|Genre: Adventure & RPG|
|Min OS X: 10.7|
|The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition|
March 7, 2013 | Ted Bade
Mac OS X: 10.7.5 | CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo | RAM: 4 GB | HD Space: 25 GB | Graphics: 512 MB, (ATI): Radeon HD 5770; (NVidia): GeForce GT 650M
Last year CD Projekt Red released the Macintosh version of their fantasy RPG, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. This intense action/adventure game takes place in a fictional medieval Eastern European world. Once again the player takes on the role of Geralt of Rivia (a Witcher who has been enhanced with special abilities to fight monsters) as he adventures in this dark and dangerous land. This version comes with improved graphics and a somewhat simplified user interface - and hopefully, it plays better with Macs then the previous version!
The first thing that impressed me about The Witcher 2 is the graphics. They are improved significantly over the previous version. The game starts with a long animated movie that introduces the story. But even after you take control of Geralt, the level of the graphics stays about the same, except you are now in control. However, with great graphics comes serious hardware demands. Your Mac will need a hefty graphics card and a bunch of video RAM to see the best detail. My personal, slightly older MacPro with an upgraded video card, did okay, but wasn’t able to access the highest settings. Still, this game is graphically stunning!
The program begins with a sequence that is a tutorial designed to introduce the player to movement and combat. The tutorial is pretty straight forward and serves its purpose well. At the end, you are placed in an arena battle. Your success (or failures) in this arena help the game recommend a difficulty level for you to play at. Since the user interface is different than the last, it is a good idea to go through the tutorial the first time you play. Besides a simplified interface and easier controls, Geralt has other abilities, such as traps, bombs, and throwing daggers. The tutorial introduces the player to the use of these items and offers an opportunity to try out each aspect.
After the tutorial, the player is eased into playing with the first section of the adventure meaningfully titled: Prologue. Here Geralt discusses his role as a bodyguard for the late King Foltest, with an investigator named Vernon Roche. Geralt is being held in prison because it is believed he is the King’s assassin. The prologue is a combination of animated videos and play action which portrays the events leading up to Geralt’s imprisonment. This section serves as an interactive history of events leading up to the game. The ability to actually interact in this section is a nice change from other games simply playing a long animation. Obviously, the player’s options will be limited during this recounting. Still, some decisions are made that affect future events.
In the last step of the Prologue, you help Geralt escape the prison (with minimum help from Roche), then begin the journey to find the Assassin of Kings. There are three “Chapters” to this game and an epilogue to finish the story. The chapters involve both the main quest line, of trying to locate and defeat the real assassin, as well as a large number of side quests in the areas the chapters take place. Each chapter can take quite a while to complete and offers plenty of territory to explore.
The Witcher 2 user interface is a bit easier to use then the previous version. While this reduces some battle options, it adds others. There are two modes to sword battle, a strong and a quick mode, (the first game had more fighting stances). This version also lets Geralt lay traps and throw daggers or use other ranged weapons. Geralt, of course, has both a silver sword for monsters as well as the regular steel blade for humans. Obviously, escaping from prison, he begins without these items and must acquire the steel sword and gather the materials to have a new silver one made. You can find other weapons as well, either in battle drops, or by purchasing them from vendors.
I also found the alchemy aspect of this version to be simpler and easier to deal with. As Geralt travels through the world he collects herbs and other materials necessary to create potions, enhancements, and weapons. The world is abundant with these things, so it’s really just a simple matter of searching around for the materials. To create items Geralt must know the recipe or method. If a recipe is unknown, he needs to learn it, either by purchasing, finding, stealing it, or being taught by someone who knows it. Once a recipe is known, Geralt can either create a potion when in meditation, or have a vendor create an item for him.
Use of Geralt’s magical abilities is a bit easier in this version as well. One aspect is always available in a quick slot, and it is a simple matter to change the sign that is in the quick slot. Only a couple of the magical aspects are touched upon in the tutorial. I suggest reading the manual to learn about the other ones. The game provides some basic information about a magical or other ability the first time its use becomes necessary. This information is transferred to a journal for later reading, if needed.
Meditation is accessed to both create or drink potions, change items in quick clots, enhance abilities after leveling, and to move time along. Meditation can be accessed just about anytime and it turned on using a simple keyboard command. Once in meditation, one can select the aspect needed to be used and go into that area. Gameplay stops once one is in meditation, however, time will march onward. If you need to pass time, it is easy to move a dial to whatever time is needed, then instantly wake up at that time.
The Witcher 2 actually takes time of day and the passage of time into account. There are quests to meet with a person at a certain time of day, or events that won’t take place until some time passes, and so forth. While many game remain completely oblivious to time, The Witcher 2 makes good use of it. You can also miss an opportunity to do something if you don’t happen to be in the right place at the right time. I played the first chapter twice and had some different experiences each time.
As in the previous version of this game, Geralt has a serious case of amnesia. Though he has recovered some of his memories (in the previous game), much is still missing. This loss of memory means that Geralt needs to “re-learn” much, creating an important learning aspect of the game. Geralt needs find information about many objects, monsters, and people before he can do something to or with them. For instance, to complete quests to defeat certain monsters, you will need to find (or buy) a reference book that provides Geralt with necessary information. There are several recipes he has kept from the previous version, but he will need to learn others necessary for the quests in this game. This is true of other enhancements and mutagens (modifications that add abilities to Geralt). Geralt can find this information in the form of books. These books can be purchased from vendors or found through searching the spaces of the town.
This leads to a rather odd feeling aspect of the gaming world. Geralt can just wander about, searching through various places, shops, and homes taking whatever he finds. NPCs generally won’t give any resistance, although they may make some rude comments. With a game as realistic as The Witcher 2, it feels odd simply rifling through some person’s home without starting a fight or at least getting thrown out!
This searching (or stealing) is different from another aspect of the game in which Geralt needs to use stealth mode to sneak into areas to gain information and/or equipment. In these situations, you can sneak, silence guards (the ‘ole smack to the head), and use special abilities to listen to conversations nearby. Success or failure when in these sequences can change how the game plays.