The Ultimate The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Primer
Written Monday, April 23, 2012 By Lee BradleyView author's profile
Currently sitting astride the UK charts and boasting a coveted 90 score from X360A, The Witcher 2 is already a big hit. Yet that doesn’t tell the whole story. Created by Andrzej Sapkowski, The Witcher’s adventures now stretch across novels, short story collections, a movie, a TV show and of course the PC-exclusive RPG, The Witcher 1. It’s kind of a big deal.
So, whether you’ve already picked up The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings or not, it’s likely that there are a few gaps in your knowledge. Allow us to educate you. We’ll cover the origin story, the first game, the crappy TV series, the character that stripped for Playboy and more... You know, the important stuff.
Read on for everything you need to know about the world of The Witcher, but watch out, there are spoilers for the first game and the novels. There are no spoilers, however, for The Witcher 2.
What is a witcher?
Witchers are a breed of warrior monks, swordsmen versed in magic and trained specifically to keep humans safe from monsters… for a fee. But you probably know that. Here’s a few things you may not know.
Witchers are normal children separated from their families in order to undergo training. At the heart of this training lies the Trial of Grasses, in which the children are forced to ingest mutagenic herbs, mushrooms and natural stimulants. It’s a skin-searingly painful and fatally dangerous process. Those that live through the ordeal are rewarded with superhuman reflexes, endurance, hearing and vision. But only very few survive.
Looked upon with fear and mistrust as a result of their otherness, only a few witchers remain, leading a solitary existence. In the games, the site of the witchers’ training, the fortress Kaer Morhen, has been destroyed by fearful fanatics. Nobody remains to continue the line. As a result, witchers are a dying breed.
Who is Geralt?
Also known as Geralt of Rivia, the White Wolf or Gwynbleidd (amongst other things), Geralt is the main character of the stories. He’s also one of the most powerful witchers.
Given away as a ten year-old boy, Geralt was exposed to more powerful experiments in the Trial of Grasses than anyone else, a process so traumatic that it turned his hair white and imbued him with increased abilities. He’s king of the badasses.
He also has a fondness for the ladies. The lusty lad does it at every available opportunity, yet he can never have children. His witcher training left him sterile and impervious to disease, so basically he can do the dance with no pants with whoever he wants, without having to worry about babies or nasty rashes. Nice! He has a true love too, but more on that later.
Who is Andrzej Sapkowski?
Sapkowski created the Witcher books, upon which everything is based. Yet it wasn’t until 1986, when he was almost 40, that he turned author, submitting a short story to Poland’s leading fantasy mag, Fantastyka. The story was called Wied?min (Witcher).
Since then, Sapkowski has published two short story collections and a series of five novels in the Witcher universe. The books have won him more awards than we’ve got space to list, but there’s a snag. Not all of Sapkowski’s Witcher stories have been translated into English.
Some have, however. So if you want to start reading the books then the best place to start is The Last Wish – the first collection of short stories. From there you can think about grappling with Blood of Elves, the first novel in the Witcher Saga of novels. The second novel, Times of Contempt, is to be translated and published this December.
What happens in the first game?
The first game is set after the events of the Witcher Saga, in which Geralt is killed while attempting to defend non-humans against insurmountable odds. Or at least, it was presumed he was dead. He actually returns mysteriously, with no memory of his previous life.
As the game progresses, Geralt re-establishes his relationship with his friends and allies, all while trying to untangle a conspiracy involving a gang called the Salamandra, who have stolen the last of the mutagens used in The Trial of the Grasses. All of this takes place amidst a race war between the Scoia'tael and The Order of the Flaming Rose.
At the end of the game, Geralt unravels the mystery, receives his reward from King Foltest and turns to leave. But as he does so, an assassin bursts in and attempts to kill the king. Geralt intercepts him, slays him and rips off his mask. The assassin is a witcher too, establishing the central mystery that drives the narrative of the sequel.
Also, there’s sex. Lots of it. In fact, Geralt goes around poking his sword in so many women that the game even rewards you with little soft porn cards for each of your conquests. Gotta catch ‘em all, etc. This aspect of the game was generally poorly received and never made it to the sequel.
Who are the women in Geralt’s life?
Though Geralt may hop from bed to bed more than Ryan Giggs with a pocketful of Viagra, there are only really two women in his life; Yennefer of Vengerberg and Triss Merrigold.
With raven black hair and violet eyes, Yennefer is famous for her beauty. She’s a main character across all of the Witcher stories, a powerful sorceress who is sterile like Geralt, incapable of mothering a child, yet she is also Geralt’s true love, so she searches desperately for a way to restore her fertility.
But if Yennefer is famous for her beauty, she’s got nothing on Triss Merrigold, which is ironic because Triss Merrigold often has nothing on. Another sorceress, this time with deep, flame red hair; such are Triss’ charms that she has even posed on the cover of Polish Playboy. Her relationship with Geralt is a little more on-off and up-down, if you know what I mean.
What about the TV series and movie?
Universally panned for being rubbish, Sapkowski’s short stories have also been adapted for the screen. Called “The Hexer” - an alternative translation of Wied?min - the 2001 movie looked like it was edited by a blind man with no thumbs. It just didn’t make any sense and became a laughing stock as a result.
There was a reason for that, however. The movie was actually a cut down version of a 13-part TV series, hacked beyond all recognition. When the TV show was eventually broadcast in its entirety the next year, its association with the crappy movie meant it was doomed before it even began.
Yet despite this, and despite having a budget that makes Xena the Warrior Princess look like Lord of the Rings, I found myself strangely mesmerized by the first episode. You can watch it below. And no, Triss doesn’t get her boobs out. In fact she’s not even in it. Sorry.
So there you have it, our ultimate primer for The Witcher 2 is complete. Armed with this information, you should be able to dive into Geralt’s adventure and have a decent idea of what’s going on. And if you’re already knee-deep in Kayran blood, then maybe you’ll enjoy your adventure even more.