The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

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The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
Witcher 2 cover.jpg
Cover art
Developer(s) CD Projekt RED
Publisher(s) POL Cdp.pl
NA Atari, Inc
PAL Bandai Namco Games
JP CyberFront
Enhanced Edition
NA WB Games[1]
PAL Bandai Namco Games[2]
JP CyberFront (PC)
JP Spike Chunsoft (X360)
Director(s) Adam Badowski[3]
Producer(s) Jędrzej Mróz
Programmer(s) Tomasz Wójcik
Writer(s) Sebastian Stępień (lead)
Borys Pugacz-Muraszkiewicz
Marcin Blacha
Composer(s) Adam Skorupa
Krzysztof Wierzynkiewicz
Marcin Przybyłowicz
Series The Witcher
Engine REDengine with Havok physics, PathEngine and SpeedTree
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows
Xbox 360[4]
OS X[5]
Linux[6]
Release date(s)
Genre(s) Action role-playing
Mode(s) Single-player

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (Polish: Wiedźmin 2: Zabójcy królów) is an action role-playing hack and slash video game developed by Polish studio CD Projekt RED for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, OS X and Linux.[9] The game was released internationally for Microsoft Windows on 17 May 2011 and for Xbox 360 on 17 April 2012.

It is a sequel to the 2007 video game The Witcher. Like its predecessor, the game is based on The Witcher series of fantasy novels by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. The player directs the actions of Geralt of Rivia, an enhanced human called a Witcher who hunts monsters. The fantasy world in which his adventures take place owes much to Polish history and Slavic mythology.

The game was a critical and commercial success, selling more than 1.7 million units for the PC and Xbox 360 as of May 2012.[10] The third installment in the story, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, was released on May 19, 2015.

Gameplay[edit]

Screenshot of the PC version

The gameplay of The Witcher 2 is a marked departure from that of its predecessor. Player movement is accomplished solely through the keyboard, and combat has changed from the rhythmic minigame style of the original game to a more fast-paced style.

The combat system is more complex. The abilities to lay traps and to aim and throw ranged weapons are new additions. The protagonist, Geralt, also has an improved offensive and defensive arsenal, with a wide range of melee and ranged weapons, armor, bombs, traps and secondary weapons such as hatchets and shovels. Upgrades are divided into four distinct paths: an initial training path, which includes generalized upgrades for various core abilities and must be invested in before the other paths can be accessed; swordsmanship, which improves Geralt's sword fighting abilities; alchemy, which includes perks such as reducing the negative effects of potions; and magic, which improves Witcher Signs.

The Witcher 2 includes a stealth mode in certain parts of the game, where players must remain undetected as they make their way to a certain objective. Players have the option of stunning enemies if Geralt manages to get behind them, but the player may choose to take a less subtle approach and simply engage the guards in combat. Several new minigames were introduced, including arm wrestling.

Plot[edit]

Characters[edit]

The Witcher 2 features an extensive cast of vivid characters with developed personalities, which has often been cited by reviewers as one of its strengths.[11] The following is a list of some of the main characters in the game, with their Polish and English voice actors in parentheses:

