CD Projekt RED’s new RPG, The Witcher 2, is a fantastic adult role-playing game that, despite its flaws, will astound and amaze you. The game puts you in the role of a monster-slayer, known as a “Witcher”, named Geralt who has been framed for a regicide he did not commit. The game features an engaging, mature storyline with several twists and turns to keep you guessing as well as fast-paced combat and a visceral style.
Adult Themes – If you follow a top-down approach to selecting responses to questions directed at you, you will see full frontal nudity within the first ten minutes of the game. The Witcher 2 is an ADULT RPG – meaning that it is the equivalent of watching a hard R-rated film. There is nudity, foul language, giblet-tossing violence, and a lot more. Thankfully, none of it feels gratuitous and it all works within the bounds of The Witcher 2’s universe and plot.
Story – The game’s story features an intricate web of characters, each with their own desires and motivations. Not only that, but the player ends up shaping the story greatly as the game goes on. Responses to questions as well as your actions can have serious implications. Thankfully, going back to the point about it being an adult RPG, the game never really clarifies what those outcomes will be (good, bad, etc) when you are making them. It is up to your judgment to do what you think you must and the game readily-adapts to those choices. The game also makes use of lengthy cutscenes to move the story along. Sometimes these are pre-rendered, but they are very often rendered in real-time using the game engine and look incredible.
Visuals and Audio – The Witcher 2 is one of the best-looking games I have ever had grace my computer monitors. The environments are lush and believable while characters are very lifelike without hitting the uncanny valley – it is a nice blend of stylization and realistic human features. Monsters are more of the same – beautiful to behold and very fun to slaughter. On the audio front, the character voice over work is very good and the environmental audio lives up to the visuals in making you feel a part of the world. Additionally, creature noises are very important to tracking them down in sometimes very lush scrub, bush, etc and the sound department did a great job to this end. In the previously-mentioned cutscenes, the voice actors pull through and give great performances.
Character Progression – The Witcher 2 features a traditional RPG, experience-based leveling system whereby the player acquires talent points to spend in new abilities, actions, etc. The tree is separated out into multiple paths and players can pick and choose as they like so long as they stick with the tree branch system. The system is excellent and makes enhancing Geralt’s abilities a breeze.
What Was ‘Meh’
Crafting & Alchemy – The Witcher 2 features an alchemy and crafting system by which you can collect herbs and a multitude of other objects to craft together various items, potions, etc for your use. While not a “bad” system, I found that the mindless running around and collecting all the crap needed to make some of these items took away from what I loved most about the game – the involvement in the storyline. If the game were not so strong in that department, the crafting might have been a real bonus to the gameplay.
Sluggish Actions – An unfortunate edition to the “meh” portion of this review, the game’s controls can sometimes be very sluggish. Several actions can be performed just by clicking the left mouse button – in this it is almost too simple for its own good. This is because the triggers for searching, climbing, descending, and using items (all left-clicks mind you) can be very easy to miss while running about. Not only that, but it seemed to take several clicks of my mouse to get Geralt to climb or descend – as if it was not detecting the initial clicks or something. Also, while if you get in front of a monster and click, Geralt will attack with his sword, if you are next to one of these triggers and try the same thing – monster or no, he will trigger the action instead of swinging his sword. I would much rather have seen a space bar that triggered a real “jump” action and, perhaps, grabbing on to a ledge than the less dynamic system currently in place.
Bugs – Unfortunately, the game is suffering from some launch bugs, such as the inability to run the game in fullscreen on some SLI and Crossfire rigs. Thankfully, CD Projeckt RED has a long-history of updating their titles for quite some time after release, so it probably won’t take them long to fix this stuff.
If you are 17 years of age or older, you owe it to yourself to pickup The Witcher 2 right away. This is EXACTLY the kind of gameplay experience that shows off what the PC platform is capable of and it is just a shame that more companies are not willing to take the risks that CD Projekt RED has with this title. Despite its flaws, The Witcher 2 is easily one of the best games of 2011 on any platform and I hope it spurs some console gamers to put down their gamepads for a moment and pickup a mouse and keyboard for once to see what it’s like.