Witcher 2 was the first time I heard about this series. I learnt about it from a friend at school who knew I was into video games and he was super hyped for this game, so he was doing all he could to get me to play it so he could have someone geek out with. Unfortunately, we only had a Mac in my household and I wasn’t aloud to dual-boot it for games.
A couple of years later when a steam summer sale rolled around I was able to pick up the enhanced editions for Witcher 1 and 2, and I fell in love with the series as soon as I began playing.
The Witcher 2 Assassins of kings is such a great improvement upon the first game that it is no wonder it is where lot of people like me first heard about the series. Not to mention the Xbox 360 release gave the game a much wider scope than being a PC exclusive. Graphics played a big part in this as well, for a long time before I played the game I often saw it being used as a graphics benchmark for gaming PCs.
The Witcher series is similar to game series like Mass Effect, where you can take progress from once game into the next. In Witcher 2 you get to keep a portion of the money you had in your Witcher 1 game and whatever end-game swords you had, whether it is D’yaebl, Moonblade, or the Mahakaman Rune Sihil, as well as Ravens armor if you completed it. This equipment serves to give your character a boost in the early game. Although there is an annoying bug where during the intro to the game you are often equipped in the Temerian armor you would have otherwise had, even if you had already equipped your carry over items
As is a Witcher standard, story telling is the main pull of the series and Assassins of Kings is no different. The game begins with Geralt being under interrogation for having killed the king he was serving at the end of the first game. Through this introduction you get to play through the events that Geralt is retelling to his interrogator, and you get to see the events that lead up to his incarceration. Needless to say Geralt is innocent and escaped to discover who the killer is and exactly why the king was killed.
Similar to the first Witcher game each chapter of the story has you exploring a specific area to further the plot. Although these zones feel far larger than they did in the first game. Witcher 2 has the added element that when you take a side with either the Scoia’tael or the Temerian Blue Stripes you get to experience a very different story to someone who chose the other side. In fact, unless you replay the game (or have a save at the decision point) you never see the other side of the story. This gives the game great replay value as you can be sure that you will be seeing something new if you play through the game again.
Combat wise the game feels much better than Witcher 1 as you can switch between silver and steel swords with far greater ease. Manoeuvring around enemies in combat is much more intuitive than in the first game. Witcher signs are still powerful and useful, although there is a new perk system when you level up that, for me, encourages more of a single direction, like spending points only in Swords combat, only in Signs, or only in Alchemy.
Combat in the Witcher 2 also removes the stances or fast, slow, and group, that I enjoyed in the first game, although it is possible to achieve the same effects with higher level combat perks. Due to the fact that I felt funneled into a single tree I don’t find myself using signs as much as I used Igni in Witcher 1.
A complaint I have seen on forums online is that the Witcher 2’s UI is designed too much around the use of a controller. This is true, however I played this game with the use of an Xbox 360 controller, simply because for an action RPG such as this I prefer to use a controller rather than a keyboard and mouse.
All in all The Witcher 2: Assassins of kings is a great improvement upon the first game in the series, and I can honestly recommend picking the franchise up at this point, as the story of the first game is a bit more stand alone, whereas the events of the Witcher 2 lead up to and influence The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt in a large way, although it is possible to jump straight into the Witcher 3 without missing too much, I would still recommend playing The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings first as it is such a great game.