Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
Character development FAQ
Version 1.2
Author: Harleyquin
Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. Character development basics
3. Character playstyles
4. Ability overview
5. Ability investment order
6. Acknowledgement and Credits
7. Contact information
8. Talent point resetting and mutagens
9. Version history
10. Legal Notice





1. Introduction
Welcome to my character development guide for the Witcher 2: Assassins of
Kings. The purpose of this FAQ is to give newcomers to the game an outline
on how to develop Geralt of Rivia as efficiently as possible to provide a
smoother gameplay experience regardless of difficulty level. If you've read
my previous guide on the Talent Tree for the 1st game, this guide will use
more or less the same format. This guide is written according to the latest
patch 2.1 for the Witcher 2 as a lot of the abilities have been changed
compared to the initial retail version released in May 2011. Like my previous
guide I will endeavour not to give too many spoilers during ability
descriptions, enemies and game features which are common knowledge will be
mentioned freely regardless.

The game isn't that hard to beat if the Easy difficulty is selected, however
players who like a bit more of a challenge on their 1st playthrough may
find the going tough without proper character planning beforehand. The
Witcher series isn't like the Elder Scrolls series where one misstep during
character advancement can doom a character build, but it is easy to make
mistakes and give players unnecessary grief in making the game harder than
it has to be. Readers still interested can continue, I make no guarantees
that the following information below will work for everyone, but I trust
it will help as a useful reference for those new to the game.

2. Character development basics
Before starting on the guide proper, here's a few simple but important
points to remember for thinking about a character concept:

2a) There are 51 different abilities that Geralt can invest talent points in,
each ability has two levels for investment. Hence players have 102 different
choices for talent point investment.

2b) Geralt earns a talent point upon each level up, the maximum level he can
attain in this game is level 35. This means the maximum number of talent
points any player can earn in one playthrough is 34 (Nothing available at
level 1). If players are patient enough to develop Geralt to level 35, that's
exactly 1 out of every 3 abilities Geralt can choose from the available list.

2c) Provided prerequisite abilities have a single point invested beforehand,
there are no restrictions on where talent points can be invested.

2d) All 4 development trees use an either/or relationship to determine whether
or not a more advanced ability can be invested in upon level-up. This will
help players who prefer to pass on unnecessary abilities to focus on their
key targets.

2e) All players MUST invest at least 6 talent points into the Training tree
before the other trees are unlocked. Players therefore need to choose 6
out of 12 options in the Training tree before investing the remaining 28
talent points in their chosen tree(s).

3. Character playstyles
Now that the above points have been dealt with, players will want to plan
a character concept for Geralt. Compared to the 1st game, there are a lot
more permutations available for players who like to enjoy the role-playing
aspect of character building. A quick overview of the 4 trees, their abilities
and the manual's description gives the following builds:

3a) Mastery of one tree (Swordsmanship/Magic/Alchemy) with little or no
investment in the other two trees.
A straightforward approach to playing the game, choose one tree and invest
15-20 talent points as required. The remaining points can be invested in
useful abilities in the non-important trees allowing the player to reach
the advanced adrenaline-based skill as soon as possible.

Putting all available eggs in one basket is not the wisest choice, especially
on harder difficulty levels where a more balanced approach may be better.
Blade experts will have a slightly easier time of it than their magic and
alchemy counterparts for various reasons.

3b) Expertise in two trees with talents invested sparingly in the 3rd.
This approach is more adaptable than the one-trick pony described above, 
some battles are much easier with more tools at the player's disposal.

It'll take longer to reach the adrenaline skill for either selected tree than
the master above. Versatility comes at the price of killing power and speed
say in comparison to a player who's completely dedicated to the sword.

3c) Jack of all trades, relies on equipment, skill and mutagens to round
out weaknesses.
This is a doable build for players completely new to the series and who'd
like a better idea of how the various abilities work. It'll still sail
through easy difficulty and help earn Steam achievements for players who
are so inclined. This approach can earn the adrenaline skills for all 3 trees
and use them simultaenously in combat under the right circumstances.

This approach is tough to survive with on Hard difficulty and above, the
Jack of all Trades is always the Master of None so killing speed and
survivability will rely more on player preparation and reflexes than
on the abilities themselves. This approach only sees its true potential
at levels 33-35 which may require a lot of grinding and patience.

4. Ability overview
The abilities will be divided into their respective trees, I'll use small
letters to denote different ability trees and roman numerals to denote the
abilities themselves. I grade each ability on a scale from 0 to 5, 0
recommends players skip the ability entirely while 5 recommends players
get the ability either sooner or later. Of course my ratings are
subjective and based on personal experience so mileage will vary depending
on player skill and paths chosen. Note that the in-game description of
abilities does not necessarily match what is seen in practice, I have
used the Wikia ability descriptions for the abilities below and there will
be some discrepancy with what is written in the Talent Tree.

4a) Training tree
No matter what build players choose, 6 points must be invested into this
path before the other 3 trees are unlocked. It's not all bad though since
some very useful skills are located in this tree and the passive support
skills are helpful no matter what build is played. Players completely new
to the game can invest one point in each of the different abilities available
before moving on, more experienced players may wish to tinker a little.

4ai) Vigour Regeneration
Prerequisites: None
Level 1 effects: +25% vigour regeneration outside of combat
Level 2 effects: +25% vigour regeneration in combat

Many players will invest at least one talent here, this will speed
up waiting times when running away from opponents to regenerate vigour (A
common occurrence in normal difficulty and up). Those who want more of
a challenge or are used to drinking Lapwing and Tawny Owl potions before
major fights have leeway to skip this talent. One visual clue to identify
if Geralt is in a non-combat situation despite nearby enemies is to see
whether he adopts a loose stance with his sword drawn.

Players investing heavily in the Sign path may be tempted to invest an
additional talent here since their slaying power depends heavily on the
number of vigour points available and their replenishment rate. On the other
hand potions like Tawny Owl and Maribor Forest are available which can achieve
the same purpose without expending a precious talent point.

Level 1: 3/5
Level 2: 0/5 (2/5 for Sign-only players).

4aii) Hardiness
Prerequisites: None
Level 1 effects: Vitality +10
Level 2 effects: Vitality +50

1st-time players can choose to invest a point here and move on, other players
with more playing time under their belt will choose to skip this in favour
of developing one of the Training Tree abilities to Level 2. 10 Vitality is
only sufficient for keeping Geralt standing for 1-2 attacks longer in the
Prologue and makes barely any difference past Chapter 1. The only players
who might be tempted to invest a point or two here will be those skilled
enough to play and finish Insane difficulty and who want every last point
of Vitality possible.

Level 1: 0/5 (3/5 for Insane Difficulty players)
Level 2: 0/5 (1.5/5 for Insane Difficulty players)

4aiii) Dagger Throwing
Prerequisites: None
Level 1 effects: Unlocks the ability to throw daggers
Level 2 effects: Damage dealt by daggers +20

Most players will want one point invested here, dagger throwing is one of
the few range attacks available to the fledgling Witcher and it's
convenient for whittling down opponents from range when using a bomb would
be a waste or if critical effects can be inflicted with the right daggers.
The only players who might conveivably give this a miss will be Sign-only
players since they'll have invested enough points (and possibly mutagens) to
upgrade Sign range for Aard and Igni to engage in battle at a reasonable
distance, the upside giving these players the option to forego daggers
completely and save on carrying weight for keeping daggers in
inventory and earning a few orens on the side by selling every single
dagger-related item, crafting diagram and component they chance across.
Regardless of player preference, all players must choose either this ability,
Vigour Regeneration or Hardiness to unlock the more advanced Training Tree
abilities so it is highly recommended players make a decision early.

There's little to no point investing a 2nd point in dagger throwing. Talent
points are limited enough as it is so expending a hard-earned point into
a skill which uses finite quantities of weapons that are not guaranteed to
bring victory against all foes regardless of damage bonus. The Witcher's main
weapons are the two swords behind his back, leave the knife-throwing antics
at the circus.

