The Witcher 2 : Enhanced Edition, xbox360 Review
You can only drink potions by meditating and that can only be done when not in combat, so no spamming a button for health. Preparation and strategy, get used to it.
The battle for my game time just got even harder, The Witcher 2 is yet another action orientated open ended role playing game, not so long ago Western current generation gamers were starved of this genre. Now it is a fair call that if fantasy is your game you will have one or all of the following titles competing for your attention, Dark Souls, Skyrim, Kingdoms of Amalur, the upcoming dragon’s Dogma and now The Witcher 2. So, where does this heavyweight stand in the rankings?
The game has heritage on the PC and has an award winning pedigree, the transfer to console while it has been mooted as being without compromise, still shows its roots when you are limited to menu navigation by shoulder buttons or your eyes catch a glimpse of screen tearing. Generally though the transition has happened without a hitch and console owners have been blessed with an often quite beautiful game experience.
The Witcher 2 sets it’s stall out early, very early in fact, from the moment you fire the game up you are treated to one of the most impressive CGI movies in a long time and I am happy to say I have watched it more than once. The scene depicts the assassination of a King and sets up the background for the story. From that moment on it is quite obvious there is a rich an deep tapestry on offer here, the story comes to life because of the atmospheric backdrop and the uncompromising adult nature of the game fits the fantasy setting like a glove. While we are on the adult nature, yes there are sex scenes, NPCs and characters swear with gay abandon and you will often find a stray character urinating in the street. All aspects of the game that could be considered puerile, but in context they fit the developers ambition well.
The Witcher in question and your character, which for once cannot be altered to suit the player’s taste is a medieval monster hunter, part human, part mutant Geralt of Rivia is an ass kicking magic man. Trying to sum him up in few words cannot do him justice, the history and reasoning behind Geralt and his creed is sound and well realised. Although I do wish he would put some of his prowess into learning how to jump or use cover.
He fits well not the living and breathing world around him so well, I used the word tapestry earlier and that fits the bill, this game world may not have the wide open plains of Skyrim, but it feels so rich and there is a bustle around the populated areas that convinces you they really are teeming with life.
The roster of characters is wide and diverse there may be a bunch of fantasy stereotypes that sound like Ray Winstone on Benadryl, but on the whole they deliver. they also add substantially to the depth of the story as the political intrigue begins to spiral. Interaction with these characters is dialogue driven and generally delivers mini cut-scenes. They are often interspersed with the chance to use your Witcher skills, flash your eyes, flex your fingers and convince the person you are talking to without touching them. It is a nice alternative to the option of being aggressive or passive, these skills get better over time so the result is not always a given.
Speaking of skills this is the area where the game starts to show its unforgiving nature, a Witcher has a combination of instant magical attacks or Signs, he also employs a selection of ranged projectiles or floor based traps, he also relays heavily on buffs garnered from using a variety of potions, then every Witcher worth his salt knows which oils to apply to his blades to again enhance damage or cause a particular foe to bleed out. It’s not all about living on the back of your “+17 Fiery Sword of Destiny”, this game requires strategy and preparation. You can swap out your signs and traps on the fly via a popup menu, beautifully the action does not stop it merely slows down, I like this fact it makes combat that little more dangerous. You can only drink potions by meditating and that can only be done when not in combat, so no spamming a button for health. Preparation and strategy, get used to it.
Combat is one area that will divide gamers, the biggest flaw in the game for me is the behaviour of the target lock and camera, strange considering they have been ‘fixed’ in this enhanced version. The lock is not particularly sticky and rolling out of the way evasively or moving to a better position will cause you to lose sight of your enemy. Generally with target locking, it is helpful if your character does his best to keep the enemy in sight, this coupled with an over sensitive, swinging and non-adjustable camera has generated a few needless deaths so far. Once you get past that and get into the rhythym of the combat, things start to fly. Combining heavy and light attacks while moving atheletically between foes will start to carve them up. Add to that the power of oils, potions and signs, you’ll soon be on a winner. There is also an Arena game type outside of the campaign, I leapt in feet first before playing the tutorial and got smashed, if I ever pluck up the courage I’ll try again.
The narrative flows along quite naturally and never feels too forced, side quests are quite varied and do add value. I have stumbled on a few by talking to non-descript NPCs, which adds an element of surprise, otherwise a town noticeboard can offer up local tasks that need a man that needs paying.
One aspect of the game world I do enjoy is the easy transition from world to caves, while you do get wait times between rooms in buildings wandering into a cave system flows smoothly.
The Witcher 2 is a deep, rich, complex and satisfying game. My complaints paled away quickly as I enjoyed the setting I had been given. The game offers more depth and strategy than Amalur, without the finger crunching combos and for me more atmosphere than Skyrim. I’ll admit freely that I have not yet finished the story, but I will put my hand on my heart and swear that if you love a rip roaring fantasy ride, then Witcher 2 should be in your console.