Reader Review: The Witcher 2

I haven't had the chance to delve into The Witcher 2, but thankfully Kotaku reader and local legend Fistbeard McTavish has. Extensively. Being that he's quite the expert when it comes to RPGs, he's provided us with this Reader Review.

And the best reader review each month wins a Blu-ray pack courtesy of Madman.

The Witcher 2 So, the Witcher 2 has been out, and has been getting high praise from a lot of websites and users. So, is it as good as people say, or will the little things kill the game for you?

I’m not going to be discussing the story in this review because I refuse to spoil it for people. Sorry, but a few really great plot twists and satisfying moments I refuse to spoil.

Loved It’s a Sequel – Yes, this is how a sequel should be done properly! (coughdragonage2wheeze). The game is light years ahead of its predecessor in almost every single area, from the gameplay mechanics, graphics and story. Combat is better, ditching the timed strikes for a more action oriented combat system. Loading times are brief and rare, characters move about and have life to them during conversations, and there are some moments where you’re faced with a decision that you’ll agonize over.

Graphics – Light Shafts sparkle through tree canopy leaves, towns and buildings look lived-in, forests are so meticulously detailed that they put every other game’s to shame, and various effects look mesmerizing, especially when you encounter Wraiths or other spiritual monsters.

Labour of Love – You can tell from every bit of this game CD Projeckt RED had a lot of love for this project. It would have been so much easier to just cut corners in some areas, but everywhere you go is filled with the tiniest details that you just don’t get in other games. From an NPC telling a story around a campsite about Geralt’s previous exploits, to looking through blood stained Asylum walls piecing together the location of a hidden treasure. Even reading your Journal, going over character bios is actually Fun and oftentimes funny, as it’s not written by Geralt, The main character, but his Poet friend Dandelion.

Hated Difficulty – Yes, lots of people have complained about this, but that’s mainly because the game refuses to hold your hand during the tutorial stages. Some of the starting fights can be brutal, to the point of pissing you off, but I managed to get through them by utilizing some hidden tricks I had to go searching for, such as finding traps and bombs in my Inventory. It’s worth noting though, I’m playing it through a second time, and after getting to grips with the mechanics I managed to breeze through the prologue areas without getting killed once.

Inventory – Just simple stuff, such as comparing your weapons and other gear with a vendor, easily sorting through your stash of rubbish and a more coherent way of grafting items / potions would be good. It’s not game breaking, but it’s really annoying.

It Ended – After The Witcher’s 5 Chapters with around 60 hours of gameplay time, I kinda felt cheated with Witcher 2’s 3 Chapters and 40-ish hours. Still, Quality over quantity. I just hope that they release Expansion Packs down the road to extend the storyline, because the ending (At least the one I found out of the 16 different ones) seemed like sequel/expansion pack bait.

Overall? Yeah, I like it a lot. The game itself has it’s fair share of issues that bring it down, but as an RPG fan, especially after the original game, I can say it’s well worth the money and time you’ll invest in it.

Also, Lesbomancy.


    I couldn't go too in depth with the 400 (500?) word limit.

    Ask me questions! :P

    What's with all the DA2 bashing I see? I really liked it.

      I just didn't like it because the original was *leagues* ahead of it's sequel. I played through it, but It just.... wasn't as good as it should have been.

        Agreed. It was bastardized version of the first one. Shouldn't have even been called Dragon Age, if they didn't that I would have been fine with the game

          I didn't mind them calling it Dragon Age... it's the 2 that rankled a bit.
          They should have stuck with the origional title (DA: Exodus).

          Combat was better (played on 360), but the inventory, quest, companions, world, dungeons... all felt like steps backwards. Also, the party inventory was a poor job.

        This isn't in jest, or an attempt to troll, but I have to ask: what did you like about it?

        I thought:
        - The story was really weak, predictable, incredibly disconnected between acts, (and unlike other bioware games) rigid.
        - Most of the quests were uninspired fetch quests. In fact, I only have a good recollection of one, The Investigation, which was admittedly great.
        - Some of the characters were very good, but still suffered some of the worst Deus Ex Machina I can recall in a game or film.
        - The combat lacked any real strategy because of re-spawning enemies. I'm not saying it wasn't hard - I just didn't care for the reasons why it was hard.
        - No sense of exploration. At all. And I'm taling beyond the obvious problems with recycling of assets.

