Review by guydenton

"A beautiful story and game design make The Witcher 2 a must play on any platform."

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings“Enhanced Edition” Xbox 360

The long awaited Witcher sequel has finally made its way to the Xbox 360 console a year after its original release. Now that the wait is finally over console gamers can experience what is one of the most beautifully crafted, story-driven, and combat heavy RPGs to ever make its way to market. With “The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings ‘Enhanced Edition' ” players are treated to a box full of treats (quest books, and bonus DVDs), and a game with even more goodies. Whatever there is to be desired this game delivers. The graphics are amazing, gameplay is spectacular, combat is gruelling, and the story is epic to say the least. Whether you are a fan of RPGs or just a plain old casual gamer you will definitely enjoy all that the Witcher 2 has to offer.

•Pros: Beautifully detailed game world/ dynamic real-time tactical combat/ well-written story line with interesting characters/ being Geralt “The Witcher”/ replayability/ rich sound-track/ a game box filled with goodies.
•Cons: Occasional high-res texture pop-in/ the game eventually ends.

Story: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings' story unfolds like many of the other great historical tragedies that one might have grown accustomed to; a man on his rise to fame is knocked of his ascent by the nefarious deeds of another. However, this story differs in that the protagonist is not a good-looking hero but a witcher by the name of Geralt of Rivia (witchers are a human-mutant hybrid adept at slaying monsters). The story begins a couple months following the events of the first game where Geralt has been accused of murdering the King. Through a series of events the player embarks on a quest of discovery, playing as the legendary ‘white wolf' trying to unmask the truth behind the betrayal that led to his imprisonment. On this journey of discovery the player will meet a cast of characters that will that will linger in their memory throughout the rest of the game. The characters will range from a politician/sorceress love interest to the occasional bridge troll who is having trouble with his love life. The story leaves no stone left unturned. If you need to know something about the game world the information is there for you to discover. The “Witcher 2” is not a lack luster anti-climactic fairy tale either. The games' story is a heart pounding portrayal of a fantasy world torn apart by political strife and war. The story is so beautifully written and meticulously woven together that it moves the player along all the while keeping them enthralled. The flow of drama never slows. There is always something to look forward to as the game changes directions. Sadly, the game does trickle to an end, but the ending leaves you wanting more, much more. This leads to a tremendous replayabilty factor as well as an unwavering anticipation for The Witcher 3, and 4, and 5…ad infinitum.

The Gameplay: The gameplay is what makes or breaks any great game, and for “The Witcher 2” it just adds to the over-the-top and awesome story. The games general gameplay feel is separated into storytelling, exploration, and combat.The story of The Witcher 2 is narrated by a super awesome sub-character who is a natural born word smith. A bard in trade he has taken to retelling the grand story of the Geralt of Rivia. The new enhanced edition brings the addition of narration in between the acts which adds to the total cohesion of the story. The dialogue and other conversations in “The Witcher 2” are superb. The voice acting (English version) was well done, and highly believable. As the plot unfolds and tension raises, the characters' voices and facial animations actually add to the suspense of the moment. The dialogue, however, is the main medium by which the majority of the story is delivered and for the most part the delivery works perfectly. The games' conversations draw the player in, all-the-while leaving them begging for more. “The Witcher 2”s good narration, excellent voice acting, and story have all the workings of a true masterpiece. CD Projekt Red has done Xbox fans a great favor by retelling the story of Geralt of Rivia on console.

The Combat: For all the action gamers out there, The Witcher 2 does not shy away from fast paced, sword-based combat. The game's combat is a mix of real time battles with a tactical flare. Geralt uses two trusty weapons which occupy two main weapon slots, as well as magical abilities called signs. Geralt can buy new weapons or have a smith fashion him a new one from a diagram he has found. These new weapons can then be upgraded using various magical runes that are acquired throughout the game or purchased at a vendor. One of the weapon types that Geralt carries is most effective against human enemies (i.e. steel sword) and will be your go to weapon while combating humans. The second super awesome weapon type is the silver sword. Keeping with the monster lore, only silver weapons are effective against things that go bump in the night and luckily for us Geralt comes prepared. The dual sword mechanic works wonderfully, and adds a sense of realism to the combat. With these swords in tow Geralt is able to dish out all kinds of hacking and slashing to whatever crosses his path. Furthermore, to mix the combat up Geralt is able to use magic based signs such as: inferno (fireball), Quen (magic shield), Axii (recruit an enemy to fight for you), etc. The magic system in “The Witcher 2” does not overwhelm the combat either, but spices it up just enough that it contributes in its own way. Besides swords and signs there are potions that act as stat boosters during combat to help give your character the edge in battle. These potions range from vitality boosting concoctions that are consumed pre-battle to weapon oils that help increase a weapon's effectiveness. With many options available to use in and out of combat each battle and play through becomes unique. Also, while engaged in combat the entire world is at your command to do with it as you please. You can run in and slash the enemy to death (not recommended), or use your arsenal of traps to ensnare the enemy and tip the tide of battle in Geralt's favor. The combat in “The Witcher 2” is unique and memorable, and on the normal and above difficulties fairly challenging. This mixture of brutal sword-play and tactical trap, and magic (sign) based combat keeps the games various fight scenes from being repetitive and sets them apart from the competition.

