REVIEW: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings - Enhanced Edition 360

Posted by xyzygy (10067 posts) -

Before getting to the review, I want to commend the team at CDProjektRED. Their unfaltering loyalty to their fanbase has earned them a top spot in my own personal "favourite developers" list. Why? Because they listen, they implement, and they listen after the implementation. They never stop improving on their own work and that is a deciding factor in what I consider to be a dedicated and passionate developer. I back this up with their work on updating both The Witcher and The Witcher 2 - both games have recieved considerable amounts of polish after the fact, and both games have turned out even MORE rewarding as a result. The Enhanced Edition not only updates the original game, but brings it to a completely new platform and allows myself, along with many, many others, to actually play this game. Thank you, CDPR.

THE REVIEW

I want to talk about the more visceral aspects of the game first - the things you see immediately. The game is quite possibly one of the most beautiful looking games on the Xbox 360, if not the most impressive. The amount of detail in every inch of the world is astounding. You can tell that the team took every effort in creating a unique, handcrafted world. It felt more like I was traversing a beautiful sculpture than actually making my way through a digital world. I simply have not seen another game on the Xbox 360 achieve this level of beauty and smoothness. In fact, the only negative I can give to the game in this area would be a few and VERY far between bugs I experienced. In my third playthrough, the land simply disappeared and Geralt was simply walking over nothing, very ruggedly and awkwardly. The situation rectified itself after a reboot of the game. The other strange bug was that Geralt's face at one point disappeared, leaving only his hair model.

BUT THAT IS IT.

I have experienced only two technical glitches in my ~100 hours and 3 playthroughs with the game. For an adaptation of the most demanding PC game on the market, this is a huge technical feat. Of all the Xbox 360 game's I've played, this takes the cake as the most technically impressive - it is smooth, beautiful, and rarely disappoints. There is the odd awkward texture here and there, and 1% of the time textures do pop, but there was only one scene in the entire game that it was particularly noticeable (The Redanian King's Armor at the The Mages Summit). In all other regards, the game is a marvel to look at.

PLAYING THE GAME

When I first picked up the game, I was hit with some pretty strong decisions that needed to be made. Even the prologue had strong ramifications to the storyline. This really got me into the vibe of the important decision-making that I would have to be doing later on. I could kill a certain character or talk him out of fighting me, which would affect certain aspects of the story.

Forget about what you know about "choice" in video games - The Witcher 2 is not a means of moral compass. It is entirely grey. I would like to point to Bioware games in general to contrast this and to help clarify. In Bioware's games, when you make a "negative decision" the result is very predictable because it is the antithesis of what you would be doing for the good of all things. This makes choosing very easy and very black-and-white. The Witcher 2 shines in this area - every decision is not handled in a moral way. For instance, if you are given the choice to follow a certain leader, you need to weigh the pros and cons of said leaders - in most cases, these people are ALL evil, yet all have redeeming factors and positive qualities which you need to balance out. You need to learn about these characters and exactly WHY you should follow them - not simply because they represent "good" or "evil". This raises The Wticher 2 above all it's competitors by simply being real, mature and original.

Once this very hard fact sets in, you're left wandering the world and getting to the meat of the game - combat and skills.

Combat is quite different than what you have come to know. It seems to work best when you time your attacks rather than mashing buttons, and dodging and blocking play an important role. Combat begins as basic button presses between a fast, light, safe attack or a heavy, slower and more risky attack plus a basic block and dodge. All of these can be upgraded through various paths in skill development - you can dodge farther, learn to riposte while blocking, parry from all sides, increase sword damage, etc. And that is just for the swordplay - there are still two more important elements to combat, Signs and Alchemy. Signs are essentially a Witcher's terminology for their special, unique magic, and Alchemy is used for preparation to boost stats. Character skill building is based around these three "skill trees" so to speak, plus a more basic "training" path in which you must invest at least 6 points. You can specialize in one tree, balance between two, or multitask with all three, though the latter requires and adept player since you are only given so many skill points.

One thing that really stands out in The Witcher 2 is how careful you need to be while choosing skills. Even one skill point is precious and the size of the skill trees in comparison to how many skill points you can get really makes playing the game over again in a different class very worthwhile. Investing in the Signs tree, users tend to be pausing the game more to carefully think about how to use their next precious amount of Vigor (the universal energy resource - signs and blocking take up 1 bar of Vigor). Alchemy tree demands players take time to think before venturing out in the wild and use the many natural resources they have harvested to create oils, potions, bombs, and traps. The applicable power, duration, and amount of these items taken can all be increased from the Alchemy tree. The Swordplay tree yields a more traditional yet worthwhile build, favouring skills like increasing damage dealt, decreasing damage taken, increasing the amount of times you can block and the likelihood of other effects like bleeding, poisoning, incineration, freezing, etc.

