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CD Projekt RED at their best. Such an improvement on The Witcher. The game is now much more mature and the plot is meaningful and you actually feel a responsibility in the choices you make, they have real ramifications and actually effect how the game plays out although there is a couple of endings i am still yet to find them all.
Thankfully this is NOT a steam tie-in, although it can be bought on steam, so the installtion is very straight forward.
NOTE: I had a problem where the lighting was all messed up and didnt show properly. To fix this (im using an ATI card) you go to your Catalyst Control Centre and check "Application Managed" on Anti-aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering then the graphics should be working fine.
Before i go into mentioning anything about the game itself i will detail what packaging and other things the game comes with.
When i first got the game is came in a nice, glossy, meaty box. Upon opening you will find a official The Witcher 2 game guide, which i find is nearly useless when the internet is on hand. Next you will find a map of Tameria, the kingdom the game is set in. Next you will find a sealed letter which gives a kind of synopsis for the game and when i opened mine a metal coin fell out which was later classed as a "Cursed Coin" although i dont know whether it has any relation to the game. Beneath that you will find 2 "Paper Craft" items, 1 of which will be Geralt and the other will be random, i got a Nekker... Underneath that you will find a DVD box which contains a bonus DVD and the Official Game Soundtrack. That disk also includes picutres from the developers studios, 8 promotion arts for The Witcher 2 and 20 screenshots from The Witcher 2. The game sound track has 23 tracks and has a approximate time of 1hour 12minutes 13seconds. This is split into 2 discs. Beneath that you will find the game box itself which comes with a detailed user manual and the game is split onto 2 discs. Haven't seen that for a while.
Now onto the game.
Graphics: The graphics are astonishing, and i'm not even playing on full graphics. Playing on DX 9 (direct X) with medium graphics is as far as my £1000 gaming laptop can go without tremendous lag. The detail on the environments is unreal, you can see every pebble on the road and add real depth to the worlds, especially in dungeons, crypts and forests.
Gameplay: Your standard RPG with elements that raise the bar. There seems to be a lot of running back and forth between places as the game has no quick travel, but this works well as you can herb and fight along the way (herbing is just collecting lots of herbs). The alchemy mechanic is fantastic; you can make potions and bombs if you have the correct ingredients which are mostly collected from herbs around the game world. Crafting weapons, armour and traps is left the the smiths around the games worlds town and cities. They dont cost very much to make something but you mostly end up having to buy some extra ingredients. Most importantly in crafting is the "Diagrams" which you have to have before you can craft anything, you start out with a few in the game and you can buy more and more, but dont think about buying them, crafting the item and selling it for a profit because i havent found a single item that lets you do that yet. As for drinking the potions, they each have a unique Toxicity level and if you exceed this limit there are certain side effects, although i dont know what they are on account of never exceeding the limit i doubt they're helpful.
Another neat thing in the game is "Vigor". This meter restricts you to how many spells you can cast within a certain time. 1 spell cast depletes 1 bar of Vigor. Vigor is also used when parrying attacks from enemies. This can be upgraded quite easily in the game though it is reccomended you upgrade Quen (magic shield) to its highest as you will use this the most. Also there is tons and tons of loot but you cannot, as far as i know, increase your weight limit.
Story: The story in the game can branch out on several paths and end in a couple of different ways (i am led to believe anyway). I havent finished the story yet but it had 3 chapters and i am in the first half of chapter 2. It is a long game if you do the side quests. The story is mature, intricate and somewhat confusing if you dont keep track of it. The start of the game will leave people who didnt play The Witcher 1 a little behind but you can quickly get to grips with it if you ask around the NPCs and read the books in the game.
The side quests are a little mundane sometimes offering ones like "Kill 10 of these things" or "blow up the Nekker nests".
Controls: The main flaw in the game. The targeting is sometimes very, VERY annoying as it will target and enemy across the horde of other enemies and then will drop you right in the middle of the enemies when you wanted all of them on your front. Sometimes the name plate and health bar will disapear from their places on the enemy meaning you can tell whether to beat the enemy or run when you're on low health. Even though the targeting is a bit skippy i can live with it, but maybe next time they should get a targeting system similar to Assassins Creed where you can lock onto the enemy. The combat consists of fast strike and heavy strike by using left click and right click, respectively. A simple but perfectly funtional combat system. Other than that the control system works perfectly.
Replayability: About three to four playbacks i guess to find all of the endings and different paths etc.
Bonus bits: Totally uncensored sex scenes even though they maybe lacking some departments.
Overall: A excellent game, a brilliant bridge between now and Skyrim. Has its niggles but they are stomped out beneath how awesome this game is. The game has grown up so much its easy to forget about The Witcher 1. Although the face animations in cut scenes isnt anything to marvel over it is perfectly capable.
Needs the targeting system fixing and face animations working on then it would be 10/10