At the time of its original release on PC, great praise was offered to The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. Not just for being a generational leap in RPG design ahead of its predecessor, but also because it redefined the borderline between adventure and interaction. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings made an impact that will forever be felt by PC RPG gamers. And then, with it’s Xbox 360 debut, it did the same for the console audience.
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – Enhanced Edition is Built for Console
Known as The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – Enhanced Edition, this is more than a simple port of the original game. Arriving 10 years ago today, the release came with new content. Furthermore, the core adventure received a nip-tuck – adding, replacing and refurbishing where needed – with many of the mechanics of the original slightly modified to better fit the control pad. For example, the Quickslot system is far from an original design. However, here on console it allows the player to modify their immediate inventory without fear of breaking the action. Extraneous actions, such as meditating and potion creation, are granted an immediate menu. And, of course, the new tutorial presented prior to the original opening sequence is essentially DLC that has been offered as part of the core package.
If you didn’t know any better you might suggest that this Xbox 360 release is actually a ‘complete’ edition of a game that was already available. But of course this is a console debut. All of these extras were subsequently made available to PC gamers without need of another purchase.
A Geralt Adventure – Sorry, Who?
The game begins with a prologue that doesn’t so much fill in the details of the original story as it does bring the player up-to-speed with Geralt’s character. His relationships, and his current state of affairs. It’s a tidy way of introducing the player to the true gameplay experience that lies beyond. Furthermore, it allows them to make small decisions that won’t have a significant impact later in the game. As a prisoner, Geralt recaps the events that lead to his incarceration. The player has the opportunity to explore the benefits of politeness versus forceful aggression; calm reactions and raining chaos upon your foes. The player is also given the opportunity to put the combat skills they learned in the tutorial into practice as they are given a taster of the kind of objectives that lie ahead.
I’m Going on an Adventure! Oh, Shiny…
Despite being a fairly open videogame, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – Enhanced Edition is stunningly paced. It’s true that the player can deviate from the intended path pretty much whenever they so choose. However, it’s rare that such a decision will be made consciously. Characters in the towns and forests will distract you by offering new avenues to gain advantages in combat, wealth or finance. But even here it feels like part of the cohesive whole. It’s often only when visiting the quest screen that you’ll realise that many of these interactions weren’t necessary. For those who do manage to avoid such diversions however – an incredible unlikely eventuality – the game progresses at such a boisterous pace throughout that you’ll constantly feel compelled to move along.
Even when your next objective is a simple slow walk through a small town, it remains compelling. The game doesn’t benefit from that commonplace ‘one more go’ factor. It has its own ‘one more hour’ facet.
Setting New RPG Standards on Xbox 360
The world in which the Witcher resides is a strange one, but not drawn too far from traditional fantasy. And this is also true of many of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – Enhanced Edition’s gameplay mechanics. The tutorial is a compensation not for those experiencing The Witcher for the first time, but those with limited prior knowledge of the workings of an RPG. The combat system plays similarly to that of Mass Effect in its combination of immediate, tactical and actions governed by meters. However, it’s also integrated with a magic system that can be utilised however the player sees fit.
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – Enhanced Edition doesn’t feature a class system of any kind. Whether you want to play a mage, a brawler or somewhere in between is entirely up to you. The level system also accommodates such personalised input, allowing the player to specialise or to create an all-rounder.
Beautiful World, Ugly People
From a technical point of view The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – Enhanced Edition is almost as astounding as it’s freedom in gameplay. However, no amount of stunningly crafted character development could make up for the frequently vacant looking character models. Incredibly detailed sweeping landscapes present a better use of the hardware. Huge draw distances, tight, dank dungeons and towns with genuinely distinctive character. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – Enhanced Edition delivers a stunning, engaging and beautiful world, let down only by some of the humanoid characters within.
The sound quality is remarkable however, and worthy of praise as an aside from the visual clout of the videogame. It’s a tour de force of soothing orchestral arrangements, pounding bass when the action picks up and stunning voice acting. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – Enhanced Edition builds its characters through communication. Even some of the smallest roles will stay with you long after your time in Temeria comes to an end.
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – Enhanced Edition is Worthy of a Revisit, 10 Years On
To sum-up The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – Enhanced Edition into a single descriptive term simply doesn’t do it justice. The closest you could come would be to say that it pulls no punches with regards to content. There’s plenty to do in The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – Enhanced Edition, and all of it is of a very high standard of production. There are a number of bugs and occasionally poor visuals, but these are only minor blemishes. Just working your way through the core storyline could take you weeks, but even if the longevity of the main quest wasn’t enough, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – Enhanced Edition piles on side quests and submissions by the truckload. It’s a huge undertaking, and one which any RPG aficionado will love every single minute of. Even 10 years later, it stands as a landmark RPG title.