  • Geralt of Rivia (Jacek Rozenek[12] and Doug Cockle) – the protagonist of the trilogy as well as the main character in the book series. He is a witcher by trade, skilled in killing monsters.
  • Triss Merigold (Agnieszka Kunikowska[12] and Jaimi Barbakoff) – a sorceress who is Geralt's romantic interest, but also a complex character who plays an important role in the political intrigue underlying the game's plot.
  • Letho of Gulet (Mirosław Zbrojewicz[12] and Mark Lewis Jones) – titular Assassin of Kings and a witcher, who has left the path of a monster slayer. He is the game's main antagonist.
  • Iorweth / Iorveth (Tomasz Borkowski[12] and Mark Frost) – an elven freedom fighter, the leader of a Scoia'tael unit, whom Geralt can choose to side with during the course of the story.
  • Vernon Roche (Krzysztof Banaszyk[12] and Mark Healy) – commander of the Blue Stripes, a Temerian special forces military unit, whom Geralt at first has to cooperate with but may choose a different ally later on in the game. He is aggresive towards people, who calls him a "whoreson", though he often insults them with this word.
  • Saskia (Agnieszka Przestrzelska[12] and Eiry Hughes) – female leader of a peasant revolt in Upper Aedirn, who opposes King Henselt's attempt at invasion and is a rival of Prince Stennis.
  • Filippa Eilhart / Philippa Eilhart (Elżbieta Futera-Jędrzejewska[12] and Pandora Colin) – a powerful mage and leader of the Lodge of Sorceresses. She plays a key role in the game’s political intrigue.
  • Jaskier / Dandelion (Jacek Kopczyński[12] and John Schwab) – poet, minstrel, bard and a close friend of Geralt. He is a character well-known from the book series.
  • Zoltan Chivay (Paweł Szczesny[12] and Alexander Morton) – another returning character from the books, Zoltan is a dwarven veteran and also a friend of Geralt. He tells that he was created for doing good.
  • Shilard Fitz-Oesterlen (Włodzimierz Matuszak[12] and Robbie Stevens) – a member of the Nilfgaardian aristocracy and an envoy to Emperor Emhyr var Emreis.
  • Sheala de Tancarville / Síle de Tansarville (Anna Ułas[12] and Nicola Walker) – a member of the Lodge of Sorceresses who, much like the other female mages in the game, plays a role in the political intrigue of the game. She's the game's main female antagonist.
  • Radowid V / Radovid V (Waldemar Barwiński[12] and Nico Lennon) – the ruler of the Kingdom of Redania. He becomes of great importance in the third chapter of the game’s plot.
  • King Foltest (Adam Bauman[12] and Antony Byrne) – king of Temeria, prince of Sodden, sovereign of the Pontar Valley and Mahakam. The game begins shortly before Foltest’s assassination.
  • King Henselt (Dariusz Odija[12] and Peter Egan) – Ruler of the Kingdom of Kaedwen and the Duchy of Yspaden, who is the main antagonist in the game’s second chapter. His fate depends on the player: he can left Roche to kill him or let him go.

Story[edit]

The player controls Geralt of Rivia, who is one of the few remaining witchers – genetically enhanced and trained humans with special powers. The Witcher 2 features an extensive cast of vivid characters with developed personalities, which has often been cited by reviewers as one of its strengths.[13] The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings contains many different paths and storylines, along with multiple endings.

Prologue

At the start of the game, Geralt is in prison under suspicion of assassinating the king of Temeria. After interrogating Geralt, commander Roche decides that Geralt is innocent and aids him in escaping the prison. The two, along with sorceress Triss Merigold, go in search of the kingslayer.

Chapter 1

The trio arrive in the trading town of Flotsam and are ambushed by Iorveth, a rebel elf. It appears to the group that a witcher believed to have assassinated the king of the neighboring country of Aedirn is in league with the rebels. Geralt saves two friends from being hanged in the city square. With the help of sorceress Síle de Tansarville, Geralt kills a kayran, a giant monster that is disrupting the town's trade routes. Geralt discovers that the true kingslayer, known as Letho, intends to betray Iorveth and convinces the elf of the truth. Roche arrives with an armed force. The player chooses between assisting Iorveth or Roche, thus setting the path of the second chapter. After a duel with Geralt, Letho kidnaps Triss and forces her to teleport both of them to Aedirn.

Chapter 2 (Iorveth)

If Geralt assists Iorveth, the pair sail to upper Aedirn. There, they become embroiled in a rebel plot against King Henselt of neighboring Kaedwen, and they assist the rebel forces. Geralt completes three missions: formulating a poison antidote for rebel leader Saskia, determining Triss’s whereabouts (captured by spies from the empire of Nilfgaard and taken to Loc Muinne), and lifting a battlefield curse that is preventing the rebels from defending Vergen, the rebel's base of operations. The rebels defeat King Henselt’s army and Henselt is forced to acknowledge Saskia's terms. Geralt discovers Saskia is actually a dragon taking human form but she is under mind control by her advisor, the sorceress Philippa Eilhart. When Philippa teleports Saskia and herself to Loc Muinne, Geralt and Iorveth follow.

