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Review

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings - Enhanced Edition Review

  • First Released
    released
  • Reviewed Apr 17, 2012
  • X360

A sorrowful world, complex political intrigue, and meaningful choices make The Witcher 2 a must-play.

The monster slayer speaks to the soldier with quiet confidence. He signals with his fingers, his yellow eyes shine, and the soldier reveals his secrets without the slayer ever needing to unsheathe his sword. The witcher is gifted for his patience, and now, Xbox 360 owners are similarly rewarded: one of 2011's finest adventures has come to Microsoft's console, and it was well worth the wait. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings - Enhanced Edition is a treat for the mind and a joy for the senses. This superb role-playing game hits hard, drawing you into its dark fantasy world and requiring you to make difficult choices with palpable consequences. As Geralt of Rivia--the titular witcher--you seek answers in lush landscapes and burning battlefields, where great despair casts long shadows on even the sunniest meadows and lakes.

You may have heard about the stupendous visuals of The Witcher 2 on the PC, and probably wonder: how does the Xbox 360 version compare? It should be no surprise that the console release can't match its higher-resolution PC counterpart, which was a standard-setter on that platform. Shadows are less extensive, the draw distance isn't quite as astonishing, and some texture pop-in, jittery transitions, and longer loading times will stand out to anyone who has seen the game running at the highest settings on the PC.

And yet there is no reason to suppose you are getting a halfhearted PC-to-console port here. The Witcher 2 is wonderful to look at, brimming with visual details that refuse to be lost in spite of the hardware's limitations. Inspect the crumbling walls of an ancient city, and you notice how every rock, rune, and fissure is unique. Nothing looks copied and pasted, but either painstakingly crafted by hand or hewn by natural forces. Soldiers genuflect as royalty passes, yet they're not unnaturally synchronized, but instead bow and rise as individuals. A gorgeous waterfall makes for a glistening tapestry, behind which lies darkness and death. A red scar above a defiant elf's upper lip is not just a testament to past conflict--it suggests a permanent scowl.

Welcome to the world of The Witcher 2, which is alive with activity yet tinged with violence and sorrow. The opening moments ready you for the game's brutal overtones, showing a captive Geralt of Rivia whipped and taunted by his jailers. Geralt's defaced flesh is a horrific sight, but thematically relevant: he is scarred by his past. Once thought dead, he is still piecing together memories of a savage battle and a beauty called Yennefer. The story takes its cue from these lost memories, juxtaposing sex and brutailty. It also presents both as inevitable and natural results of the mortal condition. You can bed various women in The Witcher 2; ploughing (that is, sex) is a frequent subject of conversation, and one of Geralt's favorite pastimes.

Even the most attractive sights are tainted by grief and brutality.

Prostitutes and lusty soldiers are commonplace in The Witcher 2, though women are hardly relegated to carnal duties. The game's female characters hold great sway in the political landscape, including Saskia the Dragonslayer. This freedom fighter speaks with such force and confidence that it's no surprise she should command a dedicated following. Her nemesis is King Henselt, whose arrogance and robust brogue make him an equally authoritative presence. They are both voiced with great gusto, and contrast with Geralt's cool, measured delivery. And that's as it should be: Henselt and Saskia must inspire their disciples. Geralt, known as the White Wolf, is also a lone wolf.

They are but a few players in The Witcher 2's tangled political plot, which involves so many characters and so much lore that you might be initially confused. But even when things get twisty, the fearless Geralt is there to ground the story. The witcher searches for clues to his past, as well as the royal assassin that ended the life of King Foltest. If you didn't play The Witcher on PC, don't worry that you'll feel lost: the prologue does an excellent job of catching you up on what you need to know. Nor do you need to wonder about the assassin's identity; it doesn't remain a secret for long, and it's quickly clear that The Witcher 2 is no murder mystery.

Instead, The Witcher 2 is a chronicle of discovery, redemption, and political upheaval. Geralt is blamed for Foltest's murder, but as he gets closer to the true killer, he becomes more and more involved in the region's power struggles. Those assisting Geralt on his quest include the flamboyant bard Dandelion and the earthy Zoltan, a foul-mouthed dwarf who, like most of The Witcher 2's dwarves, loves women and drink. Dwarves are a rich source of humor in most role-playing games, and The Witcher 2's are no exception. Yet, the tone is different here. These are the raunchiest dwarves you've ever encountered, yet the comedy is undercut by underlying anguish.

