The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (Enhanced Edition) review
The Xbox 360 doesn’t really have a shortage of good adventure games right now. Aside from the Fable games and the “FUS RO DAH”-ness of Skyrim, you’ve also got Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, 38 Studios’ surprisingly engaging journey with hours worth of gameplay packed into it. But let me go ahead and issue you fair warning right now — you’ll want to brush some time aside for The Witcher. In the past few days, we’ve taken several different routes with this game and have still just scratched the surface over what’s being offered here. It’s that kind of epic, one that will take you months at a time to discover everything that it has to offer. And that’s a good thing.
The Witcher 2 has already enjoyed imminent success on the PC, with its complex quests and ludicrously high amount of narrative (there are literally dozens of directions you can go as far as emotional involvement is concerned), and it’s great to see the Xbox 360 version follow suit, despite some slight limitations. The game puts you in control of Geralt of Rivia, a powerful monster hunter who’s a little iffy on the brain, but still knows his way through a conversation, as well as a fight. Along with a pair of properly equipped swords, he also knows a thing or two about other weapons, including daggers and bombs. In addition, he can craft new tools using alchemy, including more powerful bombs and traps, which you can make dimwitted enemies run into.
Now, there are some slight things you’ll need to consider playing the game with a controller, instead of the usual way, via keyboard. There are functions mapped into the controls, including wheels where your tools can be assigned and then properly used through slo-mo sections of the gameplay. It’s a little tricky at first, but a full tutorial system is available to explain everything step-by-step in case you need a breakdown.
Honestly, it didn’t take long to adapt to the adventurous gameplay. We were hacking and slashing like a pro and using weapons without any sort of struggle, save for some slight aiming issues with quick throws. What’s more, we also developed some great defensive tactics, such as rolling out of harm’s way, since Geralt is quite susceptible to attacks from the rear. Just watch your back and you’ll live to fight another day — and pick up some great stuff along the way.
In addition to the hours’ worth of combat scenarios and quests, you’ll also engage in a number of conversations and relationships. The true dynamic of The Witcher 2 is which way you can direct your character’s morale. While nothing new in video games (Mass Effect’s been doing it for some time), CD Projekt RED does a superb job making Geralt feel like a real warrior, either turning him into a real a-hole or a true heroic type; you can get romantic rewards or even other small fundamentals as a result. As we said, we played through the game several times and still have choices left undiscovered. That leads to plenty of replay value, as if the four additional hours of gameplay missions — on top of the PC content — wasn’t enough.
For a console-adapted game, The Witcher 2 looks great. There are times when the textures are a bit muddy, and the camera isn’t exactly your best friend, but the environments are stunning, especially looking into the long range to see the land that lays ahead of you. Enemy designs are diverse and fitting for your journey, and the character models, more or less, really make the world feel populated. The game does provide the option to install to the hard drive, and while a bit laborious at first, it’s a worthwhile process to get the most out of visual performance. Still, it’s not completely necessary, and you don’t really miss out on anything if you skip it.
As for audio, CD Projekt RED really knocks one out of the park. The dialogue between characters is meaningful and never to the point of corniness, and each individual sounds like they’re worth talking to — even the stuck-up royalty. The music is fitting for the adventure theme, and the other environmental effects really come through, especially during battles.
Most of the time, ports from PC to console really fall short. But with The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition, WB Games and CD Projekt RED not only did their homework, but earned tons of extra credit. With days worth of content to go through, an extraordinary package that includes a mini-guide AND the game’s soundtrack, an above-average presentation, and entertaining quest-worthy gameplay, it really does provide the kind of gaming that’ll last you all summer long. If anything can stray you from Skyrim’s mighty beasts, it’s this game.