Western fantasy role-playing games have moved in different directions over the years. You have the European type of games like Two Worlds II, the Gothic series, and the original The Witcher. Games that tend to expect a lot of patience from the player while giving you a huge amount of things to do in an open, yet usually (or initially) buggy world.
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (PC)
Geralt of Rivia is back, and he is as bad-ass as he ever was. Following some events during a siege on a castle, Geralt finds himself a prisoner in a dungeon of the very kingdom he once protected. The witcher is being accused of a crime and acts like it's either one he didn't commit, or acts as if he knows more about it than he's willing to tell just anyone. A crime that appears to be a grave one, given the torture marks on Geralt's back and the guards' pleasure in beating him to a pulp.
As you fight your way through the castle's defenses, you'll mix up regular fighting with supporting the army's advance. Launching a ballista here and opening a gate there, the gameplay varies from scene to scene. The scale and ferocity of the siege is pretty impressive in its depiction, as axe men are ordered to chop down a wooden door instead of having it just magically open as a game's trigger is set off. Cutscenes seamlessly break up the gameplay to depict medieval "special forces" tactics and assaults that propel the main attack ever onwards.
Later on in the game you arrive in a forest infested with bizarre creatures and Elves to continue on your quest. And like everything else in the Witcher universe, even the Elves are badass. None of those Lord of the Rings or World of Warcraft graceful kinds of Elves, or even Dragon Age's "Elves as social commentary" stuff. Elves are a race like any other; one that has suffered through many wars and has its own internal political divisions. More than that, they just don't screw around if you get on their bad side. Some, however, are friendly and peaceful enough.
The forest environment also provides a taste of the more open-world affair that the game offers, because the mostly linear castle siege and the escape from imprisonment -- which takes around 3+ hours in itself -- merely forms the Prologue of the game. You'll spend that amount of time only to be greeted by "Chapter 1" being casually thrown in your face as you enter the forest in question -- something that bodes well for the full game's length.
Backtracking seems to be less of an issue compared to the first game -- which for full disclosure I sadly didn't play all that much -- although even 15% of the forest map already yields you a fair number of sidequests that gradually let you explore the area.
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