Sunday, May 19, 2013

Kate Reviews: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings


 The hottest guy on the block takes out whoever stands between him and his past.

The Pros
  • Interesting storytelling and lore
  • Stellar cutscene animation and dialog
  • Unique playstyle and mechanics
  • Several ways and difficulties to play
  • Different scenarios unfold depending on your choices
 The Cons
  • Rendering and sound issues for the first second of many cutscene animations
  • Setting selections are unclear and default settings are crazy-weird
  • About 5 seconds of -LOADING- for nearly every door opened
  • The invisible aiming reticule makes for haphazard loot pickups

     This was a lusty introduction to The Witcher series for me.  I am somewhat intrigued to play the first iteration in the franchise and try out The Witcher 3 that's currently in development.  I had no idea of what to expect when I bought The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Version on sale for $9.99 at Best Buy. 

The Collector's Dark Edition looked awesome:

I missed out on getting a decent deal on that, but I guess I have enough "junk" in my gaming room for the time being.
     The Enhanced Version that I did get came with an 89 page Quest Handbook and a dual-faced map in color.  The map is a bit small at about 1'X2' , but I am a big fan of game maps and it was nicely done so I was glad to add it to my collection.  I was surprised to see that there were 3 discs: 2 game discs and a soundtrack disc.  It seems not many games are more than one these days.  From what I have read elsewhere, the Enhanced Version had alternate and additional quests but I didn't play the regular version so I don't know from experience.  I was interested to see how the quest handbook worked so I tried it out for the first experience in the game. I didn't quite understand why a game with such lore and discovery would include a cheat-sheet so to speak but I wanted to see if it was helpful without giving too much away. I didn't use it after the first quest; there are so many options in the game that you ruin the surprise if you are playing with the book and limiting yourself to the decision of the book's author.  I guess it might be useful for someone very unused to gaming and wanted to just play it casually or for the gamer who plays along with walkthroughs normally.  Mine went back into the box for the remainder of my playtime.  The soundtrack disk is 24 tracks long and about 1.2 hours.  
Dandelion the Bard
     Dandelion is our narrator throughout the story; somehow he managed to be around for all the important bits.  He sounded like the a male version of the narrator Mary Alice in Desperate Housewives-  not that that's a bad thing.  He was one of my favorite personalities in the game for his aloofness and humor. 
     Triss Merigold is another one of my favorites.  She was coquesttish but not wimpy or conniving and a total babe.
Triss Merigold
I particularly appreciated the fact that the designers made her pretty but not at all revealing, well except when she was not clothed at all.  In fact all of the female characters in this game were attractive without having revealing cutouts all over their clothes.  But please do not take this to mean that it's a PG game...there's LOTS of gratuitous sex scenes and dialog.  I just mean that it's not in your face the whole game which added to the realism of the situations.
     Zoltan is Dandelion's dwarf buddy.  He added to the humor in a lot of situations as well.  He's your go-to dwarf for arm-wrestling matches, too.  
     The hero of the story is Geralt of Rivia, a witcher.  Everyone  knows his past except him...y'know, 'cause he has amnesia at the beginning of the game.  He has tough-man scars and muscles and jewlery.  His stoic demeanor reflects the darkness and danger in the world surrounding him and lets him really become the kind of hero you want him to be.  It also makes him seem ultra macho.
Geralt of Rivia and Triss Merigold
     I played through the game twice, once on Easy and once on Dark.  What took 30 seconds on easier difficulties takes five minutes (or a lot more!) on Dark.  I was determined to beat this game on Dark and get all of the Xbox achievements, but I gave up on the last achievement which required a specific roll in the dice poker (Yahtzee-like) game.  I tried for the roll throughout the gameplay but never got it and I wasn't going to waste possibly hours just playing the mini-game after I finished the game.  The lure of a different story was enough to make me willing to keep struggling through on the Dark difficulty. There were several spots where I thought I was doomed to not be able to finish but I somehow altered my strategy to meet the challenge and came out with success.  It would have helped considerably if I had taken the time to complete the challenges that would have awarded me with some of the premium armors available.
     I am really glad that I gave this game and franchise a shot. 

I played this game on: Xbox 360          I got this game for: $9.99