The first Witcher game I played was the third Witcher game, the game that really cemented the franchise as one of the great story telling roleplaying games ever made. I had heard my friend Van Der Litreb talk about it before, but somehow it never landed until I made the plunge and started playing the third game. When I had done two play-throughs of the third game and both its extensive DLC’s, I decided to take a look at the second game.
I had already watched quite a bit of gameplay on YouTube in recent years due to my deepening obsession with the Witcher backstory, so I roughly knew what the game was going to be about, which beats it would hit, and which major decisions were there to be made. I also knew that the game was considered flawed in terms of mechanics and handling when compared to the third game, but an absolute masterpiece when compared to the first game. I’ve played some dodgy games in my time simply because I liked the premise so it didn’t stand in my way. Off I went.
I really, really liked it. I didn’t love it like I love the third game, but it held my interest and got me into the storyline. The game deals much more with the politics of the northern realms than the third game did, and it got me a shitload of insight into the backstory, despite having read the books and seen the footage.
I think the developers didn’t really make the most out of the possibility of giving the player the agency to determine the outcome of the story, though. In the end, the only real decisions you get to make is whether or not a handful of characters live or die. Which I already knew of course because those are the questions you get in the early hours of the third game to set up some of the storylines there. Did Aryan live? Did you fight Letho or let him go? Did Síle de Tansarville make it through the troubling portal incident?
All in all I am very glad I played the game, and there is definitely something about the atmosphere and art direction of the game that really appealed to me. I think that’s also partly the reason why so many people who really love the books say that the second game is closer to the books than the third game is.