The Game of the Year.
The art direction in this game is bound to get some awards at the end of the year. It is disturbing just to look at the distant vistas that are missing from so many games. The first Witcher pulled that off on occasion. Such areas as The Lake provided you with the feeling like you were in a big world even though you were confined to an average-size area. Witcher 2 takes this to another level. Not only do you get to enjoy the distant cascading vistas that are staggered by layers and layers of the nearby and the faraway horizons, you also get to enjoy the near environments teeming with life. Yes, we have seen some impressive NPC behavior in the past but this time, the behavior of some of the NPC is near unpredictable. And don't expect them to stand around this time and have same faces.
I was able to import my last saves from the first game - which supposedly influences some of the dialogue between the characters. Some of the events are also going to be influenced, supposedly...
The long loading times when you enter a new area or even a small house are gone now. Also, if you walk inside someone's premises, you will be amazed by the attention to detail. They devs haven't missed anything on this one.
In general, Witcher 2 instantly sucks you in with its immense ambience. I cannot even begin to describe the feelings I had when I was walking through the forest for the first time. Sometimes I find myself standing still in the forest and attempting to look as far as I can and behind every tree you can see another tree and so on...I have never seen anything like it. I also love the background blur.
Do not expect this game to be easy though. It is pretty hard. The combat system takes a while to get used to. You will have to time your attacks with almost near precision. Not only that, you will have to combine your regular attacks with your special attacks to cause the maximum amount of damage. The battle system in the first game was sort of a war of attrition. You would usually be surrounded by enemies and you'd have to quickly switch in between your fighting moves to finish everyone off before you yourself died. It will probably take you a while to be able to come out of the fights near-unscathed. So at first you will most likely die and die and die.
The game however, gives you plenty of opportunity to roam around and collect herbs before you get into doing heavy quests. In most RPG's, there is no indication of how hard one or another quest is going to be. But we always assume that we will be able to complete it. This game does not let you do that.
And unlike the first game that heavily required the use of potions on the Hardest mode, this game require the use of potions on the Medium mode. This time, you really have to look for those ingredients.
The ironic thing is that even if you are able to stuff your pockets with the ingredients, you still only know the very basic alchemy at the beginning of the game. So using the temporary oils that will temporarily enhance your melee attacks is essential.
Quests. Ok, do you remember all those silly fetching quests in Dragon Age 2 that take place on the same areas over and over again? Now you can forget about all that. I cannot believe that the writers of these games still haven't run out of original ideas for the secondary quests.
I am also happy to see some of the Witcher 1 monsters coming back. Not to mention the fact that they look better and move more realistically.
Just like with the first game, there is this dichotomy present within human interactions. On one hand, you are the monster slayer, but you are not necessarily the protector of the people. So do not expect to always find sympathizers and allies within the immediate human communities. The racial tensions are still here too and there's plenty of vulgarity to go around.
The soundtrack is perfect. Does anyone remember "Peaceful Moments" from the first game? You'll hear plenty of that here.
There are also easter eggs pertaining to Assassin's Creed and to the Lord of the Rings.
Anyways, I never gave any game a "10" (most self-respecting GS users don't), but this game truly deserves it. I really cannot see much wrong with it and I've been playing it since midnight. One thing that is annoying is the disappearing bodies and the ability to loot people's homes without any repercussion. In addition, you really DO have to think ahead and anticipate the movement of your foes.
All in all, I got myself a collector's edition. If anyone can afford to get it, please get it - the devs need our support. I won't hesitate to say that this is the most beautiful game ever created.
Update (5-19-11). I see many people complaining about the prologue dragon chase. I'm not sure why that 1 minute segment would factor in so much that it would diminishing the game's rating. I only died about 3 times in this sequence, and I'm playing on Hard mode. Here's a tip. Don't go left, go right and kill the two enemies there. Then wait for your squad (Triss, Folset) to finish off everyone on the left side of the area, then follow them. In end, you don't have to fight all enemies in that first prologue, your AI partners will do the job for you, and you don't have to be running away from the dragon all over the place - voila! pretty easy.