The Witcher 2: Enhanced Edition review
The Witcher’s world is based on a series of novels, so it’s no surprise that the people and creatures Geralt meets lead nuanced lives. Getting to know them through side-quests adds meaning to the world, covering everything from local politics and prejudices to the minutiae of daily life. Instead of doing pointless fetch quests, Geralt spends his free time arm wrestling, playing dice, bare-knuckle boxing, investigating drug dealers and even thwarting plans for genocide.
One area that’s noticeably improved in this port is the combat, thanks to the 360’s controller. A new combat tutorial makes things seem initially complicated thanks to a barrage of text to read and controls to learn. Unlike other RPGs, Geralt starts with his whole skill set, which improves with experience but doesn’t expand. Fiddly and overwhelming to start, using the 360 controller to block, parry, dodge, cast spells (signs), lay traps, lob bombs and throw knives, becomes effortless.
First encounters can be quite brutal
Geralt’s first encounters are slow and will punish impatience with death. Combat seems hard, and being cautious, using signs and blocking strikes is vital to survival. However, as Geralt’s skills are developed and his stats improve, fights become more fluid and fun. With a magical shield, and signs that stun, trap, incinerate or turn enemies against each other at Geralt’s disposal, the odds are stacked in his favour. When signs are used in combination with swordplay and items, the protracted battles from the game’s opening become a distant memory.
Stacking the odds further in Geralt’s favour are the potions he consumes to become more powerful. Essentially a junkie of the fantasy world, he drinks homemade concoctions while in a meditative state to get the edge over his enemies, like Dutch courage but more toxic. Made using alchemy ingredients found in plentiful supply, potions, like signs, should be used often and aren’t supposed to be hoarded away. Potions aren’t just arbitrary power ups, they’re part of what makes you a Witcher, and are a good example of how nothing in The Witcher 2 feels shoe-horned in.
Though long, with plenty of depth for those who seek it out The Witcher 2 is actually a streamlined experience that feels perfectly at home on the 360 thanks to its tight storyline, excellent pacing and simple user interface. The short third act of last year’s release has been beefed up, menus are easy to navigate, the controls work well and the journal makes it easy to keep up with the story and the whats, whys, whens and whos.
The Witcher 2: it's a must buy, really
The Witcher 2: Enhanced Edition is an exceptional game thanks to its characters and stories, but perhaps it deserves the most praise for being such an excellent port of a recent PC title onto Microsoft’s nearly seven-year-old console. Spread over two discs with installs recommended for optimum performance, there’s still noticeable texture pop-in, brief moments of lag and screen tearing. But this does little to ruin what is a marvellous technical achievement, and one of the best looking games released on the console so far. Texture resolutions are lower than its PC counterpart (akin to playing on medium settings), the lighting is softer and shadows less pronounced, but the world has retained its beauty, scale - and crucially - its appeal.
Playing as Geralt of Rivia, and exploring the world he lives in, is a pleasure that 360 owners should be thankful for and jump at the opportunity to indulge in.