It’s unusual to see a PC video-game not come out at the same time as the console version.Times have changed though with developers like CD Projekt bucking the trend. It’s a crime when certain video-games are platform exclusive, so it’s nice to see the Witcher 2 being released on the Xbox 360.
But the real question is if this port can live up to the high standards set by the PC release.
So is it essential to play Witcher on PC before even considering playing through Witcher 2? The answer is that it’s absolutely fine since flashbacks give enough background information. One of the Witcher 2 best strengths lies in how it manages to skilfully move its story forward; while linking it it to the past. Nothing is ever what it seems and that also applies to the various decisions made throughout the journey.
There are various dialogue choices and it’s not just about picking the right one. Those expecting to be able to control main character Geralt’s action at will are in for a surprise. Each choice has a consequence and there isn’t a safe way to get out of it, just like in real life. Adding choice is not just a illusion introduced to make the player feel in control. Characters saved in earlier sections will appear later on in surprising places.
Even those who Geralt helped out of kindness won’t always end up in better situations later on. It’s the sort of idea that makes for believable outcomes, since it’s nearly impossible to know how each choice will play out. Very few video-games manage to recreate the same feeling of accomplishment, that comes with being responsible for affecting the lives of other characters.
It helps that Witcher 2 is based on the book series, with the same title, by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. No wonder that the main plot ends up turning into an intricate web of sub plots. What starts off as a personal quest for vengeance is literally turned into something much more complex. It’s astonishing to see that choices can also affect the very course of Geralt’s journey.
Picking certain choices will result in seeing story developments from a whole different perspective. It feels unfair at times to have to pick the lesser evil but that’s what real real life is about. The amount of dialogue included is nothing short of impressive. Use of vulgar terms such as ploughing might offend some but it makes the medieval settings all the more authentic. Each location that Geralt visits is densely populated with different races.
They all have their own activities and even manage to produce such delightful sights as puking their guts. It doesn’t add anything to the story but does make the world of Witcher 2 more interesting.
Looking around and interacting with other character is an important part of a role playing game. But the real thrill comes from completing quests to advance further into the main story. These main quests are complimented by side quests.
What’s unique about it is that each quest feel completely different from another. One might see Geralt hunt down wraiths in an abandoned hospital; while another sees him help a character under arrest. Every quest has different stages and some also dynamically change depending on actions taken. The only downside comes from not being able to return to a previous area to complete quests.
Moving on to the next chapter automatically fails any side quests left unfinished. But it’s extremely difficult to resist the need to complete some of the side quests.
Navigating the world of Witcher 2 isn’t always an easy task. Selecting a quest will make a marker pop up. But it’s still difficult to find certain quest locations without checking the full map in the menu. It’s only a minor flaw but one that make it easy to get lost in areas such as a forest.
This is a side effect of having huge areas to explore. There’s certainly plenty to see within each of the three chapters. It’s not just about the size of the area since each has different environments such as a secluded mountain area or a closed down mine. Loading times are kept to a minimum and it’s only required to swap disks once. CD Projekt not only managed to fit a full PC role playing experience into two console disks but added even more content.
One of the harshest sections in Witcher 2 is anything involving combat. Anyone playing on normal and above difficulties is in for a challenge. Fortunately the combat mechanics are extremely easy to learn.
A lengthy tutorial at the beginning carefully guides new players through the basics. Anyone that makes good use of the skills available won’t struggle for most of combat situations. The key to victory lies in being able to evade enemies and attacking with right timing. Treating each enemy type as a new challenge, by employing different tactics, is a wise decision too.
At times characters like Triss Merigold will join quests. These temporary fight allies prove resourceful and actively help defeat enemies. Sign magic is unlocked from the beginning to help even out the odds when fighting lots of enemies. Levelling up by earning experience will also make it possible to unlock or upgrades skills. What’s so great about it is that the skill tree is split into three distinct areas. They become unlocked after getting a few basic training skills and it’s up to a player to unlock further skill, that match a preferred play style.
It’s not the sort of role playing experience where it’s mandatory to pick one class and stick to the skills linked to it. It’s not just about fighting though as a few situations require reading tomes acquired and even solve puzzles. It’s also possible to get involved in leisure activities such as arm wrestling. Most of it is all optional though which is reasonable since it’s an action oriented title.
The boss battles are remarkable in that each requires careful observation to spot any weaknesses within movement patterns. Some of them even make use of quick time events efficiently. Character facial expressions and movements make the Witcher 2, one of the best visual experience in years. Other factors such as the amount of detail to buildings and smaller items certainly help too.
This is complimented by a quality music score. Each new music track is another masterpiece that fits perfectly in the area it is being played in. There isn’t a way to carry over character items or statistics after completing the story. It’s odd but there is a battle mini-game that allows players to take on various battles. Anyone looking for a challenge can compare battle scores with other players.
The only downside is that it’s not possible to save and points won’t count, if Geralt is defeated. It should take a long time to get through the main story anyway and that’s without taking side quests into consideration.
It’s mesmerising to think that Cd Projekt managed to port a video-game of this magnitude to the 360 without a hitch. Not only is it the full experience but the development team even found time to add more content.
Maybe it’s because it was developed by a team that’s not located in one of the main development areas, but the Witcher 2 feels like a whole new role playing experience. The inclusion of vulgarity such as cursing make the medieval setting believable. Surprising outcomes to decisions means players are engaged and not just picking choices that are either evil or good.
PC gamers might have experienced it last year but this is a must for anyone new to the series. The Witcher 2 is an essential purchase for any Xbox 360 players that are eager to play a new role playing experience.