Witcher 2 Xbox 360 Review: The Witcher 2 for Xbox 360 is labeled "Enhanced Edition," so reviewer Luke Brown explored how this version fares vs. the PC version.
After a lengthy development cycle, CD Projekt Red finally ported the highly touted Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings to the Xbox 360. Of course, since the console version of the action RPG came out nearly a year after the PC edition, CD Projekt Red made sure to include a slew of new content exclusive to the Enhanced Edition of the game. With new cinematics, ten more hours of gameplay, and a host of gameplay improvements, The Witcher 2 on the 360 is a rather deep and compelling RPG. Though itís not without its flaws, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition is easily one of the best RPGs on the console to come out this year.
Picking up a short time after the conclusion of the first game, The Witcher 2ís story once again places players in the role of Geralt of Rivia, the titular witcher. Experimented on as young man, Geralt is a monster hunter with a slew of special skills and abilities, which make him one of the most powerful witchers in all the land. As a close confidant of the current king of Temeria, Geralt finds himself on the frontlines of a war between the king and his estranged wife. During a fateful battle, the king is assassinated right before Geraltís eyes. The assassin escapes, leaving Geralt as the only witness, and thus the only suspect. Held captive by the kingdomís special forces, Geralt convinces the leader of the group that heís been set up, and that thereís a conspiracy afoot to put Temeria into turmoil.
The plot of The Witcher 2 is a dense one, filled with dozens of characters and plotlines, which all weave together to create an amazingly rich and detailed world. While it can be a bit dense at times, the narrative is easily one of the best reasons to play the game. Every location is brimming with new characters to interact with, books to read, and secrets to learn. How far into the rabbit hole youíre willing to go to learn about The Witcher 2ís world is up to you, but those who take the time to really invest in the various storylines will be rewarded for their diligence.
There are also a series of decisions players can make as well that help shape the game world as they play. With the variety of branching paths, there are a lot of possibilities when it comes to potential storylines you could be witness to. These decisions are much more than the black-and-white morality tests that seem to frequent games of all shapes and sizes these days. No, the choices players can make in Assassins of Kings allow them to shape Geralt into a complicated character that doesnít always do the absolute best or worst things. The Witcher 2ís storylines also differ depending on a key decision fairly early in the game, which allows players to see the story unfold from two very different perspectives. Itís not just a great way to add replayability into the game, but also to give players a bit of creative freedom in deciding how they wish the game to unfold.
Swordsmanship is key in The Witcher 2, and learning how to fight well will go a long way in making your experience enjoyable. It would be easy to pass off the combat in the game as mere button-mashing, however, players will find the quick combos and magic use provide a solid amount of depth to the battles. You will earn experience from completing quests and side-missions, which can then be used to build up your strengths in Alchemy, Magic, and Swordsmanship. Thereís also a Training skill tree, but once you acquire six unlocks in that tree, you can then spend your points in the others however you see fit. It pays to have a bit of balance, but a heavy proficiency in Swordsmanship will go a long way in making the more challenging fights much easier.
Including magic and traps into the combat also makes things a bit more interesting. You wonít ever just be limited to just one avenue of attack, save for a few guided moments, and learning how to utilize Geraltís full arsenal of abilities is tantamount to staying alive. While there are plenty of monster hunts to partake in from town to town, the biggest threat youíll face in combat is other humans. Getting surrounded puts you in quite a pinch, and thatís why itís helpful to always carry some traps and bombs, as well as learning the right times to use magic abilities like Yarden (which freezes foes in place) and Quen (which shields Geralt with magic energy). You will die in The Witcher 2. Just how often you die depends on how willing you are to embrace the variety of abilities at your disposal. While it is true that you will earn new weapons and armor by looting bodies and chests, or by purchasing them in markets, the game does a pretty basic job at making sure you earn new equipment in time to take on tougher foes.
The Witcher 2 is a great looking game. The world is amazingly rendered, and each town you visit has a distinct personality. While the game isnít a truly open-world adventure, thereís enough variety in the small sections of the world you do get to explore that you wonít mind not being able to travel wherever you wish. Combat animations in the game are fluid, though you will sometimes run across a foe that gets stuck on an object, thus making them drastically easier to kill. Texture loading is a bit of an issue, even with the game installed. The cutscenes often cut back and forth so quickly the game doesnít have time to fully render the characters or settings. Itís not something that ruins the experience, but itís quite noticeable, and itís a bit disappointing to see it happen even after installing the game.