Publisher: Namco Bandai
Platform: Xbox 360
Release Date: 17/04/12
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The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition Review
Originally released for PC a little under a year ago, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings attempts to brave the seldom ridden path of PC to console port. Assassins of Kings is a third-person RPG based on a series of bestselling books, written by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski, developed by CD Projekt RED. The story of The Witcher 2 arcs over protagonist Geralt of Rivia, a Witcher and overall supernatural good egg, and his plight to clear his name as a wrongly accused king slayer… while stopping off every now and then of to play dice poker, kill mutated monsters, get involved in a bar room brawl or have some sex with a buxom wench .
As the game starts you’re treated to a new hi-res introduction video specially made for this console port, depicting a joyous king’s journey across the Pontar River. Full of good times like archers, booze and jesters lighting farts, the festivities are cut short as a hulking man stows aboard, freezes the entire ship with a phial of frost potion (save the king, some aids and his rather quick acting mage) and launches an amazingly detailed and beautifully gory attack. Rendered in super slow-motion, it does an amazing job of depicting every single drop of blood spilt as if it was as important as a line of poetry.
Once the game starts you are given the option of yet another console exclusive – a tutorial. Bizarrely missing from the original this section gives you a step by step guide of all relevant controls and contraptions at your disposal, and trust me you’ll need it. The game can be so overwhelming to a new player, especially those not familiar with the world of RPGs, that you could be forgiven for automatically feeling that this game isn’t for you. But as a seasoned video gamer knows, you sometimes have to give a game one, two, sometimes even up to five hours until you ‘get it’ (*note: this does not include FF13, as it was just wank and deserves no one’s time).
The tutorial itself works through the basic single-button quick and strong attacks whilst explaining the basic block, dodge and the later unlockable parry attacks. Sadly this is where one of my main issues with the Witcher 2 reared its ugly head. If you have been watching the trailers of this game infest the interwebs in the last few months you would be led to believe that you are buying into a title with an almost Batman/Assassin’s Creed combat system, blocking and spinning your way in to elegant quick-kill satisfaction.
Unfortunately what I found is that the weapon combat is a simple light/hard attack system, which has as about much depth as doing a rollie pollie to avoid any would-be attacker. Annoyingly, once Geralt’s five magical spells are integrated this is overemphasized by some unnatural button configurations. This will take some serious time to get used to, and as contact with an enemy rarely gives you any noticeable feedback more than once I found myself just spamming buttons and hoping for the best.
The thing is, while I feel slightly cheated by some of the game’s trailers regarding combat, The Witcher 2 has far more depth in battles than just attacking people with a weapon or magic. As motioned earlier the game is in need of a tutorial as there are simply so many options available – it’s not just about bludgeoning an enemy to death, it’s about how you prepare. At any point in the game (when not in direct combat) Geralt has the option to go into mediation; this allows him to create potions to boost his stats and oils for his weapons. It also allows you to make bombs and traps which can be placed around an area. You can quick menu these items as well as setting up throwing knives, which can be used once unlocked in the skill tree, but I found these quite hard to use… but that may just be me being a bit rubbish.
Ingredients used to create items can be foraged from crates and boxes, or picked from trees and plants. One tap of the thumbstick will make Geralt touch his magical wolf headed Witcher medallion, which sends a pulse around the surrounding area and highlights any collectables, relevant quest points as well as marking any close Circles of Power-which give you a temporary stat boost.
Once you are given a bit more free range of the game and gain a greater understanding of the controls you can start to see the real charm of The Witcher 2. Within the colorful towns the inhabitant’s conversation is just simply amazing, hilariously spoken and incredibly well written.
Soldiers sing filthy songs round camp fires, whores are unbiased and have no problem confirming if people have small dicks, and for some reason the word “plough” has mysteriously replaced the word fuck on many an occasion. Some people may just call it swearing for swearing sake but I find all language in a title like this relevant. If a writer deems every “fuck” and “shit” necessary to emphasize a conversation or give an overall feeling of the place you inhabit then so be it. A game as racially poignant and sexually charged as the Witcher 2 needs to feel as dirty as possible for the sake of immersion; langue only serves to support this.
- Amazing conversations and voice acting.
- Boobs at every turn.
- Great sound track.
- Hard to get into.
- Control scheme difficult to get used to.
- Combat needs to be tighter.
A game came out in the summer of 2011; one that became somewhat of an instant success with PC gamers. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings was originally a PC only title, giving console lovers like myself little chance of knowing its true power; that is until now. The game is set to launch exclusively on Xbox 360 on April 17th, and it is definitely one to watch.
For those who have yet to play the game, we follow the story of Geralt of Rivia, one of the few remaining witchers (genetically enhanced humans, trained to fight monsters) in an action-RPG setting. Each witcher is different, with their own array of powers. Throughout the game you can customise Geralt to best suit the story you want to play; classes to level-up include magic, alchemy and swordsmanship. Within these paths are a variety of options you can take, which will lead to different outcomes, creating your own unique witcher.
During our hands-on time with the game, we had the chance to play through the prologue, in which Geralt is imprisoned in the Temeria kingdom by Vernon Roche, and is being interrogated after the assassination of King Foltest. During the questioning, we are able to go back into Geralt’s memories, and relive the moments leading up to the king’s death.