The combat can be difficult, but it forces you to improve and learn the game's mechanics - something many games lack these days and which I commend The Wticher 2 fully.

IMMERSE YOURSELF

The world. The story. The characters. This is where The Witcher 2 impressed me the most. I'm hard pressed to find a more character driven, politically corrupt, intriguing, and mature universe that The Witcher 2 possesses. How Geralt interacts with these characters and what motivates them is the driving force behind the games story. One decision in particular actually has you experiencing 2/3 of the game in a completely different manner than others, and even from there you can make very important story-altering decisions. Characters have a lot dialogue recorded, even if you decide to not associate with them in one playthrough, you'll find they are major players in another. This fact alone left me completely giddy, even while first playing the game. Immediately after beating the game the first time I dove back in to see who exactly could pull strings, who I would be working with, where I would be located, and which new characters I would get to meet. Minor characters from one playthrough could possibly have a far greater role in another.

The story is simply excellent. Original, daring, fresh, and challenging, it is easy to get lost in the narrative. It has a dark European Medieval feel filled with political and personal agendas. It's not as "in-your-face" as other games - a perfect way to describe it is the story feels comfortable with itself. It is a confident and bold story, masterfully folding out. One of the game's only negative's also comes from its pacing: the final act is somewhat short compared to the rest of the game. I realize that this could have been intentional, but perhaps I'm looking through my "I want more" goggles. The Enhanced Edition actually expands the final chapter by adding hours of new content (all of which cannot be completed in one playthrough), and this is where I commend CDPR yet again - fans were saying it was short and they set out to spoil us. While it is still a bit shorter than the rest of the game, the Enhanced Edition's new final-chapter content is very welcome.

As I have mentioned above, the characters in The Witcher 2 do not fall under "Paragon" or "Renegade". There is no good or bad. Every character has an obvious evil in them, even the protagonist, Geralt of Rivia. Everyone is in a grey area. Yet what I love about these characters is how the good in them shines through. I found my own predispositions of the characters being constantly challenged, as if these were real people you need to "get to know". That such a feat has been accomplished in a video game is, to me, unheard of - I cannot actually think of an example that even comes close. Going back to other morality- and choice-based RPGs will be hard now because the characters are so one dimensional in comparison to The Witcher 2.

The theme of choice carries on through the game's deepest offerings, and even ones I've already touched upon - your choice of skills will drastically alter your combat strategies, your choice of friends will alter the game itself, your choice of completing quests could open new quests or rewards. The Witcher 2 is the most successful RPG of it's type because of this.

IN CLOSING

I cannot recommend this game enough. I have spent a lot of time with it and I still have the urge to go and play through it again - something extraordinary in and of itself. Almost every aspect of the game is stellar. If I were to point out the game's most obvious flaws, it would be that the final chapter might be a little short in comparison to the rest and that there are some rare technical hitches. Yet these are completely forgiveable and trivial matters when you look at the big picture - the experience that The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings - Enhanced Edition offers. One of the finest gaming experiences I've had in a long time. Cannot wait for more, CDPR.

#1 Posted by xyzygy (10067 posts) -

Before getting to the review, I want to commend the team at CDProjektRED. Their unfaltering loyalty to their fanbase has earned them a top spot in my own personal "favourite developers" list. Why? Because they listen, they implement, and they listen after the implementation. They never stop improving on their own work and that is a deciding factor in what I consider to be a dedicated and passionate developer. I back this up with their work on updating both The Witcher and The Witcher 2 - both games have recieved considerable amounts of polish after the fact, and both games have turned out even MORE rewarding as a result. The Enhanced Edition not only updates the original game, but brings it to a completely new platform and allows myself, along with many, many others, to actually play this game. Thank you, CDPR.

THE REVIEW

I want to talk about the more visceral aspects of the game first - the things you see immediately. The game is quite possibly one of the most beautiful looking games on the Xbox 360, if not the most impressive. The amount of detail in every inch of the world is astounding. You can tell that the team took every effort in creating a unique, handcrafted world. It felt more like I was traversing a beautiful sculpture than actually making my way through a digital world. I simply have not seen another game on the Xbox 360 achieve this level of beauty and smoothness. In fact, the only negative I can give to the game in this area would be a few and VERY far between bugs I experienced. In my third playthrough, the land simply disappeared and Geralt was simply walking over nothing, very ruggedly and awkwardly. The situation rectified itself after a reboot of the game. The other strange bug was that Geralt's face at one point disappeared, leaving only his hair model.