Level 1: 5/5 (3/5 for Sign-heavy players)
Level 2: 0/5

4aiv) Parrying
Prerequisites: Vigour Regeneration OR Hardiness OR Dagger Throwing
Level 1 effects: Unlocks ability to parry attacks from all directions
Level 2 effects: Parrying reduces damage inflicted by 50%

This ability has been downgraded compared to its initial retail incarnation,
but it's still required no matter what build the player pursues. There will
always be occasions when Geralt gets surrounded and has to fight his way
out to achieve a better tactical position (Jumping over enemies along
with pirouettes to regain position are now replaced by the less helpful
roll in this game). If timing is good and spare Vigour points remain
available, it is possible to stagger all enemies who surround Geralt with
a good parry in order to earn an opportunity to move out of the encirclement.
Take note that parrying is not always a viable option in battles, certain
monster fights rely more on the ability to dodge and keeping a safe
distance. Even the most hardcore Sign-heavy player will want to take
this eventually since it's the prerequisite to the two mutagen-friendly
abilities in the Training Tree.

Arguing a case for two points in this ability is weaker now since the
damage reduction from a successful parry is only 50%. The tougher the
difficulty level chosen however, the more valuable the 50% damage reduction
becomes especially with the damage values enemies are assigned. Players
intending to pick Riposte in the swordsmanship tree will find the 2nd
point here more or less mandatory.

Level 1: 5/5
Level 2: 4/5 (5/5 for Sword-heavy players or anyone going for Riposte)

4av) Arrow Redirection
Prerequisites: Parrying
Level 1 effects: Unlocks ability to repel arrows when blocking
Level 2 effects: Unlocks ability to deflect arrows back to the shooter

The manual isn't very clear on this, but this ability when unlocked only
seems to work if Geralt is facing the direction of the shooter, is in parry
stance and has a non-empty Vigour bar. The ability is no longer automatic and
chance-based like it was in Witcher 1. This ability is of course situational
since all opponents which this ability applies to are vulnerable to Steel and
vary to some extent depending on what battles Geralt chooses to fight. The
biggest reason for choosing this ability however is its ability to accept
mutagens for upgrades.

One Steam achievement and a character attribute are tied to Level 2 of this
ability. 1st-time players might want to give this a pick just to see how
it works, once the achievement has been earned it is purely a matter of
gameplay preference as to whether Level 2 (and its associated attributed
when earned) are worth keeping. Level 1 is sufficient to unlock the mutagen
upgrade, Level 2 provides a foolproof way to kill archers and arbalists
at range.

Level 1: 5/5
Level 2: 2/5 (Depending on path, playstyle and personal preference)

4avi) Fortitude
Prerequisites: Parrying
Level 1 effects: Vigour regeneration in combat +10%
Level 2 effects: +1 Vigour

This is another must-have ability regardless of playstyle. Vigour regenerates
much more slowly during combat compared to non-combat situations so cutting
down waiting times as soon as possible might be the difference between
winning the fight or getting killed. In addition to the level's effect, this
is the 2nd of the two abilities accepting mutagens in the Training Tree.

Going for Level 2 in this ability is perfectly viable, the 2 starting points
in Vigour tend to be used up very quickly at the start of the game so
having an additional point opens up more approaches to combat situations.
Equipment increasing vigour points and vigour regeneration is also limited
in the early stages of the game so investing a talent point here is not
"wasted". Unlike the more specialised Arrow Redirection and Parrying, an
extra vigour point is more versatile in application so going up to
Level 2 using one of the 6 mandatory talent points is a solid choice.
Sign-heavy players who decided to skip on Dagger Throwing are strongly
advised to invest that talent point here.

Level 1: 5/5
Level 2: 5/5

4b) Swordsmanship Tree
Decisions on where to invest talent points earned in the 3 main Trees are
less clear-cut compared to the Training tree, so I'll do my best to analyse
pros and cons of each ability and give as balanced a rating as possible.

More points invested here means Geralt is capable of cutting down foes
faster and withstanding more attacks in turn. The game itself advises
players to invest heavily in this Tree since on easy difficulty this is
all that's required to finish the storyline. A closer look however reveals
some abilities which are also of use to other playstyles.

4bi) Position
Prerequisites: None
Level 1 effects: Damage incurred from backstabs 150%
Level 2 effects: Damage incurred from backstabs 100%

Backstab damage hurts, more so on Hard difficulty and above. Investing in
this ability mitigates the pain to some extent. Skilled players can try
to avoid getting surrounded as much as possible, however there will always
be situations where Geralt must face multiple foes at once and having this
passive ability in place helps improve the odds of surviving.

Whether or not Level 2 is worth the investment comes down to playstyle.
If Geralt's best source of damage is from swords then getting stuck in
against multiple opponents is the price that must be paid to get the job
done much faster. Players heavily reliant on Combat Acumen will need Level
2 to stay alive long enough for Whirl to do its job. At Dark/Insane
difficulty level, it is almost always worth it to get the two points
invested here as soon as possible, even with the full Blasphemer set
a Necker Warrior backstab double-swing will slay Geralt if the
150/200% modifier is applied even if Geralt's level is as high as
10-12.

Level 1: 3/5
Level 2: 0/5 (5/5 for Dark/Insane difficulty, 3/5 for Sword-heavy
players)

4bii) Riposte
Prerequisites: None
Level 1 effects: Unlocks ability to counterattack foes while parrying
Level 2 effects: Riposte instant kill chance +10%

An upgrade of sorts to the parry skill, with this ability active Geralt
can counterattack an opponent immediately after the incoming blow is
parried provided distance and timing are good. Players facing an opponent
whose attacks can be parried should keep parry stance up and wait for the
visual cue that will show on the opponent's body. Timing the attack whilst
holding the parry stance will result in Geralt parrying the opponent and
immediately initiating an attack animation on the staggering foe. A
successfuly riposte requires available vigour points otherwise there will
be no visual cue. As mentioned in the parrying entry above, this is not
always available depending on the type of opponent faced. If an attack
is coming and no visual cue is available despite all the prerequisites
for a parry being met, then the opponent faced is not vulnerable to
riposte and the attacks must be dodged or preempted. There's a Steam
achievement tied to this ability so getting it during a 1st-time
playthrough is required in order to unlock the achievement for those
interested. The riposte can miss if the opponent is too far away, hence
this is best used when the opponent is backed into a corner and cannot
stagger away from the reach of the counter-attack. Execute enough ripostes
successfully and Geralt will gain the character attribute that grants
a chance to automatically riposte enemy blows while in parry position which
can be handy for minimising number of quick reactions required. As
mentioned above in the parrying entry, dovetailing one point here and
two points in that skill are almost essential, particularly so at higher
difficulty levels.

Level 2 might be worthwhile depending on availability of spare talent
points and how far down the Swordsmanship Tree the player is willing to
invest in. It's more likely players will run out of talent points to
spend before this becomes a feasible option.

Level 1: 3/5 (4/5 for 1st time players bought from Steam and sword-heavy
players)
Level 2: 0/5 (1.5/5 for sword-heavy players with a riposte fetish)

4biii) Feet Work
Prerequisites: None
Level 1: Dodge distance +100%
Level 2: Dodge distance +200%

All builds need to master the art of rolling sooner rather than later.
The utility of rolling is readily apparent when it helps
escape from encirclement or closes the distance with a foe just out of
sword reach. Whether or not the skill is worth investing in depends on
how happy players are with the initial distance covered with a basic roll.
Character builds relying heavily on good positioning to keep enemies
clustered together will see the most benefit, regardless most
boss fights are made easier with the extra distance. At Insane/Dark
difficulty levels, investing one point in this talent can mean the
difference between a backstab connecting or missing Geralt.  

Too much distance covered during a roll can be a double-edged sword if
players are careless, hence getting this ability to Level 2 isn't really
required.

Level 1: 4/5 
Level 2: 0/5

4biv) Violence
Prerequisites: Feet Work OR Whirl
Level 1: Sword damage +5%
Level 2: Sword damage +15%

This ability is very straightforward, points invested help Geralt kill
faster. The difference isn't very noticeable at first, more powerful
weapons obtained further down the game make even a 5% increase strong
enough to reduce number of hits required to eliminate cannon fodder. This
is the fastest prerequisite to Whirl though so picking it as a
prerequisite is a good choice for talent-pinching players.

