When The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings was released on PC last year it was met with almost universal critical acclaim – including our own glowing review. However, as with almost every successful PC title, gamers pondered how long it would take until a console port was released. Well, wonder no longer as The Witcher 2 is coming to Xbox 360 later this month.
However this is no mere rush job port, in fact there have been so many changes made that you could very easily consider this a brand new game. The new features added in the Xbox version include a brand new control scheme designed for the 360 controller, new character animations and cut scenes, and additional missions offering around four hours of new content.
One criticism of the PC original that critics identified is that it threw players right in at the deep end with very little explanation on how to actually play the thing. As a result of this many players found themselves bamboozled and mystified by the dozens of sub menus and inventory slots, and it wasn’t until they had invested hours in the experience that they finally felt like they knew what they were doing. In response to this CD Project Red have remedied this situation including a short tutorial that teaches you the gameplay basics.
The tutorial begins with our protagonist Geralt emerging from a river, soaked to the bone, outside of a small village. Just up the road he comes across the body of a man that has been brutally murdered. Setting the tone perfectly, your first task is to swap your soaking wet shoes for the lovely dry boots belonging to the dead person. Further up the road another man lies severely wounded and your first task to create a healing potion for him.
By clicking the left stick you can activate Geralt’s medallion, sending out a radial beam that highlights any interactive objects. This acts as a decent alternative to the breadcrumb trail in Fable, or Dead Space’s guiding light, helping players find their objective without holding their hands too much.
Once you have administered the potion the grateful man gives you his invitation to participate in the Arena, a place where (as the name suggests) you fight for sport. It is here that the tutorial teaches the basics of combat, including weapon training and offensive spell casting.
Anyone that has ever played the Fable series will likely feel right at home with the combat. You have heavy and light attacks, magical powers, and a dodge button at your disposal, all mapped to the face buttons. The key to defeating enemies is to lock on, doge their attacks, and strike when they are exposed. You also have a counter attack and a parry at your disposal, making for some deep satisfying battles.
Geralt has a significant number of spells in his arsenal, ranging from aggressive powers such as fireballs and bolts of electricity, to more passive skills such as damage resisters and a spell that possesses enemies and makes them fight on his side. Holding the left bumper brings up a power selection wheel (which also has the added bonus of slowing down time while you select your spells) giving you easy access to every spell in Geralt’s repertoire.
Once the tutorial is out of the way the main story begins. To talk any further about plot details would likely spoil it for you, but, sufficed to say, I came away from the game feeling excited and looking forward to spending more time with it in the near future.
The Witcher 2 impressed me with it’s strong narrative, superb voice acting, varied gameplay – ranging from brutal flowing combat to stealthy exploration – and its deeply complex morality system. Unlike other games with clear-cut morality systems, such as Mass Effect, in The Witcher 2 doing what you think is morally right invariably has unintended consequences further down the line. This makes almost every decision you’re faced with a genuinely conflicting experience. If you’re anything like me, and always try to do what you think is right, then you may find it challenging to face up to the consequences of taking the moral high ground.
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition is due to be released on Xbox 360 on 19th April in the UK. PC owners will be pleased to hear that all of the additional content included in the Xbox version will be made available to them at no extra charge.
- Luke Mears