The Witcher 2: There’s A New King In Town
Tuesday, December 6, 2011 Leave a comment
“Wow!” is the first word that comes to mind when describing CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher 2. This is simply an awesome game. If you’re a fan of RPGs, this game is a must-play. I honestly can say that it’s been a long time since I’ve played a game this enjoyable and this expertly made.
In The Witcher 2 you play as a Geralt of Rivia, a witcher. A witcher is basically a genetically modified monster hunter. It is highly advisable that you play the original Witcher game as the sequel is a direct continuation of that story. You can even import your save from the first game, and your choices will carry over. While it’s not necessary, it will definitely add to your enjoyment and understanding, as there are a ton of characters and backstory to keep track of.
The original game had a lot of promise but it also had a handful of technical issues. It had a great story with interesting characters, but the game just didn’t play that well. This time the developers decided not to just slap on a new coat of paint on an old game, and built everything from the ground up. It really shows.
Upon first playing the game I was immediately taken aback by the visual splendor of the graphics. I couldn’t wait to dive in and soak up every inch of this virtual world. I’m not accustomed to RPGs having such good graphics, but this game is really impressive. You’ll definitely need to check the system requirements to see if your rig can handle this game.
The combat has been vastly improved. I’ve never played a PC game, an RPG at that, that played so much like an action console game. The crazy thing is that it actually works. This is where I feel games like Mass Effect stumble a little bit. To me, ME feels like an RPG trying to add elements of an action game, while in The Witcher 2 the experience is seamless.
The one thing that makes this game so enjoyable is its level of immersion. This starts with the graphics and continues with the story. None of the quests feel labored or pointless. There are sidequests and mini-games but they’re totally optional (of course I completed them). There is always a motivation for Geralt’s actions throughout the main quest. I can’t get into certain games when I find the main protagonists to be unrelatable and boring (Kratos, Nathan Drake), that’s why I always loved being able to create my own character in RPGs. I found myself just as engrossed in the game playing as Geralt as I have in any other game. Part of this is because of the freedom of choice you’re provided in the game. Time and time again you are offered tough moral decisions without a clear-cut answer. Some choices will obviously have a large impact on the story, but even smaller ones will have surprising consequences. I found myself reloading saves in the middle of my playthough just to see how things would unfold differently.
This is definitely an adult game. It explores a lot of mature themes, which in my experience is quite rare for a game. It’s not cartoony like the GTA series, though the game is not without its humor. It reminded me a bit of the TV show The Wire. Both The Witcher and The Wire are so immensely satisfying because the characters are so human. They’re put on stage with all of their ugliness on full display. The characters are multi-faceted and cannot be pigeonholed into a single predictable stereotype.
Many gamers will be surprised, and perhaps even turned off by the difficulty in the early portions of the game. You’re thrown right into the fire, and even normal difficulty can be quite challenging. The great thing is that it’s not cheap, or glitchy, it’s just tough. It reminded me of the games from the NES era, and there were several moments where I wanted to slam my controller (now keyboard and mouse) into the ground out of frustration. There’s a steep learning curve, but it’s definitely worth the effort, as the difficulty ends up leading to an even greater sense of accomplishment. Boss fights actually feel as epic and rewarding as they should. I’ve found that in some other games it feels like I’m not even playing the game. I feel like I’m just watching a movie, or that I can just blindly button mash my way through everything.
One small complaint I have about the game is that the ending is extremely unsatisfying. You’re left on a cliffhanger. Though they do wrap up the events within the game to a moderate conclusion, it’s clear there’s a lot more story to be told. The story overall is very well told, with a lot of great moments, but the ending leaves you waiting to see what happens next.
The Witcher 2 was such a breath of fresh air that I can’t help but rave about it. It’s simply in a league of its own. I hate to say this, but I’ve found that certain game franchises are simply milking it, or resting on their laurels. CD Projekt Red have established themselves as one of the premier RPG developers, and I can’t wait to play more.