At the time of its original release on PC about a year ago, great praise was offered to The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings not just for being a generational leap in role-playing game (RPG) design ahead of its predecessor, but also because it redefined the common standard and the borderline between adventure and interaction. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings made an impact that will forever be felt by PC RPG gamers, and with it’s Xbox 360 debit just around the corner, it’s about to do the same for the console audience.
Known as The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – Enhanced Edition, this is more than a simple port of the original videogame. New content has been added as the core advent has received a nip-tuck – adding, replacing and refurbishing where needed – but many of the mechanics of the original videogame have been slightly modified to better fit the control pad. The Quickslot system is far from an original design, but here on console it allows the player to modify their immediate inventory without fear of breaking the action. The extraneous actions, such as meditating and potion creation, are granted an immediate menu and, of course, the new tutorial presented prior to the original opening sequence is essentially downloadable content (DLC) that has been offered as part of the core package. If you didn’t know any better, you might suggest that The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – Enhanced Edition is actually a ‘complete’ edition of a videogame that is already available; but of course this is a console debut, and all of these extras have or will be made available to PC gamers without need of another purchase, be it digitally or via retail stores.
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – Enhanced Edition begins with a Prologue that doesn’t so much fill in the details of the original story as it does bring the player up-to-speed with Geralt’s character, relationships and his current state of affairs. It’s a tidy way of introducing the player to the true gameplay experience that lies within the videogame and allows them to make small decisions that won’t have a significant impact on the latter part of the videogame without being acknowledged as such. As a prisoner, Geralt recaps the events that lead to his incarceration, and the player has the opportunity to explore the benefits of politeness versus forceful aggression, calm reactions and raining chaos upon your foes. The player is also given the opportunity to put the combat skills they learnt in the tutorial into practice, as well as given a taster of the kind of objectives that lie ahead in the videogame when embarking on some of the grander quests.
Despite being a fairly open videogame, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – Enhanced Edition is a stunningly paced piece of interactive software. It’s true that the player can deviate from the intended path pretty much whenever they so choose to, but it’s rare that such a decision will be made consciously. Characters in the towns and forests will distract you, offering you new avenues to gain advantages in combat, wealth or finance, but even here it feels like part of that original whole. It’s often only when visiting the quest screen that you’ll realise that many of these interactions were never necessary. For those who do manage to avoid such diversions however – an incredible unlikely eventuality – The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – Enhanced Edition remains at such a boisterous pace throughout that you’ll constantly feel compelled to move along, even when your next objective is a simple slow walk through a small town. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – Enhanced Edition doesn’t benefit from that commonplace ‘one more go’ factor, it has its own ‘one more hour’ facet.
The world in which the Witcher resides is a strange one, but not drawn too far from traditional fantasy that players won’t feel immediately at home. And this is also true of many of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – Enhanced Edition’s gameplay mechanics. The tutorial is a compensation not for those experiencing The Witcher for the first time, but those with limited prior knowledge of the workings of an RPG. The combat system plays similarly to that of Mass Effect in its combination of immediate, tactical and actions governed by meters, but it’s also integrated with a magic system that can be utilised however the player sees fit. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – Enhanced Edition doesn’t feature a class system of any kind, but whether you want to play a mage, a brawler or somewhere in between is entirely up to you. The level system also accommodates such personalised input, allowing the player to specialise or to create an all-rounder.
From a technical point of view The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – Enhanced Edition is almost as astounding as it’s freedom of expression through gameplay, but it has to be said, no amount of stunningly crafted character development could make up for the frequently vacant looking character models. Some incredibly detailed sweeping landscapes present a better use of the hardware, with huge draw distances, tight, dank dungeons and towns with genuinely distinctive character; The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – Enhanced Edition delivers a stunning, engaging and beautiful world, let down only by some of the humanoid characters within.
The sound quality is remarkable however, and worthy of praise as an aside from the visual clout of the videogame. It’s a tour de force of soothing orchestral arrangements, pounding bass when the action picks up and some stunning voice acting. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – Enhanced Edition builds its characters through communication, and even some of the smallest roles in the videogame will stay with you long after your time in Temeria comes to and end.
To sum-up The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – Enhanced Edition into a single descriptive term simply doesn’t do it justice, but the closest you could come would be to say that it pulls no punches with regards to content: there’s plenty to do in The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – Enhanced Edition, and all of it is of a very high standard of production. There are a number of bugs and such as stated elsewhere in this review, but these are only minor blemishes on what is a huge world. Just working your way through the core storyline could take you weeks, but even if the longevity of the main quest wasn’t enough, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – Enhanced Edition piles on side quests and submissions by the truckload. It’s a huge undertaking, and one which any RPG aficionado will love every single minute of.