Yep, a game review. And with that rating, you can rightfully expect that this will be a glowing review with praises and hugs and kisses. And sex and violence. And mods. And modded sex and violence. It’s going to be one of those reviews, so I’m putting up the warning signs.
Anyway, this game franchise is based on a series of novels (though they did start as short stories before growing into novels that linked together into a cohesive narrative). It’s important to use the term “based,” because it doesn’t exactly follow the storyline of the books all that accurately. Rather, it has its own story with some inspiration from the novels, but keeps the characters and their motivations fairly accurate.
This game adaptation may have “2” in the title, indicating that there’s a Witcher 1, which there is, and I have played it. But this is the first Witcher game I have played in the franchise. I played the first one after this one, and may eventually do a review for it some time down the road when I summon the willpower to get through that one. Because the first game tests your patience. It takes a while before that game gets going (when you’re nearly halfway through the bloody game, and it isn’t short; none of them are). And the gameplay is different than in Witcher 2 and 3. And the graphics aren’t up to par with that of Witcher 2 and 3, even with the mods (though mods do help). So I’m doing Witcher 2 first. If you have a problem with that, too bad.
Witcher 2 takes care of several issues the first game had. The gameplay is easier to get into, the gameplay doesn’t expect/require you to “grind” by killing a bunch of monsters to level up to make it easier later, and the storyline is investing from the opening moment and onwards without a dull moment to be found.
In fact, the storyline in Witcher 2 is more deep and intriguing than in 1 and 3. The political game Geralt is forced into, the characters and their motivations, and how much of a grey zone everything is morally. This is a very densely layered game in terms of plot, and it demands your attention in order to keep up with everything that is going on. If you miss something, all the more reason to play it through again. It’s practically Game of Thrones-like (certainly has all the elements for it: sex, violence, and politics). Pretty damn well-written too, with the dialogue and all, even just from NPCs who don’t have much of an impact on the overall story.
And best of all, your actions carry heavy consequences. You will likely make a choice that you believe is the right thing to do, but there are usually downsides to it in one way or another. Usually the best you can hope for is something bittersweet. An element carried on even further in Witcher 3 which builds upon the “Choose Your Own Adventure” aspect of Witcher 2 tremendously. Witcher 2 basically has 2 different paths with 2 different endings. That being said, some of the decisions you make change just how satisfied you may be with the ending. And all the major paths are worth exploring just to see some other character/plot details that go unseen through your first playthrough (mainly in Chapter 2, learning more about Henselt or learning more about Saskia). I’ll get back to this near the end of the review.
The character you play as named Geralt, a witcher, basically lives to take bounties on killing monsters, and is raised and trained to be good at doing it. Part of his upbringing involved taking mutagens that makes him less susceptible to diseases and poisoning, which allows him to take potions that enhance his combat/magic abilities so he’s more capable of taking on the more powerful monsters. As a side-effect, he has this cat-eye look, and is infertile. Because he’s infertile, and because it’s common knowledge witchers are infertile, women usually don’t mind sleeping with them, which is why that tends to happen in most of the games.
In the game, Geralt more-or-less gets framed for killing the very king he was supposed to be guarding, and sets out on a journey with his lover and the former kings’ royal advisor (both the same person here) Triss to track down the kingslayer and get his life back onto the more peaceful and less political side. Because witchers don’t care much for politics, they prefer to keep things simple. But Geralt is forced into the political game against his will, and the political game is what makes this the best Witcher title from a storytelling perspective. There’s double crosses, twists, surprises, and difficult decisions that carry consequences affecting not just Geralt and those around him, but the entire country as well. And there’s a dragon thrown in for good measure. That’s all I’ll say about the plot.
The graphics are still fairly decent by today’s standards. However, there was one little thing I found particularly annoying during some of the cutscenes. The way the hair and some of the dangling objects on some characters move. It’s weird looking and kinda takes me out of the game.
