Stunning visuals and a compelling storyline make this Enhanced Edition of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings one of the most awaited RPG's this year
Geralt of Rivia is no ordinary protagonist. A battle-worn Witcher, he is an alchemist, a mage and a craftsman, in addition to being a skilled swordsman. Yet underneath all the fantasy lies a character that is more human than Witcher.
Developed by the Polish studio CD Projeckt Red, The Witcher 2 is set in a mysterious and cruel world, where drugs, sex and violence are as common as sorcery and dragons. Released on PC last year, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings' widespread success prompted CD Projeckt Red to release this Enhanced Edition for the Xbox, making it one of the most-awaited RPGs to be launched this year.
The game is based on Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski's best selling series of novels, ‘The Witcher.' While Sapkowski's novels have been compared to JRR Tolkien's ‘The Lord of the Rings' series, it is evident from the game that Tolkien's Polish counterpart imagined a world which is far more similar to the one we live in, and one where good and evil aren't mutually exclusive.
The Middle Earth-like world Geralt inhabits is nothing like Tolkien's. Here, elves are not mystical, beautiful creatures. Instead, they're a banished group of guerrilla bandits living on the outskirts of the human settlement. In Sapkowski's world, class distinctions between the rich and poor, between merchants, prostitutes and craftsmen and between humans, dwarves and elves present a society not unlike ours, magic excluded.
Geralt's character is predefined by the game's developers and unlike other RPGs you don't really get the chance to change his essential attributes. Instead, throughout the game you'll be able to talk to different characters and carefully choose your responses. And again here, Geralt doesn't get to choose a good or evil path. Every choice he makes has consequences, and no path he takes is completely without its failings. In fact, some of the seemingly insignificant decisions he makes completely alters the second chapter of the game.
Quests and storyline
The main story of the game follows Geralt as he attempts to find the assassin Letho who killed King Foltest and framed him in the process. Geralt journeys across different lands following Letho's trail while attempting to clear his name.
The game has plentiful side quests, some of which must be completed to advance in the story and some which are entirely optional. Sometime's you might want to save a certain side quest for later, but many of them become unavailable after you progress beyond a certain point in the game. Completing the side quests can land you many bonus points in terms of Orens (money) and abilities.
Often, you can capitalise on Boss Battles and other quests by offering to destroy a particular monster or menace for a price. Another point to note is that the storyline doesn't follow a completely linear theme, so you'll be faced with different situations depending on what you choose to follow-up first.
You can also take a break from battle scenes by exploring the settlements and nearby areas, collecting herbs to make potions and raiding bodies and empty houses to find items of value. Extra money can be earned by arm wresting, playing dice poker or fistfighting in the local pubs.
During Geralt's dealings with other characters in the game, you'll get a chance to practice Intimidation and Persuasion techniques, which will shape the way you're able to deal with characters and situations.
Elaborate and engaging cutscenes add to the richness of the storyline and make the game an immersive experience that will let the hours tick by without you realising it.
Gameplay and battle
The Witcher 2 doesn't follow a conventional flow of events when it comes to wielding the sword either. The first Boss Battle you fight against the tentacled sea monster Kayran will most likely be your hardest in the game. It's one of the toughest Boss Battles on RPGs and can take a few attempts to finish even in easy mode, mostly because at the start of the game Geralt's strength really hasn't had a chance to grow.
Swordfights generally tend to follow the block-strike sequence although you will have to dodge out of enemies' way if you're surrounded. Unlike other fantasy games like Fable, in The Witcher 2 even a small group of bandits or drowners (monsters) can kill you, especially if you're surrounded.
Geralt's swordmanship is enhanced by his ability to cast spells, throw bombs or lay traps.
A shortcut control brings up a menu from where Geralt can choose his spells or weapon of choice in slow motion, so you can change your attack strategy without having to worry about being killed mid-battle (if you move fast enough).
The Witcher 2 doesn't come without its share of glitches. Primarily for CD Projekt Red, the main concern would have been transferring a successful PC platform game to a console without compromising gameplay. The game's menu is extensive and navigating through the different options isn't ideal on the Xbox controller's joystick. However it's not entirely inconvenient and once you get into the game a bit the controls come almost naturally.
The graphics are visually stunning and small effects like Geralt's passage disrupting a bunch of crows or pigeons make it truly life-like.
There were a few instances of frame drops and pixelations visible on close-ups, but nothing significant enough to take away the beauty of the game.
One of the problems faced was that of game saves. Loading your last game save doesn't always take you to the checkpoint where you left off. Often, I had to go into the menu and select the quest I was pursuing to resume playing. It is also advisable to save progress often; otherwise dying mid-battle can put you back a few hours.
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is a game that's nothing like you've ever played before. Although classified with adult fantasy games like Fable and Skyrim, The Witcher 2 is decidedly richer and more real than conventional RPGs.
This Enhanced Edition brings with it a bunch of side quests that were not available with the PC version. Beautifully designed and brilliantly scripted, Geralt of Rivia's journey to clear his name and find love is one you won't forget.
Love: Engaging storyline and characters, excellent graphics
Hate: Erratic checkpoints
Publisher: Microsoft Windows
Developer: CD Projekt Red
Platform: PC (Microsoft Windows), Xbox 360