This is exactly what the doctor ordered, because once you get over the initial difficulty hump The Witcher 2 is one of the most compelling RPGs of the last few years. From the moment you set foot in the small harbour town of Flotsam – the game’s first hub – there’s always a wealth of things to do, whether it’s getting hold of any witcher’s most essential monster-mangling tool – a silver sword - or hacking away at the local population of flesh-eating wretches.
There are quests and side quests a-plenty. As part of the Enhanced Edition, quests originally provided as additional DLC are now intergrated within the main game, and there are even new exclusive quests thrown in on top. Like any truly great RPG, you can lose yourself in the Witcher 2 for weeks on end.
Most of all, there’s a sense throughout that your choices matter. As in Bioware’s games, The Witcher 2 is awash with dialogue trees, but here it’s less about deciding whether you want to be a paragon of virtue or the badass that gets things done, and more about simply working your way through a brutal and unforgiving world.
There are moral choices to be made, but it’s a rather shady kind of morality that keys in with the game’s dark atmosphere, and many of your actions have real consequences. And while the experience system doesn’t quite provide the same range of options that you have in Amalur or Skyrim – Geralt is primarily a swordsman, not a sorcerer – there’s still plenty of scope to chisel out your own character, and adapt him for your own style of play.
Technically, The Witcher 2 is a bit of a triumph. The wonder of the PC version was its rich textural detail and excellent lighting, which combined to make some of the most believable characters, creepy dungeons and sun-dappled forests we’ve seen in a fantasy RPG.
The world of the game was a great one to explore because, for all its grim-ness, it was beautiful. Amazingly, this still holds true of the console version. The PC version has sharper and more detailed textures, but the Xbox 360 version doesn’t have the flat, washed-out look that spoilt Dragon Age and its sequel, and the revamped lighting system is actually better and more naturalistic in some ways (though if pushed we’d say we’d prefer the original’s more cinematic look).
There are some minor issues, with textures popping in from time to time and the odd spot of tearing, but the frame rate stays consistent throughout. Overall, the Witcher 2 is a glowing testament to how good a console port can be when the team behind it puts in enough thought, expertise and time.
That doesn’t mean The Witcher 2 is perfect. There’s still a sense that this is a game for the established RPG fanbase, and that If you don’t already know about the importance of crafting, pre-battle prep and reading the comprehensive in-game journal at every opportunity, then... tough.
The wealth of missions available can sometimes be a curse, and you’ll find yourself steered towards a quest that you’ll actually be incapable of doing unless you have other things in place first. Luckily, having already played the game before, we already realised that we wouldn’t get far without that all-important silver sword, but not everyone will realise this is the case.
It would be stupid to criticise a game because it demands that players put in some effort – after all, without some complexity an RPG just isn’t an RPG – but The Witcher 2 could do a slightly better job of helping players focus their energies in the right direction. CD Projekt is obviously trying, and frequently succeeding, but it still hasn't quite got there yet.
If you are an experienced RPG player, or if you’re keen to tackle a fantasy epic with plenty of meat, then this Enhanced Edition of The Witcher 2 is a must. For once we have a console version of a PC RPG that doesn’t look or feel like a calculated insult, and that in some ways provides a smoother and more welcoming experience than the original. It’s a great game reaching out for a wider audience. It richly deserves to grab one.