Though Skyrim was released last November, the news that we will soon be getting some juicy DLC in the form of Dawnguard means that it is still a very important game in 2012. However, The Witcher 2 has just hit our shores on the Xbox 360 and as What Culture's full written review points out, it's rather good. But which one is better? There's only one way to find out..... Graphics Skyrim Much has been said about Skyrim's graphics. Some have commented on the truly stunning open world design, filled with rich landscapes and stunning vistas. Others have commented on the dated animations, the frankly laughable amount of glitches or the dodgy lip syncing. Still, one thing is for sure; Skyrim is a huge technical achievement. To deliver such a huge and diverse open world as well as the hundreds of interior locations is an incredible feat. The beautiful art direction is visible in every single inch of Skyrim, making it one of the best realised games in the fantasy RPG genre. Yes, on close inspection there are flaws in the visual fidelity but it is the necessary sacrifice that has to be made to deliver such a sprawling open world. Witcher 2 Unlike Skyrim, Witcher 2 isn't an open world game. However, there are three distinct and huge areas to play around in. All in all you don't spend any more time loading the game than in Skyrim, in fact you probably spend less time waiting. Still, you cannot just up and leave on a journey to 'over there' either. One thing that MUST be considered is that I am comparing the Xbox 360 versions of these games. The PC version of Witcher 2 looks remarkably better than the Xbox 360 version, even with the low settings. The PC version also looks a lot better than Skyrim on Xbox or PC. However, the Xbox version of Witcher 2 doesn't. Details pop in during cut-scenes (even when installed on the hard drive), shadows are grainy and the lighting is quite flat. In short, Witcher 2 doesn't look great. It doesn't look shit either mind you, it is still a beautiful game and the design work will still impresses. Unfortunately, this is at best a bad visual port of a great looking game. Winner: Skyrim Sound Skyrim Firstly, Skyrim has a truly excellent score. From the audacious main theme to the moments of respite, the score always adds atmosphere, emotion and authenticity to the world of Skyrim. The voice work is also fairly good, avoiding obviously western accents in favor of north European regionalism. Some of the voice work is hokey and you still get instances of the same actor having a conversation with them selves as two characters (even in story missions!) but considering the amount of voices to fill and lines of random dialogue to generate the outcome is more realistic than in most games of this scale. Over all the oral impact of Skyrim is one of the most successful and atmospheric aspects of the game. Witcher 2 While Witcher 2 does have some regional European accents on display (mostly Welsh and Scottish), the dominant sound is that of American voice work. This is largely (but not entirely) due to Geralt having a gruff almost cowboy-ish tone which, while not unfitting in terms of timbre, is distracting in the distinctly European landscape of the fantasy genre. The fact that the books of which the game is based, and the game its self are Polish makes this Americanisation more disappointing. Aside from that, the voice acting ranges from good to poor in dizzying frequency, and NPCs will frequently repeat the same line of dialogue over and over again. In contrast to this, the score is equally excellent by comparison to Skyrim's, featuring strong and powerful themes, energetic and pulse racing battle tracks and similar yet equally atmospheric themes for the quieter moments spent in inns and the like. The main drawback with the sound in Witcher 2 is an extremely uneven sound mix. At times dialogue is nigh inaudible and at times it booms out. This happens for seemingly no reason, and even adjusting the default mix does little to improve the results. Winner: Skyrim Gameplay Skyrim Of course the temptation is to talk about how vastly superior Skyrim's gameplay is over its predecessors in The Elder Scrolls series. That however, is beside the point here. So let's look at the facts. You can play in either the first or third person but the gameplay is completely biased to first person action. Switching perspectives merely makes aiming harder. It has long been established that melee combat and a first person perspective are not good bed fellows and Skyrim does little to change that. However, while the melee is somewhat lacking, the archery and magic works really well. Being able to cast magic with both hands is both logical and awesome, especially when you duelcast and create torrents of power. Archery is less showy but can be equally satisfying if you are a stealth hound and progression in that field turns you into the ultimate fantasy sniper. The real highlight of the gameplay is the ability to excel in all three areas of combat without a significant amount of grinding. You don't chose a battle class and live with your decision but just level up what you use. It is a simple way to allow the freedom of the open world setting to filter down to the gameplay. In essence, while the combat may be less furious, it is by far the most open and intuitive combat system of any RPG. Witcher 2 Witcher 2 roots you into the third person and unlike Skyrim this perspective works well. Not surprisingly there is a lock on mechanic which works well enough thought it occasionally contends with the camera in busy environments. You get heavy and light sword attacks and switch between two swords, one for humans and one for beasties. Added to that are signs, magic powers that give you various abilities from flaming someone up to controlling monsters minds. The third avenue for battle is your long range attacks