Tips For Playing The Witcher 2 The Best Way

Today marks the release of The Witcher 2: Enhanced Edition on both Xbox 360 and PC. Sure, those of us with a powerful gaming PC probably played through this game one or more times. But everyone who picks it up on the Xbox will be playing it for the first time.

So, first of all: It's good. Quite good. It was one of my favourite games of last year, and tells the kind of shifting, twisting, highly enjoyable story that certain other RPGs (who will remain nameless) can only pull off in their wildest dreams.

Like most RPGs, you're going to have to make a bunch of choices in the game's early goings that will affect how the rest of the game will play for you. How will you level your character? What kind of gear should you buy? What spells are good, what aren't? What's the best way to approach combat? What's the fastest way to bone a super hot sorceress? Etc.

Fear not! I've played a lot of The Witcher 2, and I'm here to offer some spoiler-free advice for those embarking on the game for the first time.

Here goes nothing:

Sure, OK, Do The Tutorial

One of the features that was added after we PC folk cut our teeth on the game was a nice, balanced tutorial that walks you through various aspects of combat. It's not the greatest tutorial in the world, but it does the job of communicating the basic elements of the game well enough.

A recap of the first game is nice, but not essential

I played through about 10 per cent of The Witcher and still found that I enjoyed the heck out of The Witcher 2's story. That said, after beating it, I went back and read what happened in the first game and it put a lot of the sequel's events into a more interesting context.

Some day I'll invest the dozens of hours needed to complete the first game (no, really! I will.) But until then, a recap like the one at Wikipedia sufficed just fine. Optional, but worth giving a skim.

The Quen Sign Is Your Friend

This is probably the single most important tip for this game. When you first start out, you will probably find yourself getting owned in the third or fourth combat encounter. "What's going on?" you'll think. "I thought I was Geralt of Rivia, feared Witcher and sexy inter-kingdom badass? Why am I dying?"

You're dying because combat in The WItcher 2 is difficult and kinda uneven when compared to its RPG contemporaries. Your health doesn't regenerate in combat, so each hit Geralt takes really counts. Take too many hits early in a fight and you'll be ploughed good and proper.

Therefore, you'll want to get good at using the Quen sign, which is one of the Witcher spells that you start the game with. The key for combat is to roll a lot, get a good distance from your enemies, cast Quen, then roll back in and get to fighting.

The moment you're hit and lose your Quen shield, roll away and cast it again. In the early goings in particular, you should never engage in combat without that glowing blue protective veil around you. Which reminds me...

Roll a Lot

Don't worry! Geralt doesn't get dizzy. It's one of a Witcher's many superhuman powers.

You've Got A Second Set of Good Armour

Since the Extended Edition is basically a port of the PC version with all the DLC, you'll start out with a good piece of armour that isn't equipped. Go into Geralt's inventory and find the "Blue Stripes Combat Jacket". It doesn't start out that powerful, but it has three slots for armour upgrades once you get them, which will make it much more sturdy than the other armour you start out with.

Plus it has a sweet hood.

Level Up Wisely

In The Witcher 2, there are three skill "trees" (Swordsmanship, Signs, and Alchemy) that you can invest points in after spending a few points on the more general abilities in the "Training Tree." It's not possible to max Geralt out, so you'll have to pick and choose how you want to play early on.

Everyone makes a build that works for them, but I basically ignored the Alchemy tree on my first playthrough and found a good balance between Swordsmanship and magical Signs. I did, however, invest in a number of abilities that I didn't wind up using.

Here are the abilities I suggest investing your skill points in first.

Training Tree.

Do invest in:

  • Hardiness
  • Fortitude
  • Vigor Regeneration

Don't waste points on:

  • Arrow Redirection (In my experience, Archers/Arbalests aren't enough of a consideration in the game to worry about this)
  • Parrying (Possibly a controversial thing to ignore, but for my suggested playstyle, dodging is much more useful than parrying)
  • Dagger Throwing (Bombs are much more useful and damaging than Daggers)

After that, you'll want to invest in the following skills as quickly as possible:

Swordsmanship Tree

  • Position (You'll frequently be surrounded by enemies, so getting backstab damage down from 200% is very important.)
  • Feetwork (Helps with that all-important rolling.) (Also it's called "feetwork," hee.)
  • Hardy (Makes you tougher for the inevitable times when you do get hit.)

Signs Tree

  • Enhanced Quen Sign (As I said, you want to have a baller Quen sign ASAP.)
  • Magical Vigor (This gives you more Vigor slots; it's good to get up to 4 as soon as possible.)
  • Enhanced Aard Sign (Less of a rush, but this offensive "Force Push"-style ability is necessary to defeat a couple of tricky opponents.)