As for the gameplay, when it comes to the action, it works well enough. And I’ve played it on all levels of difficulty except Easy, because just Normal mode alone is easy enough to beat. Hard mode is a bit harder, but not too much. Dark mode, that one finally gave me a challenge, for a while. The thing about this game, when you start out in the prologue and the first chapter, it has a decent level of challenge. But once you reach chapter 2, and get the right type of weapon and armor, then the game practically becomes a cakewalk. There’s only 1 exception during the Chapter 3, which is an optional fight for optional ingredients to create an optional weapon/armor. It must’ve taken me at least a dozen tries before I finally killed this cocksucking Operator and his fag-faced gargoyle helpers. It brought back memories of my days playing against Sega Genesis and Nintendo system game bosses. It’s as difficult as this game gets. It’s like fighting Sephiroth in the first Kingdom Hearts game (and I succeeded in beating him there, muahahahah, gamer pride).
The game does have a level-up system that branches out into 3 paths, allowing for variance in how your character gets strong (via sword-wielding, alchemy, or magic), which does theoretically mean you could play the game multiple times with a different play style (nevermind the multiple story paths), but I found myself using only a couple different styles at maximum. Alchemy and oils and potions didn’t play too much of a factor compared to the first Witcher game, though they still had an importance. This pretty much made me focus mostly on sword-wielding and magic, mostly on the swordsmanship. I initially preferred using the Quen magic to put a shield around me that would damage anyone who dared strike me while it was up, but then realized that your recovery rate for casting spells (via vigor regeneration) slows down considerably while the Quen shield is up. I thought Igni (fire) would be a bitchin’ spell to use, but Aard ended up being more effective most of the time, especially when you upgrade it to the point where it can knock a group of enemies down, sometimes make them dazed so you can go in for an insta-kill. That being said, there are a couple of times when the game pretty much forces you to use one of the least-used spells in the game, the Yrden, against a boss. And as for Axii, that’s only really useful during cutscenes, as it takes too long to be effective during combat.
As for swordsmanship, there is one skill that is mandatory to get ASAP, and that’s the ability to parry and counter blows. Without this, the game will become very difficult (if not impossible) to beat on higher difficulties, including Dark Mode. Speaking of which, the reason why it’s called Dark Mode is because you can acquire special sets of armor and swords during each chapter of the game. If you only wear a portion of the entire armor/weapon set, your health gets drained away. But with the entire set, you’re stronger than ever, usually capable of regenerating a small amount of health with each hit, and capable of dealing out a good amount of damage along with having a fairly good defense. That being said, it’s optional, and there’s other armors and weapons that are arguably just as good. It’s more of a challenge than anything else, but a fun challenge. It’s worth noting that once you wear this stuff and draw a sword, this annoying “Dark vision” affects the screen, sort of hindering your view a bit. Thankfully, there’s a mod for that.
And yeah, let’s talk about the mods. Every great game tends to have a modding community for it, and this one is no exception (though it pales in comparison to the community for Witcher 3, because let’s face it, open-world games are usually easier and more fun to mod). I’ll talk about the mods that I have used for my playthroughs, all of which can be found at nexusmods.com. First the simple ones.
So I noticed that Geralt’s hair is more grey colored in this game compared to his appearance in Witcher 1 and 3. This mod fixes that, making him appear more as the White Wolf he truly is.
I’m not sure if this is lore-friendly or not, but that bright-red hair was too bright in my opinion. This mod subdues it to a more natural (ie non-Comic-Con) color.
Radovid Persuasion Fix by Tgirgis
It’s just a small-time mod that only really makes sense if you’ve played the game through to Chapter 3 taking the Roche path. It’s only minor, really, but nice to have this option.
Not entirely sure myself, but it’s a “bug fix” so it’s probably good for something.
Adds some dialogue bits into the game if you take a certain path and make a certain decision, which will encourage you to go back and try for a different outcome on another playthrough. Basically gives a “what could’ve been” option.
I’ve made the mistake of not having my most recent play use this mod. Don’t make the same mistake as me. It’s annoying not to see Geralt’s face expressions clearly, especially during a pivotal moment during the prologue.
That hood is annoying! Lose it!
That hood is also annoying! Lose it!
And now, the major stuff.
This mod is a Godsend, and I would never play without it. It basically reduces the weight of anything that isn’t a weapon or armor to 0 weight, so that way you won’t spend so much time managing the stuff you’re carrying. This fixes a major annoyance in the game.