Exploration: Sadly The Witcher 2 does not offer as much in the free-world exploration as some of its competitor. What it does offer its players is depth and reward for all that is available to explore. The Witcher 2 offers a world that is gorgeous and oozing with detail. Wherever a character goes there is sure to be candy for the eye. From the opening battlefield scene the player gets a sense at how well the game world is crafted and the ambition that drove the artistic design of the environments. These environments are also as fun to explore as they are pretty to look at. While exploring a creature filled forest just outside of town you feel as though you are pioneering the wilds in search of some great mystery. This is where The Witcher 2 makes its own niche in exploration. There is always a sense of intrigue and imminent danger packed into every journey. While exploring the game world “The Witcher 2” leaves plenty to do. This is where The Witcher excels. The exploration offers plenty of sub-quests as well as hidden items, but the beauty and eminent danger lurking around every corner are what makes The Witcher 2 shine.

The Graphics: “The Witcher 2” is questionably one of the most artistically appealing console games available to date, and that says a lot. Having only played the Xbox 360 version, I am blown away at the animations and detail that the programmers at CD Projekt Red put into the game. The designers were tasked with the job of taking a game that was capable of taxing even the best gaming P.C. and putting it on a 7 year-old console. Surprisingly to the disdain of many selfish and spiteful P.C. gamers they did it. The Xbox version runs smooth, looks great, and loads fast. The environments are highly detailed, and the characters are beautiful and believing. The water looks like it can get you wet, and fire looks like it can burn you. Facial animations are convincing, and little details such as a mole on a certain sorceress's face stand out. The lighting and creature models are awe inspiring. The amount of handcrafted textures and characters is truly something of beauty. That said if there is flaws to be found it is in the high-resolution textures (mainly in cut scenes). With the game installed on my hard drive I noticed a lag in the loading of high-res textures on walls and characters. I also noticed these issues when transitioning from one environment to the next. This small issue however, is no reason to overlook The Witcher 2 on console. The games graphics are superb, and a minor hiccup is to be expected when converting a huge P.C. game to the console.

The Controls: The controller layout for the console version is crisp and responsive. The exploration and combat mechanics work great. While exploring the movements are fluid and dynamic. In combat the Xbox 360 controller shines. The sword-play consists of two buttons (X, A) allocated to either light/fast or strong/slower attacks. With the two other buttons being used as dodge (B) and signs (Y). The right trigger is used to guard, and the left trigger is used to lock on to an enemy. The combat seems as if it was designed with the Xbox in mind. The quick paced combat remains quick paced. The only times combat slows down is while Geralt is planting a trap or switching out his signs. Outside of combat the action button (A) is the name of the game. It does everything from looting and climbing, to opening doors and initiating the wonderful dialogue. If one is torn between the P.C. and console versions the logical choice would be to opt for the console version due in part to the easy accessibility of the controller scheme.

Overall: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (Enhanced Edition) shines on the Xbox 360. It brings new light to a genre that is lacking on Xbox. The story is an actual story with an actual protagonist. What a concept! The Graphics are a pleasure to behold and worth every penny for the price of admission. The gameplay and combat is immersive and excitingly keeps the pace throughout the whole adventure, which leaves tons of room for replay value. The controls are crisp and responsive and definitely fun to master. CD Projekt Red did not just develop a good port of a great game for the Xbox 360; they created a great game that is amazingly beautiful to look at and as equally fun to play on both the console and the P.C.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 05/02/12

Game Release: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (Enhanced Edition) (US, 04/17/12)

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