The game is a hefty experience, made more impressive by the way that side quests are handled. You can certainly stick to the critical path, charging forward with disregard for the things happening around you, but your experience will likely feel barren and cold. There are typical “kill the monster” quests (that is what Witchers do, after all), but even those are exciting because the game doesn’t hold your hand.

Not only will you have to seek out the beasts’ dens, but in order to know how to well and truly end the threat, you’ll need to research. Books will speed you along your path to edification, but simply encountering a breed of monster enough times will help Geralt learn how to deal with it most effectively. These are the most traditional of quests, and even they were fun.

I'm sure that Roche and Geralt aren't checking her out.

The remainder of the side quests, of which there are many, always felt organic. Walking into the town square and seeing a crowd of people upset at a shop owner could be ignored and just taken in as “local color.” The larger diversions, like a quest early on to investigate the ruins of a flame-gutted hospital, managed to be worked into the main narrative cleverly. Your rewards for pursuing these lines of inquiry come not only in the form of gold and experience, but a richer understanding of Geralt’s world. This is masterful storytelling.

When you have grown tired of hunting down kingslayers, there are three in-world minigames to spend (or earn) coin playing. Dice poker might be the most frustrating of them. As with any gambling mini-game, you can fool the system by regular saves, if you are that hard up for money. The arm wrestling and fisticuffs endeavors are more enjoyable, though. There are quest lines tied to each, and while they bear some narrative fruit, you’ll likely tire of them.

The presentation of the game is astounding. The game is undeniably gorgeous, even after being repurposed for a system nearing the end of its lifespan. Animations felt natural, and I couldn’t help but notice the realism in soldiers struggling to reload and cock back a cross bow before I could close the distance. Silly them; they were never fast enough.

Intricate. varied environments await.

I delighted in the cinematic cutscenes. They are some of the most gorgeous I have seen on the Xbox 360. They also provide a wonderful contrast to the more artistic sequences that resemble a mix between action comic and medieval woodcut.

Also, for those that hate cutscenes that break immersion, you’ll be happy to know that all of in-game sequences are rendered in-engine. Geralt’s equipped arms and armor will appear in these segments and are not replaced by some stock outfit and sword. There is some minor screen tearing that you will likely notice, but this will largely depend on your sensitivity to it. The game is also not without its bugs. There was one instance, in particular, that caused confusion with the narrative.  A main character appeared out of nowhere and started hacking up another main character with his sword. It turned out that the aggressor had merely jumped his cue (as he did appear later in the scene). While this left me scratching my head, it was more humorous than anything since the victim was, for the sake of the story, programmed to be invincible.

The audio is equally impressive with a sweeping and majestic soundtrack and intricate sound design that makes the forests, towns and rivers come to life. The voice acting is second-to-none from the lowliest peasant to the haughtiest king. Between the deftness of the storytelling and the believable voicing, CD Projekt managed to make the jumble of names that accompanies any tale of political scheming accessible and memorable.

Best. Dwarf. Ever.

 

It bears mentioning that there is an arena mini-game accessible from the main menu, and its inclusion as a combat training tool is interesting. In the arena, you’ll start fresh, earning a new level, gold and one of three random rewards for each victory. You can trade in unneeded equipment and purchase new supplies between fights. You can also hire a mercenary to give you an assist. It’s an interesting take on horde-style gameplay, but you probably won’t spend too much time here. That is more of a commentary on how engaging the story of the main game is, though.

The Witcher 2 feels like a gift from a loving developer. CD Projekt could have been content to keep the game on the PC platform and never diverge from that course. However, they believe so deeply in the world of Geralt of Rivia that it was only obvious to them to introduce as many people as possible its wonder. Every RPG fan should give this dark, mature tale a chance. There is nothing else like it.

 Here’s the Rundown:

+ Stunning presentation paired with masterful storytelling
+ Elegant combat that only becomes more enjoyable as time goes on
+ A clever system that rewards education and preparation as much as brute strength
+ Side quests that aren’t time sinks, but enrich the overall experience
+ Choices cause the narrative to branch significantly leading to replay value
– Minor screen tearing
– Minigames aren’t terribly exciting
– Minor, but nonetheless noticeable bugs 

 

9 and 9.5 represent the pinnacle of the genre, a game that defines what that genre should be about. These scores are for games that you not only feel would be worth your purchase, but you would actually try to convince your friends to buy them as well. 

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition was developed by CD Projekt and published by Warner Brothers Interactive. It was released on April 17, 2012 at the MSRP of $59.99. A copy was provided by the publisher to RipTen for the purposes of review.

12 COMMENTS

  1. To give ME3 a 10, and the witcher 2 a 9.5 is a total injustice,  not only does the witcher 2 literally do everything better than me3.  From the combat, to the graphics, to the story that reacts to your actions and you actually changes based on them.  A story and characters that actuall hold water.

    ME3 does none of those things,  the story is meh, the characters you meet are meh,  the enemies you meet are meh, no one has any substance in ME.   ME3 is at most a 8 but more likely a 7, when you consider all the retconn and the worst ending known to the world of gaming.  Yeah the catalyst is quite possibly the worst thing to ever happen in gaming.  Shame on you ripten for simply being a sheep.

    • Two different reviewers. Having not completed (or even started) ME3 myself, I have no idea what *I* would give it. To put the two reviews side by side, look solely at the score and not even comment on the narrative of the review that I wrote feels insulting.

      To put Stephanie’s opinion of one game against mine of another is not fair, nor is it even logical.

