The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings Extended Edition is easily one of the most impressive games to ever appear on the Xbox 360. Although the series has its roots firmly planted on the PC, developer CD Projekt Red proved that the 360’s six-year-old hardware isn’t as antiquated as the system specs would have you believe. I think it is important to preface this review by noting the phenomenal development achievement that The Witcher 2 represents on a purely technical level – thankfully however, it also delivers one of the most fully featured and content heavy role-playing experiences to date.

The Witcher 2 puts you in control of Geralt of Rivia, who as the title would suggest is a Witcher. Witchers are essentially a brotherhood of genetically modified mercenaries whose purpose in life is to slay monsters and supernatural beings. Unlike the knights in shining armor that more traditional fantasy narratives would paint them as, the job of a Witcher is a thankless profession which sees an ignorant population only tolerating their existence while never accepting them as anything more then the swords which they carry on their backs.

The Witcher series tows an almost even line between the political intrigue of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice series, and more traditional fantasy affairs such as those based on as Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. While the subjugation of elves and dwarves within the game world acts as little more then an attempt at making some sort of veiled commentary about racism, the political machinations are what really shine throughout.

As the title would suggest, regicide plays the central role of the The Witcher 2′s narrative. Having been framed for the murder of a king, Geralt sets out in search of the real killer in order to uncover the conspiracy behind the killing of kings. I am hesitant to go into too much more of the story, as it is one of the main reasons to pick up the game. Besides falling apart a bit towards the end, The Witcher 2 still spins a reasonably interesting tale throughout its duration.

Coming off of a game like Skyrim, I was under the impression that you couldn’t get much more role play centric then a game in the Elder Scrolls series, but The Witcher 2 proved me wrong. Very, very wrong. The shear number of combat situations and strategies that need to be employed in order to stay alive are as varied as they are complex. Being a Witcher, Geralt has a number of different tools at his disposal for surviving each encounter. Potions provide temporary buffs to health, damage or armor, while devices such as traps and bombs can be used to swing the flow of battle in your favor. The challenge in learning how to succeed at the combat system comes with an understanding of how to manage a crowd, where mobility and damage avoidance become the keys to victory.

The three upgrade paths (magic, alchemy, swordsman), allow the player to explore different ways of catering the game to their suited play style. I found myself wandering down the swordsman path most often, as I came to enjoy the countering and abilities that came with the path. The end of each path gives access to some truly game altering abilities that make the difficulty of the game seem trivial as you mash your way through encounters without having to be aware of your health or mana. Oddly enough, I found the hardest encounters to be ones that took place in the prologue while I was still unfamiliar with how to proceed during combat. By giving the player access to such game breaking techniques and abilities, the overall impact of the combat was lessened dramatically. This isn’t to say I found myself bored, just less interested – much in the same way I felt about the combat in Skyrim after 60 hours.

Despite a combat system that falls apart towards the end of the game, The Witcher 2 isn experience that fans of the genre shouldn’t miss. It is still probably an experience better suited for the PC, but if your rig isn’t up to the task, the Xbox version is more then enough to realize the beautifully rendered and detailed world that CD Prokjekt Red worked so hard to create.

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