Geralt a load of this.

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings was last year’s RPG sequel to the 2007 critical classic that flew fairly under the commercial radar; an ambitious production focused on morality and consequence in a realpolitik-type world. Based on a series of fantasy novelizations by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, The Witcher was not about heroes and villains; it was about the grayness of life, and the shades of sin. While that might seem a rather pretentious proposition for a video game, both the original game and its sequel pulled it off with an incredibly intricate and beautiful world balanced with some great third-person combat.The Enhanced Edition of the Witcher 2 is more or less what you’d expect it to be: there are a few well-placed refinements here and there, but their subtlety goes a long way in delivering the greatest version of the game yet.

The Witcher 2 is divided into several acts, significantly so, because each section of the story has you making choices that will have a great impact on the overarching plot. You take control of Geralt of Rivia, a Witcher – a monster-hunter with superhuman abilities. Geralt has been indicted with assassinating King Foltest of Temeria, after the monarch’s untimely demise at the end of the first game. Breaking loose from his captors with the aid of a guard, it becomes incumbent upon Geralt that he chase down the king’s true slayer. But the road is long and littered with political obstacles, and the Witcher will have to bend alliances, bed a healthy (or perhaps unhealthy) number of women, and slaughter armies of human and inhuman foes alike to reach its end. This diplomatic demand is where the game steps above the serfdom of its lesser competitors.

It wouldn’t be an RPG without a massive dragon.

Much like the recently released Mass Effect 3, the world is a clash of conspiring forces and much of its intrigue is in how you manage to talk your way into and out of situations, and how you, as this grunt of a brawler, use your guile and oration to direct the pieces of a much larger medieval-era chessboard. Needless to say, fans of the hit television series ‘Game of Thrones’ will have much to lose sleep over.

Witchcraft

The way Assassins of Kings blurs the black-and-white boundaries of the traditional role-playing morality paradigm is even more enticing. Unlike a lot of other games in the genre – hell, unlike a lot of other games, period – The Witcher 2 will force you to make key choices that don’t necessarily scream ‘Paragon’ or ‘Renegade’, but this is what makes the decisions in the game so brilliantly consequential: because you may genuinely regret or question the choice to betray a fellow squad member, even if it meant sacrificing an objective or the life of another. In this way, the game becomes much more human than anything before it, and with a number of endings and possible arcs, the replayability is high here. The Enhanced Edition features additional quests, as well as some extra cool cinematics for good measure, including a prologue and epilogue cutscene that cater a bit to those who might have missed The Witcher five years ago.

Using potions and bombs will come to be a reliable resort, as the close-quartered contests are often harrowing.

As powerful and captivating as the story is, the combat of the Witcher II is a solid counterpoint. Thankfully, included in this enhanced package is a tutorial mode, an appreciated addition that’s just enough to get your feet wet before you discover how tough the game can be. Much of your attacking consists of blade and dagger, but alchemy and magic also play a big part of the fighting. Leveling up with a customary skill tree is straightforward, allocations allowed for each of the aforementioned attack options. Using potions and bombs will come to be a reliable resort, as the close-quartered contests are often harrowing. A warning to the weary: The Witcher II is not an easy game. The system is strategic, not unlike the methodical melee mayhem in Dark Souls, and its difficulty is equally as challenging, but again, this is a very human game, and so the tribulations you’ll face throughout this lengthy crusade are contextual.

If you go down to the woods today you’re sure of a big surprise.

Beauty And The Beastly Rig

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition is slightly more appealing on the PC than the Xbox 360, but that’s of course assuming you’ve got the rig to run it at its maximum settings. If you’ve got the choice, you’ll want to opt for the former, but whatever you’re running the game on, it looks incredible all the same. Aside from occasional texture loading and a few minor bugs that don’t do any more damage than obscure an object or result in some clipping, the nitpicks are negligible as the grass, stone, and sky are all diligently detailed and complement both the depth and the darkness of the story, doing their part in drawing you into the Witcher’s world. The game makes use of Bioware’s Aurora engine, and quite obviously; the lighting and shadows, in particular, as well as the dialogue windows in conversation, are dead give-aways. And the buxom babes Geralt is consistently bedding greatly benefit from an all-around sharp presentation. This was a beautiful game last year and still is, and for Xbox 360 users, few ports look as good.

There are a few other note-worthy improvements to mention that Enhanced owners will take comfort in. For one thing, micro-managing in your inventory is a lot easier thanks to a rebuffed storage system. For another, controlling Geralt seems more fluid and responsive than in the original, with button mapping (for Xbox 360 users) airing on the side of convenience. These may seem like negligible tweaks, but they also smooth out the rough edges of what was otherwise an already brilliant game.

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition was reviewed on Xbox 360.

King Of Kings

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