The Witcher 2 Enhanced Edition Playtest: Prepare to Die

By Kris . May 3, 2012 . 4:31pm

Geralt is a witcher, a monster hunter and jack-of-all-trades who has been painfully mutated by magic. His mutation gives him yellow eyes, access to magical "signs," and strength far beyond that of a normal human.


In the Witcher 2, Geralt has been wrongfully accused of assassinating King Foltest. Geralt had been working under Foltest to end a war between the king and his former mistress over their children, who Foltest considered the rightful heirs to his throne. Just as that battle drew to a close and the king saw his two children, another witcher assassinated the king and escaped leaving Geralt with bloody sword drawn over the king’s freshly aerated corpse, just in time for the king’s soldiers to barge in and arrest him.


However, with the help of the shady commander Vernon Roche, the witcher escapes and attempts to clear his name and find Foltest’s killer… but first he had some sidequests to do.


One of the interesting things about Geralt is how much sway you have over the way that he acts and characters react to him. A big part of that is the fact that the characters that surround him are surprisingly multifaceted. For instance, I was shocked to see that even the villainous Bernard Loredo, a terrible, racist bastard of a man would occasionally act like he honestly cared about the town he controlled. While I later learned the level of the violence and cruelty that he ruled the town with, I was shocked to find him somewhat sympathetic. In any other game, he’d simply be a moustache-twirling villain, but his persuasiveness as I progressed through his early dialogue trees was impressive. It’s almost more disturbing to find villains with a bit more human complexity, and by extension, Geralt’s choices are rarely black and white.


I tried my best to keep Geralt on a good path, but occasionally I found myself wondering if being so kind was the right way to go. Once I saved the lives of two men who had done terrible things to the patients of a hospital that they used to work at. It seemed as though death would have been a fitting reward for what they’d done, but I saved them and let them go. I’m still not sure I should have let them go unpunished.


When you’re not talking to people, you’re usually in the midst of a quest, exploring ruins or caves while cutting through hordes of enemies… well, assuming that they don’t cut through you.


The Witcher 2’s combat is full of options, which can initially seem a bit overwhelming. From the outset, you’re given five magic spells, the ability to set traps, throw daggers and bombs, and of course the ability to block, dodge, and attack with light and heavy strikes. While having all of these options makes it seem like combat would be very freeform and easy, but no, the game is willing to kill you quickly and often. It’s odd, the game expects to drink specific potions before battle to prepare yourself for what lies ahead, but when you’ve seen the enemies you’ll be fighting you’re locked into battle mode and can’t enter the meditation menu to drink potions.


The only way you can prepare properly is to either make sure you know exactly what you’ll be fighting and when Geralt will enter battle mode or die and reload so you know exactly what lies ahead. You can use oils on your swords in battle mode, which helps to a certain extent, but death seems like a key part of combat. However, to decrease the number and frustration of my deaths, I devised a list of handy things to do in combat:


1. Save all the time in multiple slots. It’s too risky to not do so, especially when you have cutscenes and dialogue in between you and the fight that’s killing you. This early fight wasn’t bad, but later in the game I found myself losing 20 minutes of gameplay with some of my deaths because I wasn’t being smart about my saves.


2. Try to lure enemies out of groups and take them on one at a time. If your enemy doesn’t have a way to block you (this seems pretty arbitrary), you can chain attacks together indefinitely, but a single hit from an enemy in this process can take a lot of your health away, and sometimes Geralt won’t visually react to that happening. On the off chance you can’t get a single enemy out of a group, tossing a bomb (particularly my favorite, the Red Haze that turns enemies against each other) and retreating will often help your chances.


3. It is absolutely vital to use your magic "signs" as effectively as possible. Geralt can give himself a shield to protect him from a single hit (which as mentioned above can do a lot of damage. Geralt also has signs that can turn his enemies against each other, trap them in electricity, or knock them away. I’m personally fond of the fact that the game only gives you five signs, because it encourages you to learn how each one works and build your combat style around them.


While these tricks generally worked for me, I often found myself abusing AI glitches to survive, occasionally standing just outside of where an enemy is willing to attack to regain health and darting in and out of their attack area to kill one at a time or set traps. The game is almost too hard on normal, but dropping the difficulty down to easy makes it insultingly simple. I was also a bit disappointed when the heavily-teased first boss (who looked really cool) was only a matter of pattern recognition and QTEs instead of a proper test of the skills the game forced you to learn to survive (despite how cool the betentacled monstrosity was). However, I quickly ate those words when I fought the second boss, who had powers along the same lines of Geralt, but was about 20 times more powerful.


Food for Thought:

1. Instant-death QTEs are a rather annoying addition to an RPG, but fortunately the game usually autosaves before you have to do one of these. Still, I was a bit grumpy when one popped up and killed me in the middle of a boss fight.


