I’ve never really had a super powerful computer, so when The Witcher 2 hit PCs late last year and started gathering a hefty following, I was unfortunately unable to play it. With this release, CD Projekt Red made some concessions in order to bring this epic rpg to consoles, so people who don’t own a $1,000 pc can get a chance to guide the mighty Geralt of Rivia through his adventures in the north. But could they bring this graphical powerhouse down to what is essentially six year old hardware and make it work?
You play as Geralt of Rivia, a witcher, which for all intents and purposes are the world’s monster hunters and experts. You were framed for the assassination of the king you served. After a few quick flashbacks and a tutorial, you're thrust on an adventure to clear your name, hunting down another witcher who is to blame, and along the way making a few choices that can drastically change how both the adventure you're on and the world you're in unfolds.
The most important aspect to address would be the visual fidelity in this version, as going from powerful PCs to the old hardware of the Xbox 360 is a serious downgrade. Anyone who's seen this game running at max settings knows how absolutely amazing the environments and characters look on PC. While the Xbox 360 version doesn't compare to the PC version in graphical fidelity, it still looks very good when compared to other 360 games. The environments are lush and impressive, and the character models, when not moving or talking, are very nice to look at. Also, this game renders breasts better than any before, which shows the developer has a strong dedication to the subject matter.
However, the downgrade is noticeable in a few areas. Character movement is stiff and stilted on anyone but Geralt. The Witcher 2 has some of the worst lip syncing I’ve seen in quite some time. When the characters talk, I feel like I’m watching an old kung fu movie. Other graphical complications arise due to textures loading in a timely manner, and not just from entering new areas but from turning around in some instances. When moving through the menus, the game has a tendency of blacking out for a split second, which I found unusual. Installing the game on to the hard drive helps remedy some of these issues, but they still arise from time to time.
The inventory system is also daunting and terrible. Good luck keeping track of the following: spell components, crafting components, weapon enhancements, monster leftovers, diagrams for traps, weapons and armor, quest items, useless weapons, potions, bombs, and a whole lot more. The gigantic pile of shit you have to keep track of is ridiculous. I know you need these items for the deep combat system, but the clunky way how everything is just listed with almost no indication of what type of component I’m looking at (except for crafting components) prevented me from micromanaging this disaster. The crafting system helps since it automatically selects items you need from your inventory to create whatever diagram you have, but more organization would have been much appreciated.
The combat system, however, is the games bread and butter. Combat is heavy on the action, but you can’t go all "God of War" and wade into a group of enemies slashing away. At best, this would end in utter disaster. It's an absolute necessity to prepare for battles, and to have bombs and traps ready for slowing down incoming hordes. You also need to manage spells for protection and to knockback incoming enemies. You simply must dodge, because it is one of your most important abilities to escape getting surrounded. The moment-to-moment combat is amazing, and any mistake you make is your own by going in unprepared. Some battles against the larger monsters can be a little rough. Mostly dodge and strike in these instances, but the group combat is almost second to none.
The biggest surprise about The Witcher 2 is how good the story and writing are. There were a couple little twists and turns that I had no idea were coming. The political backstabs and intrigue is very well written and interesting, and you never know who you really should trust. There are multiple story reveals in this game, which had me glued to my seat. I absolutely love the story, and it reminds me of Final Fantasy XII’s political based story, which is a good thing.
This game benefits from more than one playthrough since there are multiple choices, and one specifically changes what you see in the game. Because of one choice, I didn’t even visit one city, and another city viewed me as hostile, chasing me whenever a city watch saw me. I am excited to play through again just to see what I missed. The impact on the story makes me wonder if Bioware should give them a call and ask for some tips.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Witcher 2, and am hopeful CD Projekt Red will continue the series since the end left me wanting more. The combat never got old, and I loved the overall look and lore within the world. However, the multitude of minor technical issues really broke my experience in the game's world, tearing me out sometimes and ruining some key moments. The inventory system can also go straight to hell. It's on the same level as the first Mass Effect in my eyes, and the fact that you have a weight limit makes it that much more frustrating. All fans of RPG’s and good stories, though, should feel obligated to play The Witcher 2. There are some references to the first Witcher, but not enough to ruin the experience. Still a great game overall, and one of my surprise favorites of the year.
Four out of Five Hadokens