The Witcher 2 was a huge improvement over the first. I liked the action more, felt more involved with the story, and felt like I needed to rely more on managing which potions and bombs I used. All in all, it was pretty great.
Some minor spoilers below.
Where the first had a lot of backtracking and tedious quests, the second made the quests more interesting but also less abundant. Part of what made the first tedious was running back and forth to kill this and talk to that person. Where the second still had some of that, it wasn’t as prevalent. Most of the quests had interesting objectives, like discovering how a spectre died, or trying to interrogate soldiers for information without letting them know you’re trying to pry info from them. The main quests were built more like set pieces, storming castles or partaking in an old battle still being waged by spectres, and each allowed the combat to really shine.
The combat felt really responsive. It switched from the fast/group/strong styles to a simpler heavy and quick attack. Although A little part of me misses the styles I still prefer the change. It’s very engaging and you feel the weight of each of Geralt’s swings and the power behind his igni blasts. The combat relies on a lot of dodging, running away, and then rushing in at the right time to wreak havoc. When you get it right it’s really satisfying. I used tons of potions and oils, and that was one of the things I enjoyed the most, was figuring out what I needed for the coming encounter and how to best prepare. The whole thing makes for a very involved and satisfying experience.
Also, the game is very pretty. Like, VERY pretty. Even without ubersampling and a few of the other graphical bells and whistles the game looks fantastic. More than once I’d just stand still to admire the dense forests. (I’m pretty much gushing about the game at this point.)
I don’t want to spoil too much about the story, but I’ll say that the most interesting part of the branching paths happens in the second chapter. This is where it’s possible to go to two different areas. Depending on which one you pick you won’t go to the other. That means that if you only play through the game once there’s a whole area and set of quests you just won’t ever do or see. That kinda blows my mind. I can’t really think of another game that does that. Two games with branching stories that come to mind are Mass Effect and The Wolf Among Us. I don’t think there are scenarios in either of those games that get locked off depending on your choices, you’ll always go to all the areas, and maybe some of the dialogue will be different or one or two characters missing, but you’ll still go to point “B” on your way to “C.” Witcher 2 just leaps over “B.”
The one thing that bugged me was that porting over Witcher 1’s save file doesn’t get you much other than some new equipment and a couple extra lines of dialogue. Which is a bummer. (No Shani? Like not even a mention? Poopbuckets.)
There are all kinds of smaller decisions peppered throughout the game that affect which characters show up where. I’m definitely going to replay the game to see the outcome of all those other decisions (after I’m done with Witcher 3).
This barely even scratches the surface of what the game offers. I'd say that if your interested in trying Witcher 2, do it.