Further investment depends on how far players are willing to go down
the Swordsmanship Tree. Depending on character concept, a +10% increase
to sword damage in exchange for one talent may not be the best possible
choice.

Level 1: 2/5 (3.5/5 for Sword-heavy players focusing on offence)
Level 2: 0/5 (2.5/5 for Sword-heavy players with spare talents)

4bv) Whirl
Prerequisites: Violence OR Hardy
Level 1: Attacks now affect multiple opponents per swing, secondary damage
50% of intended target
Level 2: All targets successfully hit by Whirl attacks take full damage

This ability is a nod to the old Group Style used in Witcher 1. Once
enabled group fights are faster to finish as Geralt's attacks affect all
within range, although the attack animation does not change any enemy
within sword range is affected. Don't count on this ability to keep Geralt
completely safe from flanking damage, backstabs are lethal to Geralt
if he cannot strike opponents to his rear.

Investing in Level 2 again depends on how willing players are towards
investment in the Swordsmanship Tree, in addition this playstyle depends
on taking on many opponents at once in order for the ability to reach
full value. Swordmasters are advised to invest up to Level 2 for this
ability and Position to make group fights less painful, however those
content with using the ability's disruptive capabilities will be
quite happy with Level 1. Alchemist-heavy players reliant on the Mutant
adrenaline skill will also find two points in Whirl surprisingly useful
for extracting maximum value out of the adrenaline duration.

Level 1: 1.5/5 (3.5/5 for offensive Sword-heavy players who like all-out
brawls)
Level 2: 0/5 (2/5 for offensive Sword-heavy players fond of killing
many opponents quickly at once).

4bvi) Guard
Prerequisites: Riposte OR Tough Guy
Level 1: Vigour required to block -25%
Level 2: Vigour required to block -50%

If Geralt fights opponents whose blows can be parried, this ability proves
its worth in keeping damage minimised at reduced expense to vigour. Players
who love the parry and riposte mechanic will appreciate this ability, 
others who prefer to kill their opponents faster or who would rather
avoid the attacks altogether can pass.

No matter how parry-happy players are, investing an additional talent
in this ability is a bit of a waste. Some equipment is available that
reduces the vigour cost of parrying so Level 2 is somewhat redundant. In
addition towards the end of the game players should have 3-4 Vigour
points granting more leeway for vigour expenditure, the Tiara potion is
also available from Chapter 1 which serves the same purpose.

Level 1: 1/5 (3/5 for parry enthusiasts)
Level 2: 0/5

4bvii) Schemer
Prerequisites: Feet Work OR Tough Guy
Level 1: Vigour regeneration in combat +10%
Level 2: Vigour regeneration in combat +40%

The Level 1 effect is equivalent to Level 1 in Fortitude in the Training
Tree, however both effects will work in tandem when calculating Geralt's
final vigour regeneration in combat modifer. Sword and Sign exponents
alike will derive benefits from faster vigour regeneration in combat.

Surprisingly enough, the only players likely to pick Level 2 are those
who are heavily invested in Signs. Swordmasters will probably be happy
enough with Level 1 in both Fortitude and Schemer to concentrate on
cutting down foes, magic users unable to outrun fast foes will want every
last boost to vigour regeneration in combat to outlast their opponents.
Combining this, Fortitude Level 1 and certain potions together can 
raise the final regeneration modifier close to default levels achieved
outside of combat which is a huge boon to Sign Masters.

Level 1: 2.5/5 (3.5/5 for players equally dependent on Swords and Signs)
Level 2: 0/5 (2/5 for Sign-heavy players investing in two Trees)

4bviii) Tough Guy
Prerequisites: Schemer OR Guard OR Hardy
Level 1: Damage reduction 5%
Level 2: Damage reduction 15%

Investing in Level 1 may not seem like much, but combined with certain
equipment and other talents with this property damage inflicted on Geralt
becomes far more manageable. Players not focusing heavily on the
Swordsmanship Tree will have to decide whether investing 3 talent points
for a piddling degree of damage reduction is worthwhile unless they have
other goals they intend to pursue.

Level 2 is only worth pursuing for players investing heavily in the
Swordsmanship Tree, and then only after Invincible Level 2 has been obtained.
Other players likely won't have the talents to spare. Level 2 in 2.1 is
heavily downgraded from the 40% at retail, note the difference and be
careful with available talents after patching the game.

Level 1: 3/5 (4/5 for Sword-heavy players)
Level 2: 0/5 (1.5/5 for Sword-heavy players)

4bix) Hardy
Prerequisites: Whirl OR Tough Guy
Level 1: Vitality +25
Level 2: Vitality +100

I'm personally not in favour of using talent points to boost vitality since
equipment and levelling-up should cover that aspect for Geralt. This ability
is hence useful to help players decide just how far down they're willing
to go for the Swordsmanship Tree since it's a requirement for the final
adrenaline-based skill. Investing up to Whirl or Tough Guy prior to this
should be more than enough for Sign and Alchemy-heavy players.

If players need a talent point to boost Vitality by +75, they're either
not planning their build properly or are paranoid about getting killed
on Insane difficulty.

Level 1: 0/5 (5/5 for Sword-heavy players and those looking towards earning
the final adrenaline-based ability)
Level 2: 0/5 (1/5 for Insane difficulty players)

4bx) Precision
Prerequisites: Hardy
Level 1: Critical effect: Bleeding +10% chance
Level 2: Critical effect: Bleeding +20% chance, +5% sword damage

Increasing chance to bleed opponents normally comes from equipment, potions
and oils so this isn't very attractive just on Level 1. In addition to the
fairly limited increase in bleeding, many opponents tend to be immune
to bleeding anyway.

Swordmasters looking to extract every last point of damage from their
talents will be interested in Level 2, making an investment in Level 1
more palatable.

Level 1: 0/5 (1/5 for Sword-heavy players)
Level 2: 0/5 (1.5/5 for offensive Sword-heavy players)

4bxi) Finesse
Prerequisites: Hardy
Level 1: Chance to inflict critical effects +5%
Level 2: Chance to inflict critical effects +15%

Critical effects refer to Bleeding, Incineration, Freezing, Poisoning and
Stun. This excludes Instant Kill and does not have any impact at all on Sign
critical effects (Igni incineration is independent of this ability for
example). It's highly unlikely players will see any difference before and
after this ability is affected unless available equipment and potions are
used to raise the % chance to inflict to reasonable levels. Players need
to use equipment with a base chance to inflict the specified critical effect
in question before Geralt can take advantage (don't expect to Freeze enemies
unless Geralt wields the appropriate weapons with the Freeze chance).

Level 2 isn't very helpful unless the player has appropriate equipment
to equip Geralt with. Those building around critical effects are well-advised
to look for and use greater critical effect mutagens.

Level 1: 0/5 (1.5/5 for Sword-heavy players with appropriate equipment)
Level 2: 0/5 (1/5 for Sword-heavy players with appropriate equipment)

4bxii) Sudden Death
Prerequisites: Hardy
Level 1: Chance of instant kill +2%
Level 2: Chance of instant kill +5%

Instant kill is separate from the critical effects listed in Finesse and
is a rare equipment attribute. The base chance on level 1 is so low that
players will barely notice the difference before and after. Players can
tell the ability has triggered when the screen mimics a "blood spatter"
effect and the combat log records Geralt inflicting the target's equivalent
maximum health value in damage which is not resisted at all by the Target's
armour rating (armour rating of zero doesn't appear in the usual damage
calculations). It won't activate during chapter boss fights (specifically
those involving a visible life bar), but all other enemies should be
fair game.

Level 2 here faces the same problem as Finesse Level 2, the base chance
is still too low to make a noticeable difference unless Geralt has
equipment that increases the base chance considerably. Players interested
in extracting maximum mileage out of Instant Kill are advised to invest
Talent Points deep into the Alchemy Tree to get Berserker Lv2.

Level 1: 0/5 (1.5/5 for Sword-heavy players with appropriate equipment)
Level 2: 0/5 (1/5 for Sword-heavy players with appropriate equipment)

4bxiii) Invincible
Prerequisites: Precison OR Finesse OR Sudden Death
Level 1: Vitality +50, damage reduction +5%
Level 2: Vitality +150, damage reduction +15%

Swordmasters who've met the prerequisites will want this ability activated
as soon as possible, the ability itself isn't special since it only gives
a vitality boost and a bonus to damage reduction, however it's the
prerequisite for the adrenaline-based skill and accepts mutagens.

