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You like a solid story, right? Well, Geralt gets caught up in a power struggle while trying to recover what he can about his mysterious past. While not the most original formula, this adventure sends him to hunt for The Kingslayer, a man that has claimed the heads of a few kings and is as dangerous as he is illusive. You have the option of making a myriad of decisions along the way that will shape the story of the game as well. What makes these especially interesting is that no decision really seems to come off as black and white. Many times, you are forced to choose sides that show major faults, the impact of these decisions way even heavier on the story because of the dramatic consequences. For example, do you help the leader of the oppressed elves, whose bigoted views are toxic to the mostly peaceful villagers or the vengeful captain that is willing to do the talking with his blade? Ultimately, these decisions will take you down one of the different branching story paths that results in one of several different endings. Yes, multiple endings! No, I am not talking about 3 colors with the same flavor.
Along with the main storyline, there are plenty of sidequests throughout the game. These quests contribute to the story by adding comical moments, a better understanding of the world around you and even a little background on Geralt and his companions. Once I got to the first chapter of the game, I found myself running around doing sidequests before even touching much of the main storyline, in fact I only advanced the story on accident by going to a place that automatically progressed the story when I was turning in a sidequest. This is always a sign of a great RPG, when you need to remind yourself that there is an actual plot to advance in between slaying monsters and solving mysteries for the locals.
The Witcher 2 utilizes a combat system that in some ways is reminiscent of Assassin’s Creed. You can use hard and light attacks to create freeform combos and take down enemies, but combat is so much deeper than that. Geralt uses a standard weapon that deals more damage to humanoid characters and a silver sword for battle against monsters. Entering a battle with the wrong weapon prepared can be a costly mistake since the AI is rarely forgiving since Geralt will need to sheathe his current weapon before using the correct one, allowing them to stomp your face in while you switch. In large fights, enemies will also flank you and use other advanced tactics, it’s one of the few games where you need to actually be more intelligent than your enemies rather than just waving your weapons around until everything is dead. Even after making sure you have the right weapon, it still will not be enough to ensure you are fully prepared for combat, the game hates you and wants you to die. Geralt’s magic is just as important as the weapon he is using and making sure you have the right spell ready can be the difference between walking away from battle of loading your last save (save often, you’ll thank me later). There is also the new arena mode that has you fight wave after wave of opponents, it ends up being a perfect place to practice combat or just to wet your blade. Overall, combat is complex but also extremely satisfying once mastered and the game gives plenty of opportunities to get your practice in before things get serious.
Since Geralt’s job as a Witcher is to hunt monsters, many times you will find yourself running off into the wilderness to hunt. Most items and equipment need to be crafted in the game and the better items will always require materials that can only be recovered from dispatched monsters. Initially, you will be hunting by finding areas where these monsters spawn but as you advance in the game, lures and traps will play a much larger role in getting the materials you need. The more committed you are to the hunt, the better gear you can outfit Geralt with.
Here is a word of advice: If you plan on picking up the Witcher 2, you need to install the game to your hard drive. No questions asked. While the Witcher 2 is a gorgeous looking game, it looks anything but when it isn’t installed on the system. Screen tearing, texturing issues and a few other graphical imperfections will mar your experience if you do not. When presented the correct way though, the game offers lush landscapes to explore with vibrant and colorful terrain, textured almost perfectly. The game’s audio presents an amazing atmosphere as well, the soundtrack fits great and the effects do nothing but contribute to an already stellar presentation. There is an area early in the game that is an abandoned hospital for the mentally ill, it serves as one of the most atmospheric moments in the game with the killer audio and visual effects. Long story short, the game is pretty and sounds great!
Ultimately, the Witcher 2 is even better than the initial release and as an Xbox 360 title, it instantly becomes one of the best RPG games available for the system. CD Projekt RED does not disappoint with the console port of what was already a ground breaking title. If you own it, play it more. If you don’t own it, make sure this game ends up a part of your collection!
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- Beautiful graphics
- Awesome free flow combat
- Great story
- The additional arena mode is a welcome challenge
- Learning curve is still very steep and may turn off inexperienced players
- You are going to need a hard drive for this game if you really want to enjoy it, it needs to be installed