The Witcher 2: Intense, Confusing and Deliciously Salacious.

I’m a bit of a stickler when it comes to playing games in sequence. If a game comes out that has a sequel I’ll usually have to play the original first before playing any of the others, unless it’s a strategy game or something where the plot isn’t as important. It can be a real chore sometimes when the games preceding the current release have excessive amounts of play time (I’m looking at you, aptly named The Longest Journey) but I figure that should the sequel be any good than so should the original. The Witcher 2 then comes in as one of the few games where I’ve broken this rule, having not played the original game but after many recommendations I decided to give it go. What followed was definitely one of the more interesting RPG experiences I had and confirmation that my general rule for playing games in sequence is the right way to go.

You play as Geralt of Rivia, a “Witcher” which is a person who was extensively experimented on by wizards and sorceresses as a child. As such he has vivid yellow eyes and the ability to cast Signs which are in essence just spells. From what I can gather the original Witcher started off with Geralt completely losing his memory, thus forcing him to relearn all his training once again. This gives people like me a rather interesting in for being able to play the sequel without playing the first since Geralt is still recovering fragments of his memory as the game progresses. Still there are enough characters who appear to know Geralt solely from his exploits in the first game to make it look like playing the original would be worth it, even if they’re inconsequential to the overall plot.

Graphically the game is quite impressive. In fact this was the first game to bring my machine to its knees after turning everything to its absolute maximum, no small feat considering Crysis 2 barely made it break a sweat on the same level. However after re-tweaking the settings and jumping back into the game it wasn’t different visually so I have to assume that the one setting that said “only for high end machines” is actually just a poorly coded feature. Still the game does have some fantastically lush environments ranging from sprawling cities to deep, dark forests all of which are done exceptionally well.

The Witcher 2 is also completely voice acted with every character in the game having a range of dialogue lines. Encounters like the one above have sprawling dialogue trees enabling you to craft Geralt’s demeanour as you see fit. The voice acting is somewhat lacklustre with Geralt’s gravely voice being delivered in a constant monotone and many of the other characters echoing his performance.  The idle chatter of non-plot NPCs is unfortunately quite limited often repeating the same lines in response to the same trigger event like when Geralt enters the area. For the most part you can ignore it though except when one obnoxious NPC keeps shouting “Bite his balls!” every 20 seconds. 

Combat in The Witcher 2 starts off being extremely tedious as the game relies quite heavily on knowledge attained from the original game. This coupled with a lack of tutorials (lest you have to dive through the in game manual to find what you’re looking for) and incredibly difficult first encounters serves to make the opening scenes of The Witcher 2 rather tiresome rather that enjoyable. Indeed I never found myself playing much longer than an hour or so to begin with specifically because combat was such a chore. Talking over with my friends this doesn’t appear to be an isolated experience although apparently certain unbalanced abilities (Quen) make quite a lot of the game trivial. That’s all well and good but I wanted to play a particular play style (mage path) and using that ability precluded the use of the talents I had heavily invested in. It did get much better towards the end however as Geralt’s abilities became incredibly powerful, able to dispatch legions of enemies before running out of vigor.

Other aspects of the game had me searching for quite a while to figure out how to accomplish certain tasks. The two sword mechanic, steel for humans and silver for monsters, was only revealed after discussing the topic with friends (Of course I hadn’t noticed that the combat log was telling me this the whole time). Crafting is also a bit of a strange beast with Geralt being able to craft his own potions but not anything else, requiring the help of NPCs to craft everything else. There’s also no real indication of what items are useful and which aren’t, leading to your inventory being filled with all sorts of miscellanea that may or may not be helpful for you. I ended up installing a weight reduction mod so that all the crafting crap didn’t weigh anything, making crafting actually worth pursuing rather than a total crapshoot.

The various mini-games in The Witcher 2 serve as something to break up the long quests that the game sends you on as well as functioning as an unlimited money supply. Most of them are quite easy (like arm wrestling and the fist fights) but the dice poker game, since it involves a lot of chance, ends up being a lot more difficult. They seem to be a necessary evil as many items in the game are simply unattainable with the amount of orens you loot or are rewarded with during your stay in the game. Sure most of the best items in the game are crafted but even those require a pretty hefty orens investment, and you’d be struggling to get the required sum without playing numerous mini-games.

