The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings E3 2011 preview
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2011-06-16 Xbox 360 RPG M (Mature) CD Projekt RED / Atari

My review of The Witcher 2 was done just before leaving for E3, and yet there was so much more to say that I might "revisit" it later on. Getting to catch up with the team again a year later (with special cookie delivery) was memorable as usual, even more so for now seeing how Geralt's adventures would translate into the world of console gaming.

The presentation began with a brief introduction for those who weren't acquainted with Geralt and The Witcher franchise... wait, where the hell have those people been for the last few years anyway, under a rock?! And why are they at this demo for a sequel when they don't know of the first game? Anyway, as usual, I ramble. Summarizing, Geralt was presented as not your typical hero, not what you would expect to see, the game as a complex and mature RPG that gives you choices that are not exactly "black or white" and the world as a living interactive world that changes according to the choices you make.

Feedback from fans has been taken into consideration for updating and improving the game, such as fixing bugs or introducing new content. Speaking of content, all DLC released is free of charge, and the game itself is DRM-free.

As for the Xbox 360 version of Assassins of Kings, I should start by saying that the game won't be just a port of the PC version. The trailer for the console version wasn't just a compilation of scenes that we might have seen in the PC version, instead showing glimpses of different and new cutscenes in high-res, beautifully accompanied by Chopin (Nocturne No.15 in F minor, Op.55 No.1, by the way), and details such as facial expressions and textures are even more noticeable.

Adaptation is the key word for the developing of The Witcher 2 for the Xbox 360. Just as the PC version is a hardcore pure-blooded PC RPG experience, the Xbox version will also have to become a pure console experience. All the features that have made The Witcher 2 a great game will be fully implemented in the console version, and adapted to the new hardware.

The team believes that the game will be one of the most complex and mature games ever released on a console. And just as with the PC version, post-release support will also be available for the Xbox 360 version.

The live gameplay demo shown was a pre-alpha build, so not all the dialog options were there, some lip-synching and animations were missing, there were some bugs and glitches. But it looked fantastic, and I only wish my PC could have had graphics like that. The lighting effects were amazing and the detail on the textures was awe-inspiring, be it the glistening damp bricks on the dungeon walls or the severity of the scars on Geralt's back. That's one downside of The Witcher 2 for PC, you need a pretty powerful system to appreciate it in its full potential, so that is one thing that I am looking forward to by being able to play it on the 360.

The stage shown in the demo was the Prison Break, played in two different ways to demonstrate the non-linearity of not only choices but also the gameplay options. In one gameplay session, Geralt slices and dices his way out of jail, while in the other stealth is used to get past the guards undetected and find an exit. The great thing about seeing these two "walkthroughs" was that I got to see two other ways of finishing this part of the game, since my game was quite different because I killed a certain character. Choices that at the time didn't seem too important actually had an impact later on, and that is how our adventure goes.

While it is still too early to discuss details such as control mapping or button customization, we can assure that this will be a single-player experience as it was on the PC (just because it's console-oriented doesn't mean instant multiplayer, although I admit, I could live with dice poker against friends over XBL) and console-specific DLC may not be a reality, as it would seem unfair for those who own the PC version. The team emphasized that should there be more DLC in the future, it will be released for both platforms.

And before we start the argument "This is a PC game, you should just leave it as a PC game!", think of it this way... wouldn't you want gamers of other platforms to be able to experience the story and get to know Geralt as well? I know I would, and now I know my husband won't have that "... but it's on PC, I don't like sitting at my desk for a game!" argument to rely on as an excuse not to play it.

Personally I'm looking forward to see The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings in all its glory on my 50-inch TV! And judging by the tons of people passing by who would stop to stare at the big screen replaying the teaser over and over by the entrance of the West Hall, it's not just me looking forward to it. Now to wait until the end of the year...