The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition Preview - Full Frontal Fantasy
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You may not know much about The Witcher series, but you really ought to. The original game was a quiet hit on PC, picking up plenty of fans with its earthy, dark fantasy take on the RPG. Flawed, but nevertheless characterful, the debut from Polish developers CD Projekt RED was an impressive statement of intent.

Then came the follow-up, 2011‘s The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. Righting many of the previous game’s wrongs, CD Projekt RED’s sequel elevated the series to the very peak of the genre, standing proudly alongside the work of BioWare and Bethesda. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition, the console port of that game, could be even better.

Based on the novels of revered Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, The Witcher games follow Geralt of Rivia, a professional monster slayer trained in magic and close combat, imbued with Wolverine-esque regenerative health. Geralt roams the land of Temeria, slaying beasts and spilling blood for money. With a distinctive grey-white ponytail and scarred body, Geralt is a grizzled, no-nonsense murderer.

Similarly, the world he inhabits is a primal, elemental place more akin to Game of Thrones than the high fantasy of Tolkien. Though there are trolls and dwarves, forests and magic, Temeria has a grubby reality to it. The Witcher is fantasy for grown-ups. As such, when Geralt isn't fighting, he's fucking. The protagonist isn't one to beat about the bush and nor is CD Projekt RED. Expect full frontal nudity.

The first game saw Geralt defeat a rebellion by the Order of the Flaming Rose, later helping to protect the King Foltest from a mysterious assassin. The beginning of The Witcher 2 finds Geralt still at Foltest's side, preparing to join one last battle before he is free to track down the King's would-be killer. First, however, there's a newly crafted tutorial mode to navigate.

The Witcher 2 on PC, at release especially, was an uncompromising experience. Making little or no concession to those that hadn't played the first game, it threw you into an opening battle without really explaining the magic system or the melee combat, then left you to the dogs with a vicious difficulty spike early on. The new Enhanced Edition tutorial mode is an effort to sidestep these problems.

Dominated by an arena battle, the tutorial is a little frustrating thanks to a seemingly endless stream of interruptive messages popping up on screen, stopping you from just getting on with playing the game. You have you hand held through every step, yet it's a completely necessary exercise. The Witcher 2's combat isn't necessarily complicated, but there's a hell of a lot going on.

By the time you emerge victorious from the arena tournament, you'll have a decent grasp of the dodging, parrying, countering, plus the alchemy and magic system. You'll also be aware that you can only mix your potions and treat your blades (one sword for monsters, one sword for humans), before you enter into a fight. In this way The Witcher 2 prioritises preparation for battle above all else. You must be prepared.

The Witcher 2 was made with console controls in mind. Even when it first appeared on PC, CD Projekt RED made no bones about the fact that they had created the controls with an eye on a console port. The clean radial menus are a clear indication of that, making analogue stick navigation quick and easy. Peek a little further inside however, and there's a deep, multi-layered set of menus. We'll need more time with them before we can pass judgement, but for now, know that there is a whole bunch of stuff to tinker with and customise.

The actual controls, meanwhile, have made an easy transition. Geralt is nimble and responsive; he dives, rolls, blasts magic and swipes his sword in a satisfying manner. It remarkably works well. The camera, however, is a little  less slick. If you were to be hyper critical, you could say it's a touch twitchy, with what feels like dropped frames if you swoop around too quickly. However, there is time for it to settle in the remaining months before release.

Similarly, CD Projekt RED has struggled to cram the PC version's stunning graphics into the humble Xbox 360. Many of the textures are poor. There's a touch of pop-in here and there too and what were once gorgeous vistas become foggy and relatively claustrophobic, hobbled by poor draw distances. It's not ideal, but nor does it spoil the experience.

Part of what helps you to overlook these grumbles is the extra content included in the Enhanced Edition. There's more than three hours of new missions, plus some of the best CG work I've ever seen. Yet it's more to do with the deeply characterful art style. 

Though some of the technical elements may occasionally fall short, the actual visual direction is a triumph. Dwarven towns have a warm, golden glow about them. Forests twinkle with colour and intricately sketched fauna. Character models, while still building on familiar fantasy tropes, are imbued with genuine character.

A good example of this is a troll we encountered part-way through the demo. With moss and weeds dangling from its thick hide, alongside distinct markings and scars, the troll was immensely characterful, a truly artistic achievement. It puts the efforts of the deeply generic Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning to shame.

This is accentuated by the character's dialogue. He wasn't just a growling monster with a meaningless hunger for flesh, but an alcoholic grump with a desperate thirst for vodka. Properly funny. Similarly, slip into one of the taverns to indulge in a beer or one of the mini-games on offer (there's arm wrestling, dice and fist fighting) and prepare for some fantastic earthy dialogue.

One of the many highlights was being told that “I would rather crush my bollocks with a rock than ever arm wrestle you again.”

It's this sense of character, across the narrative, the world and the people and beings that inhabit it, that represents The Witcher 2's key strength. It reflects the passion of the developers with a style and identity all of its own. That alone is enough to raise excitement levels. That enough is reason to applaud The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition's intent.