Lifting curses is hard work.

In fact, a deep undercurrent of pain and suffering flows beneath each character and event. A mother's unspoken agony taints the wonder of childbirth. A father's drive to protect his son may brand him a coward in his own progeny's eyes, but it's a price he's willing to pay, and Geralt isn't one to turn down a bit of coin--or in this case, some pertinent information. Many quests, including those new to this edition, involve the game's signature moral dilemmas. Whom do you believe: a soldier with hygiene problems haunted by a wraith, or the wraith that accuses the soldier of her own murder? Do you absolve a pair of nobles of treason, condemn them, or spare one and sacrifice the other? In this complicated world, there isn't necessarily a right choice. There is no meter to determine whether you are being "good" or "bad," and Geralt is neither hero nor villain.

Not including the prologue and epilogue, The Witcher 2 is split into three acts. The first is primarily concerned with following the killer's trail, while the second greatly expands the plot. The convoluted plot seems poised to explode in the final episode, only to fizzle at the end. The lack of closure intimates a sequel, and the final act is abrupt when compared to the robustness of the first two. Nevertheless, there is no reason to feel slighted, as the journey is entertaining and reasonably lengthy, given several hours of additional gameplay over the PC version's initial release. Yet what makes The Witcher 2 most impressive isn't its length or its vastness; it isn't an open-world, content-stuffed game in the way of the Elder Scrolls series. Instead, its triumph is in how your decisions fundamentally transform your journey.

The Witcher 2 is essentially multiple games gracefully molded into a single experience. The second act, for instance, tells a very different tale depending on choices you make beforehand. You might comb beaches and battlefields or go spelunking with a group of profane dwarves at your side, in each case making a different region your base of operations. By their very flexibility, many RPGs inspire replay, but few offer such differing paths, allowing you to experience a complex narrative from distinct points of view. The characters at your side, the enemies you face, the dialogue--they all differ based on a series of decisions that the game never forgets.

As it turns out, trolls don't pay taxes on the bridge tolls they collect.

Cities and wilderness areas are relatively contained, though just extensive enough to encourage exploration. In doing so, you might uncover a chest that can be opened only by interpreting the clues on a nearby scroll, or stumble upon a giant arachnid guarding treasure. A number of stupendous action moments punctuate your travels. You won't remember just the big story developments, but the sequences in which you clutch your sword and stare down the danger ahead with savage resolve. In one such scenario, you slash away at grotesque representations of hate and violence, the whispers of magical incantations barely rising above the distant noise of steel on steel. Elsewhere, terrifying screams and flurries of feathers make your first encounter with a gaggle of harpies unforgettable, and the squawks and growls of unseen wildlife intensify your showdown with an endrega queen.

While there are a few different kinds of weapons you might wield, you usually choose between your silver and steel swords, depending on whether you are facing monsters or humans. You perform both light and heavy attacks from a third-person view, and can block and cast signs (Geralt's magic spells) as well. Before you leap into the prologue, you might want to check out the tutorial, though it isn't strictly necessary, as the first proper combat encounter isn't nearly as punishing as it was on the PC. It might take you a few tries, but you eventually grasp the rhythm of swordplay. Crowd control is important: you want to avoid getting surrounded at all costs, and bombs and traps can make all the difference when the odds look overwhelming.

The Xbox 360 release benefits from a reasonable difficulty curve, but there are some frustrations here and there. The manual targeting system is fiddly enough that you'll likely let the game's auto-targeting take over for you, unless you face a single enemy, or maybe two. You might inadvertently tumble toward an enemy behind the one you meant to attack and find yourself in the center of a deadly mob. There are also moments when basic actions don't feel as responsive as they should; unsheathing your sword might take a couple of button presses, for instance. Yet the action is largely satisfying and enjoyable. There's a palpable sense of weight in every swing. Geralt might somersault toward his victim and slash him with a steel sword or use a flaming staff pilfered from a succubus to land slower, heavier blows.

