Previews// The Witcher 2: Enhanced Edition

Posted 8 Mar 2012 17:00 by
Times change, and with it people, tastes and video game genres change. Perhaps the type of game that has seen the biggest transformation in the past console generation is the RPG. Once was a proud numbers game full of stats and solitary adventure, is now full of third-person action and Hollywood cinematics. CD Projekt is here to take it all back.

Well, in terms of philosophy at the very least. While The Witcher on PC was praised for re-introducing the world to the more hardcore, statistical elements of the Role Playing Game, it was also a title that adhered to modern-day design and gameplay mechanics. The result was a title that is largely seen as one of the best RPGs on the platform in recent years.

The Witcher 2 arrived on PC last year to similar acclaim, and is now arriving on the Xbox 360 as an ?Enhanced Edition.? So what?s changed? Well, an awful lot when you consider the trials and tribulations most developers have in translating a game from PC to console. For a start, CD Projekt isn?t calling this a port, rather an ?adaptation.?

I?m told that a whole lot of content has been re-coded and the codebase restructured so that it all purrs when running on Microsoft?s black box. But, this hasn?t come at the cost of content - lead artist Mark Ziemak said that removing content from the PC version was simply not an option. Instead, CD Projekt have added bonus material - the Xbox 360 version will get four hours of extra gameplay, consisting of two new major adventures, new characters to interact with and fresh locations to explore.

The new quests have come from mixed sources - partly from a combination of ideas that the studio had when it finished work on the PC version of the game, and partly as a result of player feedback. Throw in a new camera system, the ability to lock onto targets (which is pretty much a staple of console-based third-person action games these days) and improved character panels and controls, and it?s clear to see that The Witcher 2 on Xbox 360 is no rush job.

Clearly CD Projekt have a lot more of this tale to tell as well - the Enhanced Edition will include some 33 minutes of brand new movies that help explain some of the backstory of hero Geralt the Witcher and the world of Temeria. This includes a rather incredible-looking CGI intro movie that sees a royal ship - with a deck set up like a castle hall, featuring jesters performing for a drunken king - get sabotaged by a big hulking chap with a bad attitude.

If you?ve not played The Witcher 2 before, this nefarious beefcake plays a massive part in the game?s storyline. He?s the man that has killed King Foltest of Temeria and framed his close ally, a Witcher called Geralt, as the culprit. The accusation on Geralt is bad enough, but when you consider that Witchers have something of a superstition attached to them - largely due to their somewhat supernatural behaviour and their dabbling with performance-enhancing elixir - Geralt?s innocence is sullied even further.

Playing through the prologue, you get to experience a rather interesting way of being introduced to the game?s mechanics and nuances. Geralt?s in prison and, after a good roughing up by castle guards, is sitting in an interrogation room with security man Roche. You then play through Geralt?s recollections of the fateful day the King was murdered - in any order you please. These will lead you through several introductory gameplay sequences, that focus on stealth and attack.

The incident in question involves a castle siege, led by one Aryan La Valette - the son of the old baron La Valette and Mary Louisa La Valette. Louisa, recently the King?s mistress, made demands that the royal could not begin to satisfy, and as a result her son has locked Foltest out of his own kingdom and has orchestrated a coup. Geralt?s job is to help the King regain his throne and fight back all the traitors.

Graphically, it?s looking stunning for an Xbox 360 game, with the sun-kissed kingdom of Temeria a shining example of the vibrant colour palette that CD Projekt is taking advantage of here. This is not some grim, dark, dank world, but a visually appealing and fascinating one.

The controls have been well thought-through and implemented too, with a weapons wheel set to LB that allows you to arm yourself with potions, weapons and other traps. Pressing A in this menu sends you into a meditate menu, allowing you create potions, level up your abilities from experience points and to pass time to access day and night missions. Clicking the Left Stick will allow you to access your medallion and scan the surrounding area for items.

You can create your own potions to enhance your skills and regain health, but they each have their own toxicity level - meaning you can get poisoned and have decreased stats quite easily. Armed with a silver sword to take on paranormal enemies and a steel sword for human foes, combat is a mixture of fine-tuned strategy and good old-fashioned thwacking.

So it certainly looks like CD Projekt is doing the game justice on the Xbox 360. The studio is also really kicking things into gear with the fan-service here. The Standard Edition comes with a 2-DVD game, an OST, map and a handbook. Going for the Dark Edition at retail comes with an extra artbook, stickers, medallion and a making-of DVD. And best of all? PC peoples get free patch for Enhanced Edition. Now that?s service.

The Witcher 2: Enhanced Edition will be released on Xbox 360 and PC, as well as a free patch for The Witcher 2 PC players, on 17th April.

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