After that, it's a good idea to generally level up Geralt's sword damage, vitality, vigor regeneration, and then go ahead and make his signs or sword more powerful, depending on your play-style.

There Are a Few Stat Boosts You Can Only Get During the Prologue

This one's for the more diehard stat-obsessives, but there are a few unique abilities that you can only earn by digging up little easter eggs in the game's prologue. A full recounting of them at The Witcher Vault at the bottom of the Skills & Abilities page.

Learn The Lay of the Lore

This one's going to sound like a hassle, since it would be much easier if my advice could be "Don't worry about the lore! Just have fun!" But while it's perfectly possible to play through The Witcher 2 and learn from in-game exposition, it's more interesting if you have a basic understanding of things, geography in particular.

That'll be alleviated somewhat by taking a look at the map that's included with the Extended Edition of the game, but it's also good to understand the basics of a few things:

  • Temeria is one of three important kingdoms in The Witcher 2. At the start of the game, Geralt is accompanying King Foltest of Temeria, who played a larger role in the first Witcher game.
  • Aedirn is another northern kingdom, bordered by both Temeria and Kaedwin, the other to major kingdoms in the game. The first major hub in the game, the city of Flotsam, is located in the Pontar Valley on the border between Temeria and Aedirn.
  • Kaedwin is the last of the three important kingdoms in the game's story. While Geralt never visits Keadwin, he does come into contact with its king, King Henselt, and his army in the game's second act.

You don't have to memorise any lore up front, but it's worth paying attention to names and locations as they come up.

One word you'll hear a lot is "Scoia'tael", which sounds crazy but really is just a name for an organisation of non-human (Elves, Dwarves) freedom fighters/terrorists. You'll hear people talk about "Yennefer," which is a name that has always struck me as uniquely hilarious, but who is basically just a sorceress who is very important in the broader Witcher lore and in the novels, though she hasn't ever really appeared in any of the games. The last thing you'll hear about is "Nilfgaard," which is a bordering kingdom and a common enemy to pretty much everyone in the game.

Don't be afraid to reference that map that came with the game whenever someone mentions a new kingdom — it really will help you have a better understanding of what's happening and more importantly, where it's happening.

Read Geralt's Journal

Geralt's journal is one of the best aspects of The Witcher 2. A far cry from the sparse, utilitarian journals of games like Skyrim and Deus Ex, Geralt's journal is written by the bard Dandelion, and contains all manner of funny asides and colourful descriptions of your various adventures.

Best of all, it updates as you proceed through the multi-stage quests, so if you need a refresher on a quest you're returning to after a break, it's a cinch to catch up.

Consider Leaving the Subtitles On

There are enough weird words and name-drops in The Witcher 2 that it's worth considering leaving the subtitles on. I'm a subtitles-off kinda guy myself, but I found that often, it was easier to keep track of what was what if I read along.

Gather Herbs. All Of The Herbs. Also, Monster Bits

When wandering the woods of the Pontar Valley and beyond, you'll frequently come across plants, herbs, mosses and berries that you can harvest. Pick up every single herb you can, even if you aren't going with an Alchemy character build.

Every Nekker or Endrega that you kill will leave behind some sort of body part that you can collect; after combat, click the thumbstick to fire off Geralt's Witcher amulet, which will highlight all of the collectable leavings in orange.

Believe it or not, selling flowers and monster-bits is the single best way to make money in The Witcher 2. There's no feeling quite like financing the purchase of a sweet new silver sword by selling off 35 Nekker eyeballs and a bunch of flowers.

Steal Like the Goddamned Bandit You Are

I guess I don't have to tell some of you this, since decades of RPG-playing have hard-coded kleptomania into our bones, but: Many areas in the game's towns are covered in items that Geralt can pick up and sell for a small amount of money, and it can really add up.

No one cares or even notices if you steal, so be sure to grab as many things as you can carry before selling them off for weapon-purchasing money.

In particular, the market by the Flotsam docks is lousy with crates of supplies and firewood. Use your Witcher's Amulet (click the thumbstick) and run over to everything that glows orange. No one will mind, and you'll be much richer for it.

Your Choices Matter. Have Fun!

In The Witcher 2, you're going to be making a lot of choices. Some of their consequences are small, some are very decidedly not-small. You'll never know quite what's going to happen until it does, but that's OK, Sit back and enjoy the ride!