which come in the form of throwing knifes, bombs and traps. Unlike Skyrim, the game prompts you to focus on all three areas of combat by throwing taxing battles at you from the off. You can also add a range of effects to Geralt and his blades via alchemy. The combat is fast and furious, enveloping acrobatic swordsmanship and a tactical use of items and abilities. Less successful are the mini games, such as arm wrestling and fist fighting. Arm wrestling is difficult without the added element of also being fun. The fighting is just a QTE and lacks even the saving grace of having well choreographed moves. Witcher 2 lacks the freedom of Skyrim but has a more focused system so in the areas that the two games overlap, it comes out as the winner. Overall however.... Winner: Skyrim Narrative Skyrim The thing about Skyrim, is that while there is the main quest line that follows the path of the dragonborn, there are so many other stories of equal size and arguably equal importance that it is hard to really pin a narrative down. The main quest is a little simple but works well. It has all the great heroic beats that we expect, some prophecy, a lowly hero rising to greatness, a great hidden power etc etc. However, more interesting in many ways are the major side quests such as the Dark Brotherhood, or the Mage's College. Even some of the less consequential missions have surprising and unexpected twists that stay in your mind long after the dragon slaying. However, that is both its greatest strength and its biggest flaw. Yes there is a wonderful amount to discover and the arrival of Stormguard will likely add much more but, the lack of a focused narrative and the huge diversity of the missions makes your dragonborn characterless. He doesn't have a voice (unless dragon shouting) and he rarely has a character arc. He acts and changes things but nothing changes in him. He is essentially, a tool. He is a tool for the gamer to use, not a character for the gamer to love, hate or envy. Witcher 2 In Witcher 2 you play as Geralt of Rivia, a genetically mutated human, bred to kill monsters. He is in search of his lost memories and a kingslaying Witcher. This simple premise is the set up for a tale full of action, lust, intrigue and murder. All in all, the makings of a great fantasy yarn. Though many of the staples of the genre are present, such as Elves, Dwarves, Mages and Swordsmen, there is a sense of self awareness and modernisation. There is no getting away from the fact that Witcher 2 owes much to the huge amount of fantasy fiction that precedes it. However, unlike Skyrim, it tackles this with a post modern approach, referencing the genre and subverting expectations. In doing so, the story remains fresh, even at its most generic. Geralt even makes a snide remark about climbing a mountain barefoot when someone mentions rings of power. It isnt tongue in cheek and it isnt parody, it merely acknowledges the its heritage and doesnt assume to be above it. This makes the narrative work on a level that Skyrim does not, allowing you to enjoy the fantasy setting without a trace of it being a guilty pleasure. Also, by giving Geralt a personality and an actual story arc, we invest much more in his journey. Winner: Witcher 2 Longevity Skyrim Skyrim is a huge game in so many ways. The main quest itself is a substantial gameplay experience, offering more playtime than most FPS single player campaigns. The four major side quests, The Dark Brotherhood, The Companions, The College at Winterhold and The Thieves Guild all offer the roughly the same amount of play time. Then you have a civil war to participate in and daedric gods to satisfy. Not to mention all the random little adventures you can discover through rumours and encounters. In fact, some quest lines never end, such as The Dark Brotherhood which will continually generate targets for assassination. Essentially, this is a huge game that can be played in many ways for hundreds of hours. The fact is, even now months after release, Skyrim is still one of the most played and most talked about games of 2012. Witcher 2 Witcher 2 is also big. Taking place over three parts, each in a different and huge area, the main aspects of the story will take you at least 30 hours to complete. Add to this a huge amount of side missions in the form of various Witchering work that, while lacking narrative impact, give you fresh and interesting challenges and you have a massive game. You could easily hit the 60 70 hour mark on your first play through and you are also encouraged to replay the story by having to make a choice of allegiance early on. Certain missions are only available depending on who you decide to help so there is literally weeks of solid gameplay here. Even so, it doesnt reach the dizzying amount of content that Skyrim offers. Witcher 2 on the Xbox 360 even includes all the DLC for the game but still doesn't match Skyrim (pre-Dawnguard) in terms of content. Winner: Skyrim The Winner Well it is pretty conclusive. Skyrim has thrashed Witcher 2 with a crushing 4:1 defeat. It is a testament to the fine work of Bethesda that Skyrim can beat down a game as good as Witcher 2 with such a large margin. Still, I do feel that some compensation is due to Witcher 2. For one, the Xbox 360 version is not the definitive version of the game and had we compared the PC versions of the games Witcher 2 would have walked away with a knockout win in the graphics department. You may be wondering why we chose to compare the Xbox 360 versions of the games at all. Well, thats what we got sent so.there. In celebration of Skyrims victory, I have decided to include the top image from a google image search of Skyrim Win which you can see above. I should really think of a bacon/dragon pun but I cannot even think where to begin. If you can think of any bacon related Skyrim puns please comment bellow.