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition is out on April 17th, 2012.


User Comments

Forum Posts: 176
Comment #1 by wh1tel1ght
Thursday, March 08, 2012 @ 11:09:08 AM
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Gotta love nudity in videogames.

Forum Posts: 89
Comment #2 by strawberry
Thursday, March 08, 2012 @ 11:11:01 AM
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This game is everything that Dragon Age 2 should have been.

Forum Posts: 2086
Comment #3 by StillTIPPIN187
Thursday, March 08, 2012 @ 11:17:49 AM
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Game is gonna be the shiiit!

Forum Posts: 25
Comment #4 by DarthTrakd
Thursday, March 08, 2012 @ 11:23:01 AM
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@2 this game is what every fantasy RPG should have been, that includes Skyrim (which was epic)

OT: quite looking forward to this, never played the original and was almost beaten up by the fans for that, lol

Forum Posts: 2286
Comment #5 by Daiphyer.
Thursday, March 08, 2012 @ 11:24:57 AM
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I cannot wait for this damn game. A year I had to wait and watch all the PC players play it. Now it's my time, Goddammit.

Forum Posts: 108
Comment #6 by aosiding
Thursday, March 08, 2012 @ 11:42:36 AM
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"when Geralt isn't fighting, he's fucking."

Lol Lee you crack me up, definitely gotta get this game

Forum Posts: 12
Comment #7 by Epic Gamer Will
Thursday, March 08, 2012 @ 11:46:46 AM
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This will be better than every RPG game that came out last year!

Forum Posts: 3
Comment #8 by BlkMac
Thursday, March 08, 2012 @ 11:56:09 AM
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aw c'mon Dragon Age 2 wasnt bad. i personally REALLY enjoyed it except not being able to travel the world like u could in the first one. but still its not as bad as being forced to travel a single line like in RF: Armageddon

Forum Posts: 153
Comment #9 by ninjachicken
Thursday, March 08, 2012 @ 11:58:31 AM
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I'm not a PC gamer so i have never played this series but it looks good.

Forum Posts: 148
Comment #10 by x_Silxx_x
Thursday, March 08, 2012 @ 12:03:31 PM
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This game is fucking STUNNING on PC. Won't look quite so good on Xbox, but it'll still have the quality game play that PC has. Can't wait to earn those Xbox achies!

Forum Posts: 750
Comment #11 by CRA166 T
Thursday, March 08, 2012 @ 01:12:03 PM
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I must say I've been in 2 minds about this, skyrim was the first fantasy rpg that I've played and it left me wanting more. I think this has finally made up my mind.

Forum Posts: 45
Comment #12 by zoopilandia
Thursday, March 08, 2012 @ 01:41:44 PM
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Wikipedia may be wrong, but wasn't the PC version released in 2011?

Forum Posts: 13
Comment #13 by All Hail SoaD
Thursday, March 08, 2012 @ 02:19:23 PM
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Yeah it was. Thats a slight typo.

Forum Posts: 23
Comment #14 by Xero Shinobi
Thursday, March 08, 2012 @ 03:25:04 PM
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this game is NOTHING like dragon age -_-

Forum Posts: 60
Comment #15 by Wtfmissile
Thursday, March 08, 2012 @ 03:39:51 PM
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CD has said more than once this is NOT a port. Take that how you want but it is what it is.

Forum Posts: 1
Comment #16 by GRIM REAPER 25
Thursday, March 08, 2012 @ 04:17:52 PM
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lol nudity is nice but bar fights r better hope u can get wasted in this game

Forum Posts: 53
Comment #17 by Coruba
Thursday, March 08, 2012 @ 05:44:05 PM
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I'm slowly warming to this game, I'm happy the writer seems to think it won't be as derivitive as Amalur because thats what I am worried about when I look at the videos and screenshots.

Forum Posts: 469
Comment #18 by francisrossi
Thursday, March 08, 2012 @ 06:24:11 PM
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I really like The Witcher, but my laptop isn't up to the sequel. It runs it, but it's unplayable.

Forum Posts: 102
Comment #19 by BlackRiderRazil
Thursday, March 08, 2012 @ 08:18:15 PM
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Tried to play the first one, my computer literally killed itself rather than run it. Got a new computer, just could never quite get it to work smoothly. Didn't even try the second one on PC (cause, you know, computers aren't cheap and I didn't want to have another one kill itself in shame). Cannot wait for this to hit the 360, just a little glad my fiance will be out of the country for most of June. No distractions.

Forum Posts: 125
Comment #20 by Jesuit007
Friday, March 09, 2012 @ 09:14:01 AM
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"It puts the efforts of the deeply generic Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning to shame."

Lee Bradley is rapidly becoming my least favorite video game writer in history. Snark, vitriol, and general nastiness seem to be all he likes to bring to these articles.

Amalur had terrific qualities, so did Skyrim, so does Witcher 2. If you skip any of them (especially do to piss-poor reviewing), you are missing out on great experiences in gaming.

