Summary: May 17th heralded the release of CD Projekt RED's follow-up to the pinnacle of eastern European RPGs, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. Take up your silver sword as Geralt of Rivia once more, slaying monsters for profit and saving the world yet again by mastering your own unique combination of swordsmanship, magic, and alchemy disciplines. There's a huge, finely-crafted world to explore and an epic, non-linear storyline to forge, which Vandy is taking his sweet time with. However, you can read some of his thoughts on the game so far in today's article, before the full review. Enjoy!
If you’ve seen any of the developer diaries or other pre-release trailers for The Witcher 2, you already know this game’s a looker. It runs pretty well, too, at least on dual GeForce GTX 460 1GBs using the 275.27 drivers. There is one setting called “Ubersampling,” though, which actually renders the game multiple times per frame in order to provide the highest-possible quality of texture and object details, as well as smoothing of edges. CD Projekt RED recommends that only those with top-of-the-line graphics cards enable this feature, and for good reason: it will majorly cut down your FPS in exchange for a relatively small increase in visual fidelity. Other than that one feature, plenty of people are reporting that the game runs smoothly on the highest settings, so that’s good.
Combat is hard. So hard, in fact, I was getting frustrated within the first half hour of playing (in the tutorial/prologue) because I was dying and reloading so much. I realized I wasn’t giving this game enough credit -- you really do have to pay attention and use some strategy when you fight or else die very quickly, even on Normal difficulty. That includes being sure to parry or dodge when your opponent moves to strike, which can be tricky when you’re surrounded by enemies. Making good use of magical abilities and throwables (bombs, daggers) is important, too, as is planning ahead by drinking potions and/or laying traps to prepare for a fight. You cannot use potions while in combat. Instead, you go into Meditation mode, which is where you also do your alchemy and resting, and drink potions that provide an effect like health regeneration for several minutes. There are also oils and salves that you can apply to your weapon to increase its damage or the chance to inflict a wound or other effect. This kind of forethought is a primary characteristic of Geralt’s training as a witcher, and sets this game apart from other RPGs that just have you slamming hotkeys to gulp healing potions at any time.
Once you realize that fact and reinforce your quick-save habit, it’s possible to enjoy the challenge without wanting to bash your own head in. (You could always give up and switch to the “Casual” difficulty setting, but as a gamer and a man, I refuse to do so.) Most combat is doable after you get the hang of it, and definitely be sure to keep your equipment up to date. There’s much more of an emphasis on loot in The Witcher 2 than its predecessor; you’ll be finding all sorts of armor pieces, weapons, and the like. Customization is huge, as well, with items used to upgrade your gear, or even your own attributes. Keeping your swords sharp is probably the most important thing, as landing nothing but blows that deal “minimum damage” to elite mobs pretty much sucks. You can choose to specialize in magic or alchemy to deal damage in other ways than with swords, though, which is cool.
Speaking of items, this is one of those RPGs that allows you to walk around and loot every container you see with impunity, unlike in The Elder Scrolls or Fallout where you’ll get in trouble for stealing someone else’s stuff right in front of them. I mean, you can literally walk into someone’s house and rob them blind while they watch! They react to your presence (you’re especially frightening to children), but they don’t care that you just plundered the tools and weapons from that chest or pilfered the coins from their desk… There’s not a lot of particularly valuable stuff in random houses (probably for this very reason), but vigilant ransacking will get you plenty of basic crafting materials and pocket change. Combined with monster slaying and harvesting of ingredients from plants, you will likely find yourself having to sell a bunch of stuff to vendors because you have too much of it, instead of the opposite.
Look for more on The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings in the full review, coming soon to FiringSquad!
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