Friend, or foe? Your decision has far-reaching consequences on the missions that follow.
Even when you know danger is ahead, the views are too attractive not to press onward. Death is inescapable, but The Witcher 2 allows you to properly prepare before trying to conquer the wilds. You aren't stuck with the same weapons and armor, of course. You loot new ones or buy them from vendors, and these can be upgraded in various ways. You might also purchase equipment schematics and have a vendor craft items for you using the iron ore, timber, and other raw materials you stumble upon as you explore. You can also brew up potions and quaff them, though you can't just down a health drink in the midst of battle. Instead, you must down potions while meditating.

Potions are toxic to Geralt; thus, the number you can drink is limited. It might take you a while to come to terms with this "prepare in advance" approach to potions. Brews act as statistic buffs rather than immediate cure-alls, and unless you know what monsters you might be coming up against, you don't necessarily know which potions are most effective. When the story snatches you up into a series of battles and cutscenes, you may never be allowed to meditate and, thus, never reap the benefits potions may have granted. Thankfully, the long animations depicting Geralt entering and exiting his meditation pose have been removed, making this process less arduous.

It may also take some time to get used to the interface. It isn't complex but there are some minor idiosyncrasies, some of which are rather sensible. You can't hold a button to identify loot and items of interest as you can in other RPGs; instead, you activate Geralt's medallion. It's a neat way of taking a game-y function and making it seem more natural. Other interface quirks are less understandable. In most RPGs, once you exhaust a particular dialogue tree, you are usually allowed to select other options before exiting the interaction. In The Witcher 2, you might get thrown out of the conversation and have to reengage the character to explore other options. It would have been nice to compare equipment at a glance, rather than have to select a particular menu option. There are other quirks too, such as picky contextual prompts (you might disarm a trap instead of swinging at an attacking nekker), but they are small blemishes on this ambitious adventure.

You can run from this spirit--but you can't hide.

Though combat is central to The Witcher 2, it's far from the only thing you do as Geralt. You can earn some coin by trading blows with certain locals, which means performing a relatively easy sequence of quick-time button presses. Timed events show up in boss fights and in other scripted sequences as well, though the game doesn't focus on them, and they make for a fun spectacle: the close camera angles and barbaric punches give brawls a lot of pizzazz. The PC version's arm-wrestling minigame returns as well and controls far better with a controller than it did with a mouse and keyboard. You can even go get a haircut or play some dice when you aren't busy chatting up the local ladies or hearing of Zoltan's latest exploits.

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings - Enhanced Edition is an excellent port of a superb game, embracing many of the elements we love about RPGs without skimping on any of them. But it's the way it handles player choice in particular that makes it most notable. There are no contrived right-versus-wrong decisions to exploit. The results of your decision don't just influence minor details: they lead you down wildly disparate paths, each as entertaining as the others. The Witcher 2 is a mature game indeed--not just because of its sexual themes and violent images, but because of its complex portrayal of morally ambiguous individuals struggling in a morally ambiguous world.

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The Good
Intricate, politically charged story
Player choice manifests itself in meaningful ways
Gorgeous, fearsome world tinged with death and despair
Entertaining combat with a good sense of impact
A number of powerful, memorable moments
The Bad
Visual and interface quirks
Third act comes to an abrupt conclusion
9
Superb
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

About the Author

GameSpot senior editor Kevin VanOrd has a cat named Ollie who refuses to play bass in Rock Band.
60 comments
yunalissa
yunalissa

this is really good game..i only played this game because of the upcoming witchers 3..but im getting addicted to it..hope the next game will be as good as this..cant wait!!

Raven_1981
Raven_1981

This is a really good game, got this game some months ago, started the game and thought "mmmmm well I think its not for me, and I love RPG’s, but I kept the game thinking maybe after I finish some other games, and now I went back to it, and I have to say now I really really like it..... It takes a bit of time to get use to some of the control aspects but once you get them it gets fun.

 It’s a very interesting game, good story and characters, challenging combat, I am actually thinking of playing it again as soon as I finish it to pick a different path and see all this changes people mention regarding the story.

