Amidst the popular notion of years past that PC gaming was on the downswing, The Witcher - a role-playing game with a heavy narrative full of “kill or not kill?” moral decisions - managed to move more than 1.5 million copies without a major brand or marketing plan attached to it. In response to its surprising popularity, the developers set to work making the sequel an even more ambitious affair, with deeper dialogue and story choices, as well as expanded combat options.
According to developer CD Projekt RED, the story this time around promises a much wider sense of scale, with numerous kingdoms whose rulers are in peril, with only your monster-slaying protagonist, Geralt, to protect them. That is, if you choose to. Unlike traditional action role-playing games, the combat and cut-scenes exist solely to serve the storyline, says the developer, and the immense narrative depth of the original Witcher is retained the second time around.
Seemingly generic NPCs in villages have their own stories and backgrounds, and will not only react to your current actions, but will have heard about and remembered your past choices. Additionally, save files from the first game can be imported, with core storyline choices carried over into the sequel. In our demo, we were shown a handful of dialogue cut-scenes, which were well-paced and film-like in direction, and the player’s simple dialogue choices help affect the expansive sprawl of the experience, while also potentially earning new spells and abilities.
While the guys at CD Projekt RED hesitate to label Assassins of Kings an action RPG, the hack-and-slash combat in this follow-up has been greatly enhanced, with stodgy math problems like “strike sequences” and “timing restrictions” tossed out the window in favor of complete combat freedom. Quick and strong strikes can be paired together in any order, and Geralt can also toss in spells as desired, while quickly swapping between enemies on the fly.
We were able to witness a battle against a giant beast called the Tentadrake, which found Geralt grabbing onto one of its tentacles and stabbing it repeatedly while being whipped around. Ultimately, after tossing a bomb into its open wound, Geralt was able to guide its tentacle into a giant concrete bridge, causing it to collapse on the monster and kill it. According to the team, you're able to attempt that battle at any time in the game, though you'll learn about the Tentadrake’s weaknesses and earn access to the bomb if you wait to face it later on in the game. But it's an open world, and more importantly, it's your choice to make. Feel suicidal? Go for it.
And yes, as with the original Witcher, the player’s choices include sexual interactions with other characters, which CD Projekt RED says will be better handled and much more "cinematic" within the new game engine.
PC players can plan to start seducing the population of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings in early 2011. We’re hoping the experience comes to consoles at some point thereafter.
Jul 13, 2010