        I'm not an RPG purist here. The thing is, if I compare it to an RPG, its a bad one. If I compare it other story-driven games, it comes up short. If I compare it to action-adventure games, it's tedious.

          I'm not who you were asking your questions of but as someone who loved DA2 I thought I'd just jump in and mention my feeling on it.

          I actually really liked DA2s story. I will agree that it felt a bit disconnecting between acts but by the end everything ties up nicely.

          As for the characters I really liked them. Unlike other BioWare games there was not a single companion I hated. I'm really curios where you think Deus Ex Machina comes into play?

          I found combat fun and a lot better then Origins. I liked the more action oriented approach. I liked that how unlike in Origins I could spend the whole game playing my own character instead of jumping around between my mage dps and mage healer like I did in Origins.

          Ontopic with this review though I have to say The Witcher 2 sounds pretty good. Seeing all the buzz surrounding it I went out and got the first game last week and I'm having a lot of fun playing it (though it does have quite a few flaws). Can't wait to play The Witcher 2.

            It's hard without spoiling anything, but...

            The game took an incredible story about conflict, prejudice and hatred with a tonne of potential, and threw it all away. The human elements of the templar-mage war were ultimately irrelevant because of the way they explained the cause of it all.

            Merideth's thingy. I can't go into any more detail.

            Then there was the horribly disjointed nature of the Acts progression (oh, three years have passed and I own a house?), and the lack of a clear antagonist or goal to die all the disparate parts of the game together.

          Honestly I think the reason I like DA2 is because it is funny, I really like the writing, I like femhawkes voice and sarcastic attitude.

          I also like the idea of not being responsible for saving the world. When it comes to a person's life there often isn't a clear antagonist, it's just one set of problems strung together after another. You have to be pretty lucky to have a destiny.

          As for the reused sets, meh big deal, I can forgive that, but it's personal. For example what I couldn't forgive in DA1 was unvoiced main character dialogue. Can't get past the first few minutes seeing a gormless mute standing there psychically communicating with people. I loved Baldur's gate and KOTOR but I expect more now.

        I really disagree. I really like DA:O, but after playing DA2, I realised just how much superfluous crap from DA:O it cut out, producing a sleeker, better and more fun game. I also felt like DA2 pulled me in to care about the characters to progress the story, whereas DA:O felt like it was constantly beating you down and telling you "Now you must do THIS to progress".

      after about 5 hours of DA2 it became a chore to me. i only finished it because i felt like i had to see the ending, but man was it boring.

      looking forward to checking out witcher 2 when i finally get my PC back... which isn't looking like it'll be any time soon.

    The doors... I hate the way they have done doors. When you are following someone, they open the door and then slam it in your face.

    When fighting an enemy, if a door is open and you walk partly through it, Gerald does some slow "walking through door" animation.

    Apart from that the game is the best I have played in a long time.

      DOORS ARE HORRIBLE. Well, annoying, but nothing worth skinning the developers alive for.

      .... But still, having a *line* of people going through a door like checking into a train station is kinda ridiculous.

        Not 100% but I think the doors are a a clever little way of hiding behind the scenes loading. Well they can't do elevators in this... I'm playing on a high spec machine and can actually walk through some directly another character. A loading symbol still flashes when I go through doors in this manner.

        Only advice is I wouldn't play this if you haven't finished the first one. It really is a sequel and you won't understand much that's going on.

        Awesome game loving every second. I need to quit my job. :P Fistbeard have you read the books? Well the ones that have been translated. I think the devs have really nailed most of the characters in both games.

          Got both books, loved them lots. Get "The Last Wish", so you know what Geralt's nickname "Butcher of Blaviken" means.

            Oh got them myself and read them a couple of time now. Shame I read somewhere the next one won't be translated until 2012 now.

    Nice review mate. And yeah its a pretty damn good game with only the issues you mentioned bothering me as well.

      There were some others as well, Doors - as was mentioned, and a few conversation trees getting muddled up if you do certain quest objectives out of order. Inventory is pretty bad, which is kinda mind boggling after that being one of the main complaints of the original game pre-Enhanced Edition patch.

    If i havent played the first one will i miss anything if i play this one?

      Not really, there are only passing references to the original game, but it does delve into some of the storylines from the novels, which is nothing a look at the in game glossary / journal won't fix right up.

