Preview: The Witcher 2: Assassins Of Kings [Xbox 360]
There are tales that speak of monsters and evil creatures in a land that is different from our own, a world where a simple venture outside could prove a dangerous and lethal activity. When your very way of life is in jeopardy as a result, it’s time to call in the professionals; the witchers.
Charged with the protection of humans, elves and dwarves, witchers are self-mutated humans who kill monsters for a price, effectively safeguarding and protecting towns and villages. However in recent times because of the downfall of their home, witchers have become glorified bounty hunters.
Geralt of Rivia is one of the last few remaining witchers in the fantasy land of Temeria. This is his story.
Name: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
Genre: Role Playing Game
Platforms: Xbox 360
Developers: CD Projekt RED
Publishers: Namco Bandai
Release Date: February 2012 (Pending confirmation)
I thought it would be apt to do a preview on The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, from here on sans extended title, since it is releasing for Xbox 360 next month and there have been enough significant changes from the original version that released on PC to justify getting excited over it.
With that taken care of, the next order of business is the sequel nature of the game. Like Mass Effect 2 on PS3, where the previous game in the series was entirely missing in action and so replaced by an interactive comic to fill in the blanks, the first game in the Witcher series has no console version but will not be accounted for in any way, shape or form. Unlike Mass Effect 2 on PS3 however, the first Witcher game is entirely irrelevant to the second.
The first Witcher bears resemblance to the sequel insofar as the world and lore upon which the games are based, the main character upon which the story is based and the genre upon which the series is based. So basically, only the good bits.
The Witcher 2 boasts an entirely new game engine that has only Battlefield 3 with its Frostbite 2 engine as competition, albeit for PC. It is the same engine that will be utilised in the console version, and judging from all that has been seen so far, they’ve shirked on very little to get it running at a playable rate. It’s truly something to look forward to, for Xbox 360 gamers who enjoy graphics and visuals on their now extremely dated hardware.
The game’s engine also allows for an entirely new and streamlined combat system that focuses more on the action elements of a game that is played from the third person perspective. No more of that tedious clicking at the right time so Geralt can do some dance on your screen, like in the first game (for those who’ve played it). This time around, Geralt is a right and proper warrior who, although still enjoys the odd barrel roll here and there, controls very much like an elite soldier with a sword. Two swords, actually.
All of that is good and well, but everyone knows that an RPG is all about the story that the game tells, and how immersive your experience will be once you give it a go.
Once again, you are Geralt of Rivia, a witcher who is under the employ of a king during a time of war between capitals in the fantasy land of Temeria. As a witcher, he is charged with protecting his employer from any and all monsters, creatures and even humans if they so dared to challenge him. To add to his troubles, Geralt is suffering from amnesia and has huge gaps in his memory that he and Triss Merigold, a red-headed mage whom he is in a relationship with, must fill.
Before he can do so, however, tragedy and controversy strikes as he is framed for the murder of the king he was charged to protect, effectively being labelled as not only a kingslayer, but an enemy of the state, together with his mage girlfriend. Held captive for the crime by Vernon Roche, the head of his Majesty’s secret service, Geralt eventually convinces his captor to free him so that together they may find the true kingslayer and bring him to justice, thereby clearing Geralt’s name.
What follows is a story of intrigue and politically charged controversy as Geralt’s endeavours find him in the company of rich and powerful parties; other kings of the land, sorcerers, mages, rebel leaders and other witchers.
To call the story of The Witcher 2 a compelling and fulfilling experience would be the understatement of the year, and this in a year when people are clamouring over the untimely demise of humanity amongst other things. It is mature beyond words, and there are adult themes in play that have truly set it apart from other games in the genre.
Better yet, all of the updates that were brought to the PC version of the game will be carried through as well, so you can expect the slightly newer Dark difficulty as well as the tutorial sections and re-worked inventory system for easier navigation using your standard Xbox 360 controller.
The standard Xbox 360 controller in fact, is far more suited to the style of play that is on show in The Witcher 2. Geralt is quick, nimble and handles very much like a character from various other third person action titles that involve swordplay, but with a twist of RPG flair with potions, traps, skills and attribute points affecting the outcome of battles more so than simple combat acumen.
What’s even better is that because you’re playing on an Xbox 360, you finally get Achievements! Okay, I had to add that bit in, because it’s important to achievement whores like myself.
The Witcher 2 has sixteen different endings to the story, in total. Entire sequences of the game play out differently based on your choices prior to those points. The game reeks of replayability, especially when you factor in that as Geralt, you may opt to focus on either combat, powers or mutant abilities.
As well as warriors, witchers are able users of magic, and have their own set of powers and spells available to them. They also use two types of swords, one for human enemies and one for monsters. Finally, their many years of intense training have mutated and warped their bodies until their eyes turned wolf-like and in Geralt’s case, hair lost all colour. It’s for that reason that he is dubbed The White Wolf, by those who revere his name.
The final point that bears mention is that The Witcher 2 is a difficult game. Brutally so. Unlike many other RPGs where playing on the normal difficulty setting is enough for a game with some challenge but not that much, where you could get away with minor indulgence in the game’s other various means to damage, heal (potions, spells, traps, etc.) or otherwise, in The Witcher 2, if you don’t utilise every possible item in your inventory, you will fail miserably. Even on normal difficulty. It is tough as steel nails. Granted it’s no Dark Souls, but there are points where the games are on parallel in terms of difficulty.
So with all of that said, if you are a fan of intriguingly intricate, mature plotlines that branch out depending on your choices, with none of that morality garbage that plagues other RPGs, you really need to look out for this game. If you are a fan of games with tough but fair combat, where you need to explore every avenue of your character’s arsenal in order to emerge victorious, you really need to look out for this game. If you like digital renditions of sexual encounters with females, you really need to look out for this game. Are you excited yet?