The Witcher 2: Assassins Of Kings is generally considered to be an astounding RPG triumph: an unflinching, mature and open exploration of adult themes and the blurred lines between true good and evil. Dave awarded CD Projekt Red's effort with a laudible 9/10 score in our full review... and the Polish powerhouse isn't finished with their masterpiece yet. Version 2.0 promises to add a host of tweaks, improvements and new features to the package for free when it releases at the end of next month - and will provide the framework for an Xbox 360 port that promises to be "the most complex RPG on consoles."
We've got the full details below thanks to a demonstration from CD Projekt, starting with the Version 2.0 update.
First things first. Version 2.0 will hit as a completely free patch on 29th September, available via automatic update through your client of choice. It contains as much content as most premium DLC packs; including extra content, bug fixes and technical enhancements without players needing to pay a penny for the privilege.
Let's get technical, baby. Version 2.0 will contain over 20 new technical and gameplay enhancements on top of the 100 fixes that have already been implemented via automatic update. Chief amongst them is the tutorial, which has now been reworked in order to "help players fully enjoy the game from the very beginning... allowing them to be gradually and smoothly immersed in the game world." Or in other words: they fixed what was one of the few truly broken parts of an otherwise exceptional game. All nine previous DLC packs will also be installed.
Version 2.0 also bolts a new and "intensely challenging" difficulty mode on to the experience. Dark Setting is nearly as difficult as Insane, but allows players to save their game and throws new, unique challenges in their direction from time to tome. Dark setting will also include a unique set of Dark gear, comprising three new sets of dark armour and three new sets of dark swords (3 silver, 3 steel). "Other dark themes and elements" have also been teased, so we'll keep you posted.
The Arena Mode provides the major new addition to the Witcher 2 formula: an infinitely replayable standalone "horde mode" that pits Geralt against progressive waves of incoming enemies. Players will be able to upgrade abilities, weapons, armour and purchase hirelings to help in combat... and you'll need everything you can get in order to fend off the new Werewold enemy type. Seamless Facebook and forum integration will allow players to post their high scores onto the net, which should hopefully spark some exciting leaderboard rivalries.
Xbox 360 Version: "The Most Complex RPG On The Xbox"
CD Projekt doesn't want the Xbox 360 version to be a simple port or a cheap and lazy knock-off that nerfs content in order to fit into tight hardware requirements. Rather, they're lavishing the project with a huge amount of resources and attention in order to make it feel like The Witcher 2 was specifically designed as an Xbox exclusive. It will contain absolutely everything that the PC version offers (including the new content from the Version 2.0 update), with a few mechanical tweaks to make the combat feel immediately accessible on a controller.
For example, the slow-motion radial ability selection wheel popularised by Mass Effect now replaces the standard ability menus, allowing players to intuitively deploy their skills and magic in the middle of pitched battles. A number of games tend to fall back on this technique (including 2K's XCOM reboot), but there. The tutorial will also be further enhanced in order to grant console players, especially those who haven't played the original game, the skills they'll need.
Graphically, from what I could see, CD Projekt's proprietary REDengine looks extremely competent on the Xbox 360. Detailed textures and fluid animations are bolstered by small ambient flourishes like falling leaves and vibrant wildlife, with advanced features such as lighting occlusion and advanced post-processing effects providing a seriously attractive proposition. The Witcher 2 is no slouch when it comes to the visuals, and it's set to look great on Microsoft's console.
However, I was personally surprised by the choice of a foggy forest level as the showcase for the Xbox 360 version's graphical capabilities rather than a sweeping open vista. It will be interesting to see whether this mist hides a substantially reduced clipping plane.
With all the content of the PC version, The Witcher 2 deserves to flourish on the Xbox 360. We'll keep you up to date with the latest ahead of its 2012 release date.