The Witcher 2 also takes the crown as being one of the most liberal games when it comes to Geralt getting down with the fairer sex. The opening scenes have him caressing his (naked) main love interest Triss Merigold for a good couple minutes before the plot gets underway. After that point there’s no less than 4 times when women (and demons) will throw themselves at you or, for a few orens, cheerfully take you to their bed. However, apart from some brief interludes with Triss, none of the romping really leads anywhere and for some reason Triss doesn’t seem to care how many women you get with. It then seems that sex is treated more as a reward rather than something meaningful which is unfortunate but is nothing out of the ordinary.

Where The Witcher 2 does shine though is in its action scenes. Whilst the boss fights are few and far between they are all rather intense encounters keeping your heart racing and your gaze fixed on the screen as you do battle with some really fantastical foes. There’s also many 300 inspired slow motion action scenes which whilst cheesy are pretty cool to watch. A few are also quick time events and whilst not entirely difficult (I never failed  single one) they are enough to keep you from breaking immersion when an in game cut scene is playing through.

The story of The Witcher 2 is servicable but unlike other chapter based RPGs like Dragon Age 2 it does have some semblance of an over-arching goal to keep you driven throughout the entire game. I’ll be honest though at the start it’s slow going especially when the all other aspects of the game add endless amounts of tedium. Still Chapter 2 felt quite well paced (I chose Iorveth’s path) and whilst Chapter 3 was incredibly short in comparison it also felt a lot better than Chapter 1 did. The ending however was a total cock tease, foreboding to a big battle that is about to come but abruptly cutting you off before you have the chance to join it. For fans of the game this at least means they’ve got The Witcher 3 to look forward to, but I’ll never forgive games that leave plots so open like that.

Throughout The Witcher 2 I couldn’t shake the feeling that my whole experience of the game would’ve been a whole lot better had I played through its predecessor. Honestly the only reason I didn’t was because of Yahtzee’s rather scathing review of it since I hadn’t heard anything else about it (which is an oddity for me). Still on its own The Witcher 2 is a decent game and I could see myself coming back to it during a game draught to play through Roche’s path just so I could get the complete experience. If you’re a fan of the RPG genre The Witcher 2 won’t be a disappointment to you however if you’re like me and haven’t played the original I’d strongly recommend doing so as otherwise you’ll end up like me wondering why certain things are the way they are and forever googling basics of the game that its developers have assumed you already know.

Rating: 7.5/10

The Witcher 2 is available on PC and Xbox360 right now for $79.99 and $89.00 respectively. Game was played entirely on the PC on Easy difficulty with around 24 hours of total game time on a single play through.


Leave a Comment
  1. The start of the game tatics is a pain in the arse, i just wish they would make this part more like dragon age. The mouse in particular and movement, i hated it and even thought i think the story and graphics is great if you don’t get the acition right then the games sucks. Also, they could do so much more with romance/sex. Most guys deep down like love. Make us pick between the girls and have consequences. If dragon age 2 was 8/10 then this game was 5/10.

  2. Yeah I struggled at the start with even basic combat when I was playing on normal but it did get a lot better afterwards I felt. The romances felt a little under developed, especially considering how promiscuous you could be if you chose to (I didn’t since I wanted to be faithful to Triss, but she didn’t even bat an eye at the end!).\

    I definitely felt the Dragon Series was better but then it has the advantage of me having played both of them (even if the second is only tangentially related to the first). Did you play the first Witcher by chance?

  3. There are very few things referenced from the first Witcher. (Minor Spolier) The first game dealt with Geralt’s systematic infiltration and destruction of the “Salamandra” organization in and around Vizima (The capitol city of Temeria). In the sequel, these events are mentioned in passing. In fact, most of the background story and little facts are referencing the original novels not the story of the first game (by Andrzej Sapkowski). So, that point is invalid. “Combat in The Witcher 2 starts off being extremely tedious as the game relies quite heavily on knowledge attained from the original game.” In the original game, it relayed on a timed click system where you click whenever a certain icon appear to chain the attacks. The combat in the Witcher 2 is drastically different (for the better) the Diablo-esque clicking of the first. The point is: You really don’t miss much of the experience without playing the original. If you’ve read some of the Witcher Novels (The Last Wish and Blood of the Elves are only English translated works so far), then you’d understand and grasp the world much better.

  4. Interesting. I guess I thought that the combat system had been carried over from the previous game from the other reviews I had read, what with the Signs being the same and all. It’s good to hear that it isn’t though and I’ve read that the latest patch has made things a lot easier for people like me, so the initial experience has probably improved dramatically since I wrote this.

