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The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Hands-on

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (Xbox 360)  - 1099409

One of last year’s big highlights on the PC gaming front was CD Projekt RED’s The Witcher 2.  Featuring a unique hero (or somewhat hero, depending on your actions) and an exquisitely drawn world, the game gave you a spellbinding number of choices to decide your fate, as well as an invigorating battle system that both raging RPG fans and action lovers alike could appreciate.  However, not everyone could get past the complex keyboard functions of the PC version.  But don’t fret, because a modified version of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, is coming to Xbox 360 next month.

Published by Warner Bros. Interactive (instead of Atari, who released the original game), The Witcher 2 is looking to attract a whole new audience, featuring a theme that’s seldom this well thought out in games, and providing hours’ worth of quests to develop your character into a truly legendary warrior.  The company recently invited us to check out a near-finished build of the game, to give us an idea just how accessible it is on a new format.

First off, the controls have been modified wonderfully.  You can still select from a number of spells with your lead character, Geralt of Rivia, including alchemy, sword handling, and magic.  Since he was born a “witcher," a human with genetically increased abilities, he’s able to use these to bring down enemies and complete quests, which will take him everywhere from ruined cities to trouble-filled forests.

The combat is very smooth, enabling you to lock onto targets by holding in the left trigger and using the right one to block, which is vital since your Witcher is very vulnerable from behind.  You’ll be able to switch between two kinds of swords, one made specifically to bring down soldiers and other human types, while the other is more effective in destroying the monsters that roam the land.  It’s easy to switch between the two, with a simple tap of the D-pad.

Assassins of Kings also features a storyline that unfolds with great aplomb, as the choices you make can have quite the effect on characters, as well as encounters that could result in someone’s death.  It’s this kind of choice-making, along with the combat, that really provides The Witcher 2 with an enormous amount of heft, somewhere along the same lines as Kingdoms of Amalur.  Maybe even beyond that, what with the hours’ worth of content put into the game.

What’s really surprising is how much work CD Projekt is putting into the presentation.  While the game runs much smoother on a high-end PC, the Xbox 360 edition is no slouch.  The environments are absolutely stunning, from roaming around through underground caves with lights streaming in, to a huge tower, one you’re forced to climb up as you face a rogue and his army of soldiers.  Both are streamlined with barely any hiccups in frame rate, and the detail is staggering.  What’s more, when you’re fighting in combat, the camera doesn’t get in its own way, meaning you can watch carefully for enemies coming from behind and roll out of the way accordingly, plotting your next course of attack.

On a side note, the opening movie, which features a magic-filled battle on a ship, is outstanding.  Check it out if you haven’t already.

We always knew that The Witcher 2 was good on story, as we found out from the PC version.  Thankfully, the console edition is faring well in other categories, with rich visuals, great audio recording (the actors are excellent) and plenty of gameplay options, whether you prefer swordplay or magic.  We’re eager to see how the final game shapes up, and in a matter of weeks, we’ll find out for sure.  Be sure to check back for the review.

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Robert Workman
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