Due to the magnitude of some of the choices, The Witcher 2 all but requires a second playthrough. So, if you've made a decision that leaves you thinking, "Holy shit! Did I just ruin my story?" Rest assured that you did not. You're going to get to see a whole bunch of cool stuff, and then when you play the game again, you'll see entirely different cool stuff.

Now pick up your swords, you ploughing whoresons, and go do some witchering!

Groovy top screenshot: 9 Parsecs from Caladan


    as someone that got the release day on pc is is fantastic how the big decisions send you and the plot in a real different place and direction. its probably the only RPG besides Deus Ex 1 and 3 that do it right. everyone with a pc or Xbox should play this game. twice!

    Unless I'm mistaken part of the EE is a massive nerf to Quen.....

    Pro witcher's use alchemy ;)

    I got two PC copies on release (North American [uncut] version on Steam, and the Aussie retail special edition 'cause I dunno, I have OCD and need shiny things or something :p).

    Played up to the dwarven town and stopped/got distracted by other games.
    Decided to wait until the release of the enhanced edition to continue/start again... which downloaded (11gb!) on Steam yesterday morning.

    Started a new game last night... now I'm ITCHING to get home and play more.
    Damn you work! *shakes fist*

    Just a side note, i discovered last night if you own an original copy AND registered it , you get a free upgrade to the enhanced edition (its a 10gig patch though) ....

      Yeah, I'm just wondering if mine updated or not - I couldn't find where it states the current version number. Does the Arena come with the enhanced edition?

        Open the launcher. If it says enhanced edition, you're up to date. If not, grab the patch. The Arena was added in patch 2.0 (most recent before the EE was 2.1).

        If you have it on Steam, the title changes to "Enhanced Edition", if not... what Ad said. :)

    Best PC game of last year. Steam download finished looking forward to playing through again with the new content. Also re-reading the books that have been translated. :)

    Played through the tutorial and prologue last night... can't wait to get back to it after work. I might have to change the difficulty tho, as I only skimmed hte control descriptions, and thus had difficulty throwing knives, parrying, etc, so I got stuffed into Easy and every enemy can be defeated by mashing A.

    I really like this game, but I'm quite terrible at it, I think. I started a game about 8 months ago I was going ok, but then I got up to the Kayran, where I fail gloriously everytime. I get past the first part if dodging & attacking it, but after that I die on the section 'cause I have clue what to do. I might start again and try it again because it does look like it is an awesome game.

      I decided to go back and give it another shot and although it took 5 mins to remember the controls, I finally beat the bastard. :)

      I had to find a walkthrough for the Kayran because it was so damned hard >_<

        LOL you people are insane.
        His attacks are predictable, and it takes a mere 2.36 seconds (approx) to realize what you need to do to keep his tentacles down to attack them.

        Brains! They are mightly useful if used correctly. :p

          I'm aware of that (the tentacles were never the issue, for me anyway). It was after the tentacles, I some how didn't notice the broken bridge on the left side. Smart I know, but we can't all be geniuses with the amazing ability to use our brains correctly, can we? :P

            Apparently not. :p
            I attacked from right to left, so when it fell I saw the path leading up instantly.

              Yeah, I went left to right. So that probably didn't help. But I'm having a blast with this game now, so all good. :)

                Good to hear. I just finished Flotsam yesterday and not long arrived to the Dwarven town (I sided with the nonhumans - just as I did in the first game). :)

    The Swallow potion before fights is hugely important, as it does regenerate health. Quen got nerfed a bit with the EE but is still valuable.

    This kind of article is hugely helpful for someone like me eager to try the game but wants to know some basics. Great job!

    How different is this (if at all) to the v2.0 PC release that's been out for ages?

    Any advice for someone starting for the first time on Dark difficulty?

    hey i need help with cureing the dragon slayer i have tryed 3 different times i just cant get it i get all the ingedients but the magical item and the banner and the sword the dragon slayer has with her i crossed over throw the missed but i cant get to where the catacombs are or the place of magic where i need to go any one know what i need to do oh by the way i got the kayran first go

    I saw this game on steam for $20. Never heard of this game, its predecessor, or the novels that it was based on. Let me just start by saying this game is not worth $20, I easily would have paid $100 for this if I had known it was so damn good. I have never played a game that had so thoroughly entertained me, kept me engaged, and left me very satisfied. Unfortunately I found the first hour of gameplay extremely challenging due to the steep learning curve that exist but after hacking and blasting through enemies for a quest or two I got the hang of it. I might even have to say that this absolutely stellar game full of gorgeous artwork and meticulous attention to detail may have ousted one of my all time favorite game series from my #1 spot (The Jak & Daxter series) This guide has very good information and I will be sure to utilize this advice on my second play through.

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