Chapter 2 (Roche)

If Geralt assists Roche, Roche has Geralt assassinate the town’s commandant for spying for King Henselt of neighboring Kaedwen. Geralt and Roche sail to upper Aedirn. There, they become embroiled in a rebel plot against Henselt, and they assist the king. Geralt discovers an insurgency in the Kaedweni army: loyalists who are convinced Henselt is conspiring with the empire of Nilfgaard. Geralt completes three missions: determining Triss’s whereabouts (captured by a diplomatic delegation from Nilfgaard and taken to Loc Muinne), lifting a curse on King Henselt, and lifting a battlefield curse that is preventing the king from marching on the city of Vergen. Geralt defends Henselt from two witcher assassins and uses necromancy to discover they are in league with Síle de Tansarville, who has already fled to Loc Muinne with fellow sorceress Philippa Eilhart and entranced rebel leader Saskia in tow. Geralt defeats Henselt's personal guard. Geralt either allows Roche to murder Henselt in revenge for his men (and causes a civil war in Kaedwen) or convinces him to spare the king.

Chapter 3

Geralt arrives at Loc Muinne, with either Iorveth or Roche depending on whom he assisted previously. The mages have called a meeting to establish a new magical ruling body known as the Conclave, and all royal leaders are at Loc Muinne. Philippa Eilhart and Síle de Tansarville intend to use the meeting to establish their own power, with the still-entranced Saskia as leverage.

If Geralt arrives with Iorveth, he must choose between rescuing Triss or rescuing Philippa, who is the only person capable of lifting the spell from Saskia but who was captured and blinded by the king of Redania. If Geralt arrives with Roche, he must choose between rescuing Triss or rescuing the kidnapped Princess Anais of Temeria (who is sent for protection to King Radovid of Redania or back to Temeria). Depending on the choice the mage-royal meeting is interrupted when Nilfgaardian forces arrive with Letho, who reveals the sorceresses' entire plot, or if Triss is rescued – regardless of who Geralt assisted – the ambassador of Nilfgaard dies, the sorceresses’ plot is revealed, and either Roche is outlawed (and the rule of Temeria remains unsettled) or Iorveth is grievously wounded.

Geralt chases down Síle, who attempts to use her megascope (a magical apparatus used to do a variety of magical operations) to escape. Unaware that one of the diamonds in the megascope is flawed, Síle becomes stuck in the megascope. Geralt can either remove the faulty diamond or do nothing, the latter of which kills Síle. Finally Geralt duels Saskia, after which he can kill her, let her live, or (if Phillipa was rescued earlier) break the spell over Saskia's mind.

Epilogue

If Triss was rescued, the Conclave is restored and the mages work to seal Loc Muinne. If Triss was not rescued, a bloody pogrom of magic users occurs in Loc Muinne and throughout the Northern Kingdoms. Geralt finally confronts Letho the kingslayer, who reveals a Nilfgaardian plot to destabilise the Northern Kingdoms. After hearing Letho's story, Geralt can either let him go or duel him to the death. Geralt then reunites with Triss and either Iorveth or Roche, and sets off south. A concurrent plot of the game is Geralt's attempts to recover lost memories from his previous life.

Development[edit]

CD Projekt RED members receiving a European Games Award at gamescom 2012

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings was officially announced on 18 September 2009.[4] CD Projekt RED developed their own engine for the game,[14] unlike the first installment which ran on a modified version of BioWare's Aurora Engine. The game incorporates the Havok physics engine.

The game features a branching dialogue system with full voice acting which was cast, directed and recorded in London, England. The developers said that the game would have 16 different endings,[15] although that was later clarified as 16 "states of the world" by the game's end.[16]

CD Projekt RED released the first gameplay video on 25 March 2011, showcasing different methods with which a player could complete a level. Another gameplay video was revealed at Gamescom 2011, displaying the game's many characters and settings. An Xbox 360 version was announced on 2 June 2011, with CD Projekt RED confirming that it would be released by the end of the year.[17] However, on 1 August 2011, the Xbox 360 release date was pushed back to the first quarter of 2012 to give the team "more time expanding and polishing certain elements of the gameplay" and to allow the developers time to deal with legal issues surrounding distribution rights for the game.[18]

