Worth all of your money
"The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings" is the new hardcore action cRPG from Polish studio CD Projekt RED, set in the Witcher Universe, created by the Polish author ‘Andrzej Sapkowski’. It is the sequel to the crittically acclaimed "The Witcher" from 2007, from the same studio. The player takes control of a Witcher, Geralt of Rivia, as he is interrogated by Roche, a commander of the special forces of Temeria, the kingdom in which the beginning of the game is set in. Geralt has been wrongfully accused of Regicide against the Monarch of Temeria, King Folest. But after the ‘interrogation’, which is actually the replaying of the events that led to his incarceration, he is given a chance to clear his name, and thus ventures forth to expose the conspiracy behind the sudden regicides happening in the Northern Kingdoms.
The world and environments are well realized, and it is clear that a huge amount of time and effort has been devoted to perfectly and truthfully recreate the Witchers’ world from the novels, so the scenery is absolutely gorgeous. The quest will lead Geralt through various environments, with each one being truly different from the other. From lavish and lush forests to cursed and haunted battlefields, to small but pulsing villages where you can almost smell the decaying garbage laying around. The world of the witcher is alive and breathing, with every NPC having something to do and reacting to the environment and the Witcher himself. A lot of thought and care has been put into this game which it clearly shows and no matter how you look at it, this game is breathtaking. It will require some decent hardware to run it to properly experience and absorb the world. Running it on high settings will really make you appreciate the level of detail that the engine is capable of delivering.
The characters are well done, and they all have their distinct personality. The voice acting is great and you actually feel like they are giving you their take on the situations, not just an actor inside a booth reading a script. They are engaging and when the game is over, you realize that you truly cared for them. The same is to be said about your enemies, which really adds to the overall high production value of the game. When engaging in conversations the different characters, the player has several ways to respond and talk them. There are amazing choices during quests where Geralt is faced with some tough and genuinely grey moral dilemmas, and it's up to the player to decide which ones to go with. The game has up to 16 different endings and several paths to take, so even though a single play-through is not as long for the standard Western cRPG's out there, but there is a lot to explore due to its many different, game changing choices.
The game is unforgiving and brutal, and so is the gameplay. You are given a bunch of spells to choose from the ability to do a light or a heavy attack, dodge-roll, parry and some other unlockable abilities. As you progress, you gain experience points which you can place in four different progression trees: Alchemy, Swordsmanship, Magic and Training (basic skills). Each tree (except Training) represents a different playstyle, Swordsmanship is probably the most stanard one as it increases your effectiveness in close combat while Magic is more of a tools tree and Alchemy is a very peculiar tree which focuses on pre-combat buffing (potions) and using traps and is probably well-suited to The Witcher 2 veterans who want to try a different approach to combat. The player will find various pieces of loot: armor, swords, herbs and ‘monster’ (most of the wildlife that you will see in the game) parts which you can use for all kind of things like making potions, items from schematics and et cetera.
That being said, all of The Witcher 2 isn't a dance on roses, and the game definitely has its faults. It is, as said earlier, very unforgiving. Some people are either going to find that endearing and in the games favor, and others are just going to dismiss it. The game does a poor job of explaining how to play (both the game and the mini-games). That definitely left me confused and had to search through the sparse information in the in-game manual to find any information about how to counter, for example. So if you can’t figure the game out fast, you’re going to die a few times during the prologue.
The endings, without getting into spoilers, are very disappointing and unfulfilling. After spending 30 to 40 hours it took me to get through the game, I was definitely left with a sour taste in my mouth from the vague and short endings, while indeed there are sixteen of them, but it's a case where the developers should have focused on quality not quantity. It cheapens the overall quality of the game and it does a disservice to the characters and the rest of the game, which has been otherwise top notch. It's just very unsatisfying and left me wanting for a better conclusion.
That being said I can whole heartily recommend this game to both Non-RPG fans and fans alike. The Witcher 2 is worth all your money (if your pc is up to current standards) and is a great value for your money, even as a download. When the Witcher 2 grabs you, it doesn't let go and you're only done when it says you're done and you're going to enjoy the whole ordeal that is The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings.