The Witcher 2 Enhanced Edition Xbox 360 Review
The definition of a Role-Playing Game (RPG) is where players assumes the role of a character through a fictional setting. Fictional setting can be of any style such as an alternate reality, space, or even a different look of modern times. The most popular setting is fantasy which are bound by the typical stereotypes (dwarves, elves, use of magic , a greater evil that must be stopped), but in the case of The Witcher 2, those stereotypes are turned on its head. This is a dark world with a lot of political intrigue, betrayl and seems like a reflection of our world today. While the adventure isn't flawless, the end result is one of the best RPGs in years.
The story revolves around Geralt of Rivia, a monster slayer who has been framed for the assassination of King Foltest of Temeria. On top of that, Geralt has to battle his amnesia to figure out his past and deal with the public perception of regicide. The story is a complex and involving tale. This tale is also mature in its tone and approach and doesn't apologize about that. The pace of the story is a little disjointed between the vision seuqences and a slow pace which is akin to most old PC RPGs, but not being seen that often for consoles. Characters aren't afraid to be who they are which makes the characters feel as if they have real emotions and not just robots who have specific feelings to follow, which gives the world more believability.
Throughout the story, Geralt will have to make choices that can affect how the world will evolve and the story unfold. Choices aren't just simply black or white, instead they are more of blurring the line between the two. Geralt is also the abject of prejudice in this world, so choices aren't easy and can leave players thinking "Did I make the right choice?" This leads to more of a personal experience similar to most recent Bioware games, but this feels more rewarding and keeps players wondering.
Witchers specialize in three fields: magic, alchemy, and the use of weapons. Weapons include, but not limited to, swords, axes, and range weapons. Magic is used by casting signs and these range from fire spells to laying stun traps or even tricking an enemy to fight for you for a short period of time. Alchemy allows for the creation of potions, oils, and bombs. All three fields are required to take full advantage of the combat.
Combat has been changed from the previous game. Instead of being about timing swings and changing stances, the game goes for a simple, fast paced flow to battles. Geralt has both a light and heavy attack along with the ability to use secondary weapons. Magic and parrying relies on vigor which has limited use, but will regenerate slowly over time. The interesting thing about the combat is the game rewards tactical play and early preparation, so strategic use what potions, spells, and buffs for weapons to use will work in your favor. Even with all this in mind, if you simply just rush into combat, the game will punish you for that mistake. While this may make the game difficult, it's fair and rewarding when everything clicks.
One thing that doesn't help is the targeting system. The system is functional when dealing with one or two enemies, but when dealing with a group of enemies, targeting can feel imprecise and will result in some infuriating deaths. One odd instance I also encountered was targeting just simply disappeared or just refused to work at all.
Alchemy plays an important role in the game due to the effects that can happen. In order to do crafting, Geralt can craft potions to speed up regeneration of vitality and vigor or even grant the ability to see in the dark. Oils are used for weapons to increase damage against specific types of enemies or add bleeding damage, just to name a few. Geralt will be collecting herbs, plants, and even monster parts in order to create these items. Creating these potions and oils are easier to craft this time with just going to the required item you want to create and will automatically add the ingredients required, but can sometimes be hard to see what missing ingredient is required.
In terms of leveling, the game is split into four trees to enhance Geralt's abilities. For example, putting skills into alchemy will increase the duration and effects of oils or in signs to increase vigor and damage of signs. When leveling skills, some can have mutagens added to them for passive effects. Mutagens are permanent and can't be changed, so these must be chosen wisely. While players can choose to spend points in all trees to be a jack of all trades, it's best to invest in one tree while still factoring in the other ones as well. This adds to replay value, but also has a different approach to combat.
With all of this going on, controlling the game could be a bit of a mess. For the most part, controls do a good job of mapping everything you need to use within reach after some practice. One issue with the controls though is sometimes there's a bit of a delay; attacking an enemy or interacting with the environment, just as an example. Also, maneuvering through the menus can be a bit of a hassle and lead to some confusion. Quest and journal entries are extensive and in-depth to provide useful information and recaps for players that want to get more out of this world.
There's also a fair amount of content in the game as well. The side quests aren't just filler and feel as if they can be part of the main quest. These range from the simple kill x number of monsters to even solving disputes and negotiating with a succubus. If those aren't your forte, there's also other activities like arm-wrestling, or even playing dice to earn some extra coin.
The PC version of the game remains of the best looking games on the market, and for the most part, the Xbox 360 version retains all of the bells and whistles despite shortcomings. The artistic vision of the game is intact with beautiful landscapes and detailed cities thriving with life. Models are also well detailed and expressive that make the story feel more convincing. With all that said, compromises had to be made. Lighting and shadows aren't as dynamic and there's a fair amount of texture pop-in and some slow-down. The load times are little long as well, but are shortened when installed to the hard drive. The game also suffers from some crashing as well at random intervals. This doesn't detract from the experience, but when compared to PC, it's easy to see that the PC players are playing a superior version.
One area where this game excels is sound design. The voice acting is well done and fits each of the characters in the game, especially Geralt and Roche. Some of the lines can be cheesy and lip synching can be a little off, but since the delivery is well executed, that point is overshadowed. The music is easily something that can stand with major motion pictures. A sweeping score and good musical cues make the world feel alive and the adventure feel epic.
The Xbox 360 version of The Witcher 2 is a mature experience. Not just for the sake of being mature with sex and violence, but with a dark and ambiguous world and characters who don't fit the stereotype of fantasy. This experience isn't for everyone who want a quick adventure, this is for those that want a deep and involving experience that has players play a role in a world where a simple choice can change the outcome of the world.