      You are entitled to your opinion of both, but please do us all a favor and focus your criticism on the contents of our reviews and the not the .5 that separates those two scores.

      • i can understand that, but they are 1 site, and as such.  Comparing reviews and games within said site should be acceptable.  Esp when they are both Rpgs, and both rpgs are supposedly having vastly different endings based on your actions, and stories that arent filled with plotholes and retcons.  The entire scoring system is basically based off previous games ever rated. As the bar is set higher, the requirements to excel and gain those higher scores are required to be higher.

        I mean no disrespect to either reviewer, or the reviews, they are vary accurate, only the ME3 one was way to favorable considering the problems with the plot, and the ending that could never be predicted,  and not in the good way, as in the no way you could ever have suspected it because the required pieces of the puzzle were never presented.

        I suppose in the end,  They need to look at their review scoring system, and make sure it is accurate.  Loving a game does not make it a perfect 10.  I love all kinds of games that simply fall into the catagory of good, and flawed but fun.
        It also seems like Reviewers have been afraid of giving ME3 a bad score.  Even when its plainly obvious of its short comings.  Notice the huge outcry of fans of the series.  They had every reason to be.  The reviews of the games do not follow what the quality of the game was.  Metacritic is showing that nicely.

        • First, WE are one site, but each voice is unique. I am responsible for every review that ends up on this site, working with our writers and ensuring that the narrative justifies the score (and vice versa).

          I have been known to ask questions, push back and ask for clarity when, as a gamer, I don’t think enough information is provided. However, I will *never* demand a reviewer change a score because I disagree. It isn’t fair to them and it isn’t fair to readers.

          I review our scoring rubric regularly. It’s my job to make sure that we are as consistent in our intent as possible. However, there is no such thing as being objective and no two people will feel the exact same way about play experiences.

          Stephanie LOVED Mass Effect 3. LOVED it. To demand (or even expect) that she should give it a lower score because of a “huge outcry of fans” betrays the very purpose of reviews. We will not cave to pressure or the prevailing winds of other reviewers.

          Heck, I encourage my writers to AVOID other reviews until their own is posted to avoid any chance of their opinions being colored.

          As for Perfect 10, we don’t have one. That’s not what our TEN rating means. At all. There is no such thing as a perfect game.

          I think you might misunderstand how reviewing works if you expect every review on a given site to have the same voice, set of prior experiences or understandings. If you are looking for unwavering consistency across approximately 10 people reviewing games, I don’t think you will find what you are looking for anywhere.

          • Why not just ditch the scale entirely? The whole model has always been broken and counterproductive to quality criticism. Imagine a fine art critic walking into Lourve and giving the Mona Lisa a 9.5/10 or the Venus de Milo a B+. It’s totally absurd, yet game journalists do the same thing to their art form everyday. Games can never be taken seriously as an artistic medium by sticking with the Metacriticification of reviews. Ripten wouldn’t be the first to get rid of it. Rock Paper Shotgun doesn’t bother with a scale either and their reviews are some of the best and most thoughtful in the industry. 

        • I have to jump in here as well. Reviews are something I talk to Mike about all the time. I feel there needs to be some changes to how reviewing games works in general, but as it is right now, this system is the most consistent among all sites and makes the most sense. Last weekend I gave Dice Soccer a 9.5. Is the game as deep and fulfilling as Witcher 2? Probably not, but it succeeds on different levels. As a collectible card game fan, Dice Soccer appeals to me a great deal. People who are curious about someones take on that game, would want me reviewing it. I can compare it to previous titles and understand the positives and negatives. 

          Mass Effect and Witcher are unique games, with very little in common. If I were to review the two, The Witcher would probably score higher. But that is because I am a bigger fan of fantasy stuff. I’m not a fan of sci-fi at all. All reviews need to be taken with a grain of salt. Understand that the review will do everything he can to be fair in the score, but he can’t base it on different reviews as much as what he said in his or her review. It’s a tricky area for journalists to cover, and we appreciate the feedback. I just wanted to be another voice that ensures you that we do think about this kind of stuff more than we ever let on.

    • Hate out of ten strikes again. This is the problem with metric-based reviews. It gives the air of scientific precision to something that is anything but. People will skip most of the article, scroll down to the number and complain what an outrage it is that some game is .5 percent better than some other game, as if it meant anything. This is exactly why I prefer reviews with no scale. You actually have to read the piece to get a feeling about how the game is. If you had just read the piece without looking at the number at the bottom you probably wouldn’t have got your jimmies all rustled. Ripten isn’t run by sheep, they’re just trapped in the broken conventions of modern gaming criticism. This was abeaming, fair review and fanboys still aren’t satisfied. I wish Ripten would adopt a system like RPS without the silly made-up numbers to quantify how “good” or “bad” a game is. 

  2. Im sorry, but after seeing the comments here, i had to say something. Vhati, your opinion of ME3, is just that. YOUR opinion. So it just looks bad on you when you disrespect the whole of the Ripten staff for THEIR opinions in THEIR reviews. 
    Who are you to say what scores should have been given ME3? I highly doubt you are a journalist, so i would much rather go off Stephanie’s review of ME3 than yours. 

    I personally think that both ME3 and the Witcher 2 are absolutely amazing games (ive had Witcher 2 since release on pc) and i believe that both the scores for these games a well deserved. 

    And a very nice review Michael :)

    • Thanks. I appreciate that. I do want to be clear that disagreeing with ANY of our reviews only spurs healthy debate, provided there are specific points from the narrative that are at issue.

      I don’t mean to chill criticism, but would rather see it directed toward the things I actually CAN control. :)

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