Acting as King Foltest’s guard, you help lead the assault on an uprising of some of the kingdom’s noble families, and in doing so rescue the king’s children – both of whom are illegitimate. Anais and Boussy (I know, I laughed at their names too) are witness to the unfortunate assassination of their newly found father, as is Geralt, who is found hovering over the body as the guards roll in.
Throughout the introduction, you are lead through a series of tutorials, of which were not included in the original PC version. This is definitely a welcome addition, as one of the main issues raised with the first version was that it threw you into the battle without any help. Seeing as you need quite a few combinations of buttons to control Geralt during combat, this became somewhat confusing.
Geralt’s main attack is via a longsword, unless of course he is fighting non-human enemies; then you equip a silver sword. Your attacking buttons are A for a quick attack, and X for a strong attack – pretty straight forward. From there, you pick your target by looking at them and holding LT, and countering using RT when a marker appears to do so. This is where things start to get a little trickier. The Witcher 2 utilises every button on the Xbox control pad to it’s fullest, as obviously there is a lot more you can do on a PC in regards to a mouse and keyboard. After a few minutes becoming accustomed to the combat system however and it soon becomes second nature.
Aside from melee attacks, our witcher can use a selection of ‘signs’, or spells, against his foes. These are set on a wheel that appears when holding LB, slowing down the combat around Geralt for a period of time, and include: Aard – a wave of kinetic energy used to stun and knockdown enemies, Quen – a shielding spell, Axii – takes control of an enemy so they fight for you for a set time, Yrden – a magic trap that immobilises enemies, and Igni – a fire spell. Using these signs takes up one vigor bar per use, shown in the top left of the screen, and once they are depleted they slowly regenerate.
Vigor can also be used to parry with enemies, but again will use up the amount of bars you have. Levelling up will add additional vigor, and certain potions will aid the regeneration in accelerating the process. The wheel in which the signs are located can also be used to allocate different items to use. These quickslots can be filled using your inventory of bombs, daggers, traps etc, and are used (once chosen) using RB. These do exactly what they say on the tin, and can be used against your opponents at any given time, so long as you have them equipped in the quickslots.
There are a variety of other items you can pick up along the way that can help you get the most out of your weapons, and fighting in general. Certain oils can be used on your blades to add boosts for a limited time, and potions can be made and drank before a big battle for added abilities and health. Potions can only be taken when in meditation mode, which can be found in the centre of your inventory wheel. This can only be accessed when Geralt is not in danger, so this often needs to be planned out beforehand. Once meditating, Geralt can utilise his alchemy skills to use formulas and ingredients he has found or bought to create new items. Meditation can also be used to speed time, as some scenes require you to come back at a certain time to trigger a response.
Geralt also owns a magic medallion, and when used (clicking the left thumbstick), a wave of orange surrounds our witcher and highlights hidden items such as herbs, and treasure. This can be very useful in times when you need a specific item to fulfil a quest.
When starting the game, or even during, you are given the option to chose a difficulty setting, much like most games these days. This choice is very similar to that employed in Mass Effect 3, in which the easier the mode the more the story flows, whereas a harder setting will mean bigger battles and tougher enemies. The choice is yours as to whether you prefer to understand the story better, or to be a total badass.
So, during my play-through, Geralt set out with the king, leading the battle against the nobles. Even though the fighting system seems a little confusing, it becomes fairly easy to master, and I was soon taking down guards using a series of different attacks, signs and quickslot items. My favourite sign has to be Axii, as I was always tempted to take control of the biggest enemy in my path to help me fight the rest off. Movement is fluid, and with your trusty map in the top right corner it’s hard to get lost, what with all the markers popping up.
Whilst talking to characters you will have many conversation trees that will lead to different outcomes. You can of course play as a helpful little witcher, or you can be a downright asshole. The choice is yours, and will lead to different quests, and eventually one of a multiple of endings. During the interrogation with Vernon Roche, mentioned previously, you can choose from a multiple of answers, all leading to a different part of the moment leading up to the king’s assassination. I didn’t realise this to begin with, and picked a random one, which meant the story I played became a bit mixed up, but I still managed to work it out.
There appears to be a lot of naked women in The Witcher 2, which is always a joy to behold, including Triss Merigold, Geralt’s lover and sorceress extraordinaire, who aids the latter in escaping the dungeon he is being held in, to hopefully find whoever murdered King Foltest. While sneaking out, Geralt is able to put out torches, which helps him take down guards, creeping up behind them through the shadows. It’s little ideas like this that really add to the atmosphere that Polish studio CD Projekt RED have tried and succeeded to achieve.
This isn’t just a PC to console port, The Witcher 2 is so much more than that. The developers have completely overhauled the game to work well on Xbox 360, and in doing so have created a great game that is set to wow the console market, just as it did on it’s original format. Beautifully made, with a great story, characters and technical combat system, and with the additions of a tutorial, this is a game you should definitely pick up if you’re into your action-RPGs, or even if you’re not as you might just find something you like. Personally I can’t wait to play more, and will definitely be adding this to my collection in a few weeks time.The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition Review,
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