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The Witcher 2 is the sequel to a title that has garnered quite a good following, thanks to the game being well-made and a class act, especially where the developers, CDProjekt, are concerned. So, why did the game get quite a good following thanks to the developers? It's because they supported the game well after release and released a massive update free of charge for everyone. It went beyond being a mere patch and fixed issues with the game, as well as redoing the voice acting amongst other things.
In addition, the game's world was mature and it had one of the best 'choice and consequences' systems I've ever seen.The game itself was set in the world created by the polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. It featured Geralt as the main character and the world is dark and grimy, therefore meaning the game was for a mature audience with sex and bad language being featured amongst other things.
The Witcher 2 features everything mentioned and it builds upon the success of the first game. Before moving on though, it's important to note that the game continues on from where the first game ended story-wise. While the story and setting may be confusing at first for players who haven't played the first game, it's not necessary to have played it.
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As mentioned above, the game's story begins after the first game's conclusion. At the game's end, Geralt managed to prevent an assassin from killing King Foltest. This led to Foltest asking Geralt to remain at his side. Geralt himself is a mutant and he hunts monsters for a living.
At the game's start, Geralt is being interrogated and there are flashbacks to when Geralt was still with the King in the midst of a siege. I won't spoil the rest of the plot but Geralt's in prison because of what transpires during the siege. He needs to clear his name and it is a story that features politics, war and racism.
In addition, racism adds a lot to the story because elves and dwarves are treated like dirt by the human populace. This has led to elves and dwarves fighting for their freedom, though they are sometimes nothing more than terrorists. With Geralt being a mutant, he's not treated nicely either. This means he can emphasise with the plight that non-humans face and you, as players, will have to decide what to do when it comes to choosing sides.
Overall, the story is good and it's really refreshing to have a mature story, where everything's shades of grey, rather than black and white.
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The game has both roleplaying and action elements. So, don't expect the game to play like the old Dungeons and Dragons games, such as Baldur's Gate. The combat is active, so you don't just click enemies and then watch Geralt hit them. There are also QTEs (quick time events), which some people hate. Apart from that, the roleplaying elements come in the form of an inventory, conversation trees and branching paths (more on branching paths later), decision making and levelling your character alongside tackling quests. There is also an in-depth crafting system present, though one complaint I do have is that there's no storage at the moment, which means you'll perhaps find you can't keep everything you want to. I'm not sure whether it's an oversight by the developers, but I do miss the ability to store items, especially as crafting is rather important in The Witcher 2.
Regarding the character development system, you have four skill trees that you can invest points in. One point per level is earned and each skill costs one point to raise, with each having two levels. The character development system is nice, but again, there is one possible flaw when it comes to mutagens. Mutagens are items that you can slot into skills that have space for them and once they're placed, they can't be removed or overwritten. This is made worse by the fact that mutagens come in various rarities like weapons and armor, therefore meaning some are more powerful than others. Of course, this could be patched or it may be intended. Also, there are abilities that can be earned during the game by doing various things. For instance, you may find it easier to persuade characters if you pick particular options in dialog once you've gained an ability.
Now then, QTEs are used when facing bosses (that can be massive) and for certain events, like brawling. Next, combat sees you pressing the left mouse button to hit enemies with a weak attack and the right mouse button to hit them with a strong attack. Geralt can also roll and block, as well as use magical signs for offensive and defensive purposes. The combat is quite hard, though once you get used to it and level up some, it does get easier. Again though, keep in mind the game's hard and it will punish you if you don't play on easy as you learn the game.
Next up is the decision making and the branching paths that the story can take. It features everything that made the first game great and ratchets it up a notch. Even the smallest decisions can have an effect on what happens (though not too drastic). However, to give an idea of how the big decisions can affect how the story plays out, the later acts feature different quests based on who you ally with and you will visit different locations. So, you'll have to play more than once to see all of the game's content.
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Graphics, Presentation, Sound and Technical Aspects
There is not much to say here. The game looks absolutely gorgeous and the sound is also great. The game even looks good on the lowest graphical settings. I didn't run into any technical problems while playing the game either. However, working out how to get the game to run for the first time was a different matter.
When I'd installed the game from GOG.com, I registered and tried to launch the game from the launcher. The game's symbol appeared in the middle of the screen and then disappeared. It wasn't a one-off occurence either. However, as soon as I chose to play the game in windowed mode, it worked. For the record, I use a Nvidia GeForce 9600 GT graphics card, so just keep that in mind when buying the game and if you run into problems getting it to launch.
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The game is definitely a candidate for game of the year in my mind, thanks to the game's great writing and story, alongside the visual presentation and the sound. It's not perfect however and it is the issues I've mentioned that knock a few points off the rating. In addition, as I mentioned in the gameplay section, the game can be hard and the game's normal difficulty isn't the same as normal in other games. So, if you don't like a challenge, you may want to stay clear of the game. Or at least play it on the easy setting until you get the hang of the game's combat. Also, it does require you to have fairly good reflexes with the combat system being action based. Keep in mind that the game does require a fairly decent computer to run as well, unless my computer is so far behind the 'norm' today.
Overall, I'd definitely give the game a 4/5 rating. Possibly a 4.5/5 if they fix the issues mentioned via patches.