The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings is part of a series I bounced off of at first. I bounced off of the PC release of The Witcher for a variety of factors. Some of them were bugs – like one where the game would crash whenever I walked into a particular quest-giver’s hut. Some of them were because of the combat, and how the game handled the combat with rhythmic mouse clicks (more on this later). Some of this was due to the re-use of character models and portraits to enough of an extent that it made the game lifeless and hard to navigate.
What kept me hooked enough to finish experiencing the game through a Let’s Play was the story. The narrative was engrossing (though the rampant misogyny was grating). So, when I saw that The Witcher 2 fixed the control issues, was less buggy, was on sale on GoG (and later on Games with Gold), I decided it was time to play this game all the way through.
More Intuitive Combat
On the other hand, combat in The Witcher 2 is reasonable and intuitive, and still active. You have heavy and light attack buttons and a manual block on a trigger (if you’re using a controller). Instead of having to press a button with an on-screen indicator to build a meter, you have timed counters. This comes up once you reach a specific point in the sword fighting skill tree.
As you reach the end skill in each tree, you’ll unlock a special move. The move can be activated once you’ve filled up an Adrenaline meter. Generally, this will clear some or all of the enemies in the area.
That said, it’s not entirely perfect – counter indicators only appear on targeted enemies. So, Geralt isn’t able to mow through foes like Batman in the Arkham games or various Assassin Creed protagonists. This wouldn’t be too much of an issue if there was a way to quickly change your target. There isn’t. Instead, you change your targeted enemy by re-aiming the camera. Unfortunately, because there isn’t any sort of indicator on the screen (like crosshairs), changing your target can get finicky.
Also, while the game doesn’t feel as openly sleazy as the first game, it’s still got problems. You’re not collecting cards with paintings of the people you’ve slept with. You’re not hiring prostitutes to the same extent as the first game. There isn’t a side-quest based around getting free favors from prostitutes. However, a lot of the men you’re going to end up encountering in the game have conversations about women like commenters on a porn site.
This is not to say that misogyny doesn’t exist (it absolutely does). It is also not to say that these views are depicted in a good light. Indeed, as in they definitely are not – the people spouting these views are generally assholes. A few of them are people who you get to kill the hell out of. It’s just if you want a break from that shit in real life – this game is not the place to go to find that.
Hard to Navigate
Also, the level environments in The Witcher 2 are more confined and constrained than the ones from the first game. This is not a problem on its own – there was a similar shift from Dragon Age to Dragon Age 2, and I was fine with those games. It’s just that the level environments in The Witcher 2 have more convoluted paths that you had to navigate.Dragon Age 2 had fast travel that let you quickly move between areas of the city and change the time of day. The Witcher 2 doesn’t have that option. If you want to move between areas in a hub, you have to hike there. It’s frustrating, and I can’t help but feel like the choice serves to pad the game more than anything else.
Still, I enjoyed The Witcher 2 a bunch, and I’m definitely planning on moving on to The Witcher 3. That said, I cannot make my recommendation without reservations. However, the issues I have are ones that could hopefully be fixed in the sequel.
The Witcher 2 is available from Amazon.com for Xbox 360 and PC. The Xbox 360 version is backwards compatible on the Xbox One. Alternatively, if you prefer to play on PC, the game is also available through the Humble Store. Buying anything through those links helps to support the site.