Forum Posts: 60
Comment #21 by Wtfmissile
Friday, March 09, 2012 @ 12:10:12 PM
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He has a point though....I like Amalur, the combat is fun, but it's generic as hell and does nothing new or truly different outside of having a good combat system. I can't even sit down and play it for more than 30minutes because every time I do I get bored and felt like I already played....which I have over the past 10 or 12 years....just with different coats of paint and gloss. :)

Forum Posts: 46
Comment #22 by LeeBradley [STAFF]
Friday, March 09, 2012 @ 05:42:42 PM
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I'm sorry you feel that way, Jesuit2007. Snark, vitriol and general nastiness isn't my intention. I'm just trying to communicate how I feel about the game.

It's also worth noting that I enjoyed Amalur. I wouldn't encourage people not to play it. It has great qualities, but its shortcomings are directly in line with The Witcher 2's qualities. That's all.

Forum Posts: 125
Comment #23 by Jesuit007
Saturday, March 10, 2012 @ 09:33:51 AM
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Not going to get into an internet argument, and I understand that reviews are simply opinions. However, with that said, Amalur is no more or less "generic" than Dragon Age, Elder Scrolls, or Mass Effect. If you read the lore in any of those games, there is no mistaking it for any other game within the genre. That's the opposite of generic.

Also, even though reviews are opinions, if you fall back on that argument without being willing or able to defend said opinion, then the review isn't very good. The Amalur review was terrible, and to attack the game again in a review for Witcher 2 (which admittedly is another great game) is petty and immature.

People that throw around criticisms like "generic" should first look the word up, then try to find any game in the stable of peers for the game they are reviewing and be objective about how they apply said criticism. It would make reviews far better in the long run.

Forum Posts: 25
Comment #24 by kabel1987
Monday, March 12, 2012 @ 04:58:25 AM
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I have Kingdoms Of Amalur, and its one of the most fluid combat driven RPG out there. I also plan to buy Witcher-2, but when I read a review, I just ignore the dabs taken at a game that I like and concentrate on what this game has to offer me. But thats how I do it.

Forum Posts: 3
Comment #25 by Eoth
Tuesday, March 13, 2012 @ 03:02:47 AM
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I can completely see your point, though I think there mat be a difference between generic fantasy in Amalur and a game like the Witcher or Mass Effect.

See the genre in itself means certain things will be there. Mass Effect is Sci-Fi so you can expect space ships, strange planets, aliens and shiny carbonfiber armors. Mass Effect imho isn't generic because of how it handles these things. The species like Quarians, Turians and Drell are very well thought up and quite refreshing. The way they act, how their stance in the universe etc. is. I mean the first time you meet one of these species it's a very interesting thing, you can actually be interested in what the character and their race will be like.

Amalur's settings, races and characters looks to be right a page straight out of World of Warcraft book. Which by itself is a page straight out of the Warhammer book. etc. Now this doesn't mean it's bad, but it isn't suprising either. You meet a Fae, it's an Elf, meet a Ljosalfar it's a Dark Elf looking and acting just like a Dark Elf would etc.
However this can be said for Skyrim as well, or Dragon Age. So yes Amalur has been getting too much negativity on being generic (or the other games too little)

The Witcher is a hard one. On one hand the Elves are Elves, a Dwarf will look and act like one etc. But it's the character and setting of the entire world that sets them apart. Maybe because fantasy is always a bit too Good vs Evil, very few grey area's. Whilst the Witcher is nothing but different shades of grey.

Forum Posts: 5
Comment #26 by Dawg Pound 88
Thursday, March 15, 2012 @ 12:14:28 PM
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This is looking like it's going to make a Game of the Year run. The graphics are understandable not to be as good as the PC, until the next gen-consoles come out anyway, but with everything that is being said about this game it is really something to look forward too. Cannot wait until April 17th.

Forum Posts: 499
Comment #27 by AirborneRichard
Thursday, March 15, 2012 @ 02:54:05 PM
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I def looking ahead to play this game i heared so much goos stuff about the PC version and when i heared abit later CD was planning on making an xbox360 version it def made my day. Now we not to far from the actual release date and its def day 1 buy for me.

Forum Posts: 124
Comment #28 by Croc 494
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 05:55:53 PM
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Shame GAME won't be open to sell it to me.

Forum Posts: 46
Comment #29 by LeeBradley [STAFF]
Saturday, March 17, 2012 @ 10:13:53 PM
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I think @25 said it best.

The quality of a work of genre is judged not by how closely it sticks to the tropes, but by what it chooses to subvert and how it chooses to subvert them.

We're missing the point, anyway. The Witcher has a feel, character and tone all of its own. It is its own thing. Amalur was a good game. I enjoyed it. But the world and characters did not speak to me at all. I felt that was a major failing.

That was the point I was making.

Forum Posts: 5
Comment #30 by Ch4k4
Sunday, March 18, 2012 @ 06:06:42 PM
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I look forward to the console "port". The books are amazing and rather then argue over graphics or genre similarities lets hope that great games keep making their way to the Xbox, let us not forget why we play games in the first place, story. Graphics are probably the bottom of the list to me when it comes to great games. There's my 10 cents and it's free.

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Game Info
CD Projekt Red


US April 17, 2012

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