Geralt of Rivia, the White Wolf, is a Witcher. Witchers are warriors who possess magic powers and superior abilities due to being taken in as children and given potions and martial training for most of their young lives. This special training can cause adverse side affects and sometimes even death, the result of this is that only 40% of children survive the final trial and go on to become Witchers. Once fully trained Witchers use their unique abilities to make a living killing wild beasts and often people who get in their way. Geralt was special, being able to take on larger doses of the mutagen as a child and undergo extra experiments to further increase his abilities. He was lucky to escape with the only side effect of the experiments being his hair turning sheet white. Without giving too much away the game begins with Geralt recalling his story of battle beside King Foltest who he recently saved from an assassination attempt. The King is retaliating against a revolt by the noble families of his kingdom who are unhappy with his rule and Geralt, knowing better than to refuse a King, has taken to becoming his personal guard.
The Witcher 2 is the first of Polish developer and producer CD Projekt Red’s titles to grace the 360. It’s not often that an original story, be that from book, film, or otherwise, can cross media and keep its original feel, style and sense of direction. CDPR has however, treated Andrzej Sapkowski’s story with respect for the characters and world he has created and with that have delivered this brilliant piece of storytelling. The in-depth story and characters do take a little time to get to grips with however and there is a lot of information to read through. In your journal you can read about all kinds of people and quests and find information about areas and creatures you have bested. You may find yourself looking at these a lot to gain your bearings but it’s not a bad thing especially in the case of the quest log which reads as if straight from a book. Each time you make a decision or advance in the quest it will update with a new paragraph depicting your choices.
The story is not the only aspect to the game as combat also plays a large role. Even with the new tutorial there is a lot to take in and it took me a while to properly get to grips with every ability and how they all worked. The combat system is not given to holding your hand, and if you don’t prepare well for a quest you might will miss out on vital information that could mean death or at the very least a much more challenging battle. Targeting can be a little tricky when facing multiple foes but the swordplay and sign casting feels natural after a while and combat can be a lot of fun. Various crafting abilities are available to improve your weapons and armour, and potions can be used to provide time limited buffs. You have to use them strategically as they cannot be taken during combat. This makes battle a lot more tactical and harsh especially against the harder foes who often have their own abilities that need countering and can inflict ailments.
The graphics and cutscenes are among the best in any console game I’ve played recently and there are many beautiful areas during the story where I just had to stop for a minute to take in the scenery. Every character, town house, street, city and surrounding areas have an intricately designed feel and while the spaces may not be on the scale of some other RPG’s this doesn’t hinder the gameplay and exploration at all. The voice acting and character development is of a great quality and while at some points names and information can be confusing, if you are paying attention then it all comes together in the end. There is a certain comical twist to the dialogue at points which really tickles my fancy, even listening in to a random couple on the street can bring a laugh.
The thing I like about Geralt and the world he inhabits is that he is not like many other lead characters in RPG’s. He doesn’t play the hero role but lives by his own rule, which makes his story and experience feel more realistic. A certain stigma towards Witchers means he is always on the outside of society and has to work hard for himself and his friends to survive. The whole fantasy setting is one that really interests me, and the often brutal and blunt content of the story really makes it feel like a more mature game.
As much as I hate to say it this port is not without its flaws. Had I not been a big fan of the books I feel like I may have gotten very lost with all the information flying about and certainly this is not a game to go into half heartedly. It’s not a bad thing that it really makes you pay attention, as all too often in modern gaming you are gifted an easy playing experience that is void of any real thought or process. On occasion, however, I did feel like I was missing some information and there are often heavy references to events that have happened in the books.
On another minor note, it would also have been nice be able to adjust the sensitivity of the analogue sticks as at times I found them to be far too sensitive. Coupled with a slightly awkward combat targeting system this made some situations far too frustrating.
CDPR really have created a great game in The Witcher 2. From everything I had been hearing from my PC brothers, who have had this game for almost a year now, I was expecting this game to be good, but good is nothing near what this game has turned out to be, more like beautiful and brilliant. The story and characters really tie together well and make for an interesting and purposeful gaming experience. The decision-making elements in the game are subtle and dialogue choices significant, meaning you really have to be sure of what you are saying and doing. Any lack of conviction meaning you may have to try a lot harder for the outcome you desire, fail at a quest or even end up on the wrong side of your friends sword. Attention to detail and design is impressive and further adds to the feel of a living world within the game. If you’re prepared to put in the time and effort The Witcher 2 really is a game you can’t miss.
Verdict – Red Mist
Platforms Available – Xbox 360, PC
Platform Reviewed – Xbox 360
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