A mod made by yours truly (yeah, I don’t go by the name Anomalous Host on that site). It’s basically a combination of multiple mods put into one. It removes the “dark effect” that visually occurs when you put on those special armor/weapon sets available in dark mode. It also allows you to wager as many orens as you want during Dice Poker, Arm Wrestling, and Brawling, from the minimum to however much you’re carrying. On top of that, there’s an option to auto-win dice-poker games, because I fucking hate minigames that are so reliant on luck that encourage you to save-load-save-load all the time. Lastly, there’s an option to increase the number of talents you gain for each level-up (up to 3 talents).
So it always bothered me to see Geralt always wearing fucking trousers during the, ahem, more intimate moments of the game. You can see women in all their nude glory, tits pussy and ass, yet there’s no dicks or man-ass. Well, this sort of fixes it. It makes him naked, but he’s missing his dick and balls.
But on the bright side you do get to see his bare ass. It’s up to you if you find the Ken-doll appearance more distracting than it’s worth or not. Kind of wish he had the entire package to go with it. You know, for immersion and realism.
While we’re on the topic of nudity and pleasuring others…
So this mod basically puts more nudity in the game. Think the women dress too properly? Well now they’re unclothed in certain scenes. Granted, this tends to make things appear more awkward than they need to be under certain circumstances, but it also seems to make things more appropriate in other situations. You be the judge.
Yep, there’s a sequel. All this mod really does is takes every sex animation scene that is in the game, from when you bang whores in brothels, or Ves, or Triss, or Cynthia, and makes it so that every single one of those animations is played during each sex scene you partake in. As great as that sounds, it gets tiring real fast after the first time you get a sex scene in this game. The only time I thought it fit properly was when Geralt and Tris went at it at the Elven springs in Chapter 1. Every other time all I could think was, “Oh come on Geralt, this chick isn’t that special.”
And lastly, Better Texture Environment
So I must confess, I haven’t played this game the entire way through with this mod. Plus there’s some tinkering you have to do in order to get this to work properly (discussed in the forums of the mod page). That being said, from what I have played of it, even with the little tweaks and tinkering, there’s a few strange graphical glitches that make me think this mod is a pass. Plus, while it does improve the textures, it doesn’t improve them THAT much.
There is another mod that I haven’t tried called Full Combat Rebalance (FCR), which could potentially make the combat better balanced overall through the game (as was done with the first witcher game with the same mod title). But I haven’t ever played the game with this mod for a few reasons. The biggest reason is that it’s not very compatible with all the other mods I’ve listed. The other reason is that I play the game more for the story than for the gameplay. Plus Witcher 3 pretty much perfected the combat system. And the combat system as-is is enough for me. The other reason I haven’t tried it is because it’s been removed from existence on nexusmods. So, yeah, probably never going to try it.
But anyway, there’s some noteworthy mods, and there’s more where that came from, though these are my preferred choices, even if I don’t always use them (More Sexy II was a one time fling, don’t plan on using it again). Plus, mods tend to give one another reason to play this awesome game. Plus it makes for a good refresher before playing Witcher 3. On that note, it’s worth mentioning some disappointments I had with the 3rd game. The 3rd game renders the Iorveth/Saskia path meaningless. Neither one of them show up in the third game, there’s no mention of Saskia, and only a very brief mention of Iorveth. So as far as we know, they died off-screen between the events of Witcher 2 and 3. That’s bullshit! I wanted to at least see Saskia again goddamnit! She’s one of the best characters in the game!
And one last thing. I’ve done a playthrough of The Witcher 2, doing my best to keep it story-friendly in regards to how Witcher 3 plays out. It’s how my decisions will be when I eventually do another playthrough of The Witcher 3. Divided into 8 parts (Prologue, Ch1 parts 1 and 2, Ch2 parts 1 2 and 3, Ch3, and the Epilogue). Figured this would best be split as a miniseries, as I doubt most would watch a roughly 7 hour story straight through. Tried to make it flow like a movie as best as I could. Decided to keep the “choices” visible as a way to see what Geralt could be thinking, what choices he could make. This aspect becomes particularly tense during the finale with the Dragon. And make no mistake, this is not the only version online. Others have uploaded their own “movie versions” as well, likely making different decisions than me. But none of them have done it modded, as far as I know.
Anyway, so that’s that. Great game, one of the best I’ve ever played. Highly recommended.
PS: Oh what the hell. Since this is a NSFW article, and since I resisted the urge to do this for my previous Sonic article, mine as well as indulge myself here.