You gain experience points in Witcher 2 through quests, combat and other activities. Once you have enough experience you can visit the character upgrade screen and take one of several paths. There is the Witcher path which is a set of generic Witcher abilities, the path of magic to improve Witcher Signs, the Alchemist path to improve and increase the effectiveness of potions and the Swordsmanship path, which gives you greater ability in combat. You can take one path or a smattering, itís up to you. Each circle of the path costs a talent point and you can upgrade a circle twice.
Then there are mutagens, which enhance these skills, again these are found throughout the game and can be applied to change the way a skill works. Or add an effect like bleeding.
All of these upgraded systems work well, the new journal is fairly easy to follow and the inventory system is simple enough to use. There is a minor gripe in terms of the save and load system, in that you can press the delete key to remove a save but thereís no actual confirmation of this. It would have been better to just have a delete option and a mass delete option at that, since Witcher 2 saves can add up to a lot of gig, between quick, auto and hard saves.
Finally the Witcher 2 has several levels of difficulty and even on the easiest youíll find that itís quite a tricky customer at first. Insane mode is for those of you with fond memories of Steel Battalion where you lose your save game and need to restart if you die. The same happens here in Witcher 2, you have been warned.
The mini-map and map in Witcher 2 are serviceable and whilst some quests donít have a general marker to tell you where to go, the clue often resides in the quest log in the journal. If I had one gripe to say about Witcher 2 overall though in that regard, not enough of a tutorial is given for first time players and new gamers. A little more hand-holding from the get-go might have been nice, not as though I needed it being used to this kind of thing.Combat
Ah...how you have changed Witcher 2 from the Witcher. For the better I feel. I warn you now; this is an uncompromising combat system that will destroy you on the harder difficulty levels until you master it. Sometimes as well, as of patch 1.2, blocking is very twitchy and the block key doesnít quite work well enough. I tend to roll a lot though, and that was fairly responsive for me. Geraltís combat arsenal of moves expands as you level him up, putting points into the Swordsmanship path is a great way of giving the Witcher a serious edge in combat, with flourishes, counters and even group finishers unlocked near the end of the path. Geralt becomes a true master of the blade.
Itís a satisfying system, there are some nice moves and you can mix things up with Witcher Signs, such as Aard (telekinetic force push) and Igni (fire based magic) as you fight. An Aard might stun your victim and then leave them open for a cinematic finishing move as Geralt finishes them off. You can also combine certain signs with pools of water and in the rain some of Geraltís electrical based magic becomes even more potent.
There are groups of enemies that will attack you, and they wonít politely wait their turn, theyíll gang up and use all of their own dirty tricks to attempt to spill Geraltís blood. Being combat aware is very important and moving constantly in a fight can mean the difference between life and death. Using alchemy and bombs, or traps is a great way to even the odds and in some fights you need to rely on a wide variety of tactics. Itís the uncompromising nature of the game that draws me to the battles; once you win...you feel a sense of having actually achieved something.
Combat is fast, fun, smooth and most of all tactical. If youíre not familiar with the concept of the Witcher as a character, remember that in battle you need to use your steel sword against humans and the silver one against monsters. Fortunately you can swap as you fight and select powers and weapons with hot-keys. So itís not as much of a headache to keep track of, unlike weapons and stances in the Witcher.
One last point, the Witcher 2 is one of the most mature games to handle violence, racism and dark narrative points mirroring the Sapkowski books perfectly. It also handles sex in a straight-forwards and mature manner that doesnít turn it into porn or titillation. You can go through the whole game without engaging in sex at all, or you can visit every prostitute and seduce numerous female characters if you so desire. There are no sex cards to collect and this just goes to show that CDPR has matured in that direction as well.Graphics
No matter your gaming rig, the Witcher 2 will look great. On a truly high end rig with a seriously powerful CPU and GFX card the Witcher 2 is basically jaw-dropping and pulls out all the stops with some incredible graphics. You have numerous options to configure in the custom part of the launcher and there are several good sites now with optimisation settings for high-end and low-end rigs. The textures with Ubersampling enabled are nothing short of stunning and the graphics are something else. With every setting on maximum your eyes are probably going to melt at some of these environments, all of the modern graphical tricks are used and the lighting is nothing short of excellent.