The Witcher 2 begins as it means to go on: with nudity, torture, gore and more swearing than an Eminem box set. This is one dark fantasy RPG, and it’s strictly for grown-ups only.
It also exposes Xbox owners to a series that until now has been PC-only, and while some of the visual high notes have been muted in translation, The Witcher 2 still looks great – and more importantly, the game remains in tip-top shape.
The Witcher 2 drops players into the shoes of Geralt, an ash-haired monster hunter, caught up in a conspiracy to kill the rulers of the land. It’s a murky land, too – filled with racist peasants, scheming merchants, power-hungry politicians and alcoholic trolls.
Geralt’s adventure is more scripted than Skyrim’s, but it’s far from linear as every choice has ramifications that aren’t always obvious – which means that even the goodie-two-shoes options can bring unexpected results. It’s a clear and brilliant step forward from Mass Effect’s binary good-versus-evil choices.
With so many opportunities to make new enemies, it’s just as well that Geralt is handy with a sword – not to mention spell casting, potion brewing and trap setting. And to succeed, all these skills are needed – because failing to prepare for battle is a good way to get Geralt killed. The game encourages you to plan ahead, think tactically and decide what spells, traps and potions to employ before charging into battle, sword at the ready.
Action fans might find this approach a bit too thoughtful, but when your battle plans work out there’s a sense of reward that a more action-oriented approach would lack.
The only disappointments here are the occasionally wooden voice acting – and a tutorial that attempts to rectify the PC version’s trial-by-fire intro but is still mishandled. Get past that, though, and the rest of The Witcher 2 is downright magical.