The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings; Score: 4 stars; System: Xbox 360; Genre: Action RPG; No. Players: 1; ESRB Rating: M for Mature.
The foot of man has tread the earth for so long that he has forgotten more of his past than he remembers.
Beyond the dark reaches of his memory lies a world of kings and kingdoms, war and warriors, mystics and mysticism. There were monsters, oh yes, there were monsters, and there were those brave enough to make them their prey. They are called Witchers, these monster slayers, and none was better than Geralt of Rivia. He had no equal and he paid no homage. And he was only available for PC gamers. How stingy.
To satisfy the masses that developers at CDProjekt and Warner Bros. decided to make The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings an Xbox 360 port, industry slang for a game that makes the transition from PC to console.
A Witcher is sort of a human born through some kind of hokus pokus witchcraft, endowing him with special skills of a mystical nature. Yet he is as skilled with a sword as any battle-hardened dog of war. His kind is not looked on with favor in a world getting crowded with humans, elves, dwarfs, and all the races lost to myth and legend. Witchers are not to be trusted. Plain and simple.
The racial undertones are only one aspect that gives the fantasy game a rather dark edge, however razor sharp. Gone is the idealized world of Tolkien where every day is filled with song and seems so clean and tidy. Geralt's world is seedy, hard, and unforgiving.
A rogue assassin aptly described as a "mountain of meat" has decided he likes all the monarchs better without heads. He is a monster, and who better to hunt him down than the Monster Slayer, Geralt of Rivia. The story is told in three parts and will have gamers jumping around a little on the time line in order to get the history on the Witcher, the territory, and the local conflicts. The story unfolds smoothly and flows rather nicely in spite of the fact that your decisions may lead you down very different paths.
Much of the story is told in cut-scenes and nightmares which leads to too many animations. You have the option to skip through most of them but you may miss some important things that will help you on your quest.
Although the game is not as in depth as say Skyrim and other RPGs, the game is immersible. You won't have the option to build your own character or warrior class but most of the role-playing elements are still there, such as side quests and the gathering of items in order to concoct better weapons, armor, and magic potions.
Combat is a combination of swordplay and spell casting. Although the button configuration may take a few minutes to figure out, you'll soon be slinging fire and steel like a true warrior. Switching between spells and accessing range weapons is a simple button press. The combat doesn't stop but is reduced to slow motion when accessing items in your satchel, affording you plenty of time to find the perfect spell or weapon and continue with the battle. But don't take too long as the bad guys will continue to hack at you even in slow motion. It's a nice change from other RPGs that allow you to stop the combat completely in order to drink a healing potion or switch weapons. You have to think a little quicker and it helps to really know your spells.
The only real area of concern is in the voice-overs. They're not horrible but it is easy to tell that some of the actors doing voices turned in a much better performance than others. One female character in particular states her lines as if reading them from a teleprompter. And during one cut-scene there is a verbal response from a man whose mouth is moving but no words are coming out. There were also a few graphical glitches such as feet disappearing into the floor or swords passing ghost-like through stone walls, but these diminish greatly if you download the game to your console.
This is a mature game with some gratuitous sex and foul language tossed about. The language usually felt forced and even the emotionally charged rants are somewhat underdone. On the other hand, the sex and nudity were only used at points where they were needed to further the plot and were handled in a tactful way throughout.
Overall the game was hard to put down, the mark of a good RPG. And that is what will make it a hit with fans of RPGs, a genre that offers little to the console gamer. Now they can delve into a fantasy world usually reserved for PCs. How nice of the developers to share.
Contact Tom Fisher at firstname.lastname@example.org.