Coming in at number 7 is CD Projekt Red’s fantasy RPG, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. Lucas Smith explains why the developer’s informed and responsive approach towards crafting a sequel led to one of this year’s most enjoyable titles.
What is there to say about The Witcher 2 that hasn’t been said already? It’s a fantastic RPG that features a mature fantasy story, superb graphics, a deep rewarding combat system and is one of the year’s best. However these qualities are present in many games, so what makes this one stand out from the rest and qualify for a GOTY countdown? While my immature side would like to the graphic nudity as the thing that put it over the top, the truth is far more nuanced. This game is on this list for the impressive fact that developer CD Projekt Red was able to improve on the original’s faults without sacrificing the core values that made it a great game.
From the very first screenshot of the game, it was clear that CD Projekt Red had crafted an amazing looking game and, minus a few hiccups, it shows. From the detailed environments to the fantasy-inspired metal soundtrack and subtle ambience, The Witcher 2 is a stunner on every level. The only downside here is that the facial animations in the game are not that great.
What amazed me the most during my time with The Witcher 2 was the game’s emphasis on choice. While most games will give you the illusion of choice, most decisions you make never really lead anywhere. The Witcher 2 features choices that affect entire chapters of the game, and certain decisions can make you miss entire quest hubs and locations. For this reason, a second play through will grant you a vastly different experience rather than just having a separate set of dialogue choices. This isn’t a game with a cut-and-dry “morality meter”. Conversations don’t just yield good and evil points. Instead, it is up to the player to decide what the best course of action is in a given situation, and there’s usually plenty of grey area that helps to push the storytelling from childish to something altogether more mature.
The first game was heavily criticized for its simplistic combat that consisted of nothing but timed clicks. As a resulty most battles could be overcome rather mindlessly through repetition. This time around, they opted for a system with freeflowing attacks, and the result is combat that feels much more strategic and satisfying. While I started out getting my ass kicked at every corner, by the end I was laying traps and dodge-rolling like a pro.
A second strength of the combat is its variety. Leveling up will grant you skill points which you can spend in three different trees: swordsmanship, magic, and alchemy. Each tree features a distinct combat style and the game allows you to mix and match to your favored style without hindering you in combat.
CD Projekt Red took fan feedback to heart and created a truly great sequel that improves upon the original in every conceivable way. This one of the best RPG experiences to come out in years and is sure to please hardcore RPG fans. For that reason, it deserves a spot on this list. Regardless of whatever number adorns that picture, The Witcher 2 is my personal game of the year.