The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
Review by jparis09
"A Mature, Unique, and Satisfying Experience"
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is the sequel to the PC hit, The Witcher. After Witcher 2 was released exclusively on the PC a lot of console gamers became envious that the project wasn't released for their consoles as well. Fortunately for us Xbox 360 gamers CD Projekt RED has answered our prayers and not only brought this great RPG to the console, but has also given us the "Enhanced Edition". This edition of the game offers several different features, but before we get to all that lets kick this review off with the story.
Kingdoms are at war, innocents are being oppressed, viciously murdered and soldiers are dying. Where do you fit among all of this chaos? Well once again you are put in the shoes of the renowned, infamous Geralt of Rivia. Geralt is a Witcher. In simplest terms a Witcher is a mercenary that doesn't kill humans but makes his living kill monsters for money. Since the story is one of the most important parts of the game, I will give you a brief spoiler free synopsis of it. The events of Witcher 2 takes place immediately after the events of its predecessor. Geralt is usual impartial when it comes to political issues in the kingdoms, but after a few unfortunate events he is branded as a criminal. Your quest to clear your name is a long but very entertaining journey. The story in the game is very complex and can sometimes get confusing if you don't pay attention. All the political drama can be overwhelming at times but the more you listen and try to comprehend exactly what is going on the more you will come to realize how exceptional the writing in this game is. There are plenty of side quest for you to complete as well. Side quest in this game are well thought out with great back stories to them. No character is generic. All of the characters no matter how small they are have a unique personality and the developers have done a superb job of actually getting you to care about what they are saying and even better, care about them. There is a very detail in-game journal that also allows you to read up on the characters, locations and events. This helps for people who want to know a little bit more about a certain character of simply more about what's going on in the story.
Choices you make in the story will have an impact of your ending and things that happen along the way. One thing that really stood out to me in the story is how choices don't have the morality feeling to them. The way they are presented is different than in most games. There really isn't a good and bad choice. You don't become a bad or good person but instead you just make difficult choices and those choices may or may not have consequences. This was a great decision on CD Projekt Red part as it made me actually care about what I was choosing instead of always choosing good or bad choices just to have a good or bad character. As you will come to find out very quickly, this isn't your typical RPG story. There is plenty of sexual content as your protagonist Geralt is quite the lady charmer. The nudity, sex, drug use and the abundance of swearing and violence seen in The Witcher 2 story mode easily makes it an extremely mature game that is strictly meant for adults to enjoy.
The Witcher 2 is a difficult game. It takes a while to get used to it but it is also a very rewarding game. The controls at first seem a little difficult, but after an hour or so they are perfect. There is a tutorial mode which I recommend for everybody. The combat is fun. You have plenty of different weapons in your arsenal, but you bread and butter will be your steel sword and your silver sword. Your steel sword is used for killing humans. Silver swords are for the more difficult monsters. The combat system is based on a sword-magic system. Along with his melee weapons, Geralt also has access to several of different magic spells, traps, throwing blades, bombs etc. Witcher 2 has a pretty stylish way of allowing you to choose how you plan on taking on your enemies. Implemented is a pretty convenient radial menu. This menu puts everything into a cool slow mo allowing you to choose your magic, weapons and also one of the items you put into your quick slot. Your success in Witcher 2 is highly focused on your ability to strategize and use all of the weapons that you have at your disposal. Gamers who try to do your classic hacking and slashing will be made quick work of. The combat is one of the most complex systems I have experienced in a RPG. Don't get discouraged by the complexity and difficulty of combat in Wither 2 though. There are ways that you can improve your chances of survival. Preparation is the key. You can craft all types of potions. These potions will have various effects such as improving your health or magic for a period time or allowing you to see through walls. You can also craft traps and bombs. Applying oils and enhancements to your weapons and armor is also a great way to prepare for a fight as it changes the properties of them. Unfortunately the journal doesn't go that in-depth when you need to refer to it to find out exactly how to do something.
As with all RPGs, Witcher 2 has a leveling up system. As you level up you unlock new things as well as new powers. There are several of new gameplay changes in the Enhanced Edition. There is a "Dark Mode" this is an extreme difficultly setting. You can imagine how hard this mode is seeing as playing this game on normal or hard can frustrate even the most hardcore gamers. There is also an Arena Mode. In this mode you are put in an Arena and fight wave after wave of enemies. Pretty fun addition as it helps you get adjusted to the combat if the tutorial wasn't enough for you. It also has content from all nine previous DLC packs that were released on the PC. The two new story adventures in the Enhanced Edition also adds around a good four more hours of gameplay. After a few deaths and the time it takes for you to get used to the controls and the basic feel of combat the complexity of the gameplay in Witcher 2 is welcomed and one of the better systems used in recent history.
Graphics & Sound 9/10
As expected, when compared to the PC the Witcher 2 is graphical inferior. That is not a bad thing at all. The Xbox 360 hardware is seven years old. CD Projekt RED has done a superb job in using all of the Xbox 360s power. Witcher 2 is one of the best looking games to come out this generation. The environments are bright and dynamic. Physics are really good. The blood splatter looks realistic. Everything looks realistic. The framerate drops are not constant with minor hiccups here and there. The major setback graphically was the texture pop ins. There are quite a bit of texture pop ins. They happen often during cutscenes and dialogue. These do not hinder the overall experience at all but unfortunately since they are so often they must be mentioned. If you install the game to your hard drive you can help remedy this problem but it doesn't eliminate them altogether. Characters are very detailed. Even minor characters you can tell were still paid attention to. Every character has their own distinct features that makes them stand out such as scars and other imperfections. The sound is amazing. Voice acting is among the best in the industry. Everything sounds crisp from simply sheathing your sword, to piercing that same sword into the guts of your enemies. The score keeps you immersed into an already engaging story. Overall even with the technical setbacks graphically it still looks amazing and the sound and score is top notch.
Playtime & Replayability 10/10
Witcher 2 is around 35-40 hours long. There are plenty of things to do and find here. For all you completionist out there getting all of the achievements will make this game even longer. A second playthrough is highly encouraged for the simple fact that the choices you make have huge impacts of what kind of ending you may receive and what happens throughout your game. In other words if you play a second time chances are you will have a different experience then you did the first. Like I said earlier the more time and focus you put into this game the more you will get out of it. It is well worth playing twice and doing as much as you possibly can.
Final Verdict 9/10
-Minor Framerate Drops
-Texture Pop Ins
-Journal Gameplay Help
The Witcher 2 is not only a great RPG, but it is a different one. The story is so interesting it is hard to put down the controller once you get immersed in it. The high difficulty of the gameplay pushes you to think about how you go about situations and your choices carry more weight than standard RPGs. CD Projekt RED has done a superb job porting this game over to the Xbox 360 and hopefully they continue to release any other installments into the series to the consoles as well. Without a doubt any RPG fans should buy this game, just make sure you are ready for a difficult but fun, mature experience. Oh and for all of you big spenders out there throw some more money up and you'll get yourself the "Dark Version".
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 04/23/12, Updated 04/26/12
Game Release: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (Enhanced Edition) (US, 04/17/12)
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