Almost one year ago one of the very best RPG’s in years was released, with The Witcher 2 Assassins of Kings. The game drew envious looks from console gamers and even some PC gamers who didn’t have a system good enough to play the game.
The Witcher 2 met with high critical praise after its release including my own, and the game sold incredibly well. Xbox owners have been waiting a year to get their hands on the game. CD Projekt Red has done a commendable job transferring the game over to Xbox, and gamers should be happy to know they are getting a complete version of this fantastic game with The Witcher 2 Enhanced Edition.
The Witcher 2 is a mature, adult role playing experience, one set in a world a bit different from what you’re used to. But The Witcher isn’t mature just to be violent or sexual, it’s a well thought out engaging experience. It’s incredibly adult themed, perhaps the most mature game I myself have ever actually played. But it’s mature in more way than one. The story of The Witcher 2 requires you to think in order to follow it.
The twisting plot of politics and regicide is one of the most engaging stories I’ve found in a game in the last decade. All of this takes place in a world where kings and countries vie for power; and racism, prejudices, and violence runs deep everywhere. This world is a bit different from average fantasy worlds. Humans subjugate other nonhuman races, elves normally peaceful forest dwellers are guerilla fighters that rain death upon humans with their arrows, dwarves are content to live in their former success drinking and fornicating as much as they want.
This dark world and setting provides the perfect backdrop for who you are, Geralt of Rivia. Geralt is a Witcher, a mutated monster hunter. Geralt is a distinctly un-heroic hero, who still has a certain charm with the ladies. Unfortunately Geralt has a bit of a memory problem. Even though as a Witcher he is sworn to impartiality in political affairs, the assassination of the king who has enlisted his protection draws Geralt into a deep plan that even pulls him back into his own forgotten past.
The Witcher 2 plays out like most other rpgs. It has quests, a choice driven story-line, conversation trees, upgrade systems, and so on. In fact there’s one choice so large in the game that it basically splits the game into two different ones. Rather than the extreme black and white that a lot of choice driven games give you, The Witcher 2 presents itself to you entirely in shades of gray. Geralt himself isn’t exactly the most heroic of persons, and choices are often up to personal feeling and not a cut and dry good or bad choice.
Once again the number one thing that blows me away about The Witcher 2 is just how connected everything feels. There are three chapters, each with its own location. There’s always one overarching main quest to complete with a multitude of side-quests you can always pursue. The developers have done a tremendously impressive job of making all of the quests you complete feel connected. Even side quest tie into the main story and locations you visit, and everything seems to have an overall impact on the story.
The game play in The Witcher 2 has transferred perfectly to the Xbox; of course the original game almost felt like it should have been played with a controller anyway. There are practically no control issues with the Enhanced Edition, and the Xbox controller allows you to fluidly control Geralt in both exploring and combat. Of course there are minor issues, like parrying can be a bit touchy. However because the Enhanced Edition incorporates a year of patches and fixes, it’s polished to the fullest.
CD Projekt Red has done a great job of fixing bugs and patching the game of its problems. Of course this also means that the game has received a wealth of additional content that has been released, like the combat arena and a game play tutorial. There’s nearly four hours of additional content packed into the Enhanced Edition of the game.
Combat has been fixed for the most part, although it was never completely broken. And the difficulties have been pulled back a little bit, which is definitely a good thing. When The Witcher 2 came out the combat was absolutely brutally difficult, especially the prologue. Combat relies heavily on preparation, Geralt can consume various potions that buff him and boost his stats for an amount of time. He can also apply upgrades to weapons and armor.
Voice acting in the game is across the board fantastic. There are actors that get used more than once and you can hear that, but all of the main characters and the supporting cast do a wonderful job. The music in the game as well still impresses.
Even on Xbox 360, The Witcher 2 remains one of the best looking games out there. Character animations are fluid and facial animations feel human and authentic for the most part. Of course compared to the PC version, the Xbox version doesn’t look nearly as good. The lighting and colors aren’t as dynamic as they might be on PC, the fog encroaches your view a little bit more, and there is the occasional frame rate stutter or texture pop-in. It’s entirely understandable that the game wouldn’t look as good on a console, but the fact that it runs well and is one of the best looking games on Xbox shows what a good job the developers did.
The Witcher 2 Assassins of Kings is a welcome change to the world of fantasy. It’s nice to have a well thought out, and meaningful adult story. It remains one of the best rpgs around and the Xbox 360 version is no different. There are some minor technical differences for this version, but Xbox owners can feel confident they are getting a complete and more than sufficient version of the game. It isn’t every day that you get a genuinely adult game, and The Witcher 2 remains one of those games that just can’t be passed up.
*CD Projekt RED provided me with a review copy through a contest.