Review: The Witcher 2 – Assassins of Kings – Enhanced Edition (XBOX 360)

Developer(s): CD Projekt RED
Publisher(s): Atari, Namco Bandai Games, Warner Bros. Interactive
Platform(s): Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360
Release Date: April 17, 2012

While president Obama was touring Europe, he received a rather unique gift after meeting the Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk. You see, the Polish fantasy writer Andrzej Sapkowski is somewhat of a literary rockstar overseas, and The Witcher Novels are jewels of Poland’s fantasy lore. So what better way to greet the president of the United States than with a gift of the Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Special Edition video game? This gesture alone should tell you something about the title right away: it’s respected, damn well received, and mature enough to be taken seriously by a Prime Minister. Let’s put a lot of emphasis on the mature part, because this is one of the most adult RPGs you’ll ever play. It’s not just the nudity and sex that earns The Witcher 2 an M rating; it’s the complex storyline that touches on racism, political machinations, and genocide; it’s the game’s reliance on players’ intelligence that makes it exceptionally “grown-up.” The Witcher 2 gives you a lot to work with, but it also asks you to become heavily invested in its history and traditions in order to get the most out of it.

The Good
– A truly adult RPG experience
– Breathtaking environments
– Spectacular voice acting and dialogue
– Strategic approach to combat
– Very Challenging

The Bad
– The controls feel oftentimes clumsy and unresponsive
– Extremely overwhelming at first (might turn off casual gamers)
– Quest tracking is a complete mess
– Stealth portions of the game are awful
– The Map is useless

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is a 2012 console port of a 2011 PC game. To be fair to console gamers, I won’t compare the Xbox 360 version to the PC counterpart too much, nor will I go into details about the first Witcher game. Since this is the only Witcher game on consoles, I’ll try to review it as a standalone title, so newcomers to the series know what to expect.

You play as Geralt of Rivia, one of the few remaining Witchers. Witchers are genetically enhanced humans that have been trained to fight monsters since childhood, and they possess special powers like alchemy and magic. It’s not necessary to have played the original Witcher title since everything you need to know about the universe is explained throughout the adventure. However, those unfamiliar with the franchise might feel slightly lost and overwhelmed during the prologue. You begin the game in kingdom Temeria’s prison interrogation room. Vernon Roche, commander of a Special Forces group called the Blue Stripes, questions Geralt in regards to the assassination of the king of Temeria, King Foltest. Geralt recounts the events leading up to the assassination and we find out that another Witcher, who’s disguised as a blind monk, is responsible for the murder. Up until the last moments of the assassination, both Vernon and Triss Merigold (a sorceress and the Witcher’s “companion”) accompany Geralt and King Foltest during battle. When Geralt is found over the king’s dead body after taking him to see his children, he’s mistaken for the killer and thrown into jail by Temerian forces. The prologue goes back and forth between the interrogation and the battle, and you’re pretty much thrown straight into the battlefield surrounded by dozens of enemy soldiers. I should also mention that Geralt suffers from amnesia, which is a nice narrative mechanic that ties the original Witcher to the sequel and introduces Geralt’s past to newcomers of the franchise. Eventually, Geralt convinces Vernon that he will hunt down the king slayer and our adventure begins.

Before the prologue, you spend a few minutes in an arena environment where you’re briefly introduced to the game’s controls. Unfortunately, the game throws everything at you right away, giving you little time to become comfortable with the button layout before you’re asked to slay your first horde of enemies. If the general mechanics followed your typical control scheme, it wouldn’t be an issue, but the gameplay in The Witcher 2 takes a long time to get used to – it literally feels like the developers tried to cram the entire keyboard into the limited Xbox 360 controller.

