The Witcher 2 is a rarity in gaming. Sure, it is commonplace for companies to port games from the PC to the Xbox 360 with success. What is rare is the lengths CDProjekt RED took to give users a unique experience that also affords players a feeling of added value for their full-price purchase of a 2011 release.

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition is an open-world western role playing game. You play as Geralt of Rivia, the returning hero from the previous title. As a witcher, you are a monster hunter who develops skills and powers beyond those of mere mortals, including enhanced reflexes, improved sight and greater vitality. These powers alienate you from the human population, who are split between being in awe of you and fearing you. The story revolves around the serial regicides occurring throughout the many kingdoms of the world. You, as Geralt, are accused of one of the murders. In order to clear your name, you strike out to find who’s behind the assassinations. Even though I never played a Witcher game before, CDProjekt RED perfectly utilized the “Prologue” of the game as it makes you play through the major events at the end of the original Witcher. This gave me the opportunity to familiarize myself with the story as well as learn the major mechanics of the game.

The Witcher 2 truly brings the definition of open world home. You are given plenty of side quests and room to roam in both the cities and their surrounding areas. I often found myself getting lost in these areas and completely engrossed in the side stories. I felt the game encouraging me to engage in the many facets of the environments and its people. It is through these encounters I began to see some major themes bleed through like racism and sexism. I felt personal discomfort walking through Flotsam’s “non-human district” (read: slums), though not quite as much as I did walking through the streets of Windhelm in Skyrim. There is also a lot of moral ambiguity throughout your choices as Geralt. Witcher 2 really demonstrates its brilliance in how there are no obvious visual indicators during conversations showing you how those choices will affect your morality. Often I found when I needed information, my conversational choices were “be weak and wishy-washy,” “use intimidation” or “use a spell to hex the person into telling me.” Not exactly clear-cut as to “good” and “bad,” which led me to be more pro-active in the story instead of worrying about whether I’m chasing ‘paragon’ or ‘renegade’ (as in Mass Effect decision making).

Where Witcher 2 struggles the most is in combat.  For the first eight levels, you are only able to upgrade the “Witcher Training” portion of the skill trees, leaving swordsmanship and magic for levels not reached until the end of Chapter One. This leaves Geralt in situations where he is easily overwhelmed in groups. The game will inform you to “prepare” using oils, potions and other enhancements, but even then you are still at the mercy of camera position, animation length and luck. Even on Normal settings, I struggled with multiple enemies, especially if some had ranged weapons, which travel through solid objects to hit you. This makes combat more than simply challenging, it makes it frustratingly difficult and the difference between Normal and Easy is like night and day. Easy holds no challenge at all and Normal made me want to throw my controller. Personally, I wish the combat was just a bit more fluid and intuitive, allowing me to feel a part of Geralt and the combat rather than deciding on which button will have the shortest animation to allow me to throw in another attack.

The Witcher 2 Xbox 360 release includes physical add-ins to the packaging (audio CD, world map, quest handbook) along with more in-game content and improvements to graphics and sound than the original PC release. Not only are these additions available in the Enhanced Edition on the Xbox 360, but they will be delivered free to PC owners of The Witcher 2. The most obvious of these in-game enhancements is the improvements to the lighting.

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition provides a fantastic story, expertly delivered through personal interaction with NPCs and the environment. Even the convoluted (and sometimes frustrating) combat will not dissuade you from enjoying this beautifully crafted experience from CDProjekt RED. If you enjoy robust role playing games, you will appreciate The Witcher 2.

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