The Witcher 2- The Adventure of Geralt of Rivia Continues (PC)
Publisher - Atari
Developer - CDProjekt
Release Date - May 17, 2011
Platforms - PC , Xbox 360 (Nov. 15, 2011)
by Matthew F. Hibben
Four years have passed since the epic adventure known as The Witcher reshaped what a RPG could aspire to be. Atari's latest installment of the Witcher, The Witcher 2 has just hit shelves internationally and this week's Game Tech article both reviews and explores how CDProjekt expands on the tale of Geralt of Rivia.
Introduction and Background
The Witcher broke new ground in terms of what an RPG could encompass. In The Witcher the player shaped the morality of Geralt through actions and dialog that would ripple through the rest of the game in often subtle ways. The scope of the game was also a departure in the sense that quests had a quality of being in it for the long haul, quests would carry over from one act to the next as facts were deduced by Geralt. Finally the level of detail down to the most minute was rendered fully from physical details of the playable environment to the mechanics of dice games and boxing.
The Witcher is a class of modified human trained and genetically altered to perform the roll of monster hunter and a general purpose mercenary. The story of TW2 (The Witcher 2) continues the tale of Geralt of Rivia. Geralt once again will be saving townships from menacing beasts, engaging in fistfights, gambling, and of course the occasional (or not so occasional) romances.
The Game installs out of the box very smoothly although with some initial patches needed. From what I read, the first few days the game was out there were numerous installation problems and I am guessing these early patches were solved these problems, seeing as I had a problem free installation. TW2 at first glance feels very similar to TW1, although with vastly improved graphics. The game starts similarly with a lush cinematic as well as a very lengthy prologue. Movement around the environment as well as interacting with objects is also the same.
The first real noticeable changes are to combat. Combat in TW2 differs most in the fact that multiple combat styles are out, as well as combos. In TW1 the player would need to select different combat styles based on the enemy or enemies they were facing. In addition to combat styles the player also needed to perform combat combos based on subtle timing of screen icon responses.
The attacks of TW2 fall into left click and right click attacks, and of course the switching between steel swords (for humans) and silver swords (for monsters). My biggest gripe with the changes to combat are not the slimming down of the system, although I do miss the added dimension of using different combat styles and timing combos, it's the sluggishness of combat. Drawing your sword when enemies appear as well as switching from the steel sword often takes very long, resulting in a fare bit of frustration.
Where combat takes a turn for the better is when facing act bosses. TW2 just like TW1 concludes each act with a grandiose fight that tends to play on what Geralt has learned through deduction over the course of the act. In TW2 the combat view changes to almost an interactive cinematic, which is at first a little confusing, but certainly adds to the importance of the battle. For example, Act 1 finishes with Geralt facing a beast that has been plaguing a small township. During the course of the battle, the camera view, as well playable area changes to adjust to various points at the monster that must be neutralized.
Quests in TW1 were one of my most favorite facets of the game. Geralt's morality was shaped and molded by both how you completed quests as well as how you interacted with both quest givers and supporting characters. In addition it seemed that no task was too small or too obscure for the Witcher to deal with, with side quests ranging from simple tasks like helping a damsel fight off would be attackers, or perhaps siding with the would be attackers, to things of a more shadowy nature like engaging in underground boxing matches. All of the minute quests and morality oriented aspects are back in TW2, however, there certainly seems to be a sense that CDProjekt scaled back the use of longer side quests. Players once again must choose between siding with humans or non humans just as they did in TW1, and I definitely enjoyed the greater impact these changes made to entire acts.
Changes to Other Mechanics
Just as I stated earlier TW2 has changes to mechanics such as the combat system, other changes also include potions and the new crafting system. Using potions in TW1 was a large part of game, as much of the process to become a Witcher deals with learning alchemy. The best part of potions and their use in TW1 was how easy it was to use them. This sadly is not the case in TW2 as players must meditate each time they want to use a potion. Meditating is an act where the player goes into a non combat seated state where the player can engage in all sorts of actions from sleeping(changing the time of day), creating potions and bombs. spending ability points, as well as using potions.
So the on the fly use of potions is out in TW2, and I am sad to see it go. Another change to mechanics, and this one for the better, is item creation and enhancement. In TW2 the player has a much wider array of armors and armor slots to choose from as well as a very broad array of types of armors that can be crafted by various NPC's. In addition to great increases in craftable armor is the addition of armor and weapon upgrading parts that Geralt can install himself. These armor and weapon upgrades are great additions for players who want to further customize Geralt's combat style.
TW2 had a lot of expectations to live up to, and certainly a regurgitation of TW1 with updated graphics is not what I think constitutes a sequel for any game. I made note of many changes that are certainly unfavorable compared to TW1, but make no mistake, TW2 is still an awesome game. For players new to The Witcher franchise, this will be a refreshing diversion from the typical RPG experience.
The Witcher 2 Video Review