- Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
- Developer: CD Projekt
- ESRB Rating: “M" for Mature
- Genre: RPG
- Pros: Fantastic visuals; good story; complex and interesting gameplay; lots of content
- Cons: Poor tutorial leads to steep learning curve
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings - Enhanced Edition is an Xbox 360 port of the hit PC game with all of the DLC built in, all of the patches and fixes released for the PC version in the last year, and brand new missions created just for the Enhanced Edition that add many hours to the already lengthy run time. It comes on 2 discs, weighs in at 15GB, and it is highly recommended that you do install it to your hard drive as it really helps performance. It is the second game in The Witcher series (see review of the original The Witcher on PC here), but doesn't really require any previous knowledge to dive into.
You play as Geralt of Rivia, a mutated magic using sort of superhuman monster hunter known as a witcher. Geralt is framed for a series of king slayings and has to clear his name. The story is full of complex politics and racial tensions and more and is really fascinating once you get into it. Geralt is a surprisingly great character who draws you in right from the start and you want to see how his story plays out. It is also worth noting that even though this is a Tolkien-esque fantasty story, familiar races like elves and dwarves don't take the roles you expect them to, which also helps keep the story very interesting and somewhat unpredictable even for RPG and D&D vets.
The Witcher 2 is a third-person game where you have two swords and can hack and slash with surprising fluidity. You can also block, dodge, and parry attacks as well and playing good defense is what opens up your offense. Combat is generally fast paced, but also dangerous because while one enemy isn't much of a threat, a group of enemies can and will kill you pretty quickly (though, don't worry, it never reaches Dark Souls soul-crushing difficulty). Thankfully, the game also has an interesting strategic element built into it that allows you to set magical traps. build different types of bombs, enhance your weapons with special oils, and create potions with various effects. Preparing for combat ahead of time is vitally important and treating your sword with oils, laying traps, and drinking potions prior to jumping into battle make all of the difference. The game uses a nice interface where you hold the left bumper to put the game in slo-mo, which then allows you to switch spells, traps, and other things without jumping into the menu.
Our only real complaint with The Witcher 2 is that it is really, overwhelmingly complex when you first start. The game offers up a tutorial that takes place in an arena that tells you how to fight, lay traps, and all of that, but it just sort of dumps a ton of info on you all at once (including some things you can't actually do yet when the game really starts) and is a bit overwhelming, yet doesn't touch on other important bits like alchemy, managing your inventory, and other things. When the game actually starts, you are just sort of thrown into a world where you're collecting a ton of items and ingredients and clothing/armor that all just stack up in the game's maze of menus and have no real idea of what to do with any of it or compare it to see what is best. You do eventually figure it all out, but it is pretty rough sledding for the first couple of hours.
Despite being the story of Geralt of Rivia instead of you playing your own character, you do have quite a bit of freedom to choose how the game progresses. There are a few story important decisions that you get to make - including some seemingly simple choices that manifest themselves into major plot points ten hours later - that really impact the story. You can also choose to level your Geralt up however you like by choosing different skills - combat, alchemy, etc. - that will impact how your game plays out compared to other players. So, it isn't fully open, but you do have some choices to make and you aren't just along for the ride in someone else's story.
Graphics & Sound
The sound is also very well done. Sound effects for the clanging of swords and armor and all of the magical spells being tossed around are pretty standard, but the sound really stands out with some really good music and excellent voice acting. The script is complex and mature and the voice actors do a great job of bringing it to life in a realistic way.