The Witcher 2 was one of the must-have titles of early 2011 and we gave the game a glowing review as a legitimate competitor against Skyrim. One small problem with the game was that it was only available to PC gamers.
This all changed during E3 2011 when it was announced by Microsoft that the game will be making its way to the Xbox 360. At PAX East 2012 we got to play some of the extra content included in The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition.
First off, the game looks amazing. While it’s not as good as the PC version on a high-end gaming rig, it’s still one of the more impressive looking titles on the Xbox 360. The CD Projekt RED representative we spoke with was a quest designer, and was unable to go into detail about what visual trickery was done to make it look so good.
The additional content coming with the transition from PC to Xbox does not make major changes to the game’s story, though player input does see some alterations with the game getting optimized for the controller experience and the camera being tweaked for the console. The camera now positions itself dynamically with little manual player control required, though players can position it if they wish.
The major change for this game comes from the combat gameplay. Longtime fans of action RPGs will feel right at home with The Witcher 2 on the Xbox 360. The sword-play feels very natural with the 360 controller – Using X for strong attacks and the A button for fast attacks. Y is reserved for spells and B is used for rolling.
One thing players will be interested in is how spells and other items are handled in the 360 version. The Witcher 2 for Xbox has a new radial menu system that makes selecting spells and other equipment easy for console users. Hitting the left bumper brings up the radial menu with spells, traps, bombs etc. Players can select which spell they want to execute with the Y button while this menu is open. You can also drop traps and bombs with the right bumper.
Time freezes while in this radial menu so players don’t have to worry about getting attacked while switching managing inventory. Having all of the attacks and the spells right at your fingertips works very well at the control layout feels natural with a controller.
A big draw for Xbox 360 owners will be the four hours of additional content shipping with the game. One of the levels we played at PAX East was in a new forest area. We were sent on an escort mission where the main character, Geralt, must accompany a character named Brigita to safety. This level takes place in act 3 of the game and it was included because PC players expressed that they wished this part of the game was a bit longer.
It’s during this level that we were able to give the controls a whirl, taking down foes with fast and furious combinations of spells and swords. My skills were lacking however, because – I am ashamed to say – I failed this mission and Brigita was killed. Similar to role-playings games like Mass Effect where consequences are part of the game, the ending is determined by the choices the player makes throughout The Witcher 2. Unfortunately, if I were playing the full game the Brigita storyline – which is pretty extensive – wouldn’t be something I would’ve been able to fully experience.
Speaking of story, the Xbox version of the game also comes with new characters and new quests along with the new locations mentioned earlier. In order to guide new players who aren’t familiar with the Witcher brand into the story, a new introductory movie was made. This move is reminicent to the the Mass Effect 2 release for PS3, where a intro comic was made for those who didn’t experience the original.
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is shaping up to be a must-have Xbox 360 title for RPG fans just as it was on the PC. PC players shouldn’t be jealous of their console counterparts because all the extra content will simultaneously launch on both Xbox 360 and PC. To top it all off, those who purchased the original PC version will be able to get all the new content for free.
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition will launch for PC and Xbox 360 on April 17th. Be sure to keep you eyes here for more out of PAX East 2012.
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