The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings 2-Years Later ReviewGuest_Jim_* - December 17, 2013
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When released, The Witcher 2 was one of the most brutal games for modern systems to try running at maximum settings (and sometimes a bit less than that). Special effects include blur effects, depth of field, SSAO, wet surfaces rain effect, dangling-objects physics, and Ubersampling. According to the readme files for the game, Ubersampling renders scenes multiple times to provide the best appearance. As the readme also points out, this is not an easy process for computers to do.
With all of these options enabled, the game is still one of the best looking experiences you can find for the PC. You may be able to find some hard edges that a newer game could tessellate away, but that will require careful examination of screenshots, as active gameplay will make them nearly impossible to see. The models were simply designed that well, and the textures match that quality.
Leather and cloth textures look like the real materials, with visible fibers and cracks. Metals are equally detailed and are, when appropriate, reflective. Hair, fur, and feathers are, again, well made. There may be some trickery in the bulk of the material, but at the edges you can see individual strands of fiber, making it all look that much more realistic. Short facial hair, such as Geralt's stubble, does appear to be part of the texture, but skin textures are so detailed that the hair looks natural. The marks, wrinkles, freckles, pores, and scars of the skin textures also look very natural, even under some close examination.
The environments of the game are quite varied, as you will find yourself traipsing through forests, castles, towns, dungeons, battlefields, and more. No matter where you are, though, the quality of these environments are consistently high. In the forest, for example, you will see lush trees, tall grass, and other flora everywhere, leading you to believe this world actually exists. The enemies found in these environments are equally detailed, and, despite their intent to kill you, can actually be somewhat beautiful. (Admire at your own risk though.) Outside of the forest, you will find yourself in areas you would expect from the Middle Ages of Europe, with muddy towns, wooden forts, and stone castles, along with some objects that are only fantasy in origin.
I think it is about time to talk about water and fire. Water is not a particularly common element in the game (at least during my playthrough), but is reactive to your presence and motion through it. Most of the time though, the waters’ surfaces are just rough from ripples and small waves being permanently generated somewhere. The disturbances you cause are short lived compared to them.
Fire, which is far more present in the game, is probably among the best I have seen in video games. It has curling wisps and tendrils that flow so smoothly that it looks like a real, living flame. The particles fires throw off also help add to the realism. The flames are not particularly thick however, allowing you to see through them and to the objects caught by the conflagration. With the distortion and lighting effects the fire adds, this transparency further adds to its natural appearance.
Time for system specs and performance:
- Processor: AMD A10-5800K @ 4.40 GHz (44.0x100)
- Cooling: Corsair H110
- Motherboard: ASUS F2A85-M PRO
- GPU: EVGA GTX 770 2 GB
- PhysX: EVGA GTX 570 1280 MB
- Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws 4x8 GB (32 GB total) at 1866 MHz 10-10-10-27
- PSU: OCZ Fata1ty 750 W
- OS: Windows 7- Professional 64-bit
Thankfully the years have been good to the hardware market and I was able to play the entire game at maximum settings, with two exceptions. The first being motion blur, because I personally prefer to have that turned off, and the other is the limit on dangling objects. I did not pay close enough attention to the description of that setting, so I had the limit enabled, when ‘disabled’ is actually the higher quality setting.
Framerate does change depending on the environment, as some areas have considerably more objects to render. Dungeons with tight corridors are not very difficult to draw, but a marsh filled with plants, going as far as the eye can see is going to require more resources. This did cause the occasional drop in FPS, but nothing too severe, and it was still playable.
Framerates were smooth throughout, although there were some occasional drops. Those drops never seemed to last long for me, possibly because it was only a specific area in the region that had so much to render.
I never noticed any true graphical glitches worth mentioning here. There were some small issues that occurred, but they were not readily reproducible, as simply replaying a section may or may not have them. Intermittency combined with minimal impact makes it something I believe is worth overlooking for a review. (That is where forum threads can come in handy.)
Although I never experienced any graphical glitches, I do have some complaints concerning certain geometries, but that is more gameplay than graphics, so that is section they will be discussed in.
Overall, the graphics of The Witcher 2 are superb, in my opinion, and two years after release still compete with the best you can find today. It may have some rough spots, but you have to look for them. I just wish I had an even better rig so I could really push some pixels.