Swordmasters focused on a single tree will probably be the only players
interested in investing in Level 2, as mentioned before getting this
first before Tough Guy Level 2 is advised. 

Level 1: 0/5 (5/5 for Sword-heavy players and generalists aiming for 
Combat Acumen)
Level 2: 0/5 (3/5 for Sword-heavy players with spare talents left over)

4bxiv) Combat Acumen
Prerequisites: Invincible
Level 1: Group finisher enabled once adrenaline bar is full.
Level 2: Damage +10%, damage reduction +10%

This is the most powerful ability in the Swordsmanship tree, requiring a
minimum of 8 talents invested in prerequisites before it is unlocked.
The animation is impressive but it only works if the targets in range
have low enough health for the ability to kill them outright. This ties
in well with a style of play that focuses on slaying opponents as quickly
as possible, a risky strategy in hard difficulty and up where opponents
are much tougher and inflict lots of damage even in earlier stages
of the game. As mentioned above, getting Position and Whirl to Level 2
helps Group finishers get kills before Geralt is overwhelmed. Certain
enemies are immune to the group finisher, however the ability to increase
adrenaline through sword blows through this ability might help trigger
other adrenaline abilities like Heliotrope etc. if Geralt has advanced
far enough to pick up more than one adrenaline ability.

Having made it this far, Level 2 is worthwhile if there are talent points
to spare. There is a discrepancy between the Wikia description and the
in-game description, but even a +10% damage boost starts to matter when
other modifiers are counted.  

Level 1: 0/5 (5/5 for Sword-heavy players and generalists)
Level 2: 0/5 (3.5/5 for Sword-heavy players with leftover talents)

4bxv) Whirlwind
Prerequisites: Combat Acumen
Level 1: Adrenaline generated by sword blows +10%, all resistances +10%,
chance to inflict critical effects +10%
Level 2: Adrenaline generated by sword blows +30%, all resistances +20%,
chance to inflict critical effects +20%

All adrenaline-based abilities have one support ability which enhances
their effectiveness. The Swordsmanship offering raises resistances to
critical effects and increases chances of inflicting them in turn in
addition to boosting adrenaline accumulation through sword strikes. Players
who have acquired Combat Acumen will want this since it offers an ability
slot that supports mutagens, the ability's benefits notwithstanding.

Level 2 in this ability faces the same dilemma as Combat Acumen Level 2,
spare points left over after a core build is complete are well spent here.
If forced to choose between Level 2 here and Level 2 in Combat Acumen I'd
pick Combat Acumen first since it's a perk that isn't dependent on chance.

Level 1: 0/5 (5/5 for Sword-heavy players and generalists)
Level 2: 0/5 (3/5 for Sword-heavy players with leftover talents)   

4c) Magic Tree
Geralt starts with the 5 basic Witcher signs from the outset, so investment
in this Tree is only required if players feel they need to increase the
efficacy of sign effects and sign damage or desire to unlock the 6th
Heliotrope Sign. Appropriate investment in this tree allows players to adopt
a hit-and-run approach to combat with the advantages of keeping mobile and
taking less damage from encircling opponents. Note however that some monsters
are unaffected by Witcher signs so a sword is still required to finish the
job.

4ci) Enhanced Aard Sign
Prerequisites: None
Level 1: Unlocks Aard Sign level 2, sign range +2m
Level 2: Unlocks Aard Sign level 3, sign affects entire areas, sign range
+6m

The Aard sign isn't as powerful as it used to be compared to Witcher 1, it
is still useful for keeping fights on your terms and to open an escape
route when encircled. The added range from Level 1 is probably the main
benefit since stun and knockdown effects do not trigger very often even
after upgrading. Those wanting to invest in Quen should put a point here
since this is argubly more useful than Axii as a prerequisite.

Sign masters want Level 2 as soon as possible since this is one of the
main crowd control tools available to the magic specialist. 

Level 1: 4/5 (5/5 for Sign-heavy players or as a prerequisite)
Level 2: 0/5 (5/5 for Sign-heavy players)

4cii) Enhanced Axii Sign
Prerequisites: None
Level 1: Unlocks Axii Sign level 2, hexed opponent gets +20% Vitality,
+20 damage inflicted on targets
Level 2: Unlocks Axii Sign level 3, hexed opponent gets +50% Vitality,
+50 damage inflicted on targets

The Sign's execution has changed somewhat from Witcher 1, in exchange for
a longer default range Geralt has to maintain the spell for longer before
the target is successfully hexed. Play the 2.1 tutorial and experiment
with the Sign to get a handle on its range and quirks. Hexed opponents are
useful distractions allowing time to escape or try another course of
action, however not all foes will succumb and Geralt is basically open
to attacks if the Sign fails to convert its target.

Really dedicated Sign Masters with talent points to burn can invest in
Level 2.

Level 1: 2/5 (5/5 for Sign-heavy players)
Level 2: 0/5 (1/5 for Sign-heavy players)

4ciii) Destructive Magic
Prerequisites: None
Level 1: Sign damage +5
Level 2: Sign damage +10, Vigour +1

The main signs which inflict direct damage on foes without upgrades are
the Igni and Yrden signs, the level 1 increase is too insignificant
to matter for most players. Sign masters who live and die by the
efficacy of their Signs will invest in this ability anyway.

Considering most players won't touch Level 1, Level 2 is hard to recommend
even though it includes +1 vigour. Sign Masters will appreciate both
of the benefits from Level 2.

Level 1: 0/5 (5/5 for Sign-heavy players)
Level 2: 0/5 (3.5/5 for players needing extra vigour while spending the
least amount of talents possible, 5/5 for Sign-heavy players)

4civ) Enhanced Quen Sign
Prerequisites: Enhanced Aard Sign OR Destructive Magic OR Enhanced Axii Sign
Level 1: Enables Level 2 Quen Sign, Quen deflects 20% enemy damage back on
opponents, Sign duration +20s
Level 2: Enables Level 3 Quen Sign, Quen deflects 50% enemy damage back on
opponents, Sign duration +60s

This Sign is now noticeably weaker compared to its retail incarnation,
however it's more useful than the Witcher 1 version. For most players
this will be the most popular Sign throughout the game. As of the latest
patch the nerf to this sign is so severe that players should get used to
dodging and running a lot rather than relying on the Sign to keep Geralt
alive, the 50s duration is piddling so the only real benefit is the
damage reflection.   

Quen Level 3 despite its 90s duration is really only useful as a shield
until midway through Chapter 1. It still dissipates in one hit from just
about every enemy stronger than a nekker. In its current incarnation,
I advise players either go for two points here or skip the 3 points
required to get this far for other talents. 

Level 1: 2/5 (0-1/5 for Swordsmanship and Alchemy tree specialists)
Level 2: 2/5 (0-1/5 for Swordsmanship and Alchemy tree specialists)

4cv) Magical Vigour
Prerequisites: Enhanced Quen Sign
Level 1: Vigour +1
Level 2: Vigour +2

The main source of extra vigour for Sign players, other playstyles can
may or may not invest an additional point here after picking up
Enhanced Quen. Unless players are really squeezing talent points into a
dedicated tree, it's probably a better choice to invest 4 points into the
Sign tree up to Magical Vigour Level 1 instead of 2 points into
Destructive Magic. Some equipment late in the equipment is also capable
of increasing Vigour, consider playstyle and character build very
carefully before committing points here.

Level 2 is more or less the exclusive domain of Sign-heavy players with
the talent points to spare. Although more Vigour is always better, some
players might find that there comes a point where additional vigour
points aren't really necessary as fights are finished without depleting
vigour points to zero midway through.