The game drew from influences such as Demon's Souls, Heavy Rain and Batman: Arkham Asylum.[19]

Release[edit]

On 14 April 2011, CD Projekt RED announced during their CDP Days 2011 Spring Conference that retail copies of the game would feature SecuRom digital rights management (DRM). However, the protection would still allow for infinite installations on an infinite number of PCs, with the ability to play on up to five PCs at any one time. It was confirmed that the game would feature no censorship between regions.[20] The Witcher 2 was also distributed through several digital distribution services such as Steam and CD Projekt RED's own service GOG.com. The version sold on GOG.com was the only version that did not have any DRM at release.

On 3 May 2011, Namco Bandai confirmed that the Australian release of the game would be modified to meet the MA15+ rating. The edit specifically relates to a side quest in which Geralt is offered sex as a reward for completing the quest. The Australian version will see Geralt decline the offer automatically.[21] Three weeks prior to this announcement, the game was removed from the Australian Steam store, causing outrage amongst the Australian gaming community.[22] Additionally, CD Projekt RED's digital distribution service GOG.com announced that the price of the Australian version would be increased due to licensing issues, but that customers could still pre-order the game for its original price 17 hours before the change.[23]

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings was released for PC on 17 May 2011 at retail stores and digital distribution services such as GOG and Steam.[7] UK supermarket chain Tesco released the console version of the game on Friday 13 April 2012 – four days ahead of the scheduled release date – and were asked to pull the game off the shelves until the original release date.[24]

Marketing[edit]

The Witcher 2 launch event in Kiev

GOG promoted the game by reducing the price of The Witcher a week before the sequel's release. They encouraged players to import their save file from the first game to the second.[25] Steam offered three promotional The Witcher 2 items for Team Fortress 2. These were a hat of hair, a sword and a necklace, which were limited to the game's Scout class.[26] The May 2011 issue of the Polish version of Playboy featured the half-naked character Triss on the cover.[27] In Russia, publishers 1C Company released a real-life nude calendar with copies of the game.[28][29] When American President Barack Obama visited Poland in May 2011, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk gave him several gifts including the Collector's Edition of The Witcher 2.[30]

Updates[edit]

At launch, many critics and gamers complained about activation problems, registration issues, and performance on high-end systems with both Nvidia and AMD Graphics cards. The first patch for the game, Patch 1.1, resolved some of the above noted issues. Additionally, Patch 1.1 removed digital rights management (DRM) from the game, a move that was credited with increasing frame rate and game load times. The release notes indicated 5-30% more efficient running and accelerated game loading, although the effects "vary depending on system configuration and game version" with boxed versions showing the most significant improvements.[31] Players who purchased The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings through Steam were required to download several 9GB patches to update the game to versions 1.1 and 1.2. In contrast, Patch 1.1 for non-Steam purchasers was only 15MB. CD Projekt RED stated they were aware of the issue and were working with Valve to resolve the problem.[32]

Patch 1.2 fixed a large number of issues, addressed broken quest lines, eliminated gameplay balance problems between the main character and his enemies, and improved features like the save game import system that allowed files from The Witcher 1 to be imported.[31] Patch 1.3 included a plethora of fan-requested improvements, including difficulty adjustments for the game's Prologue, support for a variety of different aspect ratios, and a host of other gameplay tweaks and fixes. Next to the long list of changes, this update also included free downloadable content — a quest called "A Sackful of Fluff".[31] CD Projekt RED subsequently released a hotfix, Patch 1.35, that addressed certain issues that might have been caused by Patch 1.3. Major problems addressed by this hotfix include shadows not being displayed correctly in 3D Vision, and Steam achievements not being registered.[31]

Patch 2.0 added three major features to The Witcher 2: the new Arena gameplay mode, in which players can fight waves of enemies; a new Tutorial system that introduces the player to the game's complex control systems; and a special Dark difficulty mode, which offers greater challenge to players, as well as unique rewards in the form of Dark items. The patch also brought a variety of bug fixes and improvements, including an overhauled targeting system and enhanced parrying.[33] Patch 3.2 was released for the Enhanced Edition of The Witcher 2. The user interface was significantly modified by David Block, who originally created this UI modification and now works at CD Projekt RED. The patch also added some optional enhancements.[34]

