The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition Review

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings has been available to own for PC gamers since 2011 and now for the first time ever, Xbox 360 gamers can get to see and experience the life of being a Witcher as a beautifully-enchanted world comes to life, but not without its consequences as you dabble your hand at monster slaying in your efforts to bring down a mighty force – one of which is the Assassins of Kings.

Filled with expletives, politics, hunting, fighting, prostitutes, elves, dragons, neatly trimmed vagina’s, magic and a whole land filled with corruption, supernatural forces and the battle for power – The Witcher 2 is a huge story with its own constant living empire of villages and towns where the action of events affect the lives of entire populations. You, as Geralt of Rivia, embark upon the journey of a lifetime within a game we can only describe as a masterpiece. There are not enough words to describe the emotionally charged, most non-linear story we have played, but it’s a gripping, powerful tale where the hunter is hunted and the choices you make bring your environments alive with mystery, deceit and challenging events that shape the future for yourself, your followers and your foes!

Not only does The Witcher 2 have up to sixteen multiple endings, but in some events the whole location of the next chapter is dependent upon the choices you made in your current chapter – you are therefore literally shaping your own campaign story from your own actions – be it tactful or intimidating and violent approaches to the characters you meet, or your choice to pursue or not to pursue a given objective; but each mission that you encounter builds upon the next part of the story as slowly you are working your way up to the climax, the pinnacle of all your hard efforts and brutal survival tactics.

The level of detail and intricacy of the introductory cut-scenes that lead you into the Assassins of Kings plot will leave you breath-less, the camera focusses on one of the characters named Letho, who has climbed aboard a ship during a session of Jesters entertaining a King – and you then witness the skill, defence, magic and brutality of the decapitation that follows. You’re already aware by this point who the Assassin is, but the reasons and purpose slowly unravels in your quest as Geralt himself is later framed for the murder of another King. Having witnessed the second decapitation first hand by Letho who takes his trophy, the very head of King Foltest – you are shortly imprisoned for the murder as you are left standing over the royal body. Unbeknown to Geralt, who has lost his memory since the events that took place in the PC original, Letho is from his past – another Witcher on a journey of his very own. You do not need to have owned or played the original Witcher game on PC to fully enjoy The Witcher 2, this game is its own story in its own right with references displayed to you in some instances from past events. This is of course thanks to Geralt having a memory loss – not even the White Wolf himself can remember what he got up to in the last game!

Comradeship and bravery ensures your eventual release from prison as your memory slowly returns, but as you are resolute that you are able to track down Letho upon interrogation by a commander of the Blue Stripes, (part of the Temerian military) known as Vernon Roche – he assists you and as part of the back story to Roche brings a memorable encounter with an Elven leader known as Iorveth. Iorveth despises Roche because he was  responsible for the annihilation of many elves, including the deaths of women and children among them in the past, but later your journey depicts that you must either side with Roche or Iorveth – ultimately with the same goal of hunting down Letho, but the quests change with your moral routes. It’s a very complex story and whilst I do not want to post a whole leading review of storylines and the interweaving web of quests that forms your complete overall journey; because a game with sixteen different endings, hundreds of multiple questions, it’s going to be a little bit different for everyone. You can however, be assured that you are never have likely to have played an RPG quite as captivating, meticulous and spellbinding as this on a console – making it one of the most amazing RPG stories to date on the Xbox 360. The path you take, the moral and brutal decisions of a Witcher will have you ultimately hooked from the moment you cast your first spell and wield your mighty and brutal sword. Whilst doubtful that many gamers over the age of 18 will find the maturity of the cut-scenes offensive, be warned that some narrative contains the most foul language, but definitely well-said for the current scenario it is depicted within. Sometimes only the ‘C’ word will suffice when followed by a hunt…

In being a complex RPG you may assume that it boasts a great deal of menu options and customisable character elements that will build as you progress further into the gameplay.  You are right! Initially starting the game with only a basic Armor set with Boots and Trousers, further upgrade and magical enhancements that offer resistance and increased defences to your Armor can be picked up along the way – and this can also said for the main weapons. You will only ever use separate Steel and Silver Sword’s in combat combined with your magical defences through Signs for defeating your enemies and bringing down the monsters you encounter. A Silver sword is for slaying monsters, and the Steel Sword is best used for humans, other variations of either Sword can be picked up from enemies also, but they will only vary in defence and attack strength. Using pick-ups collected throughout the adventure in every land will aid in in creating potions and obtaining enhancements to your varied collection of Armor, weapons and character attributes. Potions will increase the damage dealt with your swords, allow you to see in the dark, stun enemies and protect you from evil forces, but you will need to obtain in your inventory the formula for these potions as well as a multitude of ingredients to be able to push them through your alchemy options. All of these elements are neatly organised in the inventory menu system where you can make all of your gaming choices from enhancing your Swords, changing your Armour, reading your Journal that details your quests, checking out your Map – and upgrading your character attributes to Level Up once you have gained points from completing quests and killing monsters.