Level 1: 4/5 (5/5 for Sign-heavy players)
Level 2: 0/5 (5/5 for Sign-heavy players)

4cvi) Venting
Prerequisities: Enhanced Quen Sign OR Enhanced Igni Sign
Level 1: Quen transfers reflected damage to two opponents
Level 2: Quen transfers reflected damage to three opponents

A slight modification to Quen allowing it to help kill mobs surrounding
Geralt. It should not be relied on to kill opponents, rather it should
be seen as a tool to soften up surrounding enemies allowing Geralt to finish
them off with more efficient tools. This works well with a Sword-heavy
playstyle that gets stuck in against mobs. Note that as of the latest
patch, enemies slain by reflected damage do not provide Geralt with
XP which is particularly annoying after slaying particular tough foes
like the Endrega Queen or Draugir. Another problem with investing
points in this skill is the abovementioned nerfs to the Quen Sign,
players will likely need to recast Quen every few seconds due to its
propensity to disappear after a single hit from most enemies. 

It's difficult to recommend Level 2, even to Sign-masters since the
character build most suited for Level 2 likely won't have the talents
to invest here.

Level 1: 1/5 (2/5 for Sword-heavy players investing in both Swordsmanship
and Magic Trees)
Level 2: 0/5

4cvii) Magic Intensification
Prerequisites: Enhanced Quen Sign OR Fatal Attraction
Level 1: Sign intensity +1
Level 2: Sign intensity +2, Damage Reduction 5%

According to the ingame tutorial description, increasing Sign intensity
multiplies the base damage of a Sign by a specific factor e.g. Sign
intensity of 2 doubles the damage of Aard, Igni and Yrden. It might
increase the chances of inflicting critical effects but players are better
off using mutagens, the Wolf potion and specific equipment if they're
relying on incineration/stun. The Stammelford's Philter potion stacks
with this ability, be wary of the potion's significant side effects.

Sign masters will invest up to Level 2 for this ability, the +5 damage
reduction is a nice bonus. All other builds will likely balk at the
sheer number of talent points invested just to get +5% damage reduction.

Level 1: 1/5 (5/5 for Sign-heavy players)
Level 2: 0/5 (5/5 for Sign-heavy players)

4cviii) Fatal Attraction
Prerequisites: Magic Intensification OR Magical Vigour
Level 1: Axii Sign can bewitch two opponents at once
Level 2: Axii Sign can bewitch three opponents at once

Players fond of using the Axii sign for crowd control will want this,
increasing the number of temporary "allies" during a fight helps
even out the odds. It's possible to invest in this ability without
raising Axii to Level 2 since it's not a direct prerequisite.

Hardcore Axii-loving Sign Masters apply here, all other builds can move
on.

Level 1: 0/5 (5/5 for Sign-heavy Axii lovers)
Level 2: 0/5 (3.5/5 for Sign-heavy Axii lovers)

4cix) Enhanced Igni Sign
Prerequisites: Venting OR Magical Vigour
Level 1: Enables Level 2 Igni Sign, Igni has chance to incinerate target,
Sign range +3m
Level 2: Enables Level 3 Igni Sign, Igni now has an area effect, Sign range
+6m

By this point usually Sign-heavy players will be looking at this ability.
It comes late but the main damage dealing tools for Sign masters start
coming into play. Sign masters should try and obtain the attribute that
increases base incineration chance if they want incineration to trigger
more often. Generalists going for the adrenaline skill will prefer this
as a prerequisite. 

Level 3 Igni combined with Level 3 Aard is good for gathering mobs
together for a mass barbecue, assuming the foes involved don't have
immunity or resistance to stun and incineration.

Level 1: 0/5 (5/5 for Sign-heavy users)
Level 2: 0/5 (5/5 for Sign-heavy users)

4cx) Enhanced Yrden Sign
Prerequisites: Fatal Attraction OR Enhanced Igni Sign
Level 1: Enables Level 2 Yrden Sign, two Yrden traps can be laid at once
Level 2: Enables Level 3 Yrden Sign, three Yrden traps can be laid at once

The other main killing tool for Sign masters with crowd control capability.
Yrden once upgraded becomes more damaging and ensnares foes for longer
allowing more free sword strikes or Igni castings. This is the 1st of
3 mutagen-friendly abilities in the Magic Tree so get it as soon as the
prerequisites are met.

Level 2 in this ability increases the Sign strength, so it might still be
worth investing in even though single foes don't require more than a
single Yrden at a time. Crowd control does become much easier with
annoying pursuers held in place for backstabs, combine two points here
with two points in Glyph enhancement below for VERY effective crowd
control.

Level 1: 0/5 (5/5 for Sign-heavy users)
Level 2: 0/5 (5/5 for Sign-heavy users)

4cxi) Glyph enhancement
Prerequisites: Enhanced Yrden Sign
Level 1: Yrden traps link once cast, foes making contact are stunned the
same way as contact with the regular trap.
Level 2: Yrden barrier deals 5 damage per second to foes which attempt
to pass

Another enhancement to the Yrden Sign, this increases the value of
Yrden investment by making the traps work like an impassable barrier to
most foes. Clever Yrden placement can keep multiple foes immobilised and
at Geralt's mercy. Generalists needing one point to get to the next
unlocked skill might find this more useful than Energy Flow for the
limited crowd control ability on offer. 

Going up to Level 2 for this ability helps kill immobilised foes a little
faster, but it's not really worth the investment unless the single-tree
Sign specialist has absolutely no idea where to invest spare talents. For
best results, get Enhanced Yrden to Lvl 2 and lay down a triangle formation.

Level 1: 0/5 (3/5 for Sign-heavy users, 4/5 for generalists)
Level 2: 0/5 (1/5 for Sign-heavy users)

4cxii) Energy Flow
Prerequisites: Enhanced Yrden Sign
Level 1: Signs chance of critical effects +5%
Level 2: Signs chance of critical effects +25%

An all-round improvement to the Sign Master's arsenal, the increased
chance to trigger critical effects speeds up killing speed and facilitates
crowd control. Players need to combine the +5% at Level 1 with potion
and mutagen bonuses to see a noticeable difference.

+25% at Level 2 is a significant boost, with the right equipment the total
% to inflict critical effects using Signs should see appreciable results.

Level 1: 0/5 (4/5 for Sign-heavy users)
Level 2: 0/5 (4/5 for Sign-heavy users)

4cxiii) Magical Life Force
Prerequisites: Enhanced Yrden Sign
Level 1: Vitality +50
Level 2: All resistances +5

A purely defensive option, however considering the lack of Vitality boosts
Sign experts receive compared to their Swordsmanship counterparts, this
might be worth considering for players on Insane difficulty.

There are more important choices than wasting a talent on a measly +5 to
resistances.

Level 1: 0/5 (2/5 for Sign-heavy users playing Insane difficulty)
Level 2: 0/5

4cxiv) Sense of Magic
Prerequisites: Glyph Enhancement OR Energy Flow OR Magical Life Force
Level 1: Enables Heliotrope Sign, activate when Adrenaline bar hits
maximum.
Level 2: All resistances +5%, Adrenaline generation through Signs +50%

The most powerful ability on offer for the Magic Tree.
Once the sign is activated, Geralt achieves the Witcher equivalent of
"Bullet Time" and can outflank, outrun and prepare traps and signs
during the window of opportunity. It's harder to accumulate adrenaline
casting Signs, however investment in the appropriate abilities and
upgrades can increase the adrenaline generation modifier higher than
its counterparts in Swordsmanship and Alchemy. A further advantage to
pursuing this path is one less prerequisite talent required to reach
this ability compared to the other two counterparts. The Sign only lasts
20 seconds (25 if Mage's trousers are equipped) so don't dawdle and
finish off troublesome foes while the effect is active. Note that
there is a significant lag when throwing bombs and daggers while the
Sign is active. Note that Quen only contributes to adrenaline generation
if enemies successfully land attacks while it remains active. This
combines better with Mutant, precious time may be lost if the Combat
Acumen cut scene triggers together with this. Another thing to note
is that the slowdown effect is limited to the semi-visible sphere
of effect around Geralt while the Sign is active, enemies outside
the "globe" will act as normal (such as arbalists aiming at Geralt).

Sign Masters should invest in Level 2 purely to secure the huge boost to
Adrenaline generation through Signs.

