As the year now draws to a close, I’m forced (through the use of whips and canes) to choose my Game of the Year. After much thought and the sacrifice of two hens to the gods of decision-making, I can think of no better game to receive my nomination than The Witcher 2.
Earlier this year, I wrote a positive, if not glowing, review of The Witcher 2. For me, it did just about everything right. The streamlined interface that many have written off as “consolised”, the few but focused sidequests, the haunting and enchanting soundtrack and the rich and beautiful, albeit linear, world that CDProjekt RED created all helped me in choosing The Witcher 2 as my game of the year. It was none of them, however, that secured the game my nomination.
Of all the factors that went into making The Witcher 2 one of my favourite games this year, no other factor contributed as much as the storytelling. In telling the continuing story of Geralt the Witcher, CDPR succeeded in a way that I have yet to see matched. The game has all the themes you could ask for, from a mysterious back-story to political, racial and magical intrigue. Even if The Witcher 2 is your first foray into The Continent, you’re sure to find something to grab your attention.
The story is a mature tale that boils down to the trials and tribulations of one man and his struggle to hold true to his code in a world that forces him to break it. There’s no simplistic relationship quests here and Geralt isn’t going to save the world anytime soon. It’s a credit to CDPR that they have managed to create such a believable universe without detracting from it through the use of tired tropes. While they’ve managed this with seeming ease, other RPG developers still find themselves struggling to leave the Good vs Evil and Saviour of the World cliches behind. On that merit alone, I feel The Witcher 2 deserves consideration for Game of the Year.
Not stopping there however, CDPR have ensured that after your first playthrough of the game, you’ll want to jump right back in and play the alternative path you’re faced with at the end of the first act, and trust me, you will want to; because the story is just so damn gripping right until the end…well, right until right before the end, technically, but let’s not get bogged down in the details. This bifurcation also has the benefit of allowing greater insight into the different characters, revealing motives and misdeeds you wouldn’t have heard about had you chosen the opposite path. This doesn’t take away from the experience of a single playthrough, however, as either divergence is of equal quality.
Since reviewing The Witcher 2, CDPR have released a mega patch that did a great amount to improve the game for newcomers and veterans alike, making it simpler to get to grips with the oft-difficult combat while also providing a punishing permadeath nightmare mode for those that have the combat down pat. So, whether you found yourself flummoxed by the combat or can pirouette and pierce with your eyes closed, there’s still a reason to go back and check the game out again.
Finally, one other factor which I couldn’t ignore when choosing The Witcher 2 for GOTY was its value for money. It has to be one of the best standard packages ever released, plus with all the DLC absolutely free, and SecuROM now removed, you’d be a fool not to grab yourself a copy.
Only time will tell whether the Xbox 360 version of the game lives up to its bigger brother but for now, I can confidently say that The Witcher 2 is my Game of The Year.