    So it’s more like a Dragon Age 2 type sequel than a direct following on of the story then? Some of the interactions between the characters seemed to allude to the fact that a lot had happened between them previously, but there was no real explanation for it (which is what led me to the conclusion that it was relying on lore from the previous game).

  5. Your opinion is very unique compared to most reviewers, so it’s certainly not informative but very interesting. I felt like this because you mentioned the action scenes and boss battles are the highlights of the game, even though most people would say the storyline and characters are the best parts of the Witcher 2. Believe it or not, this is a story based RPG, but I assume you are different kind of gamer so that is why your opinion of the game is so different from the majority.

    Anyway, having played the first game won’t help much because the combat mechanics in the Witcher 2 is completely different from the first one. The first one is like a hybrid between an action game and a turn based RPG. Sure the spells are roughly the same but since gameplay of the 2nd one is action based, their timing and usages are completely altered. As a result I had to relearn how to use them. That doesn’t mean its a bad thing though, since the combat has become more strategic. Even at the beginning the combat won’t be tedious, unlike how you mentioned in your review, as long as you know what to do. Basically you have to use Aard (telekinesis) to break their blocks and use your crowd control spells like mind control spell and stunning trap spell to make enemies split and buy some times to kill off some of your enemies. The power slash can hit multiple enemies from the start so this is also helpful. If you just mash buttons and rush the battle will be tedious because your attacks are constantly blocked and you will be gang banged by your enemies. If you start to find your own strategies and powerful combos, the combat becomes fun regardless of what skills you acquired. Unfortunately, because I love the challenging combat at the beginning, I was rather disappointed by some of the spells and bombs being overpowered. It was still fun since, as you said, the combat becomes quicker.

    This is unimportant, but I have to mention that Gerald’s voice is like that because during his mutation, his emotion got somewhat striped away and he is in his 50s. Besides, I think the voice acting has enough emotional range, and his deep voice is cool.

    One last thing I want to say is that you will get more enjoyment out of this game if you love reading since the journal is a vital part of the gameplay and the storyline. For instance, you may want to read the quest log and character descriptions if you forgot some vital points or want to know more about the story or characters. You have to know these details, if not all of them, to truly enjoy the story of the Witcher 2. Because each characters have their own motivations and goals, and each events and relationships help establishing them. It also has the catalog of items you acquired explaining how each bombs, potions and traps are useful and how to make them. I can tell you didn’t know this, but I won’t blame you since the tutorial is indecent (at least at the time). I would also recommend exploring the world, because you’ll discover some interesting secrets and items.

  6. @nnecron
    Oh sorry I didn’t read the comment carefully, you already know the combat is different from the original. Hope I didn’t bored you with my long comment.

  7. Not at all nnecron, always love it when people take the time to comment 🙂

    Different strokes for different folks I guess. As I said the plot was serviceable but I just didn’t have any big emotional investment in the characters. If I had played the original I might’ve said otherwise but there wasn’t anything in The Witcher 2 that grabbed me like other games have.

    It was really only at the start when I felt combat was a total chore. Towards the end Geralt was nigh on unstoppable so it just felt like there was a very steep curve at the start which plateaued really quickly. It’s a pacing issue and like you said it does detract from the game somewhat, especially if you enjoyed the challenge at the start.

    I did foray into the journal a few times when I had forgotten something between sessions and did note there was a whole lot of extra detail in there. I don’t usually spend a whole lot of time reading walls of text (depends on the game, I do it quite often in say Mass Effect) so that could have also detracted from my experience somewhat. I also did a little exploring but nothing compared to the same level I did in Skyrim for instance.

  8. I spent the end of 2012 playing/finishing the first Witcher (Directors Cut) so I could play Witcher 2 EE as a follow on. I picked up the game in 2009 on sale and I must admit I stopped playing Witcher 1 somewhere in Chapter Two in early 2010. The prologue and Chapter One was very hard to get into. Allot of fetch quests, the combat was very clunky and well I couldn’t engage with Geralt as my character. EDIT: Having seen now your review of Witcher 2 and finding that link to the video review of Witcher 1 I definitely I emphasise how Yahtzee felt in that review.

    However I decided to push on and power through the game so Witcher 2 would make more sense. It got better (still had too many F$%#ing fetch quests) and I’m glad I did see it to the end but I see why people where put off by it. The skill system still had me confused at the end of the game. I think the Directors Cut fixed some of the issues too (inventory and potion management). Playing the Witcher 1 really gives you a good feel of the lore and the dynamics of the setting. It also shows how graphically CD Projezt came on in leaps and bounds for the sequel. No more repetitive models in villages or cities where every second person looked the same.