Further to Levelling Up which will increase your resistance and improve your damage range, you will earn Talents that can be spent on your Talent Tree to provide additional unlocks and improvements that shape how you want to continue gameplay. You will have the option to benefit your Witcher Training for improved damage abilities, Mage Development for improvements on your magical abilities, Swordsmanship for heavy defence and critical blows with your weapons, and also Alchemy for improvements to the oils and potions you create. By now you should have the idea that everything you do will shape, enhance and change the gameplay and environment around your character. Unlike other RPG’s where to experience Magic, and Sword wielding abilities you need to play the game as different character’s, in The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, Geralt is the only protagonist where you shape all his abilities independently to choose how you would rather improve his skills in a defined area over the course of gameplay. Have greater magical capabilities, or choose to deal heavier blows with the Swords is your call. Also, because you are a Witcher, magic is available to you at all times and presented to you in five different Signs that will offer to stun, trap, and direct fire, with others offering defence and the ability to turn foes against each other in a power of influence. Carrying secondary weapons will come at a later time when you can collect and store a range of traps and daggers to assist in your defence.

The controls within the game once you master them are not mind-intrusive and in those moments of quick thinking responses when you must act fast with either your weapon or magical abilities, the game nicely comes into a slow motion mode when making your choices, giving you enough time to think about how you want to approach your kill techniques. It’s a very smooth combat system that allows Geralt to switch styles and even Swords in mid-fight. By aiming the camera you can also choose your targets when surrounded to counterattack and block incoming blows in a quick succession. It’s a brutal display of masculinity and force in an action packed area of danger – you just want to get stuck right in, but without tactics you could find yourself at deaths door that will ultimately result in Game Over. You only have one life and you should take care of it wisely, there are auto-saves, but unless you actively save your progress manually after a heavy combat scene the auto-saves tend you kick you further back in progress so you’ll be swinging that sword all over again.

It’s not just all about combat either as it’s a mixed bag of exploration, fighting, and interaction with the games unique and quirky characters throughout the course of the day and night. Sleep with a prostitute, talk to a guy as he’s taking a pee against a stone wall, and witness a sorceress whipping the ass off her maid – these are just a small handful of mild encounters on your journey to finding Letho. The choices you make in the game as you interact with each character are neither simply right or wrong choices, nor are they nice approach, bad approach alternatives; but instead different scenarios that affect how you want to shape the adventure and develop a personality. So, there’s no right or wrong, no naughty or nice – just varied different decisions that will you make you think “how do I want this to plan out?”, because the way you treat some important characters could affect active missions and your need to interact to collect items that complete quests. It’s very intelligent with a lot of focus on the consequences of your decisions – they might not at times be good ones, but you have to deal with the situation you chose to happen. Being an RPG set in very large open worlds which offers almost near total freedom of exploration to their boundaries, there is a fair amount of walking around and sometimes going back on yourself.  It’s easy to get lost and the mini map on screen at all times is just that… miniscule. You will find that switching to your inventory screen to access the larger map will happen quite frequently as the mini map is just not big enough to point you entirely in the right direction. It offers guidance, but fails miserably on a long trek.

With the story being so highly enjoyable that really keeps you on the edge of your seat offering more challenging monsters to slay and acts of brutality as you press forward. There are some parts so shocking you never would have thought you would see it on a home console. Nudity, fetishes, explicit dialogue, – even a good old arm wrestle presents itself as an everyday occurrence. It is so very easy to pass a few hours of gameplay in the blink of an eye as each part of your journey hooks you in to wanting to see even more like a form of voyeurism. The Witcher has no tact or softly, softly approaches, nor does it mince its words as Geralt parades, evades and wonders through the land with might and magic. This really is not a game for children, so do not ignore the 18 age rating on the box as it is very adult related with more violence, sex and bad language than your average movie. The Xbox 360 has never had a game like this, in both its adult content and visual display!

Visually, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings also sets a precedency with a level of detail and garish flair never before seen to this standard, all thanks to the games new and improved engine that makes this the closest appearance to a high spec PC game on a console yet! You could even be forgiven for thinking it’s an entry level next-gen title as the world within comes alive with cultured environments and grandiose atmospheres to surprise you through out every quest. Beautifully crafted, perfectly executed – The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is a mighty force to be reckoned with due to its very detailed and astoundingly impressive landscapes.

CDProjektRed, has well and truly delivered an extraordinary game with amazing depth and thought provoking sequences each with consequences as you travel through the mythical fictional locale of Flotsam Forrest, the rocky dwarven town of Vergan and the magical elven town of Loc Muinne. Be prepared to plough in an extensive amount of hours in gameplay as it is believed the game can take up to 40 – 50 hours to fully complete. There are easy and difficult settings for those who like to be tortured with intensity and have enemies that barely take any damage – and of course each play through will differ based on your different routes and alternative choices. It’s unlikely you will get to experience all the quests alone in one play though so there are plenty of reasons to start this up again and try to see everything that the game can offer, or why not go for viewing all of the sixteen endings?

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is an exception to all the rules; a challenging and wonderfully immersive experience that is unlike any other game that has ever been seen on the Xbox 360. Definitely one of the games you ‘MUST’ own this year deserving nothing less than a high score from thisisxbox due to the level of enjoyment, surprises and continuation of a gripping and intense story that you can’t turn your eyes away from, both magical and something very special.

Totally and utterly fantastic!

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