A look at Skyrim and Witcher 2 in the same place?! Whaaaa?! That's right. You get it all in this one dudes. Thing is, I've been sitting on my copy of Witcher 2 for quite a while. Probably too long. I've upgraded my PC since starting it. I must say, it looks pretty slick now, not bragging. I've also upgraded since starting Skyrim, but I don't notice too much improvement there. No big deal, the game looks pretty awesome. Anyway, since I'm pretty much playing both of these games at the moment, a review of one was pretty much going to mean some comparisons and cross examinations. Not that that is necessary, or even valuable to do with respect to each game getting reviewed. But, it was bound to happen like this. This isn't going to resort to picking a favorite as both games are spectacular. It is just that they are two massive RPGs done completely differently. The weakness of Skyrim are the strengths in the Witcher 2 and vice versa for the most part. We should get started.
Both of these RPGs are roughly pointed in he same direction. Both try and present a massively detailed world drenched in mythology. They both have oodles of quests beyond the main story and plenty to do but one is far more open ended than the other. That one is Skyrim. Though the ability to wonder and the incentive to explore is certainly there in Witcher 2, Skyrim seems more or less built around the placement of a central character in a vast landscape which is wide open. Skyrim to me is more than a sum of its parts. While it doesn't seem as immersive as Witcher 2, mostly due to shoddier storytelling, the connection to the world itself is strong. And the storytelling in Skyrim isn't bad, it is just overshadowed by Witcher 2 which has memorable characters, which is a big thing. Most of the characters in Skyrim feel more like a quest bulletin. Everyone wants you to do something and little of the dialog does anything but point you toward a goal or present an excuse to explore a dungeon. The Witcher 2 has interesting characters, especially Geralt the main character. Dude is straight up awesome. Skyrim offers more blanks to fill in as well as more opportunity for random experience. Instead of a polished story to flip through, there is a sense that the world your entering is more organic, which is the main draw in my opinion.
Both games have their problems and have received numerous patches since their respective initial release dates. The Witcher 2 when released basically threw you to the wolves right at the get go. Many of the concepts were not explained and the first few missions could be very frustrating. Maybe a touch more infuriating than frustrating actually. I'd like to say that the Witcher 2 does not hold your hand, but it kinda does. Most missions display where you need to go on the map and you can essentially skip most of the dialog while still managing to fairly competently complete them. But then you would be missing quite a lot. The Witcher 2 is different in the sense that you are rewarded for preparing for battle. That could mean reading up on a certain kind of enemy before you go out and vanquish them or oiling up your sword to cause extra damage or even taking special potions that allow you to see better in the dark or be more resistant to status effects. While in the thick of things you don't really have the option to heal so it is best to plan ahead.
Skyrim, on the other hand, has its fair share of random bugs. With each successive patch, things have gotten better. The thing with Skyrim is that it offers a world for the player to make their own. From customising your character to modding the game to the point that it is almost unrecognisable, Skyrim is a game that can only get better. It is not set in stone the way the Witcher 2 is, it is an evolving game dependant on the community surrounding it, which is very adamant about adding content.
Engaging enemies in these two games is completely different. Skyrim utilizes a semi bare bones approach. You are able to use spells as well as physical weapons but the way they are used is simplified. You swing your weapon or cast your spell, the enemy receives the damage, you can block or use a shout (which is essentially a spell) but beyond that there isn't much strategy in how your approach confrontation. The Witcher 2 is a little more dynamic. Though the types of spells are limited, there is far more room in how you position yourself in combat. It is far more action oriented, you can dodge and use quick yet weak attacks or heavy yet slow attacks. The Witcher 2 reminded me a little bit of Batman Arkham City in the way it approached combat. In any case it is much more action oriented than Skyrim. Both systems can be satisfying, but I'd have to give a point in this respect to the Witcher 2.
Both games are outstanding in my opinion. One represents the right way in approaching an open world environment and the other offers a great counterpoint that gives scripted games a big nod. Both offer unparalleled gaming experiences in different ways which underlines the opportunities this medium provides. If you are a fan of RPGs at all you should not miss out on either game. Beyond that the only criteria if you are looking to choose between the two is whether or not you prefer an epic open world to a more action oriented story driven RPG. I assure you that both will deliver.