Enhanced Edition[edit]

On 27 January 2012, CD Projekt RED announced an "Enhanced Edition" of The Witcher 2 via its sister company GOG.com. It was released on 17 April 2012 on the Xbox 360 and on Microsoft Windows via Steam and GOG.com.[35] All existing owners of The Witcher 2 received free upgrades to the Enhanced Edition, and could pre-load the update starting 11 April 2012. All new copies on PC and Xbox 360 shipped with the additional content on board. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings - Enhanced Edition added over 10GB of new content, including four hours of gameplay, arena mode, new tutorial, 36 minutes of cinematics including a new intro created by Platige Image and an outro, as well as a host of fixes to gameplay and the interface.

Reception[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

Reception
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings (PC) 87.97%[36]
(X360) 87.25%[37]
Metacritic (PC) 88/100[38]
(X360) 88/100[39]
Review scores
Publication Score
Eurogamer 9/10[42]
Game Informer 9.5/10[41]
GameSpot 9/10[44]
GamesRadar 10/10[45]
GameTrailers 9.4/10[43]
IGN 9/10[40]
Awards
Publication Award
European Games Awards Best European Game[46]
Shacknews 2011 Game of the Year[47]

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings was met with nearly universal critical acclaim.[36][37][38][39] It has won over 50 awards for best graphics, best adaptation or use of a license, best story, best PC game, best RPG, and Game of the Year.[48]

Critics praised combat mechanics, customization, graphics, environments, immersion, and storytelling.[45][49][50][51][42] PC Gamer felt that combat mechanics and the game's ending were the weaker point of the game.[49] 1UP's Tom Chick gave the game a glowing 'A' rating and cited its "rich graphics that don't have to be flashy, complex challenging combat, and superlative low-fantasy writing".[52] The game garnered a number of perfect scores, with GamePro saying that "The Witcher 2 embodies everything that's good about PC development, and everything that makes it, in my mind, the best platform out there."[53] Game Informer gave the game a "platinum score" and mentioned that "the brilliant dark fantasy adventure is just as good on console" as it was on PC.[41]

A major source of contention about the game is the difficulty of the combat, especially during the game's first few hours. Some sources such as Eurogamer have praised the difficulty of the prologue, explaining "[the game] treats you not as a player... but as an adult, free to make your own mistakes and suffer a plot in which not everyone gets what they deserve".[42]

In June 2014, the game garnered mainstream media coverage when United States President Barack Obama mentioned the video game in his speech in Poland.[54] He said:

The last time I was here, [Polish Prime Minister] Donald [Tusk] gave me a gift, the video game developed here in Poland that’s won fans the world over, The Witcher. I confess, I’m not very good at video games, but I’ve been told that it is a great example of Poland’s place in the new global economy. And it’s a tribute to the talents and work ethic of the Polish people as well as the wise stewardship of Polish leaders like Prime Minister Tusk.[55]

Sales[edit]

The Witcher 2 had reportedly sold more than 940,000 copies by August 2011,[56] a sales rate that CD Projekt RED had projected.[56] Of the 940,000 copies sold, 200,000 were online sales (digital sales).[56]

Additional statistics for online sales were reported in November 2011.[57] Direct2Drive, Impulse and Gamersgate's combined sales were a total of 10,000 units.[57] GOG sold 40,000 copies.[57] Within the same time period, 200,000 copies of The Witcher 2 were sold on Steam.[57]

As of May 2012, the game had sold 1.7 million copies.[58] As of February 2013, the combined sales of the game and its predecessor exceeded 5 million.[59] As of March 2014, The Witcher franchise has sold 7 million copies of both games.[60] As of September 2014 they reached 8 million copies, according to a financial report by CD Project RED. [61]

Sequel[edit]

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was announced by CD Projekt RED on 5 February 2013. The sequel was released on 19 May 2015 for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.[62] The game will be based on REDEngine 3. It has been revealed that it is the final The Witcher game centered around Geralt (though not necessarily the last The Witcher title) and that the game world is "35 times bigger than The Witcher 2".[63]

References[edit]

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