Also available on: PC
Developer: CD Projekt
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Genre: Role-playing game
The Witcher 2: Enhanced Edition is the latest in an increasingly long list of high-profile action role-playing games to release on the Xbox 360. It joins the likes of Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Fable and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, games lacking neither ambition nor acclaim. With all of its accolades, the former PC exclusive should fit in nicely with such distinguished company. However, converting PC games to consoles is no easy task, especially one with the depth and detail of The Witcher 2.
The game follows Geralt Of Rivia, a silver-haired Witcher on the run after being falsely accused of murdering King Foltest, the man he was sworn to protect. Fortunately, being a Witcher has its perks, and Geralt is blessed with increased strength, a magical trick or two, and the uncanny ability to make others do his bidding with a quick flash of the eyes and flick of the wrists. Hot on the trail of the real assassin, Geralt's branching adventure takes him on a journey throughout the kingdom of Temeria and its volatile political climate.
While this is by no means an innovative feature, each choice has very real and palpable implications, something that isn't always true in rival games. Of course, the freedom to choose your path, not to mention the sheer number of missions and side-quests, results in an experience well worth replaying. A second playthrough not only gives players a chance to experience a different story, but also recount hilarious conversations about debauchery, or sing-along to bawdy soldier songs.
The excellent script is complemented by an astonishing gaming environment, one positively brimming with life and colour. Despite a few texture issues and the odd bit of screen tear, Temeria is a wonderful sight to behold, not as large or as sprawling as Skyrim, but easily as rich and exciting to explore.
Much like its branching storyline, Geralt's world isn't the most original, featuring the usual array of castles, inns, forests and caves, but it is confidently bought to life by a team clearly in love with the source material. It manages to maintain a balance between the grand and lofty locations we associate with the fantasy genre and the intimate environments necessary to make a tight video game.
It's also one of the more challenging environments we've visited, proving especially difficult during the opening stages. Compared to some of the mindless button-bashers we've played over the years, The Witcher 2's demanding combat makes a refreshing change. The game makes no compromises whatsoever, particularly if you play on the default difficulty or beyond.
Whether facing screen-filling monsters or a group of bandits, preparation is the key. Players must prioritise certain enemies, focusing on the strongest first, or drawing out lesser foes for some one-on-one combat. Players also have access to traps and spells, not to mention timed potions and enhancements. Traps can be laid as enemies approach, while potions are limited due to their toxicity levels. Although difficult, when you get it right, it's enormously satisfying.
In fact, the controls and menu system, in particular, betray The Witcher 2's PC roots. Comparing weapon and armour attributes is a chore, while sifting through screen after screen to find items is cumbersome. Stealth sections, meanwhile, are also poorly implemented, but crop up infrequently and have little bearing on matters for a hero with a mighty sword and a handful of spells.
Considering how hugely successful the game is on so many other levels, complaints about menu systems and an occasionally clunky control scheme seem petty and trivial. The Witcher 2: Enhanced Edition is one of the most engaging and immersive games of this console generation, drawing players into a complex narrative, full of character, an excellent script and a rich gaming environment. The Witcher 2: Enhanced Edition is more than a match for the might of Skyrim, an epic fantasy yarn that's a real force to be reckoned with.
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