BUT THAT IS IT.

I have experienced only two technical glitches in my ~100 hours and 3 playthroughs with the game. For an adaptation of the most demanding PC game on the market, this is a huge technical feat. Of all the Xbox 360 game's I've played, this takes the cake as the most technically impressive - it is smooth, beautiful, and rarely disappoints. There is the odd awkward texture here and there, and 1% of the time textures do pop, but there was only one scene in the entire game that it was particularly noticeable (The Redanian King's Armor at the The Mages Summit). In all other regards, the game is a marvel to look at.

PLAYING THE GAME

When I first picked up the game, I was hit with some pretty strong decisions that needed to be made. Even the prologue had strong ramifications to the storyline. This really got me into the vibe of the important decision-making that I would have to be doing later on. I could kill a certain character or talk him out of fighting me, which would affect certain aspects of the story.

Forget about what you know about "choice" in video games - The Witcher 2 is not a means of moral compass. It is entirely grey. I would like to point to Bioware games in general to contrast this and to help clarify. In Bioware's games, when you make a "negative decision" the result is very predictable because it is the antithesis of what you would be doing for the good of all things. This makes choosing very easy and very black-and-white. The Witcher 2 shines in this area - every decision is not handled in a moral way. For instance, if you are given the choice to follow a certain leader, you need to weigh the pros and cons of said leaders - in most cases, these people are ALL evil, yet all have redeeming factors and positive qualities which you need to balance out. You need to learn about these characters and exactly WHY you should follow them - not simply because they represent "good" or "evil". This raises The Wticher 2 above all it's competitors by simply being real, mature and original.

Once this very hard fact sets in, you're left wandering the world and getting to the meat of the game - combat and skills.

Combat is quite different than what you have come to know. It seems to work best when you time your attacks rather than mashing buttons, and dodging and blocking play an important role. Combat begins as basic button presses between a fast, light, safe attack or a heavy, slower and more risky attack plus a basic block and dodge. All of these can be upgraded through various paths in skill development - you can dodge farther, learn to riposte while blocking, parry from all sides, increase sword damage, etc. And that is just for the swordplay - there are still two more important elements to combat, Signs and Alchemy. Signs are essentially a Witcher's terminology for their special, unique magic, and Alchemy is used for preparation to boost stats. Character skill building is based around these three "skill trees" so to speak, plus a more basic "training" path in which you must invest at least 6 points. You can specialize in one tree, balance between two, or multitask with all three, though the latter requires and adept player since you are only given so many skill points.

One thing that really stands out in The Witcher 2 is how careful you need to be while choosing skills. Even one skill point is precious and the size of the skill trees in comparison to how many skill points you can get really makes playing the game over again in a different class very worthwhile. Investing in the Signs tree, users tend to be pausing the game more to carefully think about how to use their next precious amount of Vigor (the universal energy resource - signs and blocking take up 1 bar of Vigor). Alchemy tree demands players take time to think before venturing out in the wild and use the many natural resources they have harvested to create oils, potions, bombs, and traps. The applicable power, duration, and amount of these items taken can all be increased from the Alchemy tree. The Swordplay tree yields a more traditional yet worthwhile build, favouring skills like increasing damage dealt, decreasing damage taken, increasing the amount of times you can block and the likelihood of other effects like bleeding, poisoning, incineration, freezing, etc.

The combat can be difficult, but it forces you to improve and learn the game's mechanics - something many games lack these days and which I commend The Wticher 2 fully.

IMMERSE YOURSELF

The world. The story. The characters. This is where The Witcher 2 impressed me the most. I'm hard pressed to find a more character driven, politically corrupt, intriguing, and mature universe that The Witcher 2 possesses. How Geralt interacts with these characters and what motivates them is the driving force behind the games story. One decision in particular actually has you experiencing 2/3 of the game in a completely different manner than others, and even from there you can make very important story-altering decisions. Characters have a lot dialogue recorded, even if you decide to not associate with them in one playthrough, you'll find they are major players in another. This fact alone left me completely giddy, even while first playing the game. Immediately after beating the game the first time I dove back in to see who exactly could pull strings, who I would be working with, where I would be located, and which new characters I would get to meet. Minor characters from one playthrough could possibly have a far greater role in another.