Of course things get significantly better once you spend enough time on the battlefield, but moving around with Geralt never feels precise. When you’re opening doors and chests, or even climbing certain areas, Geralt has to line up with the object accordingly before you’re prompted to press “A”. Oftentimes, you feel like you are re-aligning yourself awkwardly just to walk through a door. What’s worse is the buttons don’t respond consistently. In many instances, I found myself walking up to a door, pressing “A”, repositioning myself, pressing “A” again, then waiting a full second for Geralt to perform the action. It’s even more frustrating when you need to draw your sword. You press left on the D-pad for the long sword and right for Geralt’s silver sword. The Xbox 360 D-pad is notorious for input lag and it’s exasperating in The Witcher 2. Another major problem is Geralt’s default walking speed. When you push the analog stick lightly, Geralt walks very slowly. Nudge it just a bit forward and he’ll start running. Considering that Geralt has to disarm traps when he’s out and about, it’s very toilsome to move with caution. It’s a shame that the simple act of navigating the world takes you out of the immersion.

Luckily, the sword fighting feels barbarous and fast. The sword mechanics handle quite nicely once you figure out how to single out foes, target them properly, and use your block/roll to dodge incoming attacks. The “X” button is used for strong attacks and the “A” button for quick strikes. Learning which attacks are necessary for the various enemy types is key to survival – it’s just too bad that the targeting is so loose. You can assign “signs” (magic spells) to the “Y” button and even throw bombs, throwing-knives, and set traps with a click of the right shoulder button. Combat calls for a lot of strategy in later stages since each enemy requires different offensive maneuvers.

The Witcher 2 tries to be very realistic in that it forces you to prepare for battles. Rather then relying on health potions during fights, Geralt has to ready himself with sword enhancing oils, vigor enhancing potions and other elixirs before venturing out. This seems odd at first, since you might walk into an ambush with only a fraction of your health, but once you wise up on the dangers of your surroundings, it adds a whole new layer of strategy to combat. You get a greater sense of danger when walking into a forest and you need to constantly ready yourself for unexpected encounters. This kind of tension is truly unique and it makes you feel like you’re learning to adapt to your environment, the longer you play.

As you accumulate experience points, you upgrade your skill tree, which consists of five categories: Training Tree, Magic Tree, Alchemy Tree, and Swordsmanship Tree – each consisting of fifteen talents. The various talent upgrades have a significant impact on character development and playing style. I mainly focused on the Swordsmanship talents since the parrying and dodge maneuvers come in handy during heated battles. In order to upgrade your skills, drink and create potions, and even rest, you have to go into a meditative state. The tricky part is that you can only meditate when no enemies are around. Meditation allows you to craft necessary potions for battle and it’s important to regularly refill your inventory. It’s certainly strange at first, but I have to applaud the developers for trying something original.

Pressing the left analog stick also activates Geralt’s medallion. The medallion does a quick scan of the environment, revealing traps, hidden treasures and even upcoming enemies. It’s similar to the scanning function found in Prototype 2 or Infamous. Then there are the occasional stealth segments, which are the worst gameplay elements in the entire game. They are clumsy and feel completely out of place. It’s a good thing they only occur occasionally.

The voice acting, music and overall presentation is exceptional. The characters feel convincingly real and every location radiates with history. All of the performances are extraordinary and I felt invested in every conversation. Every character has something interesting to say and the game’s expansive lore is deeply immersive.

The game has a unique quest structure that insists on your commitment to read journal entries and memorize names. Certain quests will ask you to defeat some creatures in nearby forests – but before you can do that, you need to talk to the townsfolk and learn about the monsters before you can slay them. It requires some legwork since nothing is marked on your map and you need to pay close attention to what the villagers are saying. This might frustrate gamers that are used to simply following quest markers on the map, but it ads an incomparable sense or realism to your missions. Of course, other quests fit into your typical template of following the marked waypoint, but that’s when the game goes completely kaput. In my playthrough, the quest markers were wrong eighty percent of the time, especially in chapter 2. I spent three hours on a particular quest because the marker kept repositioning itself all over the map. This is unacceptable and affects the overall enjoyment of the game. But to the game’s credit, when things work, they work beautifully. You feel like every decision impacts the story drastically and things are never simply black and white. Certain decisions will alter the progression of an entire chapter and this ads an immense level of replayability to the game.

