PAX East 2012: The Witcher 2: Assassin’s of Kings Enhanced Edition Impressions

I’ve always been curious about the Witcher but due to my lack of PC horsepower, it’s really not something I’ve ever been to dive into.  With the amount of hype my buddy at work talks about the series though, this console port has really gotten my attention.  Still, porting a PC exclusive title over to a console is easier said than done right?  CD Projekt Red has been working real hard on making the Xbox version sing just as well as the PC version and thankfully, Warner Brothers brought the game along with them to this year’s expo. 

Picking up the controller for the first time, I was greeted by a developer who asked if I’d like a run down of the controls and a little background.  Sure, I said and soon enough I was learning the ins and outs of The Witcher.  The demo gave me access to the many spells and potions along with a large Silver Sword (for monsters, I was told) and a more traditional blade.  The left bumper called up a Mass Effect style radial wheel which let you select weapons/spells/potions on the fly.  The one difference here is that using this radial menu does not pause the game.  It slows time way down, but things are still happening on-screen.  Another thing I noticed is that the spell names are all written in this runic language so trying to figure out which was the fireball spell as compared to something like a shield was tricky at first.

The gameplay section on display was an early section of the game, most likely the tutorial zone where you’re tasked with breaking a siege and protecting the king of the castle.  If I wanted to, I could have easily gotten away with spamming the quick attack button but I was assured that this wouldn’t be possible as the game progressed.  Also, this was an introductory zone so it makes sense on that front.  The combat was very satisfying as you have quick attack, heavy attack, dodge, and block commands at your disposal.  I messed around with the spells a bit and once I got used to the naming system, I found this to be another strong element of combat.  Nothing quite like charming an enemy and having him fight for you.

Visually speaking the game looks fantastic though probably not as good as it’s PC counterpart.  Doesn’t mean it’s still not a looker on console however.  The colors are vibrant, light and shadows look realistic, and the cutscenes are well animated.  I also didn’t experience any technical issues like screen tearing or glitchy segments so that’s another big plus.  Overall, the game played well and was very smooth.  I was also very impressed with the control scheme and layout as trying to configure controls from a PC to a controller can be difficult especially because you don’t have nearly the amount of buttons as you do with a keyboard.  Not so here as the mappings on the controller feel natural and also very easy to understand and use effectively.  If you’ve played an RPG in the past like Dragon Age for example, Witcher 2 will feel familiar.

I was very impressed with how well the game has been ported over to a console.  I know how hard CD Projekt Red has been working on making a seamless transition and even getting the controls just right.  In my opinion, they’ve done a great job and any doubts/questions I had coming in have been removed.  Bring on next week!

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