      Almost everyone: "Who the hell is Yennefer, and why is she so important?"

      Me: "Aww yeah, I know who that is."

        I know someone called Jennifer if that makes any difference...

    Difficulty is a good thing, haven't had the chance to play it yet my collectors edition hasn't come by mail yet.

    Though at the moment i see it as a good thing since tommorow is the last day of Semester 1 and i have a major assessment due, that i'm still sorta avoiding :P

      The difficulty was fine for me, but others seem to struggle with the prologue a fair bit. Then again, some youtube video has one guy just mashing on "light attack" and screaming at how the game sucks ass.

      Preparation, people. Traps, bombs, smart positioning, effective management of your blocking / magic gauge and you should kick all kinds of ass.

      Also, pray to god the postal service doesn't chuck your collector's edition around - people have had chipped / broken Geralt heads. :(

        indeed i am slightly worried about that, but considering the fact that it was half the price that EB wanted(and they sold out anyway) i think i won't be too concerned.

        But Australia post is involved which is always an issue :(.

        It's probably been sitting in their bloody storeroom since monday. Bastards held my 3DS hostage for a week even when i went in their the day it should have arrived and could see the very box i later recieved with my name in giant black texta on side(for some reason). Yet i got told if you don't have a slip we can't give it to you :(

        Also quen and yrden. They were pretty much useless in the first game, but amazing in this. Conversely igni isn't nearly as good/gamebreaking as it used to be.

    Is it worth the $40 I intend to pay for it?

    I enjoyed the first (and still haven't finished it, lol) and am keen for this.

    Should I go for the standard or epic edition?

      There is no standard edition, even the base versions give you maps and DVD's.

      Well worth the money, and I sunk $140 on the Collector's Edition.

    Disregard / delete top comment.

    I’m gonna put this out there as well:

    Roche = Bro.

    Not since Garrus have I found a better supporting sidekick / party member in an RPG. Dude is funny, insightful, has some of the best lines and scenes and even one point in the story had me going “Bro’s Before Hoes”.

    Hell, he jumps across a wooden bridge, accidentally falls through it going “Oh fuck!”, lands on the ground, rolls, and swiftly punches some dude in the FACE and acts like he meant for it to happen.

    A later scene is bloody fantastic when Roche takes his revenge on someone. That, and it made me cross my legs…. *winces*

      So was he a better choice, story-wise for first playthrough?

        Can't say, as I haven't completed my second playthrough. Stuff is... err, different this second time around.

          ... I suck at replying to comments, apparently.


        Can't say, as I haven't finished my second playthrough. I might side with other people this time around.

    Sounds great!
    Still waiting for my copy from zavvi, but the wait seems like it will be worth it

    I'm only about 15 hours in.
    It's not bad so far.
    I still hate the controls.
    Some things are just so hard to point at and loot or switching to the wrong target when facing multiple targets. Give me a cursor any day. I also really hate no quick travel. Running to the end of a dungeon/cave and completing a quest then having to run back is annoying, especially if you go to town and then get sent back somewhere close by.
    It's a beautiful game, so much graphic detail I look around amazed sometimes and run off the beaten track just to check things out. Also really love the sounds effects ( though some of the dialogue is lackluster.
    Overall having fun, so can't wait to get some solid hours in.

      I haven't found any issue with the targeting, believe it or not. Character dead center of your screen / invisible crosshairs = your target. Occasionally, Geralt has pirouetted into a group of enemies he shouldn't have, but it wasn't too big of a deal.

      Hey, you want backtracking? Witcher 1, Chapter 2. That will give you nightmares.

        Yeah Witcher 1 was horrible for that. It's just a petty gripe anyway, most RPG's are the same.
        It's not so much the targets as the looting. Sometimes I'm running around killing so much that their bodies just camouflage with the terrain, I run around in circles til I hover over a body to loot. Also another petty gripe and personal preference.

          You know that "Reveal all item names" Button in Witcher 1 that you'd always run around holding? You remember how the Amulet was useless in that game?

          Witcher 2: You press an Amulet button, it sends out a little sonar shockwave thing that highlights lootable objects.

          !! GENIUS !!

            I know, but I always forget :(

    Given that my computer is a poor old laptop... would you recommend picking it up when it comes out on 360?

    Its not so much that the game is super difficult at the start (which it is) - its that it becomes very easy by the end. The difficulty curve is completely arse about.

