The monster slayer speaks to the soldier with quiet confidence. He signals with his fingers, his yellow eyes shine, and the soldier reveals his secrets without the slayer ever needing to unsheathe his sword. The witcher is gifted for his patience, and now, Xbox 360 owners are similarly rewarded: one of 2011's finest adventures has come to Microsoft's console, and it was well worth the wait. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings - Enhanced Edition is a treat for the mind and a joy for the senses. This superb role-playing game hits hard, drawing you into its dark fantasy world and requiring you to make difficult choices with palpable consequences. As Geralt of Rivia--the titular witcher--you seek answers in lush landscapes and burning battlefields, where great despair casts long shadows on even the sunniest meadows and lakes.
6371586Whether you prefer to remain cautious or attack creatures with unrestrained fury, there's a magical sign to aid you.None
You may have heard about the stupendous visuals of The Witcher 2 on the PC, and probably wonder: how does the Xbox 360 version compare? It should be no surprise that the console release can't match its higher-resolution PC counterpart, which was a standard-setter on that platform. Shadows are less extensive, the draw distance isn't quite as astonishing, and some texture pop-in, jittery transitions, and longer loading times will stand out to anyone who has seen the game running at the highest settings on the PC.
And yet there is no reason to suppose you are getting a halfhearted PC-to-console port here. The Witcher 2 is wonderful to look at, brimming with visual details that refuse to be lost in spite of the hardware's limitations. Inspect the crumbling walls of an ancient city, and you notice how every rock, rune, and fissure is unique. Nothing looks copied and pasted, but either painstakingly crafted by hand or hewn by natural forces. Soldiers genuflect as royalty passes, yet they're not unnaturally synchronized, but instead bow and rise as individuals. A gorgeous waterfall makes for a glistening tapestry, behind which lies darkness and death. A red scar above a defiant elf's upper lip is not just a testament to past conflict--it suggests a permanent scowl.
Welcome to the world of The Witcher 2, which is alive with activity yet tinged with violence and sorrow. The opening moments ready you for the game's brutal overtones, showing a captive Geralt of Rivia whipped and taunted by his jailers. Geralt's defaced flesh is a horrific sight, but thematically relevant: he is scarred by his past. Once thought dead, he is still piecing together memories of a savage battle and a beauty called Yennefer. The story takes its cue from these lost memories, juxtaposing sex and brutailty. It also presents both as inevitable and natural results of the mortal condition. You can bed various women in The Witcher 2; ploughing (that is, sex) is a frequent subject of conversation, and one of Geralt's favorite pastimes.
Even the most attractive sights are tainted by grief and brutality.
Prostitutes and lusty soldiers are commonplace in The Witcher 2, though women are hardly relegated to carnal duties. The game's female characters hold great sway in the political landscape, including Saskia the Dragonslayer. This freedom fighter speaks with such force and confidence that it's no surprise she should command a dedicated following. Her nemesis is King Henselt, whose arrogance and robust brogue make him an equally authoritative presence. They are both voiced with great gusto, and contrast with Geralt's cool, measured delivery. And that's as it should be: Henselt and Saskia must inspire their disciples. Geralt, known as the White Wolf, is also a lone wolf.
They are but a few players in The Witcher 2's tangled political plot, which involves so many characters and so much lore that you might be initially confused. But even when things get twisty, the fearless Geralt is there to ground the story. The witcher searches for clues to his past, as well as the royal assassin that ended the life of King Foltest. If you didn't play on PC, don't worry that you'll feel lost: the prologue does an excellent job of catching you up on what you need to know. Nor do you need to wonder about the assassin's identity; it doesn't remain a secret for long, and it's quickly clear that The Witcher 2 is no murder mystery.
Instead, The Witcher 2 is a chronicle of discovery, redemption, and political upheaval. Geralt is blamed for Foltest's murder, but as he gets closer to the true killer, he becomes more and more involved in the region's power struggles. Those assisting Geralt on his quest include the flamboyant bard Dandelion and the earthy Zoltan, a foul-mouthed dwarf who, like most of The Witcher 2's dwarves, loves women and drink. Dwarves are a rich source of humor in most role-playing games, and The Witcher 2's are no exception. Yet, the tone is different here. These are the raunchiest dwarves you've ever encountered, yet the comedy is undercut by underlying anguish.
Lifting curses is hard work.
In fact, a deep undercurrent of pain and suffering flows beneath each character and event. A mother's unspoken agony taints the wonder of childbirth. A father's drive to protect his son may brand him a coward in his own progeny's eyes, but it's a price he's willing to pay, and Geralt isn't one to turn down a bit of coin--or in this case, some pertinent information. Many quests, including those new to this edition, involve the game's signature moral dilemmas. Whom do you believe: a soldier with hygiene problems haunted by a wraith, or the wraith that accuses the soldier of her own murder? Do you absolve a pair of nobles of treason, condemn them, or spare one and sacrifice the other? In this complicated world, there isn't necessarily a right choice. There is no meter to determine whether you are being "good" or "bad," and Geralt is neither hero nor villain.
Not including the prologue and epilogue, The Witcher 2 is split into three acts. The first is primarily concerned with following the killer's trail, while the second greatly expands the plot. The convoluted plot seems poised to explode in the final episode, only to fizzle at the end. The lack of closure intimates a sequel, and the final act is abrupt when compared to the robustness of the first two. Nevertheless, there is no reason to feel slighted, as the journey is entertaining and reasonably lengthy, given several hours of additional gameplay over the PC version's initial release. Yet what makes The Witcher 2 most impressive isn't its length or its vastness; it isn't an open-world, content-stuffed game in the way of the Elder Scrolls series. Instead, its triumph is in how your decisions fundamentally transform your journey.