    The game itself was welcoming in that unlike some RPG’s there is no black and white definite good/bad side. You can help whom you wish however that may cause repercussions in later chapters. The fact the NPC’s reacted to the weather and ran for shelter was nice. There was wildlife (birds, dogs, cats) scurring around the place. Which isn’t the case in some games. This would follow on and be expanded on in the sequel.

    Now for my Witcher 2 impressions. I really enjoyed the game. It threw you right in the action. As I had just finished the first game I knew what was going on with King Foltest and that was a huge help. Admittedly whilst I romanced Triss in game 1 not everyone did (or they romanced/choose the other lead female character in W1) so seeing her stark naked so soon would make no sense to most. The rewards for having completed W1 where minor (a nice silver/steel sword and armour) and soon where superseded in later chapters. I believe some characters appeared/didn’t appear too in Chapter 3 due to your decisions in game one with the Flaming Rose.

    It looked really nice. It didn’t take me long to figure out how to play however I had the aid of the EE tutorial which by the sounds of it many didn’t. I found the fighting system intuitive and it rewarded you if you didn’t just click slash everytime (like the clunky system in DAII). It took me a while to ultilise properly some of the magic spells (trap and shield).

    Now I knew that I would have to make a major decision in chapter 2 (looking at spoiler free reviews) and I ultimately sided with Roche. I imagine Chapter 2 and 3 are completely different if I choose differently and sided with Iorveth. I liked Roche (& Ves) so chose him (knowing that the developers would likely allow you to see more of Ves and yes I did guess right 😉 ). Would like to sometime play through the game again and see how it pans out from the other view (maybe before the third game). Just don’t have the time like I did in my single days.

    What I still don’t like is you really don’t know what some skills will do. I ultimately went mostly sword with some magic. On normal I still comfortably blitzed most fights but only after I learned some simple tactics from trial and error. Also some talents seem useless as other than to get an achievement there aren’t enough crossbows to warrant putting two slots into deflect arrows. So why have the skill at all?

    Or what ingredients/materials are more use-full then others. I horded so many materials I never knew what I should sell or should I try and create something from. Since weight was an issue I was always looking for shops. Still until chapter 3 there was never any real need to create any item as you could generally find suitable weapons/armour. EDIT: Looking at your review I would have found the weight mod useful but I generally found most items I needed and only tried to make the best items.

    Anyway I loved the story. Liked the character driven focus and looking forward to Witcher 3. Some details leaked now… Open world but character driven? No speed time events? Interesting it will be next gen!

  9. Wow, great post Chaos. Great to see your impressions with the EE edition vs mine with the original as it shows that CD Projekt has listened to the community and made the improvements that we were looking for. I had heard that that was the case but it’s so much better to hear it from people who’ve actually played it 😀

    The weight mod was more a convenience thing more than anything else. Realistically had I put a bit more effort into figuring out what ingredients did what I could’ve avoided that problem entirely but the mod was so quick and painless that I really didn’t think twice about it. I blame the old RPG’er in me for that one, religiously hoarding all the items I could find just in case.

    I’m really, really excited about what CD Projekt is working on at the moment in both The Witcher 3 and Cyberpunk 2077. I’m probably more excited about the latter because I’m a sci-fi nut but another instalment in The Witcher series wouldn’t go astray, especially considering how the last one ended.

  10. No worries. Looking forward to Witcher 3 and Cyberpunk 2077 too. I will definitely end up getting both at some stage. Probably a bit later then initial release. CD Project are really good at doing extended editions or listening to feedback so they’re good games to hold back on. I also have a tendency to wait on games until they are patched or even wait for GOTY editions or similar. Especially if day one reviews have the word ‘bugs’ in it. It saves you allot of grief.

  11. Heh, I’m the opposite but I completely understand why people like to wait 😉 There’s been more than one review that I’ve done where there’s been launch issues which weren’t fixed until a month or two until after release. Rage is one of them that comes to mind (I think the patch came out about halfway through my play through) and it changed the game from being a horrible mess to actually being playable.

    Plus you can usually pick them up pretty cheap later down the line too, especially if its close to a Steam sale.

  12. Ah good stuff! The graphics are pretty good and they said it’s going to be the last in the series. I think that’s a good thing as there’s nothing worse than dragging out a series for ages as the story usually peters out quite rapidly.

    Love that they reduced the price for both of them to $14.99 on the back of this announcement. No doubt they’re making a bit off that 😉

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.