So, after completing my Witcher 1 playthrough I jumped straight to The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. I had played it through once before and therefore decided to pick the other path this time (at the end of act 1 you get faced with a choice of which side to side with and the whole of act 2 is built around that choice (different quests, quest hub, questing area, allies etc)). More of that inside the spoiler tag, though I’ve gotta say that it’s quite an interesting approach which adds quite a bit of replay value. Witcher 2 has some nice updates besides the obvious graphical ones; the combat is smoother and you no longer had to jump between stances and using signs is much smoother, you can use them just by clicking their corresponding number key (1-5).
Witcher 2 feels significantly shorter than the first game and the story is a lot more focused, maybe a bit too much at the time. It feels like you’re only constantly running around after the main objectives with maybe some minor side objectives you can complete as you hunt the main objective. On the one hand this is an improvement over the often meandering quests in the first game but on the other it makes the game (at least feel) significantly shorter.
The second game reintroduces a few characters familiar from the first game, like Triss, Zoltan and Dandelion, but also has plenty of new ones, most significantly Roche (leader of the Blue Stripes, the Temerian Special Forces), Iorveth (leader of the Scoia’tel) and Saskia the Dragonslayer. The game continues the series tradition of telling a great story and presenting the player with tough moral choices where nothing is as it seems and there rarely is a right answer.
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings picks up pretty much where the first game left off. Geralt has been imprisoned by the Temerian Special Forces after the death of king Foltest and is asked by Roche to recount the events that lead to this. Since the first Witcher game Geralt had been working for Foltest in sort of a bodyguard role. But now he and Triss were planning to leave, after one final battle to save the King’s illegitimate children from some wannabe kingmakers. Geralt fights through a fortress to finally let Foltest reach his children, but just as they are reunited the monk who supposedly guarded the children turns out to be another Witcher who stabs Foltest. After hearing Geralt’s story Roche decides to break him out of jail and team up to find Foltest’s killer.
After escaping the prison Geralt, Roche and Triss head to Flotsam to confront Iorveth, the local leader of the Scoia’tel who they suspect assisted the assassin. After helping the locals with some issues Geralt manages to set up a meeting with Iorveth. Iorveth admits to having helped the Assassin, Letho of the Viper School, but claims that Letho has since betrayed him. Then Roche ambushes the meeting and Geralt is faced with a choice; to help Iorveth escape or to capture him. This choice has a huge effect on chapter 2, since, like I wrote previously, the chapter is completely different depending on what side you choose. I decided to side with Iorveth this time and it’s definitely the path I’d recommend that people take, because while Roche is an interesting character to deal with the other people you deal with in chapter 2 if you side with him aren’t very nice (or interesting). When Iorveth and Geralt try to confront Letho, Letho defeats Geralts and proceeds to Flotsam to kidnap Triss. Iorveth and Geralt figure out that Letho fled to Vergen and head thataway.
Act 2 starts with Saskia, leader of the free folk of Vergen, and Henselt, king of Kaedwen, meeting to discuss the future of Vergen and its surrounding lands. Things do not go well, they end up fighting and blood is spilled on some places where blood should not be spilled which unleashes an old curse, summoning a mist full of two big armies of undead fighting each other. If you side with Roche in chapter 1 then you’d now side with Henselt, but since I sided with Iorveth I get to side with the much more interesting (and sympathetic) Saskia. Saskia and Geralt retreat to Vergen where they’re to hold a council meeting, but Saskia is poisoned. So, for the rest of the chapter Geralt, with the help of the sorceress Philippa Eilhart, searches for Letho and Triss, cures Saskia by gathering weird ingredients and lifts the curse. The chapter ends with a huge battle between Saskia and Henselt, where Saskia saves the day by revealing that she’s a dragon and tearing up the attacking army. After the battle Philippa kidnaps Saskia and heads for Aedirn, Geralt and Iorveth hot on her heels.
Act 3 takes place in Aedrin, the capital of a long lost civilization, where the kings of the northern realms meet to discuss the future of Temeria and the northern realms. Here Geralt is presented with the choice to either save Saskia from Philippas control or save Triss from the Nilfgaardians who have captured her. In my game I chose to save Saskia, knowing that Letho would save Triss regardless of what I did. During the council of kings Letho arrives and claims that the Lodge of Sorceresses hired him to kill the kings. This immediately turns Radovid of Redania, the most powerful monarch present, against them and he starts purging the city of magic users. Sile de Tanseville (another sorceress) sends the still controlled Saskia to attack Geralt, but Geralt manages to fight Saskia off and break the control thanks to my earlier choice to find a way to do that instead of going after Triss. Geralt tracks down Sile, who’s about to teleport out, only to notice that her teleportation gem is flawed. Geralt is faced with a choice of either taking the gem to save her or letting her fry (I let her fry…). Afterwards Geralt tracks down Letho, who is waiting for him in the company of Triss. Letho reveals that he worked for Nilfgaard all along and framed the Lodge of Sorceresses and kill the kings to make a Nilfgaardian invasion possible. Geralt is given the choice to kill or spare Letho (I spared him) and then walks away with Triss and Iorveth.
I found this game’s story maybe even more entertaining than that of the first game, but it was a bit short and the areas you moved in felt rather small and much reused (sort of like Dragon Age 2 compared to Dragon Age 1). Still, I would definitely recommend this game (though I’d also recommend starting from the first game to get the whole story). Onwards to number three!