Monday, 9 July 2012

Review: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition (360)

Getting weak in the knees thinking about a video game character is 100% ridiculous and a sure sign that the person experiencing such feelings is an emotionally unstable weirdo, who you'd more likely see lining up at City Hall for a marriage license to wed their body pillow than reaching for a bar of soap and having a damn shower

Well, that's what I used to believe.

Geralt of Rivia, the central figure of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (Enhanced Edition), does that to me. And I'm totally normal! As a character he's so badass... And not in the way that marks Conan, who's more muscle and machismo than anything else. Geralt is a multi-dimensional character, even if he's a bit of an amnesiac trying to fill in the blanks of his checkered past. He's gritty and unafraid to supply answers with a sword or a well-timed potion when threats of violence fail to work. In other words, he's an "adult" character without being a muscle-bound asshole. Wether that's the direct result of the character being who he is or a quirk of translation -- the developer is Polish -- there's something much more three-dimensional about him.

After some careful reflection and a bottle of wine, I chalk it up to the distinct setting; the places and people that make up game. The world feels much more realized, and different, than most other games I've played in the genre and is definitely more along the lines of the STALKER games than Elder Scrolls. It feels much more "traditional" in the sense that there's this great big world to explore and you have to learn everything on the fly. That extends to The Witcher 2's combat, which does only the tiniest bit of hand-holding before chopping off said hand with no remorse or regret. The early goings can be rough as there are things the game doesn't teach the player or teach the player very well, at least.

Somehow it feels left out on purpose, like the player should know this stuff already because it's a common, everyday thing in Poland. Others have observed this as well. Poland's development scene caters to an audience used to a different kind of gaming ecosystem. An ecosystem that hasn't evolved, besides graphically, from the North American role-playing games from the early '90's. To do well, it's up to the player to figure things out and persevere. I really do like it when a developer thinks well enough of the audience to give them credit that they have enough brains to figure things out like the convoluted story or where precisely the next step in the quest is located.

Witcher 2 is a throwback in a lot of ways to old PC games, which certainly appeals to me. The delivery method is modern, no doubt, but the fact there's a lot of poking and prodding (and death) that happens even early on has me anxious for another instalment.

- D.D. Nunavut

The Good:
- Such a realized world
- Protagonist Geralt is awesome
- Rewarding combat if you put in the time
- Developers give the player a lot of credit to figure things out

The Bad:
- Did get frustrated a few times when I just couldn't figure out where or what to do next
- Some technical issues, but nothing "game breaking"
- Game probably too punishing for those more acquainted with modern role-playing games

Score: 8.5 / 10