 Looking forward for the witcher 3 :)

icebox98
icebox98

just to ask. is there a patch that makes this game less nude?

linkinparkrox11
linkinparkrox11

@icebox98 haven't seen one. there are, however, like 5+ mods to make it even more nude. gerault included

lahonda_99
lahonda_99

I would score this game at a 4. It is rarely obvious what you have to do, you have to go into a menu to get to your journal or inventory, combat is incredibly hard, you have to memorize magic symbols because the game won't tell you what your spells are, merchants lag the game, no way to compare equipment unless you memorize the stats of what you currently have equipped, the characters are bland and uninteresting. There is not a single thing about this game that made me want to play it. I felt like I was working instead of relaxing.

themc_7
themc_7

@lahonda_99 I wanted to try this out, but this honest review you've just given, has me second guessing.

canuckbiker
canuckbiker

Nothing you've stated is actually true, except maybe the hard combat, it's challenging at best, but never cheap, and it's not the games fault you can't take a real challenge. Also the characters are amazing, and stay true to the fantastic books they were directly taken from. Just because it's not for you, doesn't make it a bad game. More or less, it just makes you terrible at these games. I'd hate to see your take on dark souls.

onlypc
onlypc

@themc_7 @lahonda_99 The combat is not hard at all. Iahonda is just a definition of a casual gamer and wants the game to handhold everything for him.

Vidharr
Vidharr

@lahonda_99 You only point out that you are an incredibly lazy gamer, like everything easy and handed to you on a plate. Further, to say the characters are bland and uninteresting shows that you are also either colossally stupid, or you're in fact some troll who never even played the game, and have no idea what makes a great rpg.  By the way, since my computer doesn't suck, merchants produce no lag for me.

Finally, one phrase you said definitely points to the probability that you've never even played the game.

canuckbiker
canuckbiker

Honestly I don't know why this would be a problem, but I'm not a sexually repressed person. Somehow I don't imagine you'd have this problem with watching game of thrones on HBO. Sexual intimacy can enhance the story between certain characters, or just provide a giddy little thrill. I find sexuality displayed in games like dead or alive far more offensive than that found in the witcher games.

icebox98
icebox98

@themc_7 @lahonda_99 the game is easy, once you get the hold of it and he is lying about the characters not being intresting. this game is better than skyrim when it comes to the the story and characters. however, i hated the fact that it is soo explicit at times, you dont want to play it in front of anyone. and dont forget to play with headsets..... lots of sexual sounds might get the people you live with think you are playing a pornographic game.....................wait, it is a pornographic game!

brainiac1988
brainiac1988

Environments are a bit linear... But overall this is a beautiful game with good presentation, good video/audio and a great story with adult themes.

A 9 is indeed the most suitable score for this. 

(Played this on PC)

lukszu
lukszu

amazing game, completed it on PC, twice on Xbox; currently playing again as I have few days available after finalizing ACIII, just in front of Far Cry 3. The story, visuals and gameplay - everything is on superb level here and the only sad thing is that the next instalment of the WItcher will come in 2014 for next gen consoles.

thequickshooter
thequickshooter

it's a good game 

but after all the bugs i withnessed with this game and the slow,slow leveling up mechanic this game got an 8.0 from me 

 

seriously all the patches were completly useless and 

FFS the checkpoint system in this game is horriable 

 

i just finished 2 quests and made a lot of coin fist fighting and then started another quest 

and it didn't save!

 

i just got swarmed by neakkers and i had to redo all the 2 hours i wasted 

what a shame really 

 

this game had so much potential but lazy producers and nub gametesters 

made this pile of bugs just a chore 

MinerAvatar
MinerAvatar

I read the reviews and many peoples comments about how great this game is so I Picked it up a few weeks ago.

 

Do not believe the reviews and fans of this product. It is a linear mess with so many cut scenes I wonder if it should even be called a game. You will fall asleep at times it is so slowly paced and if you don't touch your controller, it may shut off!  A Good Role Playing Game (RPG) to me lets you build a character how you want and allows you to explore the world at your own pace, this game is more like a choose your own adventure story ripped off from Game of Thrones or just about any incest bred royal bastard story, there are so many like it. Can't these stupid Kings, Lords, and Ladies keep their hands off their own family members! Someone compared this game to D and D, what a joke! In D and D you choose from different characters of both sexes, different races, and are free to do what ever you want to, more like in Elder Scrolls Oblivion and Skyrim, or even Dragon Age 1. This game is more like Bioshock, Force Unleashed, or Batman in that you play as this one guy alone, and your stuck with just his skills and his look.

