One of my cousins recently described this game to me as "30 hours of bliss, bliss on tap." I can't disagree.
Lets start with the graphics. Six months ago I couldn't stop gushing about how pretty the demos and early screenshots were. Well, the real thing does not disappoint in the least. From hair, armor, and weapons swaying realistically as you move to environments actively reacting to weather and breezes, this game goes boldly to the front of the pack and sits there daring anyone to do better. I for one hope the other developers step up, a little healthy competition never did anyone harm :D. Consoles will hold back the market somewhat until the next gen comes out, but thats a discussion for another time.
Staggering detail, you can tell right away the time and effort that went into every scene.
Even though the graphics are surprisingly well-optimized for lower end machines (on low you can even expect dual cores with 3 year old cards to lock at around 30 if my work computer is any indication), it can shred even the most up-to-date systems on the highest settings. My beast 8-core had to play with ubersampling off; a new feature that smooths textures, although some dislike it for the slight blurring effect. Even so, the eyegasms were semi-constant as I looked over the camp in the opening few hours of the game with row upon row of tents flapping in the wind and almost a hundred NPCs going about training.
I like the ubersampling effects, but many just see it as a loss of detail.
While I'm talking about graphics I have to give a kudos for FINALLY having some mature sex scenes in a game like this. For too long we've been hand fed sex scenes with bad music and slow meaningful looks. When my character gets "lucky" I wanna get lucky too! Lets see some ti-tays! *sailor whistle*
I actually had a hard time taking a screenshot that wasn't full of TnA... whoohoo!
For anyone who has played the first one you will see MAJOR changes depending on your choices in the first game. I won't spoil anything, but you won't be unsatisfied. The developers went out of their way to actually include real tangible differences from game-to-game, none of this 'get an email from someone you decided not to kill' crap.
... and the game-changing choices just keep on coming. The entirety of chapter two is set from different perspectives depending on your choices in chapter one. Usually I'd scold a game of this caliber for only having around 30 hours of game time, but with all the choices and variety it more than makes it up for it in replay value.
Next time I carry the hot chick and YOU fight.
The combat and skill system is an improvement over the first game, but does suffer from a few nagging problems like an erratic aiming system that has a tendency to switch from one enemy to another every few times you swing. Even so, you can get used to it once you realize that it focuses on who is closest to the camera, and not who you necessarily want to attack. This works for the kind of combat that the game intends (or seems to), divide and conquer.
The skill system allows for many different styles of play, just like the first game, and now allows you to 'mutate' your abilities to nudge your character in the direction you want them to specialize. With the amount of points you will get over the course of the game you can specialize in one 'tree' (or style of play) fully, or choose to hybrid yourself down several paths.
Most end the game around 30-35, more then enough to feel like an agile Hulk or a crafty magician.
The crafting is a series of recipes that you can acquire through various means--mostly just bought--to make weapons, armor, and components out of the odds and ends you will find around the world and the drops of the many different beasties. Alchemy was reinvented as well, with a more streamlined approach (and not in a bad way). The only seeming downside is the excessive inventory clutter that any RPG 'hoarder' will suffer from, as there is no 'vault' that follows you around in the game. If it isn't in your inventory, then don't expect it to come with to the next chapter.
The result of all this re-imagining and innovation is an extremely immersive experience. I actually cared about these characters, and the choices in the game are quite difficult when you have to choose sides.
CDProjekt has already announced that all DLC for the game will be FREE! (hows that for a bro developer?) with the expansion pack already in the works. If it wasn't for this I might have given the game some bad marks for the shortened ending, but apparently they left some strings unstrung so that they could be wrapped up in the expansion, and the last chapter actually wraps up quite nicely in my opinion (even if it is a bit short).
Final Verdict: Buy it, Gift it, Masturbate with the packaging.