The story is simply excellent. Original, daring, fresh, and challenging, it is easy to get lost in the narrative. It has a dark European Medieval feel filled with political and personal agendas. It's not as "in-your-face" as other games - a perfect way to describe it is the story feels comfortable with itself. It is a confident and bold story, masterfully folding out. One of the game's only negative's also comes from its pacing: the final act is somewhat short compared to the rest of the game. I realize that this could have been intentional, but perhaps I'm looking through my "I want more" goggles. The Enhanced Edition actually expands the final chapter by adding hours of new content (all of which cannot be completed in one playthrough), and this is where I commend CDPR yet again - fans were saying it was short and they set out to spoil us. While it is still a bit shorter than the rest of the game, the Enhanced Edition's new final-chapter content is very welcome.

As I have mentioned above, the characters in The Witcher 2 do not fall under "Paragon" or "Renegade". There is no good or bad. Every character has an obvious evil in them, even the protagonist, Geralt of Rivia. Everyone is in a grey area. Yet what I love about these characters is how the good in them shines through. I found my own predispositions of the characters being constantly challenged, as if these were real people you need to "get to know". That such a feat has been accomplished in a video game is, to me, unheard of - I cannot actually think of an example that even comes close. Going back to other morality- and choice-based RPGs will be hard now because the characters are so one dimensional in comparison to The Witcher 2.

The theme of choice carries on through the game's deepest offerings, and even ones I've already touched upon - your choice of skills will drastically alter your combat strategies, your choice of friends will alter the game itself, your choice of completing quests could open new quests or rewards. The Witcher 2 is the most successful RPG of it's type because of this.

IN CLOSING

I cannot recommend this game enough. I have spent a lot of time with it and I still have the urge to go and play through it again - something extraordinary in and of itself. Almost every aspect of the game is stellar. If I were to point out the game's most obvious flaws, it would be that the final chapter might be a little short in comparison to the rest and that there are some rare technical hitches. Yet these are completely forgiveable and trivial matters when you look at the big picture - the experience that The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings - Enhanced Edition offers. One of the finest gaming experiences I've had in a long time. Cannot wait for more, CDPR.

#2 Posted by The_Laughing_Man (13629 posts) -

My biggest issues was when  I got into battle with certain guys. They seem to have a extra few inches on their attacks. The Kayren and the undead solders often killed me with attacks that never seemed to connect. Another massive issue was the auto save.  
 
I have seen pop in if you load a save right after loading the same save moments before. There is some audio strangeness at times (mostly at the real start)  
 
But again the big one was the extra phantom reach they had. Ive died 4 times in Dark mode and each time was by an attack that was no where near me. I have taken a break (Following Deathmold though the fog) Had to stop because on Dark mode the entire first part takes a wile then they just walk around and one of the solders tagged me from a good foot away. 

#3 Posted by xyzygy (10067 posts) -

I actually have heard about the audio issues from other users, but have not personally experienced it. Everything was in sync and worked fine for me. The odd time here or there a voice was a little louder, but it wasn't anything worth mentioning in the review. Extremely minor to my experience.

About the reach though, I am having a hard time trying to think about when I experienced that. I know that I had trouble with enemies with spears, greatswords, and halberds, but I attributed that to the length of their weapons and the obvious hitboxes they would reach, not their animations and the physics of the weapon. I made sure to have Quen on around them. I just think it's one of the challenges of fighting them, their reach. Other than that it seemed like the enemies were pretty fair game. I've played through it on Hard and then Dark. I don't know what to tell ya!

#4 Posted by Phoenix778m (263 posts) -

My favorite thing about the game: Real time countdowns of status effects....word!

#5 Posted by Tru3_Blu3 (3239 posts) -

@Phoenix778m said:

My favorite thing about the game: Real time countdowns of status effects....word!

Seriously. What the fuck happened, RPG-devs? Bethesda had them in Morrowind and Oblivion, but not in Skyrim.

#6 Posted by McBonJon (162 posts) -

I like the review. I also got a review copy as well. I'm currently working on my review as well.

#7 Posted by JasonR86 (9763 posts) -

I've really enjoyed this game because of the world and the characters. The gameplay isn't amazing. The amount of freedom in where you can go isn't what I was expecting. The fighting is neat but, maybe it's because I'm really busy in my professional life, I didn't feel like getting good at it. I just didn't feel like being bothered. So I turned the difficulty down and never looked back. What keeps me coming back is the world, the characters, the story, and the graphics/art design.