Level 1: 0/5 (5/5 for Sign-heavy users and generalists)
Level 2: 0/5 (3/5 for Sign-heavy users)

4vxv) Control over the Power
Prerequisites: Sense of Magic
Level 1: All resistances +20%, Sign Damage +3, Adrenaline generated through
Signs +10%
Level 2: All resistances +50%, Sign Damage +10, Adrenaline generated through
Signs +75%

This is the corresponding support ability for Sense of Magic and should be
secured as soon as Sense of Magic is obtained. In addition to the nice
defensive boost provided at Level 1, this is also the 3rd mutagen-friendly
ability in the Magic Tree.

Level 2 is worth the investment, but it's likely only Sign specialists
with spare talent points can secure the ability upgrade. Single-tree
specialists will likely make this talent the 1st choice on the upgrade list.

Level 1: 0/5 (5/5 for Sign-heavy users and generalists)
Level 2: 0/5 (5/5 for Sign-heavy users)

4d) Alchemy Tree
The Alchemy Tree differs from the Swordsmanship and Magic Trees in the
number of mutagen-friendly abilities it supports and the level of
talent point investment required to see maximum benefit. A few abilities
in this Tree take an all-or-nothing approach since a single point invested
doesn't reap the maximum benefits available unlike in Swordsmanship and
Magic where they can be used as stepping stones to more advanced abilities.
Players concentrating on this tree will have to work harder looking for
ingredients and make friends with the Alchemy function in order to see
maximum benefit.

4di) Alchemist
Prerequisites: None
Level 1: Bomb damage +30%, Trap damage +20%
Level 2: Bomb damage +100%, Trap damage +100%

There is a larger variety of bombs compared to Witcher 1, but they work
differently in this game and are less potent than the previous game. The
upside is that they can be created using alchemy provided Geralt has the
appropriate formulae in his pack. In the early stages of the game, Samum
bombs will prove invaluable in keeping crowds at bay, Grapeshot bombs are
lethal combined with this ability even up to Chapter 2. Traps
are not everyone's cup of tea and the expense involved in collecting
crafting diagrams, gathering the necessary components (which are rarer
and available in smaller quantities compared to plants) and employing
crafstmen to make the required item is considerable. Proper preparation
can see traps used to their full potential but many players may simply
be content with collecting snares and deploying them sparingly. Players
intent on focusing on Swords and Signs only can ignore the Alchemy Tree
entirely, most other builds will want this ability as a prerequisite and
for its boost to bombs and traps. I suspect investing in the
Alchemist ability improves the special effect base chance of certain
traps like Conflagration and Talgar Winter, if it does then that's another
reason to consider taking this ability up.

Alchemy experts can invest in Level 2, but this is more a gameplay
preference since skilful use of bombs and traps is an acquired art. The
description in-game differs from the Wikia webpage, but either way
70% extra damage at the very minimum with Alchemist level 2 is a sizeable
damage boost. Players reliant on bombs as Geralt's main source of 
ranged damage will want two points invested here for bombs to remain
viable past mid-Chapter 2 and beyond.

Level 1: 4/5 (0/5 for players ignoring the Alchemy Tree)
Level 2: 0/5 (Pick according to preference and available talent points)

4dii) Synthesis
Prerequisites: None
Level 1: Vitality +20
Level 2: Vitality +80

I've put forward my case arguing against picking talents that increase
Vitality further up, there's little point picking this talent even
as a prerequisite since the ability it unlocks immediately can be obtained
through a more round-about route. Insane Difficulty players might be
interested, everyone else has higher priority targets to pursue.

Level 1: 0/5 (1/5 for Insane Difficulty players)
Level 2: 0/5 (1/5 for Insane Difficulty players)

4diii) Side Effect
Prerequisites: Alchemist OR Harvester
Level 1: Chance of generating mutagens through Alchemy +2%
Level 2: Chance of generating mutagens through Alchemy +10%

This is an interesting ability, mutagens for use in character development
really depend on the character build in question as some builds have more
ability slots that support mutation compared to others. Mutagens are still
useful as alchemical components and as a small source of Orens, especially
since using a mutagen for character advancement is an irreversible process
meaning players will only want to keep Greater mutagens for personal use.
As of 2.1, mutagen drop rates are less common and the distribution is
skewed heavily towards lesser mutagens so players picking this ability will
either invest one point and then generate lots of easy-to-create alchemical
products in hopes of receiving a mutagen or as a prerequisite for more
advanced abilities. If the chance triggers, anything from 5-10 mutagens
of random types can be created and placed in the inventory.

Investing an extra point here increases the base chance fivefold and
cuts down on the time and energy required to gather reagants
for alchemy spamming. Alchemy specialists might be tempted to invest in
Level 2 early (Chapter 1 and not after) to reap the benefits faster. On the
other hand, players willing to invest time and effort grinding monster
spawns might find it more effective to repeatedly kill monsters for their
mutagen drop chance. On Insane/Dark difficult levels, grinding monsters
for standard/greater/madness mutagens is akin to playing the lottery
with the odds stacked heavily against the player, the 10% chance of
mutagens from side effect might actually give better odds than most
monsters ever will.

Players thinking of gambling for madness mutagens via alchemy can use
a Chapter 3 quest to reassign talent points once the necessary
mutagens have been found and invested, read Section 8 of this guide
for more details. 

Level 1: 4/5 (0/5 for players ignoring Alchemy, other players can get
this as a prerequisite)
Level 2: 0/5 (2/5 for Alchemy-heavy players)

4div) Specialization: Potions
Prerequisites: Synthesis OR Harvester
Level 1: Potion duration +10%
Level 2: Potion duration +40%

Potions don't last very long in this game compared to Witcher 1, if Geralt
is forced to fight protracted battles it is very likely potions drunk
beforehand will wear off before the opponent has fallen. This talent
is an all-or-nothing choice since it's not really required as a
prerequisite to more advanced talents if Synthesis is skipped. I recommend
players either skip this entirely or invest up to Level 2 for the
14-minute duration. Alchemy experts who are relying on the adrenaline-based
skill at the end of this tree will want Level 2 full stop.

Level 1 + Level 2: 0/5 (5/5 for Alchemy experts)  

4dv) Harvester
Prerequisites: Side Effect OR Specialization: Potions
Level 1: +50% alchemical ingredients harvested
Level 2: +100% alchemical ingredients harvested

Investing points here reduces the number of foraging trips Geralt has
to make to gather alchemy ingredients. Installing version 1.2
gave Geralt the Herbalist's gloves which have the innate ability of
doubling the number of components harvested each time so this ability
is less useful than its retail incarnation. Depending on how far players
are willing to go down the Alchemy Tree, this ability still serves
as an important prerequisite.

Players who are really hard up for components can invest to Level 2, but
bear in mind the number of talents available for assigning to
miscellaneous ability upgrades. Players might well find that selective
creation of potions, oils and bombs and a dedication to foraging makes
Level 2 a disposable choice.

Level 1: 0-3/5 (0/5 if skipping Alchemy, 3/5 for Alchemy-heavy users)
Level 2: 0/5 (1/5 for players with a voracious need for components)

4dvi) Catalysis
Prerequisites: Harvester
Level 1: Positive effects of potions +25-50%, negative effects of potions
-30% (Actual % varies depending on actual potion involved)
Level 2: Positive effects of potions +50-100%, negative effects of potions
-80% (Actual % varies depending on actual potion involved)

This is similar to Specialization: Potions. Players either ignore it
entirely and make do with the default effects or they invest up to
Level 2 as soon as it is available. This ability is a dead-end on the
Alchemy Tree so there is little point only investing one talent point here.
Alchemy experts will want Level 2 as soon as possible, negative effects
of most potions at Level 2 are minimised to such an extent that combining
potions results in an overall boost to statistics in almost all cases
compared to none without catalysis. Note however that the strict
enforcement on toxicity limits with the latest patch applies, some
very powerful combinations applicable in previous patches are no longer
possible so some investigation will be required to see which
combinations give the best result.

Level 1 + Level 2: 0/5 (5/5 for Alchemy experts)

4dvii) Specialization: Oils
Prerequisites: Harvester
Level 1: Oil duration +10%
Level 2: Oil duration +40%

Unlike Specialization: Potions, this ability is the gateway to the
most advanced Alchemy Tree abilities so picking it up as a prerequisite
is necessary if players want the abilities at the end. Unlike Potions,
Oils have a shorter duration and are more limited in their application.
Most oils need 4 ingredients to create but these should not be too hard
to obtain for dedicated foragers so extending duration isn't as
crucial as potions with their related toxicity effect.