The Witcher 2 looks fantastic! The environments are stunning and the game boasts some of the most detailed forests I’ve ever seen. The developers recommend installing the game to Xbox’s HDD and I can see why. Meshes are significantly better and the textures load much faster. Character models look great, although lip-syncing is somewhat robotic and unnatural. The animations in combat are extremely fluid, but they seem to lack the same finesse during cut-scenes. Texture pop-in still occurs even after the install, and while it’s not a game breaker, it’s clearly noticeable. It’s not so much the graphics engine that’s impressive; it’s the awe-inspiring art style. The villages and towns are meticulously designed and there’s an incredible amount of environmental variety throughout the game. Venturing out during nighttime feels legitimately scary and watching the sunrise paints the entire screen in vibrant colors.

The Witcher 2 is not for everyone. Geralt can sleep with whores around every corner and the game shows quite a bit of the “action.” Racism plays a huge role in the game’s story and if you’re not paying attention, you might get lost in the game’s politics. But it’s all these things that make the game truly unique. The Witcher 2 treats you like an adult and refuses to hold your hand. The game has several different endings and certain decisions will affect large portions of your playthrough, so you have plenty reasons to go back. In the gameplay department, The Witcher 2 shines conceptually, but fails to deliver in the most fundamental areas, such as opening doors and moving around. While the combat has some solid sword mechanics and nice touches of strategic planning, it ultimately feels imprecise and wonky, making it the game’s weakest area. Regardless of the shortcomings, this is a game that must be experienced by any serious RPG fan. There aren’t many games like it and I surely hope to see more of Geralt’s dark Witcher universe.

FINAL SCORE -“A Must for RPG Fans” -(8.5)

GRAPHICS
Stunningly detailed environments with occasional pop in, even after the install. (8.5)

GAMEPLAY
Opening doors and interacting with objects is a pain, but the sword fighting is fast, brutal and fun. (7.5)

STORY
A dark storyline that makes you feel deeply immersed and gives you plenty of choices to shape the narrative. (9.0)

SOUND
Some of the best voice acting and dialogue around. (9.0)

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Difference Between A Busy Person and An Effective Person

There are plenty of reasons why so many of us feel so busy all the time because we do not find time to try a more effective approach and clear priorities in life. We are too busy that we failed to see things in a different light. We are too busy to be effective.

In fact, there is a difference between busy and effective. A busy person is someone who is filling time with tasks rather than prioritizing results. He/she works without systems or ways of tracking progress; take tasks at random without prioritizing by importance or urgency; spends a lot of time on things that don’t actually matter; and equating doing with accomplishing.

On the contrary, an effective person is someone who can figure out how to spend less time on getting more things done. He/she is uses systems to track goals and accomplishments. He/she works on the most important things first, being selective with the use of time and resources and choose the most direct path to accomplish results without doing much.

We just need to identify our priorities and goals in life. It doesn’t matter anymore what we do or where we work. We have to be more productive on the job. The ache in our brain after several long hours of work should be our signal to take a break. We just have to give ourselves a moment to relax for a while or just reflect. Unconsciously, we are rejuvenated and ready to achieve greater efficiency.

We need to eliminate the things that don’t matter during our workday – they have a nominal effect on our overall productivity. We can knock out our most challenging work when our brain is fresh. By organizing our schedule, we’ll be able to create a new and more productive way to manage our time.

Stop confusing productivity with laziness. We need to place our focus on doing the things that matter most as efficiently and effectively as possible. We have to stop multi-tasking. We cannot do many things at the same time. Get things done more effectively and efficiently by focusing on one task at a time.

When we set specific goals, knowing exactly what we want to achieve keeps us motivated until we get there. Think about the specific actions that need to be taken to reach our goal. Achieving any goal requires honest and regular monitoring of our progress. If we don’t know how well we are doing, we can’t adjust our behavior or our strategies accordingly.

When we are setting a goal, engage in lots of positive thinking about how likely we are to achieve it. Believing in our ability to succeed is enormously helpful for creating and sustaining our motivation. But whatever we do, don’t underestimate how difficult it will be to reach our goal. Most goals worth achieving require time, planning, effort, and persistence.

We focus on goals that are all about proving ourselves, rather than developing and acquiring new skills. There are many people who are too confident in their ability to resist temptation but successful people know not to reach a goal harder than it already is.

This article is about how we can accomplish work effectively by not making any excuses of being too busy to do a task.

