After reviewing The Witcher: Enhanced Edition, I decided to jump straight into the critically-acclaimed sequel. While I would’ve loved to have published a review of The Witcher 2, I’ve been particularly busy this week with things that don’t involve brutally slaying monsters in gorgeous detail. So, instead of not writing anything this week, I shall regale you with fascinating tales pertaining to the seven or so hours I’ve played. I’m hoping to have an official review out by next week, but I’m making no promises as the previous iteration took me approximately 42 hours to complete. Either way, prepare to be regaled!
For those who don’t know, I actually bought the Witcher 2 before The Witcher: Enhanced Edition, as it managed to arrest my interest with all the critical buzz it was receiving (not to mention its impressive shaders). Five minutes into the game, I realized I had no clue what anyone was talking about and decided to invest a serious chunk of my time into completing the first Witcher, hoping things would start making sense. Coming back to The Witcher 2, I’ve realized that playing the first game wasn’t really necessary. After playing more than five minutes of The Witcher 2, I found that the surrounding characters are more than happy to give you an explanation regarding recent events—events that are only loosely tied to those from the previous game.
To be clear, I’m not angry, irritated, or even slightly annoyed about playing through the first game. I had a lot of fun playing The Witcher and don’t regret my decision to purchase the game at all. However, for those who are curious whether or not you need to play the first game to pick up on anything in the sequel, allow me to address your curiosity: you don’t. There are a few winks and nods in the dialogue that only veterans will pick up on, but nothing that will leave new players utterly clueless. If you want to jump into The Witcher 2 with your only knowledge of the story so far coming from a Wikipedia article, that should more than suffice. Or, if you want to explore the world of the first game and wade knee-deep in backstory, that’s a perfectly viable option as well.
As for changes between the two games, my thoughts are…mixed. First the good stuff. The Witcher 2, (for the few of you out there who haven’t seen it yet) is drop-dead gorgeous. Running it on very high settings will transform your monitor into pure eye candy, while the game still looks great on more modest settings. It’s such a relief to see Geralt smirk, raise his eyebrows, or furrow his brow rather than keeping up his stone-cold stare from the previous game. The addition of realistic facial animations makes me think he might not actually be on a mission to hunt down and terminate John Connor. Only time will tell whether or not this happens to be the case.
While The Witcher 2 looks fantastic, the new meditation system is a mixed-bag. First off, you can now meditate anywhere, anytime you are not in danger. This means you no longer have to scour the world searching for a campfire or inn to level up or brew potions. You want to spend several hours meditating in the middle of a brutal bar fight? Go right ahead. The fine folks at CD Projekt RED have learned that campfires and inns are for chumps who can’t meditate like a man.
While Geralt can now meditate wherever he damn-well pleases, he unfortunately can longer drink potions wherever he damn-well pleases. You read correctly. Gone are the days where Geralt can down a few Swallows and Blizzards in the midst of combat. Now, Geralt (aka You) must possess clairvoyant abilities and know when to prepare for a battle before it has even began. That, or drink up your performance-enhancing concoctions after getting your ass handed to you during a previous occasion. The convenient quick-save feature ensures you won’t lose too much progress after being hacked to pieces, but it’s still frustrating the problem is there in the first place.
I’m still getting used to the combat, as it is significantly more action-oriented than its predecessor. You can no longer pause combat and contemplate what your next move shall be, though you can slow time down when changing spells or weapons. Combat stances have also been tossed out the window and replaced with light and heavy attacks along with a block move that allows for parries and counters later on. The combat is a bit simple, though I’m still at the beginning of the game and the upgrade screen points to many more options available as I level up. I’m still getting used to the new combat system but I like what I’m seeing so far.
Overall, I’ve been enjoying my time with The Witcher 2. CD Projekt RED seems to have spent a considerable amount of time and resources polishing up The Witcher 2, getting rid of the Eastern European “jank” that irked me so much in the previous game. Characters are still wildly vulgar, adding a decent layer of grime to the stunning environments—in a good way. I may have only dipped my toe in The Witcher 2, but I can’t wait to dive in headfirst for more.