Level 1: 0/5 (3/5 as a prerequisite)
Level 2: 0/5

4dviii) Transmutation 
Prerequisites: Specialization: Oils
Level 1: Oil intensity +25-50%
Level 2: Oil intensity +50-100%

This is an ability heavily dependent on personal preference, oils in this
game are few in number and the effect of application are far weaker than they
were in Witcher 1. For most players utilising alchemy, oils are but one
tool to be used in conjunction with others before combat. Adding to the
ability's limited application, this ability is not a compulsory
prerequisite to the last Alchemy abilities because of Taster. 

Level 1: 0/5 (1/5 for Alchemy-heavy users)
Level 2: 0/5 (Apply depending on preference and spare talent points)

4dix) Taster
Prerequisites: Specialization: Oils
Level 1: Geralt can now drink 4 potions in total
Level 2: Damage +10% while poisoned, Damage reduction +10% while
poisoned

Choosing between this and Transmutation as the prerequisite for the
advanced Alchemy Tree abilities shouldn't be too hard a choice. Geralt
no longer dies if toxicity level exceeds a certain ceiling unlike the 1st
game, instead he is limited to a maximum of 3 potions without Taster.
Geralt is still limited to the toxicity limit of potions, if the bar turns
orange when selecting available potions then players need to rechoose
until the bar remains green. Having the option to drink 4 potions does make
Geralt much more dangerous in combat. Combined with the advanced abilities at
the end of this tree, this is one ability that has more utility than simply
being a footstep to bigger and better things.

Alchemy-heavy users will invest a point here sooner or later since it
suits their playstyle. If an investment is made here, do it after Level 2
Amplification has been earned. The original description in the manual
mentioned this ability and many others of its type activates when
Geralt is intoxicated, in 2.1 the description is what you see above.
Regardless, the meaning behind both terms is the same; if Geralt drinks
enough potions to raise his toxicity level high enough past the red line
on the toxicity bar, the effects from Taster Level 2 etc. will start to apply.
One visual cue that confirms Geralt is really high on potions is the
swirling green waves that flit across the screen periodically whilst the
potions remain in effect.
Once potion effects have worn off, toxicity drops back straight away
which is slightly different from how it used to work in Witcher 1. This
should not be a problem except for very long fights. Best results for this
and similar "poisoning" benefits when combined with Specialization: Potions
Level 2.

Level 1: 0/5 (5/5 for Alchemy-heavy users)
Level 2: 0/5 (5/5 for Alchemy-heavy users)

4dx) Impregnation
Prerequisites: Specialization: Oils
Level 1: Mutagen effects +33%-250% depending on mutagen type
Level 2: Mutagen effects +80%-500% depending on mutagen type

This is another all-or-nothing attribute dependent on character build and
personal preference. This obviously ties in with Side Effect and depends
on how patient and lucky players are at obtaining the Greater Mutagens
which will inevitably be used for enhancement. Players going for a 
Generalist build need this skill at Level 2 to give their character more
of a fighting chance as the storyline progresses. Mutagen effect do vary,
sometimes it's a mere 1-2 increase in the attribute score while some
boosts like Vitality are doubled with Impregnation Level 2. Alchemy-heavy
players will also want this up to Level 2 to take advantage of the 5
mutagen-friendly abilities they will pick up along the way to completing
the Tree. This ability on its own is a dead-end, so I recommend players
either ignore it or go up to Level 2 as soon as possible.

Power-gamers who like the increased effectiveness of mutagens but
who don't like "wasting" two talent points in this skill have one
legal recourse available, read Section 8 of this guide for more details.

Level 1 + Level 2: 3/5 (5/5 for Generalist and Alchemy-heavy builds)

4dxi) Metathesis 
Prerequisites: Transmutation OR Taster
Level 1: +5% damage inflicted while poisoned
Level 2: +25% damage inflicted while poisoned

The 1st of the advanced Alchemy abilities, all abilities including this one
onwards supports mutagen enhancement. It's alright on its own as a
prerequisite to the final adrenaline-based skill, players just have to make
the extra effort to drink enough potions to raise toxicity high enough to get
the effect to trigger.

Alchemy experts will probably have the points to invest here once they
have reached the end of the tree. +25% damage is not something to sniff at.

Level 1: 0/5 (5/5 for Alchemy-heavy users)
Level 2: 0/5 (5/5 for Alchemy-heavy users)

4dxii) Condensation
Prerequisites: Metathesis
Level 1: Vigour regeneration while poisoned +15%
Level 2: Vigour regeneration while poisoned +40%

Choose between this or Berserker to activate the final adrenaline-based
skill, pick both if you have the talent points to spare since they
support mutagen enhancement. This is the only advanced Alchemy Tree
ability that helps Sign-Alchemy dual Tree players, the other abilities
lend themselves better to the Sword. The ability does not specify whether
or not the regeneration is limited to non-combat situations so that's another
plus knowing it's always in play so long as toxicity levels stay high.

Going to Level 2 is questionable depending on how the Alchemy-heavy player
kills opponents. Players reliant on Signs and Ripostes might go to Level
2, others will give this a miss.

Level 1: 0/5 (5/5 for Alchemy-heavy users)
Level 2: 0/5 (5/5 for Alchemy-heavy users reliant on Signs and Ripostes)

4dxiii) Berserker
Prerequisites: Metathesis
Level 1: Chance of Instant Kill while poisoned +1%
Level 2: Chance of Instant Kill while poisoned +3%

Instant Kill is great when it triggers, but bear in mind players need to
invest in the appropriate abilities, use the right equipment and perhaps
make the appropriate plot decisions to increase the Instant Kill chance to
double figures. For generalists looking to earn the skill it unlocks, a
decision between this and Condensation should take into account existing
points invested and equipment choices. Berserker does support mutagens,
so the measly 1% increase may well be compensated if something like
a madness mutagen with Impregnation level 2 active is invested. 

If Alchemy-heavy players are investing a point here, it might be worthwhile
going dual-tree with Swordsmanship and picking up the corresponding
Sudden Death perk there to raise the trigger chance as much as possible.

Level 1: 0/5 (5/5 for Instant Kill Dual-Tree players, 1.5/5 for Alchemy-heavy
players)
Level 2: 0/5 (5/5 for Instant Kill Dual-Tree players)

4dxiv) Mutant
Prerequisites: Condensation OR Berserker
Level 1: Enables Berserk mode, activate when adrenaline bar hits maximum
Level 2: Adrenaline generated while poisoned +25%

The adrenaline-based skill in this Alchemy Tree grants automatic
adrenaline generation similar to Vigour regeneration. No hard numbers are
available for Berserk mode, players can try a build that uses it and see for
themselves how much of a difference it makes. Activating the Heliotrope
Sign with Berserk Mode is a battle-winning combination most of the time, some
time is lost if the Combat Acumen finisher move is activated simultaneously.
As far as I can tell, this is the slowest adrenaline generator for Geralt
of the 3 applicable skills on average.

Level 2 simply provides a boost to the adrenaline generation modifier,
disappointing compared to its Swordsmanship and Magic counterparts.
Alchemy-heavy players who live and die by Berserk mode frequency towards
the end of the game will want to pick this up.

Level 1: 0/5 (5/5 for generalists and Alchemy-heavy players)
Level 2: 0/5 (4/5 for Alchemy-heavy players)

4dv) Amplification
Prerequisites: Mutant
Level 1: Adrenaline generated while poisoned +15%, Damage inflicted when
poisoned +5%, Damage reduction while poisoned +5%
Level 2: Adrenaline generated while poisoned +50%, Damage inflicted when
poisoned +15%, Damage reduction while poisoned +15%

If players have obtained Mutant then this is immediately up for grabs once
the next character level is attained. Grab and enjoy the benefits of
faster adrenaline accumulation and damage-related boosts in addition to
the mutagen enhancement option.

If generalists have one spare talent point remaining after getting all 
of their core abilities and don't know where to spend that last point,
this is one of the strongest candidates for consideration. Alchemy-heavy
players will do likewise. Get this before Taster level 2 (or both)
depending on number of Talent points available.

