with signs, it drains vigor, so you have to rely on dodging a bit more than blocking.
There are potions in The Witcher 2, but they can only be used before battle, and they mostly work strengthen certain attributes. However, every potion also has a negative effect on Geralt, so I found myself not wanting to use them. There are also bombs, traps, and throwing knives, but I haven’t been able to use any of them yet.
In the beginning, enemies only come in a few different flavors, but they each have different ways of dealing with them. For example, the two handed knight is slow to attack, so it’s best to attack him while he’s winding up.
Geralt also carries two swords, a steel sword for humans, and a silver sword for monsters (though it’s not exactly clear why the silver sword doesn’t really work on humans. It’s not like it’s any less pointy). Switching swords is pretty easy, and Geralt fights the same with either sword, but there aren’t a lot of monsters to fight in the beginning.
When you jump 100 feet into a cart of hay, there's only one thing waiting for you. Death.
The Witcher 2 is not a perfect game, and there are a few technical problems worth noting. The game will not launch if you run Windows at a resolution higher than 1900×1200. It doesn’t even give an error message, it just acts like its loading…and then doesn’t.
Another issue is the in-game frame rate. When I first started the game, it was like watching a slideshow. After playing around with a bunch of different settings, I found that decreasing the in-game screen resolution helped the most. I am able to play with a pretty smooth frame rate at high settings with screen resolution set at 1600×900 in full screen.
Finally, Geralt seems to have a problem with thresholds. When moving from area to area, Geralt has to stop and walk through some doorways, even if he’s running.
So…is it any fun?
As a fan of the original, I’ve really enjoyed my time with The Witcher 2 so far. The combat isn’t so hard that it’s frustrating, and can be a rewarding experience. It’s pretty fun to cut up one guy, force blast another, and do a jumping stab kill to a third.
As a primarily console gamer, it also helps that The Witcher 2 is setup for use with an Xbox 360 controller. I don’t know if the game will ever come to consoles (the original didn’t make it), so If your PC can handle it, I definitely recommend it. So far, it’s better than Dragon Age II.
The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings is available now through Steam, or DRM-free through GOG.com