The Witcher 2: Enhanced Edition Performance & IQ Review

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings just underwent a major update. The Enhanced Edition offers a new zone, more quests, more cinematics, and several bug fixes. This DX9 game has the reputation of being one of the most demanding and stressful games on modern video cards. We put this theory to the test.

Introduction

Here at [H]ardOCP we do not review gameplay content. We do however use games to evaluate performance and image quality in video cards. We find out how each video card performs in a game, the kind of gameplay experience it delivers, and compare video cards in that way. Over the last few years we've started doing specific "Gameplay Performance and Image Quality" evaluation articles in new games with a complete lineup of modern graphics cards. The goal of these evaluations is to look at current generation video cards from AMD and NVIDIA from low-end to high-end and see how these compare, which video card rocks the house in that game performance-wise, and compare the level of image quality. We are not able to do this with every new game that is released. We often pick games that are either very popular or contain new DX11 features that exploit current capabilities of video cards. We always look for "hardcore" graphics in games to push video cards to the maximum potential.

Sometimes we miss a game that in hindsight deserved our attention. The Witcher 2 is one of those games. We initially passed on this game since it was a DX9 game, same as the original. We've had tremendous feedback from our readers that this game was indeed graphically intense, even though it was a DX9 game. Our readers felt this game deserved a look at, and was a potential addition to our regular gaming suite. With the recent release of The Witcher 2 Enhanced Edition a door has opened for us to re-evaluate this game.

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings was released on May 17th, 2011. It was developed by CD Projekt RED and published by Atari. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is a third-person role-playing game, and sequel to the popular 2007 video game The Witcher.

There have been over 1.1 million copies sold for the PC version alone. This game was originally created only for Windows PCs. That's right, no consoles! However on April 17th, 2012 the game was released for Xbox 360, nearly a year after the PC release. This is also the date when the PC version underwent the major update to the Enhanced Edition. Metacritic has given The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings PC version a metascore of 88/100. The User Score is also relatively high with 8.3/10 from over 2300 ratings.

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The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is based on The Witcher book series written by Andrzej Sapkowski. The game is split up in to 5 sections including the Prologue, 3 Chapters, and an Epilogue. It follows the main character Geralt the Witcher, as he searches for who assassinated the king to clear his own name. The standard edition offers anywhere from 25 to 40 hours of playtime, including side quests, and the main plot line.

The Enhanced Edition features over 10GB of new content. This includes new quests and characters, more cinematics, a new playing zone and a few remade areas, combat tweaks, bug fixes, and a new difficulty mode. There is also a Combat Arena which is accessible through the main menu and allows you to fight several different enemies and survive as long as possible. This is a great way to blow off some steam and just slash enemies if you get tired of following the storyline. The Enhanced Edition also provides nearly 4 additional hours of gameplay, and is completely free upgrade if you already own the game.


Graphics Technology

Unlike the first installment which used Bioware's Aurora Engine, this game is using its own custom engine. CD Projekt designed the RED Engine specifically for The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings where it makes its debut. The RED Engine makes the game DirectX 9 only, with features like Secular Lighting and Dynamic Shadows. It also has its own customized version of Anti-Aliasing that is similar to MLAA or Morphological AA. This will provide smooth edges without a large performance impact like traditional Multisampling.

"From the very beginning the RED Engine renderer was created in full cooperating between programmers and artists. This way we could cater to everyone's needs and ideas, all the while remaining conscious of the capabilities and limits of modern graphics cards." - Bartlomiej Wronski, Red Graphics Programmer

The RED Engine is comprised of several technologies from external companies, or middleware, such as Path Engine which is a navigation library that allows players to move from through a door into a new zone without going to a loading screen, and Havok which is a leader in physical simulations and animations.