While The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings finally makes it debut on the Xbox 360, beginners and returning fans of the series will want to check out all the tricks, tips, and tactics you need to know before buying this epic action RPG.
Featuring mature storylines and characters, challenging multi-faceted combat and a narrative that doesn’t lead the player by the nose, the Witcher 2 continues the story of Geralt of Rivia, a titular Witcher, or monster hunter.
Before you step into Geralt’s boots though, read through G4’s Beginner’s Guide to The Witcher 2 and learn some background on Geralt, what happened in the previous game, and how to best prepare for combat. After all, a good monster hunter is a prepared monster hunter.
Onward, to Temeria...
Witcher, Know Thyself
The Witcher games are based on the immensely popular Polish fantasy series created by Andrzej Sapkowski. All of the books focus on Geralt of Rivia, a witcher. Witchers are mutants that possess superhuman abilities such as enhanced speed and endurance, night vision and the ability to use magical signs and craft potions. Witchers are feared, hated and treated as outcasts but still required for the occasional monster slaying. After the attack on Kaer Morhen, where witchers were once created and trained, almost all of the witchers were killed, leaving only a handful left with no more to be created.
The Witcher games take place five years after the events outlined in the Witcher Saga series of novels, which ended with Geralt seemingly killed in a pogrom. Found in a field with no recollection of his past life, Geralt works towards re-establishing relationships with those around him while at the same time uncovering a plot against the king by the Salamandra, an enemy group led by the traitorous Grand Master of the Order of the Flaming Rose. The Grand Master is working towards creating his own groups of mutated superhumans and eventually overthrowing King Foltest but is ultimately defeated by Geralt.
The Witcher ends with yet another attempt on King Foltest’s life. Geralt defeats the would-be assassin only to find that the attacker is a fellow witcher. The Witcher 2 begins shortly after the events in The Witcher with Geralt acting as King Foltest’s personal bodyguard.
Know Your Bars
While playing The Witcher 2, you’ll want to keep your eye on three main statistics: vigor, vitality, and toxicity. Vitality embodies Geralt’s hit points. Once the vitality bar gets down to zero, Geralt will die, something that will most likely happen a lot during your time in Temeria. Similar to other RPGs, Geralt can regain vitality by drinking potions, eating food, or letting it slowly regenerate over time. In addition, Geralt can meditate to regain vitality quickly.
Vigor is what Geralt draws from when casting signs (magic) and when parrying. Once this bar gets down to zero, Geralt won’t have access to either of those activities. Like vitality, vigor can be raised via potions, meditation, and running around. Finally, toxicity is increased every time Geralt consumes a potion, with an increased level of toxicity bringing about a lowering of vitality and, in extreme cases, death. Toxicity will naturally lower over time, or can be lowered completely through meditation.
He’s a Talented Guy
Similar to other RPGs, Geralt accumulates experience points as you progress through the game and these experience points can be spent on talents, talents used to steer Geralt down particular ability paths. Unlike traditional RPGs, you can’t make a straight up wizard Geralt, or a thief Geralt. All aspects of a witcher’s combat talents: training, swordsmanship, alchemy, and magic must be developed to some degree in order to make the best witcher possible. That’s not to say that you can’t create a witcher that is more heavily invested in a particular tree, but you won’t be able to make Geralt into a staff carrying mage who flings firebolts and can’t wield a sword.
Without getting into a full description of every skill available in the various trees, training allows for learning defensive moves like arrow redirection and parrying, magic increases Geralt’s training with signs, the game’s magic spells, alchemy allows Geralt to be more effective with potions, bombs, and traps and swordsmanship lets Geralt be as deadly as possible with his two swords. Growing old as a witcher requires you to use all of Geralt’s talents, and raise them accordingly.
Variety is the Spice of Combat
Make no mistake, wading into combat with your swords a-swinging will get you killed in The Witcher 2, and killed fairly quickly. Sure, there will be times when playing as a tank can get the job done, but most of the time, especially at the beginning of the game, using all of Geralt’s skills will keep him alive.
First of all, enemy positioning is very important in this game as backstabs do twice as much damage, and that’s on both the giving and receiving end. Pay attention to the combat animation of your enemies and make use of rolling to roll out of your enemy’s range as well as position yourself to either flank them or attack them from behind. Similarly, make use of Geralt’s block ability to parry and dish out some serious damage. Rolling away also can be used to lead enemies into traps, or set them up for a bomb to the face. The absolute worst thing you can do is get trapped in a corner. Geralt can’t take a lot of hits before he dies, so stay moving and stay out of your enemy’s reach.
Along with his swords, Geralt has access to five magic signs with a sixth available from upgrading the magic tree. Aard is a force push, Igni shoots flames, Yrden is a stun trap, Quen is a shield, and Axii allows you to control an enemy’s mind. Casting signs consumes vigor, so you have to be mindful of whether or not you can cast before you try, but magic should be just as much a part of your combat repertoire as the two swords Geralt carries around.
Finally, Geralt has access to potions, bombs, and traps; all of which are indispensible in combat. Unlike traditional RPGs, you can’t quaff a potion in the middle of battle and have it work immediately; you have to take time before a battle to drink up. Luckily, potions affect Geralt anywhere from two to ten minutes at a time, so drinking before a battle will ensure that you can deal more damage, regenerate health more quickly yet still have enough time to get the full impact of the potion. Similarly, bombs and traps need to be moved to Geralt’s pockets for him to use them in combat. Once equipped though, they can be used to deal damage directly to enemies as well as stun them, opening them up to Geralt’s melee attacks.
Free Your Mind
The Witcher uses a meditation system that allows Geralt to regain health and vigor as well as lower toxicity. Meditation is also used to assign earned talent points, to create bombs and oils and to create and drink potions. As game actions go, meditating is pretty important. Geralt can choose to meditate for a set amount of time, or meditate until a certain time of day. Keep an eye on the clock when choosing what to do when meditating. After all, there are no alarm clocks in Temeria.
Geralt doesn’t live in a world of clearly defined moral choices. Instead of stark black and white, the world of the witcher is one of varying shades of grey. The decisions you make in this game can have incredible ramifications, including setting you down paths that will block areas of content from you, altering Temeria’s future in the process. Similarly, choices you make as you progress often times won’t pay out until later in the game, leading you to believe that they’re meaningless. Don’t worry though, decisions you make here have weight and treating them with a cavalier attitude may not bring about the results you’re hoping for. Life as a witcher is filled with choices, some big, some small, but all worthy of spending some time thinking about the best option for the situation at hand. Choose wisely witcher, the future of Temeria depends on it.
The Witcher 2 may, at first, look like an extremely complicated RPG, and while it does have an edge to it not usually seen on consoles, it is extremely manageable and will draw you into a world of fierce monsters and murderous assassins. Take some time to prepare yourself and you’ll have no time leading Geralt down whatever path you choose.