The Witcher is already a well established RPG franchise in the world of PC gaming. Last year marked the debut of its critically acclaimed sequel which is currently in the process of receiving a colossal 10 GB DLC enhancement for free adding a plethora of new content. Coinciding with the new update, Xbox 360 users will finally get a chance to see what all the fuss is about with their very own port of this enhanced fantasy epic.
The story follows the exploits of Geralt, a specialist monster hunter known as a Witcher whose mutated body provides him with an array of supernatural abilities. The game starts shortly after the conclusion of the original title as Geralt is imprisoned for a crime that he didn’t commit. Geralt however is able to convince his captors of his innocence and is secretly freed with the task of finding the real perpetrator who coincidently also happens to be a Witcher. Now a fugitive on the run, Geralt must pursue the man responsible while the neighbouring kingdoms around him use our hero as a pawn to engage in a political power struggle both physical and clandestine.
|Geralt overlooking a village.|
Being a novel adaption certainly favours The Witcher 2 as the vast array of characters both major and minor each bring something unique and are brimming with a level of personality not usually seen in other video games. Though pre-existing benefits aside the game’s greatest quality is evident in the sheer strength of its writing. Character dialogue is on par with some of the best in TV and film today and it will inevitably heighten your expectations of the quality of future writing in the Action RPG genre.
Though for many who start without dabbling in the previous title, The Witcher 2 will feel a little overwhelming at first. There is a lot to catch up on and for the first few hours of the game you will feel as if you have walked in half way through a plot heavy movie or attempted to start reading a long fantasy novel from chapter twenty. There are a few videos to watch in the extras menu to help bring the player up to speed but they do not do nearly enough to provide some foreshadowing on the game’s setting.
Much like the plot, playing The Witcher 2 starts out as an incredibly confusing ordeal. While the game system is certainly robust the standard mechanics of exploring the environment, combat, item management, item enhancement, magic, alchemy, potion drinking, level progression tree and everything else comes at you all at once and it is far too overwhelming to comprehend at first. Though despite some early stages of bewilderment after an hour or two players will start to feel more confident with the control scheme which has been sensibly altered to accommodate for the Xbox controller. Once mastered, controlling Geralt comes with relative ease and offers very little hindrance to the player, though one small exception is noted when attempting to pick up items in the environment which can more than often feel too fiddly even at the best of times.
|Anyone betting on Geralt to win here?|
But the suggestion of offering an easier than expected difficulty after a shaky start is purely a suggestion of caution rather than a taunt as The Witcher 2 is a surprisingly hard game. Non-PC gamer’s best be prepared as the level of challenge and difficulty that the game offers is not something that mainstream console gaming has seen for many years. The Witcher 2 is a true test of nerve and patience, even when exploring an environment as part of a sub-quest, vigilance is advised at all times in order to avoid the tedium of death and backtracking.
Though this description sounds like a negative point the difficulty is not without justification. The Witcher 2 (for the most part) is a strong ambassador for the philosophy of “harsh but fair”. Combat especially is always a challenge that will forever keep a player on their toes and forgetting this can quickly leave them dead. This attitude is spread across nearly every facet of gameplay in The Witcher 2. Running carelessly into the unknown will get you killed. Failing to take the time to study monsters in the wild will get you killed. Refusal to take the time to make appropriate traps and oils will get you killed. Being too impatient to counter attack an enemy and just blindly swinging your sword will get you killed. Get the point? The majority of the time a result of failure will usually be the responsibility of the player alone as The Witcher 2 cleverly decides to oversee events with a sense of fair play rather than hold their hand the entire way.
|The world is full of characters and different personalities.|
Also it is worth noting that while the majority of the gameplay works well there are occasionally some lesser used mechanics that are simply not up to scratch with the rest of the game. The most prominent example of this is the rare use of stealth mechanics that are abominable and truly feel like they were put in at the very last minute.
When compared to the original release a year ago. The Witcher 2 Enhanced Edition has come forward in leaps and bounds in the graphical department. Many of the character models have been updated or remapped and now look better than ever, environments are filled with an expanded variety of flora and fauna and graphical tweaks are noticeable right across the board from better dynamic lighting and shading to a greater depth of colour palette and texturing.
In addition to these graphical improvements The Witcher 2 Enhanced Edition also sports some new cut scenes including a three and a half minute pre-rendered cinematic opening by BAFTA award winner Tomasz Baginski. This sequence depicts an important event that predates the beginning of the story and it is simply breath taking in every sense of the word, setting the overall tone for the rest of the game. The only disappointment that you’ll draw from it is that you won’t see another one as the rest of the cinematics’ are done either as in-game cut scenes or by using bold and striking 2D animations. While they are certainly impressive the mash up of styles weakens the games overall artistic consistency, this is no more so apparent than in the new chapter bridging cut scenes featuring the most out of place voiceover to ever be used in The Witcher. Giving the impression that someone just happened to stumble into the wrong recording studio that day.
|Amazing scenery and environments.|
The Witcher 2 is a fantastic game. The length and the quality of its content easily justifies the price, though peppered with a few niggling flaws, The Witcher 2 is a true example of the direction that other titles in the Action RPG genre should be striving towards. While it is more than obvious (and mostly expected) that the Xbox version is the least superior port it goes without saying that The Witcher 2 Enchanced Edition is an unforgettable experience. If forking out the money for a gaming PC is out of the question then you certainly cannot go wrong with this almost faithful console counterpart.
Story = 10/10
Gameplay = 8/10
Graphics = 7/10
Final We Know Gamers Score = 8/10
Had a chance to play the game? Tell us what you thought in the comments section below!
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition Review
Reviewed by Spencer Marshman
on Apr 17 2012
Reviewed by Spencer Marshman
on Apr 17 2012