There’s no doubt that The Witcher 2 has been one of the best, if not the best, Polish productions on the game market. With great graphics, an interesting storyline and all kinds of references to the Slavic culture, it literally crushed the competition and assured itself a high position in the ranking lists of the greatest Polish accomplishments in the field of electronic entertainment. Almost a year after its premiere the version for XBOX 360 is released. Has the long wait affected negatively the product’s quality? Surely it hasn’t, and this is thanks to the authors who decided that the delay has to be compensated in some way. That’s why we received an enhanced game, with a lot of bonus content.
More than just a game
This time I will start by describing briefly the content of the collector’s edition. I have to admit that in this case gamers have nothing to complain about. For 219,90 zł (around 52 euro) we are given the game with an additional music CD and another one with materials from the production phase. To top it off, there’s also a map of The Northern Kingdoms and The Pontar Valley, a solid Witcher medallion and a beautifully published artbook with a cover imitating black leather. All elements are packed in an elegant cardboard box which looks very presentable on a shelf. One has to admit that this edition is really worth buying, especially considering the fact that many console novelties are published as games only at a similar price. That’s about it for introduction. How’s the game itself?
Say ‘no!’ to linearity
The storyline of the second part takes off about half a year after the events that were shown in the first part of The Witcher. We begin our adventure in the dungeons. Our character was captured and accused of murder of King Foltest. The problem is that Geralt is innocent and from this moment on he has to do anything he can to both free himself from the accusations and capture the king’s murderer. The quest is not that easy and there are many twists in the plot itself that shape the story efficiently.
As for the story, it has to be noted that Assassins of Kings is a game in which every action affects the further plot. The authors gave us access to a whole lot of paths that we can choose. Each one of them will bring about different consequences. For instance, if we save someone, it’s very likely that we’ll meet this character again on our way. He or she may give us a piece of advice or make us a thank-you gift.
This diversity is best seen near the end of the first act. It is then that we make a choice that influences significantly our further adventure. At this point, the people responsible for the scenario encountered a real challenge. On the one hand they had to write out the story for two different paths, and on the other hand they had to make the latter coherent and logical. I think they did a great job.
Good & Polish
CDProjekt has already proven with the PC edition that a Polish product can rock the world market. It could be no different this time. As I mentioned above, we were given a whole lot of additional quests, as well as cutscenes, including an intro made by Tomasz Bagiński and the Platige Image team. This all makes the game a lot longer than the original version and thanks to that people who have already played the game shouldn’t feel disappointed. The last act, which was the weakest part of the PC version, was also enhanced and enriched.
Some differences between the XBOX and the PC version are also worth noting. First of all, the inventory menu was simplified. The animations that were shown for example when Geralt started meditating or when he drank his potions, were removed. It’s merely a cosmetic change but still it somehow influences our reception of the whole game. The controller issues were also wonderfully resolved. Even a less experienced gamer should have no problems with it.
You are not alone!
It’s not hard to figure out that we play as Geralt. It doesn’t mean that our protagonist is alone on his journey. On our path we will encounter many companions that we’ve already met in Sapkowski’s novels. Some of them will accompany us all the time, others will appear only for a while. The presence of others depends on the path we choose. An enemy can suddenly become an ally, depending on our choices.
Members of our team are equipped with an advanced artificial intelligence. Thanks to that we can advance in our journey with no fear of something happening if we lose someone for a while. It doesn’t mean that we can rest comfortably and wait for others to do our job. The creatures are sly and take advantage of every moment of carelessness.
Music for the ears, paradise for the eyes
In terms of graphics, the game looks terrific. Frankly, I haven’t yet seen a console game that would be so painstakingly done in this aspect. The world surrounding us is full of life. Rich details make us feel as if it were a fantasy movie. The textures are clear and the characters are very precisely done. It’s the original REDEngine that is responsible for such high level. It has been developed from the very beginning with many platforms in mind. This step gave the programmers an additional asset that is total control over what is going to be included in the game.
The world itself can be described as really spacious. The locations are vast and refined. More than a few times we will find ourselves lost in the woods or stop for a moment in the city to take a closer look at the architecture. However, those who expect the same quality here as it could be experienced in the original version with the highest details on will be disappointed. Unfortunately, due to technical limitations of the console, the programmers had to lower a bit the graphics quality. It doesn’t change the fact, that Witcher 2 is still the best looking game that was published for XBOX 360.
The music is also worth a few words, as it additionally builds up the atmosphere. In the taverns we can hear idyllic, fair-like songs, whereas during battles we’re accompanied by much more dynamic music, encouraging us to fight. Personally, I can’t get out of my head one of the tunes I’ve heard in the third act and I know for a fact that it won’t leave my head soon.
The gentlemen from CDProjekt have proven that a Polish product can be a world-wide hit. They deserve applause, because it is really a rare thing that a year-old game can both amuse and surprise. In the times of reusing the same patterns and being uninnovative the Witcher 2 is a product that stands out significantly from the competition. If I were to give it a grade, I would rate it as an A – but without a plus, because there’s still a little bit missing to call it perfection.
Written by Adam ‘Gotan’ Kmieciak
Translated by Marta ‘niespo’ Niespodziewany
Title: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
Release date: April 17th, 2012
Distributer: Namco Bandai