For better or for worse The Witcher has developed a status in the West as the darker Euro-cousin of BioWare's fantasy titles. Both series' cater to a lanky subcategory of RPGs which focus on honing a more mature tone – and for both that tone basically emerges out of the occasional outburst of softcore petting. Even today, four years after the release of The Witcher, the game's probably still best known for its introduction of sex cards rather than its lead character, the titular blonde and brooding Witcher Geralt.
But to put it in television terms: The Witcher 2 makes Dragon Age look like daytime viewing next to its HBO primetime slot. Gone now are the sex cards. In fact sex generally feels like a less prominent character than it was originally. Lesbian dominatrixes and pool sex provide the window dressing still but the game hinges largely on a brutal sense of moral ambiguity and political seediness that stretches down to the core of its narrative.
It's worth mentioning that this game manages to fulfil the task that many games have taken a swing at but often never quite hit on the mark (Fable 3, here's looking at you). There is no clear good or bad option in Witcher 2 when almost all decisions are firmly lodged in the greyest of grey areas – something that happens to give a legitimate sense of weight to every choice you make. Likewise, don't expect the clear cut polarity of moral alignment charts.
Geralt is an amnesiac Witcher – essentially a half-breed of mutant and mage who make it their profession to kill off monsters, and he is attempting to clear his name after being accused of assassinating the king (no spoilers here: it's in the title, see).
And despite the good-hearted objective there are few quests that aren't riddled with very visible collateral damage in the form of innocent NPCs who you can actually sympathise with. When Geralt saves a destitute woman who can only return the favour in sex it's not the lol-inducing meme of the original's cards, instead the act feels nothing if not faintly depressing as you take advantage of a waif.
Similarly, the pivotal decision of which NPC you inevitably join sides with later on in the game will leave you feeling uneasy, particularly when each choice has a visible effect on the storyline and the choice you're given is basically between, to put it in South Park terminology, a douche and a turd. Elsewhere depending on choices you make by the end of the first act, you can continue down one of two entirely different paths, each with its own cities and specific quest lines that can affect the final outcome of the game.
Combat is essentially a light balance of crowd control, dodging, a vague level of strategy, and half a brain. Unlike the first game Geralt can't down potions mid-battle – instead you "meditate" pre-fight which lets you create potions based on formulae and ingredients you've looted along the way, which affect your stats for a limited amount of time. So you rarely have any crutches to fall back on mid-battle beyond your ability to plan ahead and not take defensive measures for granted.