2. I found it strange that I couldn’t reconfigure the game’s controls at all in a port of a PC game.

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  • malek86

    “a single hit from an enemy in this process can take a lot of your health away, and sometimes Geralt won’t visually react to that happening”

    One of the most annoying things from the Enhanced Edition (although it actually appeared since patch 2.0). In the original version, being hit would make Geralt stagger, so you would notice immediately. However, in an attempt to make fighting “easier”, from version 2.0 onward enemies are unable to interrupt your combos with their attacks. This does make the game easier overall, but sometimes you find yourself dying suddenly, since during combos there is no visual feedback to being attacked anymore. It’s also impossible to interrupt a combo to change target now, you have to wait until the combo is over. Which can have dire consequences.

    The only way is to keep an eye on the health bar at all times, or if you have the PC retail version like me, you can simply NOT update your game (I guess you can manually install patch 1.35 for several bugfixes and improvements) and play with the original combat system. The additional stuff in version 2.0/EE is not that important anyway. Unfortunately, the Steam game is auto-updated and GOG only hosts the latest version.

    As for the game itself, it was good, but the plot was way too political, and overall the combat system in the EE was annoying. Not to mention, too many quests are just fetch quests in very big maps. So it wasn’t bad, but I liked TW1 much better: in characters, story, etc. it was just superior.

    BTW, not sure about the 360 version, but in the PC version you can choose “disable difficult QTEs” from the option. It will remove almost all the annoying QTEs from the game, except a couple easy ones.

    • Arcm

      Yep, there is an option to disable QTEs in the options. I turned it off after being killed by the dragon in the prologue lol

    • Kris

      I kept the QTEs on! I figured if the developers put them in the game at all, they though they improved the experience, so I stuck with ’em. I guess I’m just cantankerous that way.

      • malek86

        Maybe… I’m skeptical though.

        But I liked that they give you the chance to disable them. How many games do that? Most will simply force-feed them down your throat.

  • Arcm

    I just beat this on Dark difficulty and honestly I think the difficulty stops being hard half way through act one. Once, you have a few levels in the sword path and have level 2 Quen the game is easy street.

    Just play defensive and you will survive all encounters Quen is honestly the only spell I really used. But just to say I died A LOT in the prologue until I found out about Quen and it’s overpoweredness.

  • Aoshi00

    I just started the game and got killed in the tutorial, so it suggested me to choose easy mode lol, too much real time multitasking. Easy mode is pretty easy I guess, but I would like easier combat and just enjoy the story and journey w/o getting killed too much (usually I play games on normal but I’m not a Demon Souls’ kinda guy), like Mass Effect 3, feels like a powerful badass..  still in the prologue recounting the story, amazing graphics and fantasy feel, many options for dialogue too and the chars seem very real and interesting..  The girl Geralt w/ was so hot :)

    Would’ve liked the Dark Edition, but it’s so rare.. I got it from Deep Discount for $35.99 though so it’s a good deal..  better than Toysrus or Amz’s $45..

    • Zal_Yagun

      Normal seems unreasonably difficult in the beginning and Easy has moments where you actually have to stop to see if things actually damage you. 

      Combat to me seem like the weakest part of the game. I like the weightiness feel of the swings, but the auto-targeting isn’t that great and Geralt seems to just stop mid-attack allowing a baddie to molest his face with a sword. Everything else is great.

  • andref

    I will admit I do like the dialogue and the characters. Though for my playthrough I played the game as if I was in the wild wild west considering every decision my own brand of justice, so the guys in the hospital I had them killed but unfortunately I was swayed by Iorveth and chose him over Roche

  • h i

    I never understood the problem with the potions. Or rather, people complaining that they didn’t know “ahead of time” what potion to drink. The potions are simply there to improve what path you’ve already upgraded along, or to beef up your weaknesses. Most all the potions either effect vigor (how many spells you can cast, how quickly), vitality (your health and health regen), defense, critical effects, sword damage, or spell damage. All the creature specific damage buffs are in your OILS not your potions (which you can coat your blade at ANY time).

    Regardless of what you’ll be fighting next, depending on what your build is you already know what potions you’ll want to be drinking; and if you don’t go the alchemy path and unlock the trait that lowers the neg side effects of potions you have even less potions to choose from. 

    I just don’t see the complaint; if you wanted to complain about the potions I would complain about how short they last combined with the fact the timer counts down even in cut scenes and when in dialogue (which often leads to you having no potions active for the important fights when you need them most).

    • Kris

      The timer is exactly it. I’d want regen or an antivenom to last as long as possible, so I’d try to activate them just before I entered a battle. However, since I didn’t know exactly where the monsters would appear, I’d often hold off on drinking them until it was too late. It was great that I could use oils in battle, but especially early on (like in the Nekker cave), the potions seemed incredibly important to my survival. Same thing happened the first time with the Kayran, too.

      It’s not the worst thing ever, but it still annoyed me. I mean, I guess I could have always had whirl and swallow enabled but some fights weren’t worth the bother.

  • Naux

    I really like how the Enhanced Edition Patch is free for everyone who owns the game already. Now in Act 2 with Iorveth and still loving this. Dwarves are so funny :D

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