I've been playing the hell out of the Enhanced Edition for PC (DRM free, thank you CD Projekt Red) and having a damn good time. I've been playing on Dark difficulty from the get-go, masochist that I am, and I have to say that I consider it pretty damn challenging. At several points such as the first Letho fight I considered lowering the difficulty, which is quite an accomplishment. It did get easier as I unlocked a wider range of abilities later on, but I certainly wouldn't describe it as "trivially easy." If you're not careful, even the most common of encounters will fuck you up. Playing on Dark difficulty also grants access to some unique powerful "cursed" armor sets, though drawing the swords it comes with causes a stupid visual effect that drains color from the screen and really should have been optional.
As much as I enjoyed the storyline in the first game, I got much more out of the sequel, mostly due to more cutscenes and less dialogue sequences, and much better overall voice-acting. It's also nice that you don't see so many character faces recycled over the course of the game which makes it easier to identify with individual characters. The story reminds me of an HBO drama in a lot of ways in that the machinations of the world are incredibly complicated and demand the viewer/player pay close attention. While I was able to follow the general story, there were several details I didn't quite grasp during my first playthrough that became clearer in my second. Since I was really intrigued by the universe, this approach worked for me. It works much better than Bioware's never ending spews of exposition. I'd rather be a little confused than treated like I'm stupid.
I find it pretty cool how differently the second chapter unfolds depending on your choice in the first. I took Roche's path originally and am now trying Iorveth's. Sadly apart from that, my choices didn't feel as weighty as they did in the first game. I didn't find myself carefully considering my actions and speculating about their consequences as much as before. I was also a little disappointed with how much shorter the game feels. The prologue actually feels longer than the third chapter and epilogue combined. By the time the game had ended I badly wanted there to be more, though I suppose that's better than tiring of the first games fetch quests and spending the last 5-10 hours desperately rushing to get to the end. I can also see myself coming back to the Witcher 2 down the road much more than I can for the first game.
The combat is now much more involved than the Aard and Igni spam of the first game. It's not as refined as I'd like it to be, particularly with the lock-on. It can be quite frustrating when your sign or bomb goes towards a target you didn't intend, and it's quite awkward to switch targets. But overall I prefer this more challenging experience that demands you use every tool at your disposal. The boss fights and set piece moments also add some nice variety and excitement, as do the more cinematic finishers. I lol'd the first time I sent an enemy soaring off a cliff with the Aard sign.
My other big criticism is with the visuals. While the game looks great overall, the environmental pop-in as you run around can be a bit of an eye-sore, particularly in the last chapter. Things like grass and rocks will pop up ten feet in front of you as you approach. From what I've read online, this is just how the game was developed to allow for such lush environments without insane system requirements. There's also a bit of unsightly clipping on character models here and there like with Geralt's hair or Henselt's medallion. It's also rather annoying that I can run the game with everything maxed other than ubersampling and get a nice smooth framerate but will encounter crashes every 30 minutes. I'm thinking it's time for a RAM upgrade.
Overall I had a blast and am glad to finally have a quality game to sink some hours into after months of nothing. As others have implied, Bioware and Bethesda are going to have to step up their game, though they probably won't.
Aaron MkII wrote:
Yeah, mostly different armours but plenty of boots, pants and assorted useless items.
And you can now change your hairstyle, though I most preferred the standard look.
That said, I did find the story a bit hard to follow which no doubt is mainly from not playing the first.
It can still be hard to follow even if you have played the first Witcher. Yennefer for example is barely mentioned in the first game, while in the second she is clearly of great importance to Geralt.