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The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

"Thus, patch 2.0 continues to prove that CD Projekt cares about The Witcher and its fans as if they were its children."

While it is not an expansion or major revision like the original Witcher's Enhanced Edition, patch 2.0 for The Witcher 2 introduces some pretty significant changes and additions that might challenge what we think of as a patch.

The Tutorial

In response to common criticism (that I found undue), CD Projekt has instituted a new optional tutorial mini quest that explores the game's major gameplay systems in depth. The ten-minute module covers everything from movement and looting to alchemy and combat. After a combat-centric conclusion, the game even suggests a difficulty level. It told me to play on easy, which I promptly scoffed at, of course. Perhaps neatest of all, the tutorial quietly introduces the setting and flavor of the second major addition in 2.0.

The Arena

Geralt fights groups of enemies in an enclosed space to earn orens, equipment, levels, and points – all separate from the main game. Indeed, Geralt begins at level one, with poor equipment and few resources for survival. Once beaten, each progressively difficult fight gives Geralt a slight edge on the next: a level, a piece of equipment, and some orens.

The Arena is difficult. The enemies are always the same, despite difficulty, which means you can plan accordingly. There are also a few hands available for hire, but the Arena is nevertheless quite the challenge. Making it past the fourth round on anything but easy takes considerable work, and playing on easy doesn't earn you many points.

Leaderboard gurus will devour the points system, which shows up on the official forums for registered users. More points are awarded for higher difficulty settings as well as finishing moves, messy kills, and fancy moves, such as Aarding an enemy off the arena's cliff and into the ravine of the dead. Die once, however, and you no longer earn points. You can continue, but you will do so pointlessly. Unfortunately, due to a bug, I was unable to post my score of over 22,000 points, which would have made me second overall on the leaderboards at the time (absolutely not true any longer - check the leaderboards). That needs to be fixed.

This all makes the Arena harsh and inhospitable, but it's still rather fun and addictive. These fights require mastery of the battle system and are best approached after at least one playthrough. This all seems to be in an effort to make The Witcher more difficult for those who want such a challenge. Hence the final major addition in 2.0.

Dark Mode

Nestled between Hard mode and Insane mode, Dark features some unique equipment alongside a level of difficulty that is more tasking than Hard's yet free of Insane's no-death policy. I found early parts of the Prologue only moderately difficult, but a drowner can kill Geralt in two hits. I managed to kill an early mini-boss, but only by rolling about like an idiot for ten minutes. I have no illusions that the Prologue is by far the easiest segment of the game and that future encounters would have required more than I could give.

Miscellaneous

For me, the best changes are the small ones that might not get the attention they deserve. This is big, though: combat feels better. Geralts reacts more quickly, attacks are smoother, and targeting and parrying are refined. This is the battle system as it should be, and these changes help address one of the core game's only flaws. The customary bug fixes and small tweaks are present as well, which will likely go unnoticed, but not unappreciated. I wish I hadn't yet completed a second playthrough. Xbox 360 owners are in for a rare and polished gem.

Conclusion

Thus, patch 2.0 continues to prove that CD Projekt cares about The Witcher and its fans as if they were its children. The developers continue to lovingly adjust the game toward the ideal and consider fan concerns as well. With any other company, the Arena would likely be a mechanical and dull addition, but CD Projekt can't help but imbue even the smallest pieces of The Witcher 2 with the things that make it great: passion, humor, and beauty.


© 2011 Atari, CD Projekt RED STUDIO. All rights reserved.




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