Online
#8 Posted by probablytuna (3808 posts) -

Even on my crappy computer running the game on medium settings, it looks damn beautiful. It's probably the most polished RPG I have played. Rarely any bugs or texture pop-ins. I'm on my second playthrough now on Dark Mode. Tried Insane mode prior to that and got locked out of that playthrough during the tutorial haha.

#9 Posted by Enigma777 (6084 posts) -

I just got to Ch 3 and so far I've found 7 major spelling errors. Stuff that a simple spellchecker would instantly catch.

Unacceptable. This isn't 1996 anymore...

#10 Posted by MariachiMacabre (7099 posts) -

@Enigma777 said:

I just got to Ch 3 and so far I've found 7 major spelling errors. Stuff that a simple spellchecker would instantly catch.

Unacceptable. This isn't 1996 anymore...

0/10 Worst game ever.

#11 Posted by Enigma777 (6084 posts) -
@MariachiMacabre

@Enigma777 said:

I just got to Ch 3 and so far I've found 7 major spelling errors. Stuff that a simple spellchecker would instantly catch.

Unacceptable. This isn't 1996 anymore...

0/10 Worst game ever.

QQ more
#12 Posted by bellmont42 (325 posts) -

@Enigma777 said:

I just got to Ch 3 and so far I've found 7 major spelling errors. Stuff that a simple spellchecker would instantly catch.

Unacceptable. This isn't 1996 anymore...

The game is great.... This is either trolling or you are just that determined to nitpick at things that hardly matter.

#13 Posted by Enigma777 (6084 posts) -
@bellmont42

@Enigma777 said:

I just got to Ch 3 and so far I've found 7 major spelling errors. Stuff that a simple spellchecker would instantly catch.

Unacceptable. This isn't 1996 anymore...

The game is great.... This is either trolling or you are just that determined to nitpick at things that hardly matter.

Go read the Character profiles. And I wouldn't call the spelling in a story-based RPG as a thing that hardly matters. Its a huge deal if you can't properly convey information to the reader. And in this day and age where even calculators have spellcheck shit like "windicate" and "bumber" and "thris" is not acceptable!

At my job people would get fired for half as much...
#14 Posted by Phoenix778m (263 posts) -

You must work in some legal department. But the rest of the world is a little more forgiving.

#15 Edited by whyareyoucrouchingspock (975 posts) -

The Witcher 2 is not the most demanding game on the pc market. It is only demanding when you use "super AA".

Personally I think the Wticher 2 is abit overrated. It's a good game, for sure. But not the end of all ends it's die hard fanboys make it out to be.

#16 Posted by GetEveryone (4458 posts) -

Great review, man (though, it being one of my favourite games in memory I'm probably slightly biased).

#17 Posted by gamefreak9 (2397 posts) -

I thought the story was abit incomplete... there was no closure and what's the point of making Yenefer such a big part of the story if we never meet or talk with her?

#18 Posted by GoofyGoober (937 posts) -

I hate that this game isn't on the PS3.

#19 Posted by Little_Socrates (5694 posts) -

So, my biggest problem with The Witcher 2 (aside from the combat, which I don't feel is often very well-balanced or very exciting) is the moral decay of its world. You describe the world as "not falling under 'Paragon' or 'Renegade'," but I felt literally every character was simply "renegade" at best. This is not a world of moral grays so much as a world of moral blacks, and while one character's black may be deeper and more intense than another's, I simply could not overcome my issue with every character coming across as pretty damnable. The handful that weren't completely evil barely existed, side characters with no depth that simply felt flat. It's fine to have a few flat characters, but they're the only people I felt myself capable of liking at all while playing the game.

So, essentially? I largely agreed with Arthur Gies review of the game, though I also hold more esteem for the game's quality as I stopped playing early during the game's second major act. I also felt similarly about A Song of Ice and Fire, though I do like some of the characters from Ice & Fire.

#20 Posted by AhmadMetallic (18954 posts) -

That was a very exciting read. I'm really happy that you're enjoying the game so damn much, that you've played through it 3 times in less than a month. Insane! 
 
I however, while totally love the first game and totally wanted to love this one (and I did up until chapter 2 started), simply hate it, hate thinking about it, and dread remembering or thinking of its long static boring levels. 
I wish I didn't, but I do. I can SEE what makes this game great, I agree with all the praise, but when I launch it and play it on my own in real time, I feel nothing but annoyance.  
I'm a PC gamer and you're an Xbox gamer, so THIS IS NOT FAIR ;( 
 
Anyway, I hope you enjoy the fourth playthrough just as much. 

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