The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Review

Greg Tito | 26 May 2011 19:00
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The inventory and crafting systems are a mess. You soon end up with a crapload of stuff, especially if you're like me and you have to open every box, sack and barrel in the game. (Quick aside: I wish games didn't reward me for entering every house and robbing people's cupboards right in front of them. I know Geralt is badass but wouldn't someone object to his thievery?) The list interface screams for some way to sort, and there's absolutely no good reason for every recipe to clog up your inventory. Crafting weapons and armor can only be done by speaking to the right person with the appropriate materials and recipe, that much I can understand, but I fail to see why I can't easily see which recipes the merchant has that I don't already own, or why I have to wait for a slow scroll to see which materials are needed. It's fine if you want me to craft 12 robust cloth from regular cloth in order to make that leather armor, but at least let me queue up that process.

There's also just too much that's never explained in the game at all. I only knew that buying and reading a book about specific monsters let me loot more from the corpses of said monster from playing the first Witcher. From the start, some monsters will drop mutagens which I dutifully collected because I thought the game would explain their value. It turns out that you use mutagens to enhance abilities through the talent tree system and you only get one shot so there's no reason to keep the "lesser" mutagens at all, all of which I only learned from other players.

Beyond interface complaints, the action of The Witcher is not paced well at all. I loved the richness of the setting and learning about the various kings and their eponymous assassins was fascinating, but even a good cutscene can grow long. Momentous conversations lumped on top of one another peppered with a meaningless "action" sequence like walking a prisoner only annoyed me, doubly so because I wasn't allowed to save or drink the potions needed for the fight I was anticipating.

And while the tone of the writing rides a nice balance between dark humor and just dark, it sometimes strays too far. One particular moment stuck out: when Geralt openly mocks the plot of The Lord of the Rings as a frivolous fairy tale, it feels like such parody is beneath the integrity the game achieves the rest of the time. Especially when the mocking comes after a scene clearly derived from the "Council of Elrond" trope.

The Witcher 2 continues the epic story of Geralt of Rivia begun by the short stories of Polish fantasist Andrzej Sapkowski and will be a highlight for many PC loyalists for years to come. I can't ignore CD Projekt's poor design choices and crippling interface, however. I will likely replay The Witcher 2 again and again as I wait for the inevitable threequel, but each time I do I will curse the chance the game had to deliver mechanics to match its glorious setting.

Bottom Line: As a world-building exercise, The Witcher 2 succeeds masterfully but there are deep flaws in its game design.

Recommendation: The Witcher 2 is worth playing for the atmosphere alone, but unless you can easily dismiss problematic design, you might do better waiting for to drop the price.

This review is based on the PC version of the game.

What our review scores mean.

Game: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
Genre: RPG
Developer: CD Projekt RED
Publisher: Atari
Platform(s): PC
Available from: Amazon(US), GameStop(US), Amazon(UK),


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