Level 1: 0/5 (5/5 for generalists and Alchemy-heavy players)
Level 2: 0/5 (5/5 for generalists and Alchemy-heavy players) 
  
5. Ability investment order
Now that the abilities have been analysed, here are my considerations
when planning a character from Prologue to Epilogue. I'll list a few
decision choices faced by Generalists if they're looking to grab the
best aspects of each Tree tailored to their playing Style. 

For starters, where to place the 1st 6 mandatory talents is worth a look.
Most will end up around level 6 or thereabouts when the prologue ends
and the scene shifts to Chapter 1.

1. Vigour regeneration/Dagger Throwing (Hardiness is out of the question,
so it's 1 of 2 to unlock parrying. Pick the appropriate one depending
on character concept).
2. Parrying (By this point Geralt will be taking on small groups, this is
where the ability shines).
3. Arrow redirection (There's not much opportunity to practise with
this ability early in the game, but Fortitude really doesn't matter
if players aren't desperate for Fortitude level 2)
4. Fortitude (Get it at the very least for its mutagen slot, the
difference in-game is barely noticeable).
5. Fortitude level 2 (3 Vigour points makes battles a lot easier compared
to 2).
6. Player's choice of Parrying Level 2, Arrow Redirection level 2, Vigour
Regeneration, Dagger Throwing or Hardiness.

Once the 6th talent point is invested in the Training Tree, the other
3 Trees are unlocked and how the Player goes about developing the build
is completely at their discretion.

Players unsure of how many points to place in minor Trees might want to
look below for some pointers:

Swordsmanship: 0-6 (1st 3 no-prereq abilities + Guard/Schemer/Violence
+ Tough Guy/Whirl)
Magic: 0-4 (Enhanced Aard, Enhanced Quen Lv 1/2, Magical Vigour)
Alchemy: 5 (Alchemist, Side Effect, Harvester, Catalysis Lv2)
Alchemy: 6 (Alchemist, Side Effect, Harvester, Specialization: Oils,
Impregnation Lv2)

Number of Mutagen-friendly abilities: 13
Training Tree: Arrow Redirection, Fortitude
Swordsmanship: Invincible, Combat Acumen, Whirlwind
Magic: Enhanced Yrden Sign, Sense of Magic, Control over the Power
Alchemy: Metathesis, Condensation, Berserker, Mutant, Amplification

Single-Tree specialists only have 28 Talents to work out of a Tree of
30 possibilities. Any build that invests more than 6 points in
a single Tree (not Alchemy) might as well go all out and make it the major
component of the build. Alchemy builds are more intensive in talent
points because of their peculiar "all-or-nothing" abilities like Catalysis
and Impregnation.

Be prepared to grind to reach level 35, this is especially true
for generalists looking to maximise the number of mutagen abilities
at their disposal. Depending on story path chosen, grinding is less of an
issue for level-up and more useful when viewed as a lottery for mutagens.
Monster drops are also the single most profitable route for gaining Orens
through sale of monster drops, the XP gain complements this up to a point.
Single and Dual-Tree builds are more or less done by the mid to late 20s.
Getting the Experienced character attribute helps to save time on grinding.
Players should take note that monsters stop giving XP after being killed once
Geralt has reached a specified character level, the level varies for the
monsters in question. For best results, try and postpone finishing quests off
until enough monsters have been slain to reach the character limit, quest XP is
more valuable at higher levels. Grinding in Chapter 1 is easy, leave the
Nekker tunnel entrances and Endrega cocoons alone and the associated enemy
will respawn after a few in-game hours, the same principle applies
somewhat for Chapter 2 but is more time-sensitive. It is still possible
to grind monster XP in Chapter 3, however players should be aware
that enemies are significantly stronger compared to Chapter 2 and
remain so even after end-game equipment has been obtained.
 
Position+Violence+Whirl vs Riposte+Guard+Tough Guy vs
Feet Work+Schemer+Tough Guy
Generalists trying to get Combat Acumen using the bare minimum in Talents
will have to make this decision. Combat Acumen actually triggers more
effectively if the offensive Position+Violence+Whirl set is picked, however
Riposte+Guard+Tough Guy and Feet Work+Schemer+Tough Guy are better for
defensive purposes and more suited to characters with a more general set
of tools. The Feet Work set is better if the generalist character has
a strong set of Signs, the Riposte set combined with Parrying Level 2
and Fortitude Level 2 is useful in some situations and not great for
others. Players who aren't investing heavily in the Swordsmanship Tree
will likely invest 3-5 points at most here, my recommendation would be
the minimum of Position+Violence+Whirl and Riposte/Feet Work added
according to preference.

Precision vs Finesse vs Sudden Death
Generalists normally pick one of the 3 as the prerequisite for Invincible.
Precision has the biggest boost to a single critical effect, Finesse
adds a small boost to all critical effects while Sudden Death adds a
miniscule chance to Instant Kill. Since generalists don't have the Talent
points to invest beyond Level 1, it's likely a choice between Finesse
and Sudden Death. The level 1 Finesse modifier is nothing special but
combined with equipment and potions it probably squeezes out Sudden Death
for practical purposes.

Glyph enhancement vs Energy Flow vs Magical Life Force
One of these 3 to pick up Sense of Magic immediately afterwards. The harder
the difficulty the more attractive Magical Life Force becomes, especially
on Insane difficulty. On easier difficulties players choose between
limited battlefield control with Glyph enhancement or a small chance to
finish off individual opponents faster in battles. The latter's chances can
be improved with equipment and potions so the decision isn't clear-cut.

Condensation vs Berserker
Generalists ideally would take both since they support mutagen enhancements,
however earning greater mutagens/range mutagens/madness mutagens/concentration
mutagens for enhancement is not guaranteed in 2.1 even with Side Effect
Lv 2. Condensation is more versatile, Berserker works better if upgraded
to Level 2 and combined with Sudden Death Level 2 and the right equipment,
Sudden Death and Berserker on Level 1 alone will struggle to exceed
5% base chance, both skills on Level 2 combined with the right equipment
and the Executioner character attribute gives a 9-13% base chance which
is far more useful.

6. Acknowledgements and Credits
The Witcher Wikia for almost all information on character abilities
Game manual for reference.
CDProjektRed for another great release, here's to the final instalment.
Anyone who read this guide and found it useful.

7. Contact information
Readers with something helpful to contribute can do so using this address:
snookercue84[ampersand]hotmail[dot]com
Remove the words in brackets with the usual symbols for those willing
to help.
I'm missing hard data on Sign intensity and the effects of Berserk.
Anyone with information on this would be most welcome to contribute.

8. Talent point resetting and mutagens
Veteran players will no doubt know of the quest involving the Vran
guardian in Loc Muinne, it's available on both paths so long as players
retain the necessary item obtained in Chapter 2. If players aren't
desperate for the Dragon Scale and the Operator's Staff, then choosing
the correct dialogue options for resetting talent point allocation
is very useful for the following reasons:

a) Points invested in Impregnation (1-2) and Side Effect Level 2 can
be reclaimed for reassignment elsewhere.

b) Mutagens already invested when the player had Impregnation level 2
active will retain their enhanced effect (e.g. Greater Critical effects
mutagen continues to increase critical effects chance by 6% rather than
the initial 3%) provided the associated mutagen-friendly talent still
has at least one point invested in it after talent reassignment. In
short, players should not think about grabbing all 13 mutagen-friendly
talents and investing high-level mutagens prior to talent reassignment
to a single or dual-tree build and still expect to reap the benefits.
If a talent isn't invested with at least one point, any mutagens it had
previously assigned to it will not be active.

9. Version history
1.0: All character abilities written up, looking for reader contributions
to round out some obscure aspects.
1.1: Added additional notes on Feet Work, Whirl, Schemer, Finesse,
Combat Acumen, Sense of Magic, Side Effect and Mutant. Edited Sudden Death for
accuracy. Added additional notes pertaining to monster grinding.
1.2: Revised some ratings and description according to personal experience
from latest playthrough under EE. New section on the effect of talent
point resetting and impact on already invested mutagens.

10. Legal Notice
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