A lot of attention (too much IMO) goes toward FPS and sport titles, but I've been a gamer since I was first old enough to hold a controller. For this reason I've been regarded as a geek, a nerd and god knows what else throughout my life, but that's fine by me, because I've had a great time of it. I'm not one for following trends, sports and I'm certainly not sold on the long drawn out fad that is Call of Duty either, what I love are deep and engrossing gaming worlds that comfort me in the evening of my life as a social leper. I am of course talking about role playing games.
I'll be taking a look at some of the finest RPG games you can play today, some old, some new, but all of them brilliant and this week well be starting off with CD Project Red's modern and often overlooked classic, The Witcher 2.
The Witcher 2: Assassins of King Extended Edition is the latest Witcher title from Polish developers CD Projekt RED and is based upon The Witcher book series by Andrzej Sapkowski. The original Witcher game saw great success upon its release, earning CD Project RED a great reputation that has earned them much fame in the gaming community, leaving many people (myself included), dying to get their hands on the sequel. That being said though, the original title in this series wasn't exactly refined and left gamers eager for a leaner, better much improved sequel that could capitalise on the world created in the original books, can The Witcher 2: Enhanced Edition fulfil that fantasy?
The game is based on the story and life of Geralt of Rivia, one of the world’s few remaining Witchers in the world. The Witchers themselves are a race of genetically enhanced humans, who were built for the sole purpose of fighting monsters and of course many other kinds of foe using their enhanced alchemy, magic and sword play skills, so pretty much if Tolkein wrote Robocop.
I've never been one for dishing out spoilers in my reviews, so I won't, but the game features a fantastic story line of love, lust, betrayal and magic, all of which is focused on Geralts quest to clear his name for the assassination of Foltest. While the story is fantastic, both you and Geralt himself find it difficult to stay focused on the task at hand due to the plentiful side quests, adventures and character relations that unwind throughout your adventure. As a result the game features multiple endings that leave both plenty of room for player choices throughout the game and of course a few good reasons to revisit the title after completion. It's not as clear cut as the moral choices of games like Mass Effect either and it can be quite some time before you find out the true consequences of each of your actions, this only goes to make the game even more engrossing.
There have been a lot of improvements to The Witcher since its first incarnation, namely to the controls, gone are the tricky move and attack mechanics of the previous title that made the game somewhat of a challenge to play. These have now been replaced with a much more familiar WASD key setup for movement and evading during battle that will be more than familiar to PC games and it’s certainly a lot more refined and responsive that the original game in the series. Attacks are now dealt with via the left and right mouse buttons, as well as a few hot keys for laying traps or using items, making combat much more fluid and while it’s not perfect, it’s certainly on par with most other RPG titles out there.
You can of course be a lazy slob like myself and use an Xbox 360 controller and while this is perfectly fine and playable I suggest you drop the overall difficulty of the game one notch as dealing spells in time could become a little bit of an issue in the games frequent difficult battles. Even with the improved control scheme, this game isn't easy, at least not for most people, enemies are brutal and swift, meaning more often than not you'll find yourself reloading your last checkpoint. Let’s not forget the system of apply perks and potions before combat, which wouldn't be an issue had you had warning that a battle is about to happen.
Just as you would expect in most RPG's, The Witcher features all the usual grinding mechanics, level up perks, crafting and loot. There are many hidden items and snippets of lore to keep you entertained throughout your adventure, but don't expect to find them under every rock, this game really wants you to explore and go out of your way, but in most cases it is worth it and your efforts are regularly rewarded in one form or another.
Graphics are a big plus point here too, while the game is built on a custom engine that utilises DX9 it still packs a punch that puts plenty of DX11 games to shame, a very impressive lighting and textures engine really brings this game to life, add to that some fantastic voice acting and writing and you have a perfect bundle of digital entertainment.
If you’re looking for a solid RPG outing that offers things up a little differently to most, with a rich story and a world full of colourful characters, you definitely won't be disappointed by this title. Don't worry if you haven't visited the original Witcher title either, while the first was great in its own respects The Witcher 2 can stand on its own and stand proud in a world smitten with RPG's like Skyrim and Mass Effect that maybe fantastic in their own right, but their nowhere near as hard-core or rewarding as this.