The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings was an obvious choice for last year's best role-playing game - exciting and captivating story, a rich universe maybe stuck in fantasy's standard tropes but still managing to be atypical. Strong script, solid combat, dazzling visuals and a wealth of content.
Then came what Skyrim and stole all the attention.
But last year's very best role-playing-that-is-not-Skyrim was still a well-deserved success, especially when you consider that the game was only released on PC. And now that the game also has landed on Xbox 360, that success will only grow greater.
It's been almost a year since The Witcher 2 was released on PC, and the developers at CD Projekt Red have certainly not been idle in the meantime. The PC game has been regularly updated, expanded and polished, most recently with the 2.0 patch, which introduced a new arena-game type, adjusted the difficulty, adding a tutorial to introduce players to the most important mechanics both within and outside of battle (and thus fixing one of the main shortcomings the game originally had).
All these improvements Xbox 360 owners also benefit from, meaning this console release is a more polished one than the original of a year ago.
Those tweaks don't equate to the "Enhanced Edition" subtitle though. CD Projekt Red has had graphic artists, designers and writers working the past twelve months to offer brand new content.
The result is a beautiful pre-rendered intro that sets the mood and - more importantly - a bunch of new side quests, which adds about four hours of gameplay to the game's already considerable length.
Otherwise, most of the old - the rest of the game - has survived the conversion to Xbox 360 intact. We still play as Geralt of Rivia, the Witcher - part-sniffer dog, mutant and specialist in killing monsters.
He's accused of a royal murder he didn't commit and sets out to find the real killer, partly to prove his innocence, partly because the assassin plans to spill more royal blood - and partly because he too is a Witcher, and can solve some of our hero's forgotten past.
The game world is still a dirty and unfriendly place filled with hate, the power-hungry and racists. The non-human races such as elves and dwarves are deeply marginalised; some wage an open guerrilla war with the humans. Danger and intrigue lurk on every corner, and you need to watch your tongue: the story branches to such an extend that depending on your choices you'll miss at least a quarter of all the content first time through.
CD Projekt Red's conversion of the game from PC to Xbox 360 is simply exemplary. It looks great, and the complex combat system is mapped neatly and elegantly to the control pad. At no time do I miss the original mouse and keyboard setup.
The console does show the divide between it and the PC when it comes to visuals. Witcher 2 was originally designed to utilize all the PC's horsepower, offering a game considerably nicer to the console take. Simultaneously, you will probably also notice a little more loading when one moves around the game world. Yet despite these technical limitations the game still looks terrific.
If you already have the PC version of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, then there is little reason to buy Xbox 360-version too - especially because all current owners of the PC game will get a free update that'll include all the new enhancements found in the console version.
But if you enjoy the genre, and have yet to play Witcher 2 the conclusion is clear. One of last year's best role-playing games has become just a few notches better, and you have even the slightest bit of interest in the genre, you should head straight down to the nearest game pusher and ensure you a copy. The Witcher 2 is just as breathtaking with sofa and pad as it was with the keyboard and mouse.
9 / 10
+ Excellent conversion
+ New content on top of an already large amount
+ gripping story,
+ beautiful graphics