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Building Machinima Websites With Game Templates

Let me first begin by explaining, to anyone who stumbled onto this article and has no prior knowledge of Machinima, that the term “Machinima,” a contraction of machine cinema, refers to using video games to film movies. The idea came from the animated software introductions of the 1980s and the first-person shooter video games of the 1990s. The term now appears in mainstream media including television and commercials.

When creating a website the first thing you need to decide is how much you can spend. If the sky is the limit and you want a custom website design then by all means go that route, but if you have a limited cash flow you can use free game templates or free clan templates. No matter which one you choose you want your website to reflect the fact that you are a Machinima filmmaker and that is exactly what a game template will do.

For argument’s sake let us assume that you are using one of the free game templates or free clan templates. Now, you need to decide on the content. Since the object of the website is to showcase your content make sure that you add at least one film to your home page. Films and images are going to be the key ingredients to your site. You can either add one film to your home page or add all of them and make that the center stage.

Make sure to add an “about” page, a “projects” page, and an “art gallery” for your screenshots. If you do not have a blog yet add make sure you one to your website and update it at least once a week to keep people informed about your new or open projects. You may need to add more information and more pages depending on how long you have been a Machinima filmmaker and how many projects you have completed, but that should be enough to get your website started.

In summary, building a Machinima website can be easy. Your key ingredients are films and images sprinkled with information about you and your projects. Using game templates you’ll be able to same much time, funds and efforts and avoid unnecessary stages of reviews and edits. You may easily customize everything in the template on your own, inserting your unique content, imagery, pages and contact forms if needed. And one of the greatest benefits is that you don’t need any specific programming or web design skills

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Get More Video Game Tester Jobs By Stealthily Improving Your Resume

“Improving my resume? Do you mean lie?” No, you won’t have to lie to improve your video game tester resume. You don’t have to embellish, exaggerate, fib, and/or stretch the truth. All you have to do is tell the truth. Worried that telling the truth will result in “Sorry, you don’t have enough experience”? Well, don’t be. There is a simple way for you to legitimately gain more experience and display that fact on your resume; and contrary to what you might think, it’s not by “playing more games”.

It’s true that playing more video games will indirectly help get you more testing jobs, but thats not the “way” we’re talking about. To show the, for lack of a better word, illusion of expertise, all you have to do is set up a simple website or blog. The purpose of this website/blog is to openly display your video game experience for others to see; more specifically, game developers.

How does a website or blog help? Basically, it allows possible employers to see, at some level, how involved you are with the video game industry. Obviously, they aren’t going to base their entire decision on how pretty your website looks. However, it will play a small part in you being hired or rejected. So, with that being said, be sure to put some decent effort into your website or blog.

Although not having a website won’t hurt your chances, having a poor website can. If you set one up and display poor information and/or act like a clown, you won’t score any points with the company or developer you’re applying to. As a matter of fact, you’ll probably lose points.

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If you don’t know much about creating websites, the best thing you can do is set-up a free blog at blogger.com. Choose a pre-made template and then work from there. Blogger blogs look quite nice and can give you that professional look that you’re going for. It’s either that or you set up your very own website and do everything completely on your own. Your choice.

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Your goal here is to present yourself in a professional manner and provide as much accurate information as possible. What you add to the website/blog really doesn’t matter so long as it is video game related and contains some sort of useful info. You can add reviews, previews, hints, cheats, tips, strategy guides, walk-throughs, and/or anything else that you can think of. You have to remember that these developers and game companies are looking for professional video game testers, not occasional game players who think of gaming as a “weekend hobby”; therefore, the more detailed information and content you provide, the better off you’ll be.

If you’re busy and don’t have time to write and then add video game related information to your blog, you could always outsource it to someone else. What does that mean? It simply means you would pay someone to write the reviews, previews, and other information. Some may consider this to be a bit sneaky and dishonest, but that’s up to you to decide. Generally speaking, most testers would rather be “sneaky and have an actual video game tester job” than be “honest and without a job.”

Having a website/blog listed on your resume is a great reference all on it’s own. It clearly shows the company your level of experience with video games and makes you appear dramatically more professional, which is exactly what you want.

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