The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – Enhanced Edition Xbox 360 Review

May 9, 2012 by  
Filed under Xbox 360, Features, Reviews

Publisher – Namco Bandai – Developer – CD Projekt Red – Genre – Action RPG – Players – 1 – Age Rating – 18+ – Other console/handheld formats – N/A

With the current crop of consoles now being over five years old and high end PC gaming being a generation ahead in terms of visuals, these days it’s a somewhat insurmountable task to port across a game that was made exclusively with PC’s in mind, particularly when it’s a stunning looking game like The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. But developer CD Projeckt Red have risen to the challenge of bringing the well regarded RPG to a new audience as well as to more modest technology.

The Witcher 2: Assassin’s of Kings is a strong port that obviously isn’t as visually sumptuous as the highest spec PC version, though the developer has done their utmost in crafting a worthy imitation, which largely runs smoothly and, with its glowing sunsets, sunlight filtering through trees, detailed character models and dense forests, it’s easily one of this generation’s most lavish games.

Garelt of Rivea is a Witcher, a mutant monster slayer with spooky, glowing eyes, who becomes wanted for murder after being found in the presence of a dead king. Garelt must hunt down the mysterious kingslayer and discover the murderer’s motivations, to clear his name. It’s a complex but well constructed and engaging narrative and is mature in the true sense of the word and whilst it has plenty of bloodletting, bare breasts and some of the worst language in the medium of gaming, the content is in this case executed in a relatively mature manner, to the point that it never feels truly gratuitous.

As is typical for RPG’s of the western variety, you’ll get choices along the way, offering you a certain degree of authorship over the story. There’s no real morality system and choices are more grey than black or white as opposed to something like the Mass Effect series, where there are nearly always clear cut good and evil choices. One choice early on gives you two contrasting paths that have an enormous effect on your experience through much of the rest of the game, offering tremendous replay value for what is already a game that weighs in at about thirty hours.

The world in The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings doesn’t, in terms of space, have the scope of the likes of Skyrim. It’s a much less freeform game in that regard, and progression can result in areas becoming locked to you and in turn, the failure of certain side quests. Areas are generally still reasonably sizeable though, offering up plenty of opportunity for exploration.

Of course there’s also plenty of enemies along the way too, both of the monster and human varieties. The combat rewards skill above button smashing, often requiring well timed parries and evasion manoveoures. Geralt has two swords: a steel type that works well against human enemies and a silver variation that is effective against monsters.

Geralt also has, at hand, some magic spells that can turn the tide of battle if used at the opportune moments; he can shoot fire from his hands, conjurer magical barriers, turn enemies against each other and paralyse them. One spell at a time can be mapped to a button, whilst the others are always easily accessible through a menu.

Preparation before battle can be important too – you’re able to lay down traps on the battlefield to inflict additional pain on your foes. You can also create portions and then swig them down to grant you various enhancements, such as increased armour, strength or immunity to status changes. What is sure to be strange to many a RPG fan, is that you’re not able to use portions during combat, further displaying the need for good preparation beforehand.

Character growth is carried out through the skill tree, with four schools of abilities, training, swordmanship, magic and alchemy, of which, provided you have learned two skills on the training path, you can then choose to spend any subsequent skill points, that you’ve won through levelling up, perhaps spreading them out through all fields or choosing to focus on one, as is often the case for western RPG’s it’s flexible enough to give you the freedom to make your character strong in the areas that you desire. Further enhancement comes with Mutagens that you’re able to attach to certain learnt skills, granting you additional stat bonuses.

Problems in The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings are few and far between, but they do exist. Sadly the map can occasionally be confusing in its layout, leaving navigation as a bit of an issue, whilst picking up items can be more fiddly than need be, but these are rarely bad enough issues to really hurt the game.

With The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, developer CD Projeckt have delivered a port that is far beyond third rate, instead working best with what they’ve got and ultimately building a game that is one of this aging generations technological wonders. Its beautiful visuals are merely a bonus though – this is a game crafted by a developer that really knows how to make an RPG shine, just like the eyes of Geralt himself.