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May
07
2012

QUASI-REVIEW: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition

Geralt of Rivia is a Witcher. A witcher is a mutated human, and are not looked at too kindly by regular humans – but are depended upon when monsters come. This goes for the elves and dwarves that do not like each other. A common thread is racism and dealing with change. The Witcher 2 picks up in 1271 following the events of The Witcher. The Xbox 360 version of the game includes extras that help bring a new player current on the story to reduce confusion.

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Where is The Witcher 1 on Xbox 360?

A common question. The Witcher is on PC only, in 2009 production on The Witcher: Rise of the White Wolf – a console adaptation of the PC game from 2007 ceased. So CD Projekt RED moved forward and released The Witcher 2 on PC last year to massive success and rave reviews. The developer tried again, looking to the Xbox 360 as the most likely of consoles to get to port The Witcher 2. One of the tells this might be happening was the native gamepad support out of the box and it worked well.

The King has been slayed by an assassin that only Geralt has seen. Captured red-handed, Geralt is tortured in a dark, dank chamber far below the castle and is interrogated and mutilated leaving fresh wounds on top of the scars that exist already on his back. You recount the events while in custody to do your best to explain how the King’s death came to pass, as a Witcher you should have protected him. Eventually (and to no surprise), you escape to help clear your name. From here the game can branch wildly based upon your actions.

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Unlike other games, CD Projekt RED decided on a different way of storytelling, a true “choose your own adventure” game in which the decisions you choose make profound changes to the world around you and the relationships with others. There is no moral compass, or black and white choices – it is all shades of grey and you must rely on your intuition to what is the best choice. This creates a large amount of uncertainty and huge weight on your shoulders when big decisions come to pass. A decision early on vastly changes the rest of the game, a second playthrough is necessary to see the game for everything that it has to offer.

If you can afford roughly 8GB of hard drive space, the manual and I recommend you install the game for a better experience. There is quite a bit of loading (when compared to the PC counterpart) and loading times can be greatly reduced by doing so. Which one of the biggest detriments to the game is the loading times between areas, sometimes within the city itself. While they aren’t long, they interrupt the flow.

To say The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition looks great is an understatement, but does suffer from being compressed and at a resolution of 672p (sub-HD) to achieve a fantastic framerate. Colors pop with vibrancy and sunlight shimmers on water, and shines through patches of tall trees to create beautiful shadows on the objects below. Everything has a distinct look and feel, and is completely fitting to the time period. While the location is fictional, is clear it takes place in European-like areas and vegetation is overwhelming.

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The economy that drives the game is orens, and you will likely always have a low amount in comparison to other games. Only receiving a handful of coin for selling items and completing quests. But on the flipside, the items in the game are relatively well-priced. The vegetation that exists is just waiting to be plucked of nutrients and flora. Collecting these items can be used to craft potions via alchemy. Vendors carry diagrams to create larger items from small items or how to craft armor or weapons. In which you bring to a craftsman, this is not a skill Geralt possesses.

You may have heard that The Witcher 2 is a mature game, and it is, meaning…mature. Not always in the vulgarity or nudity – both which exist to a great degree. It also means intelligent quest design. As you’ll start a quest by walking in on a conversation already happening or as a result of helping someone out who was in a sticky situation. There is a minimap directing you to a quest, or in its general direction and overall map to see where you’re going, but there are no breadcrumbs or handholding – exploration is key.

Once you arrive to an area that requires combat, you’ll be glad you (hopefully) played the tutorial of the game. The combat is similar to games you’ve played in the past. Geralt cannot guzzle health and mana potions in combat, but this is done outside of combat and you meditate. Potions have an immediate effect and last 5 minutes (or more if you follow the Alchemy upgrade path). Be cautious of the potions you ingest, as only 3 can be taken at one time and they each carry a toxicity that can harm Geralt rather than buff him. Once in combat, you have two swords at your disposal – a steel sword for human enemies and a steel sword for monsters. Each type does more damage, reverse them and you still do damage – but are less effective doing so. To increase your effectiveness, you can coat your swords in oils that can also deal extra damage.

There is a upgrade tree of 4 branches, the first you work on is the witcher Training branch. The other three are unlocked after Level 8 and you are free to spend each point per level as you wish, exploring Alchemy, Swordsmanship, and Magic. Magic is minimal in The Witcher 2, but effective in the form of signs. Aard is a kinective wave (think Force Push) which can stun and repel enemies, Yrden places a magic electrical trap on the ground to kite enemies into, Igni is a fire spell to damage and stop an enemy from attacking, Quen is a protective shield that protects Geralt from a few attacks before dissipating, and lastly the Axii which allows you to control an enemy to fight for you.

The Witcher 2 can be difficult and daunting at times, but you will find a deep and enthralling game once you get past the first few hours acquainting yourself with the mechanics and the rules of the game. Soon after you’ll be buffing yourself, oiling your swords, rolling and dashing from enemy to enemy without hesitation and with a grace that a ballerina would be jealous of.

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The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition is a near-perfect game. While you can’t create a character and play as Geralt, major choices are yours to command and combat is a skill you must master. Incredible scale, gameplay, and storytelling await you. Do not hesitate to play this game if you have not played the first. You will wish more games were like this RPG.

This review covered the Xbox 360 version of the game, but also applies for PC minus the 360 complaints. A copy of the game was provided by the developer.

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