    Also, although the combat is different to the first, I am not sure it is better. It can be very unresponsive and leave you pressing block and yelling at the screen whilst watching Geralt stand there and scratch himself.

    It is still a great game (it looks truly amazing) but its "indie" roots shine through a bit too often for mine.

    Awesome! Can't afford a new PC for a good 6 months so keen for a console release!! (not so keen about hearing gaming "personalities" calling for the console version to be dumbed-down. Shut up stupid heads!)

    Massive ultra tip: if you have a 360 controller + wireless dongle thing for your PC (or a gamepad in geneneral), use it! I know that suggesting the idea of playing a PC game on your PC with a controller marks me as a traitor and whatnot, but the game controls are a million times better with it. In fact, the game has clearly been designed with a 360 in mind - the QTE buttons that flash up switch to appropriately colored X/Y/A/B, the tooltips show the correct button images... and also, the controls themselves feel far more natural and precise.

    My main gripes so far have been entirely technical. I have a 2560x1440 monitor and a machine powerful enough to actually run the game at that resolution, but I can't. Unless I manually set my whole desktop resolution down to 1920x1080, the game won't launch. It just dumps me back to the launcher. The launcher itself won't download any of the DLC. I played through the first game just recently using polish voiceovers, and wanted to continue that because the english dub while not bad feels kind of odd (and for some reason Triss' voice is like nails down a chalkboard for me) and the Polish option is DLC. :(

    I'm also not entirely sold on the combat. It's pretty frustrating at times. I haven't found it as wildly difficult as some people have been complaining about, but it does feel undertuned. It took me ages to realise that blocking was using up Vigor. The block isn't nearly fast enough - you basically need to be doing it *before* an enemy attacks, and you can't do it if you've started an attack yourself. You have to be standing completely still as well. Blocking should really override movement. The main issue though is that the block mechanic is completely useless. It uses the same amount of vigor as the protection sign, and only guards against a single attack - as such, there's no reason to ever use it instead of just throwing up a protection barrier and wailing on people while dive-rolling around like a breakdancer, which really breaks the whole idea of Geralt being a master swordsman. I'd rather have had a standard forward-facing block which maybe drained vigor over time if I used it too much but which blocked all incoming attacks, combined with a timing-based parry/counter system (i.e. hit the block at the right time and you get a parry)

    It's also very annoying that the game encourages you to prepare for tough fights by drinking potions, but there are some points where you aren't allowed to do that. The final fight when sneaking into the monastery in the prologue for example - you're expected to wade into a group of about eight guys including one enormous tough guy, but you can't drink any potions beforehand. I found that particular fight pretty annoying. I ended up kiting the group around by running / dodge-rolling and throwing in the Aard sign whenever I could to try and get a stun in, and finishing an enemy in one blow after. Even that is dangerous though, because the instant takedowns move the camera in to be all 'cinematic' but the other enemies can begin an attack the instant that the takedown finishes, before the camera has snapped back to normal, so you can't dodge sometimes.

    The menus feel a bit clunky too. I keep on somehow removing my boots when I try to read a book :( The game sometimes locks up for a few seconds when I open the menu too, not sure what's up with that.

    I really like the way it carried over my save from the first game. I don't know if this is the case when you're working off a brand new game, but I started out the sequel with the Raven's Armor I collected in the first game, and a Moonblade instead of the standard silver sword.

    I think you've exaggerated the first game's length. It took me around 40 hours to complete it, including the majority of side-quests. Although it might depend on how much back-tracking you engage in ;)

    It has to be said:

    The prologue chapters, while tough, work well presented as flashbacks like they are during the interrogation sequence at the game's outset. Silly me tried the hardest one over and over before trying another, and it was satisfying when I came back to that level and breezed through it. In fairness who DIDN'T choose the 'Dragon' level first?

    My game won't let me use my xbox controller (yes it's the PC version), how do I enable it?

    What are the critical buffs I and others need straight away? I think I have spent XP on them just need to be sure.

    The inventory screen is like Swahili, I am only confident making bombs and swallow/potions so far. What ingredients are actually worth keeping?

    Why would the game give you 'renegade' actions to perform so early in the game when you seem to have not built up enough XP to pull them off? This may be me not understanding this particular WRPG mechanic.

    Ta (Ta For Now)

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