The Witcher 2 can be kind of a tough game. And after finally figuring out how to fight effectively in Witcher 2, I am more annoyed than ever that the game doesn’t have a proper tutorial, because the amount of data it would have to give you to be an effective fighter really isn’t that high.

So I wrote my own tutorial so that more people can get through the intro and into the meaty, meaty goodness that is The Witcher 2.

Geralt of Rivia

Magic user. Alchemist. Mutant. Monster killer. Geralt of Rivia is all of these things, making him far more powerful than a normal man. But that doesn’t mean he’s indestructible.

Geralt is the Batman of the Witcher universe. How does Batman deal with foes, especially ones more powerful than him? By being Crazy Prepared, of course.

Getting Crazy Prepared

There are three things you should take care of before you go into battle – Signs, Potions and Bombs.

1. Signs.

Signs are magical spells that can be cast quickly. The hotkey for casting your currently selected sign is ‘Q’. Before you go into combat, you should assign the Sign you’ll most likely need to your hotkey. Do this by holding down CTRL to get the quick menu. The Signs are on the left side; just click one to assign it to the hotkey. The two most commonly used signs in combat are Aard (knock an enemy back and possibly stun him) and Quen (give yourself three free combat hits of magic armor). Again, press ‘Q’ to cast the Sign.

Two important things to note about magic: First, you must have mana to cast. The mana bar is yellow and is below your red health bar. It’s divided into segments and you must have at least one segment to cast a Sign. Second, all Signs have an animation that must play successfully before the Sign is cast. If you get struck during that animation, your Sign will not cast.

2. Potions.

Geralt cannot consume potions in combat. I like this, it’s kind of stupid for RPG characters to be sucking down health potions in the middle of battle. (Even though I just wrote a game where you do exactly that.) In order to consume a potion, he must meditate. To meditate, hold CTRL and click the center “Meditate” button. If there are no enemies nearby, Geralt will go into mediation mode. At that point, you’ll be able to click “Potions” in the menu and choose which potion he should drink. By far your best bet is the “Swallow” potion; it will greatly accelerate how quickly you get your health back in combat. It will last for ten minutes after you’ve consumed it, so drink it in a quiet place before a big fight.

3. Bombs.

Geralt starts with one bomb type – the Samum bomb. The hotkey for throwing your currently selected bomb is ‘R’. The Samum bomb is awesome; it basically casts the Aard Sign on anything in range. To equip it, go into your inventory (by pressing ‘I’) and sort your inventory by “bombs” (using the icon in the upper-left). Drag the Samum bomb to one of the “Pockets” slots on the right. Now you can use it in combat instantly by pressing ‘R’.

(If you’ve noticed that you assign/use these three vital things in completely different ways then you get a cookie. The GUI is poorly laid out. It could have been greatly simplified. You’ll just have to deal with it; the interface for Witcher 1 was the same way.)

Combat Stuff the Game Doesn’t Bother to Tell You

The prologue is actually a bit of a change-up for Geralt; he’s a monster-fighter, not a six-guys-at-once fighter. Thus, he’s better equipped for going one-on-one against a single tough foe rather than engaging a bunch of foes at once.

You can target an enemy by pressing the ALT key when you’re looking at an enemy. (You can tell which enemy Geralt is looking at because he’ll have a little icon on him.) Once you lock on, all your attacks will be made against that enemy and all movement you do will be in relation to that enemy. If you find that Geralt keeps switching targets uncontrollably, use ALT-locking to fix this. This leads into…

If you don’t have a locked target and are spamming your attack button, Geralt will start attacking a new target as soon as the first one dies. This probably isn’t what you want, since he could move into a very bad position to do so against your will. Another reason to use Alt-locking and to not just beat on the attack button.

You can move quickly in combat by rolling. To roll, double-tap a movement key. I like the backwards roll (Down-Down) because if you roll left or right, you can still get hit by another foe.

Kill weak foes first. From a damage perspective, all foes are pretty much equal, so it makes sense to kill off the weakest foes first. In the Prologue, that means the guys dressed in green.

Parrying requires mana. This is weird but true. A lot of people think that parrying is unresponsive – it’s not. It’s just that it requires you to have a charge on your mana bar; if you don’t, nothing will happen when you hit the parry button. For this reason, I don’t parry a lot.

If you get surrounded you will die. There’s nothing for it, honestly. They’ll just chop you into sushi. So don’t let that happen!

Putting It All Together

So here’s how the dance goes.

Before combat, meditate and drink a potion to improve your chances. Make sure you have the correct sign and bomb chosen.

Once you’ve encountered a group of enemies…

1. Make sure you’ve got room at your back, if you don’t, don’t engage until you do.

2. Move the mouse over the apparently weakest enemy (or any missile-user) and press Alt to lock on to him.

3. When the enemy is at mid-range (too far away to hit you but getting close), press Q to use use Quen to give yourself an extra three hits.

3. Let the enemies bunch up as they approach you (and they will, the trusting fools).

4. Once they are almost in combat range, press R to throw a bomb.

5. Move in, swiping quickly at your weak and stunned opponent. if you’re lucky you’ll get a finishing move, if not you should still kill him quickly. Don’t spam attacks.

6. Back up. Roll backwards if you have to. Renew Quen if you need to. Pick a new target and start over.

7. If you’re facing an opponent with a shield or heavy armor and they are the only one left (which they should be, since you should have killed all the weaker ones first), you can then use the left and right roll to try to get around their defense and score some hits. This is the only time I use the left or right roll. If you have a charge of mana you can also try parrying, this might open them up to attack. (Not my preferred method, though.)

8. If you get badly hurt, run the hell away! Enemies won’t follow you forever; they’ll eventually return to their posts. This will allow you to regenerate your health and cast Quen on yourself again. Then come back and try again.

9. Don’t get impatient. Batman is patient. Geralt is patient. The goal is to force your enemies into a bad situation and then punish them for it, not to let them do the same to you.

And your reward? When you master this combat system and can decimate groups of foes that by all rights should cut you to ribbons, you will feel like a badass. And you’ll be playing Geralt the way he was meant to be played, which means – gasp! – you’ll be playing his role! You’ll be role-playing! In a role-playing game!