While The Witcher 1 was a big first and successful attempt to bring the world and feel of adventure of Witcher books to the video games, Witcher 2 wanted to up the quality. Tell an even better story, look better, play better… Which might’ve worked if not for all the issues this game had during the development, issues that are felt throughout the rather messy experience The Witcher 2 is.
They did succeed in making it look better, obviously, but the look actually aged a bit worse due to the colour filtering choices and the fact that for all the looks it achieved, the world feels smaller, more cramped, more boring to look at. Not everywhere, of course, act 2 has few locations that look nice and the opening scenes can be impressive, but most of the game just looks like a mess of drab colours.
It tells the story in a more interesting way, but the story itself is less interesting. It has more nuances, it has some very exciting global implications on the game world and choices feel more natural, are provided in a more personal way. It does bring even more wit and humour from the books, it evolves the characters. And it is the very best thing about the game. Although, it seems, that in Witcher 3 most of the choices are invalidated by events out of your control anyway. Oh and if you do play for story – just go with Iorveth. While Roche path has some pretty interesting (and also mostly invalidated in TW3) choices, all of Act 2 and most of Act 3 will be extremely boring, as Roche gets the most boring locations, quests and dialogues in his path, seemingly mostly due to the fact that this path was developed last.
As for the gameplay… If you play on Normal, it’s not bad. If you try the Full Combat Rebalance 2 mod it might make some things more interesting. If you play Dark mode or something like that, then don’t try the FCR2 mod… Actually, just don’t play Dark mode at all, or any other higher difficulty. Despite some attempts by CDP RED to make gameplay fun, gameplay is mostly pretty frustrating and is either simply not fun, or in some cases maddeningly broken. A lot of ideas, with recipes, crafting and such are just a mess (and Dark mode only “benefits” depend on those). In addition, all those small animation limitations, you encounter everywhere and things like that make The Witcher 2 to be not a particularly fun game to play.
But the story can be worth it. And was for me, twice. Just, don’t expect to like anything else.