Having not played “The Witcher” on PC, my attention was first brought to the series (based on the novels by the same name) when the cinematic trailer for “The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings” went nuts online. It was beautiful. It was also available on Xbox.
I’m going to start by saying this is not one to play with kids around. It’s MA15+ rating is well deserved. As well as being sufficiently violent our monster-slaying mutant hero, Geralt, gets himself involved in some, ahem, “intimate” moments.
The storyline in The Witcher 2 is complex. You don’t want to tune out or skip the dialogue (not that you would anyway…right??) as you will need to make big decisions that greatly alter the direction and outcome of this brilliant tale. There are numerous side quests ranging from simple (yet time consuming) to horrendously difficult (read: character building). During a conversation you can intimidate, persuade or bribe your way to gaining what you need.
The combat is fun and simple to control, with a good number of weapons accompanying your two Witcher’s Swords (steel for humans, elves, gnomes and silver for monsters). These include traps, bombs, and magical “signs” that have different effects on your enemies. There is automatic targeting that helps Geralt leap and roll from one enemy to another with a graceful fluidity. Drinking potions mixed from collected ingredients can assist with the big boss battles, as can sword and armour upgrades.
The addition of some mini games helps you kill time in each new region and even unlock side quests. There are dice games, arm wrestling and even underground fight clubs
Your Geralt is customisable with Swordsmanship, Mage and Alchemy upgrade paths to follow. You can even change his hairstyle. But the most exciting part of this character is being able to control his behaviour. He had be a saviour or a menace, as empathetic as you like. And each decision has it’s own consequence on both the the characters round him and the story as a whole. These decisions are not easy, and the characters are real enough that it’s easy to see the point of view from every side. Who do you trust? What are their real motives? It’s so hard to know if you are doing the right thing, and that’s exciting.
Chronic auto-savers beware! When you die, you really die. It’s not unusual to lose a boss battle and on reloading be sent back to the very beginning of the quest. Learn to save, save, save and it will relieve a lot of frustration.
Being an action based role playing game, the pace is fast and there is always something exciting to do, with the distance between quests minimal. The voice acting is superb. There is drama, humour, mystery and even romance, with believable, interesting characters. And it even looks good on Xbox! Seriously.