The dark fantasy world put forth by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski in his ‘The Witcher’ novels could put Tolkien to shame with their deeply considered tapestry of mythology and internal history. No surprise then, that CD Projekt’s digital spin-off proves to be one of the richest and most impressive western role playing games in years.
Gruff anti-hero Geralt returns, and the game’s complex and political tale takes him from being a powerful chess piece used by lords and kings to a prisoner and back. Gratuitous violence and unashamed nudity are enough to earn The Witcher 2 its adult rating, but it’s the complex moral web that makes it a genuinely mature work. A branching main story that offers few black and white moments, along with side-quests challenging your ethics as much as your fighting skills, make this one of the most thought provoking releases of the year.
Be warned though – probably the biggest criticism that can be levelled against The Witcher 2 is that it is by no means an accessible game. In fact, it’s unapologetically difficult at times, relishing its demanding nature. Combat is complicated and can rarely be waded into – the right weapons and preparations must be considered beforehand, traps and wards can be set and bombs placed in waiting. Meanwhile, the rules governing potion making, the huge amounts of statistics that require attention, and a wealth of crafting options are likely to overwhelm less committed players.
Look beyond that, or at least battle through the merciful tutorial to get to grips – one of many improvements elevating the game above last year’s initial PC outing, along with a battle-driven Arena mode and a soul-crushing ‘Dark’ difficulty level – and you’ll enjoy a thoroughly captivating title, one that rewards your persistence with a world you’ll be loathe to leave.
Reviewed by Matt Kamen