 

I will say when you do get to the combat it feels kind of like the Batman Arkham series of games, even if Batman is an action RPG, it is a still a better RPG then this is. It is a shame you get so little combat overall compared to the long cut scenes. I think the Witcher 2 is at the very best a 6, I lean more toward a 5 overall. I only give it a 5 based on the combat alone, the one thing they did do a decent job with. Too bad it can take an hour or more to get to some combat. Even at $20 used this game is truly not worth it to me, it is not very fun at all.  I like to play my games, not watch them and be forced down one path like say The Force Unleashed 2 and this game does. Like the Forced Unleashed 2 was to me, this game is way more of a grind then it is a fun experience to play and enjoy.

 

So you can get an Idea of games I like that have a RPG element of some type, Elder Scrolls Series, The Fallout games, Batman Arkham series, Bioshock, GTA, Red Dead series, Marvel Ultimate Alliances, Knights of the old Republic, Mass Effects, and both Dragon Ages. Yes it is true, Dragon Age 2 is a way better then this game.

 

This games level designs remind me of Dragon Age 2, however the Dragon Age Maps are less restrictive and have more branches to them then this games levels, and if you have played DA2, you know that's not a lot! I can honestly say I had way more fun playing Dragon Age 2 over this game, and this game has a ending that makes the end of Mass Effect 3 look good!

 

I honestly do not understand the love for this game, sorry I wasted my $20 and my time "playing it", when really all you do is watch this game.  I hope if your on the fence with this game you will save your money and buy any other RPG out there over this one, even Two World 2 is a better RPG game then the Witcher 2, and if you have played TW2, you know its not a great RPG single player game at all, but at least I had fun playing that one.

f1elds
f1elds

bought my first ever xbox last week it took witcher 2 to do that.

saffire7
saffire7

I played The first Witcher on the PC and the second on the xbox, after getting the "hang" of playing it on the xbox I really enjoyed the game! Played it twice, wanted to play each path.

Skyrim was good too, but I hated the "lag/drag" between scenes, but most I enjoyed Kingdoms od Amalur (hoping for more like it and/or Dragon Age)

hamebone123
hamebone123

great game but it shouldn't be compared to skyrim...the witcher is more "focused" then skyrim but skyrim has more freedom the the witcher...overall I think that the witcher is the better game.

suplax
suplax

Awesome if you read at least 1 of andrej books.

Subaru1980
Subaru1980

Clearly one of the greatest games ever on the 360. I am not a big fan of RPGs, but here was really impressed. It has everything, a solid storyline, great characters, challenging gameplay. With Deux Ex: Human Revolution and Mass Effect 2, it's the game I enjoyed the most on the console.

1375alireza
1375alireza

why we should play game that dont have any interesting

1375alireza
1375alireza

I think its not good game because its so sexy

pedram-zero
pedram-zero

i don't know how 9.0

the gameplay is sick

the graphic is sick

really i have big problems to find where i have to go for missions(objectives).

the game is a biiiiiiig HEADACHE.

icebox98
icebox98

@pedram-zero make a sheety game complex and hard to play and people will vote 9/10. its like everyone wants to look veteran of wtf games......

Doomrul
Doomrul

Dark Mode weapons effects kill the game instantly. As soon as you complete first dark armour set (blasphemous or something) get ready to play the game in black and white ! No Mods to fix this or no response from CD Project whatsoever !

Atheosis
Atheosis

Finally got around to playing this, and I can't begin to comprehend how the annoying boss fights didn't get on the list of bad things.  Game is good overall, but man do the boss fights kill the game's momentum.

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings More Info

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  • First Released
    released
    • Macintosh
    • PC
    • + 2 more
    • Unix/Linux
    • Xbox 360
    The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is the sequel to developer CD Projekt's mature-themed fantasy role-playing game based on the works of author Andrzej Sapkowski.
    8.9
    Average Rating7266 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
    Developed by:
    CD Projekt Red Studio
    Published by:
    CD Projekt RED S.A., Atari, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Namco Bandai Games, CyberFront, CD Projekt Red Studio, Spike Chunsoft
    Genre(s):
    Action, Role-Playing
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    All Platforms
    Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Use of Drugs