Gamescom 2010: The Witcher 2 Preview
- Posted Aug 24, 2010
What We Know:
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings impressed at E3 with its high graphical fidelity, voice acting and branching gameplay. Going back to see more at Gamescom, the game continues to look good.
What We're Seeing Now:
While I don't want this to turn into a review of the Gamescom presentation, rather than a preview of The Witcher 2 itself, it is important to mention how enthusiastic and entertaining the development team was at the show. People get tired at gaming shows and both developers and journalists can lose interest pretty quickly, but CD Projekt's energy was infectious. Despite it being the end of the day, the five-or-six strong presentation team ran through their clearly rehearsed, but genuinely funny, performance as if it was the first time.
This sort of passion for their product is made even more obvious when they start describing the improvements made possible by the game's new engine. On screen is displayed a tangle of lines and nodes, stretching on horizontally seemingly forever. This is a visual representation of the game's story, showing every choice and consequence the player can make, and it is massive. It's pulled straight from the game's engine and demonstrates perfectly how they've redefined non-linearity for The Witcher 2.
These choices aren't just made through dialogue, or specific binary decisions that you make during the story, they're also made through your gameplay style. To illustrate this, the team showed the same section of gameplay played through in two very different ways. The level involves escaping a prison; apparently there are 666 ways to do so, but when you start introducing numbers like that the mind begins to boggle. Two team members sat at machines, with the output on the TV in front of them alternating between them at certain points.
The first guy used stealth to escape the prison. Hiding in the shadows and extinguishing torches as he went, he didn't need to fight very many people. Those he did kill he took care of with a quick snap of the neck from behind. The second developer took a less subtle approach, attacking everyone he met with a massive sword. The combat is visceral and bloody and the developers were keen to emphasize that The Witcher 2 is an adult RPG in every respect.
The choices made here in how to escape the prison not only affect the gameplay, but also the story. Both developers met different people who, when helped, would become their friends and affect the narrative in the future. Of course, you also have the choice not to help them, which will change things again and lead you down another path towards one of the game's 16 unique endings. It's at this point I began to see just how crazy and diverse the consequences could get.
As they escaped the prison and entered the town, they pulled the camera back to show us the vista. The Witcher 2 is a great looking game and definitely an improvement on the original. The town looked stunning and it was impressive to hear that everywhere we could see was completely explorable. It promises to be a massive game in many respects.
A second gameplay section was also shown, which included a huge battle between countless ghosts and demons. As the main character, Geralt, wanders the battlefield, fiery embers float around him. It looks incredible and only becomes more impressive once an enormous armor-clad demon appears. Wielding a fire axe and pelting Geralt with arrows, tornados and fireballs, he's a pretty imposing beast. Sadly, the screen faded to black before he could be felled.
An impressive demonstration for a great looking game. PC owners definitely have something to look forward to in 2011 with The Witcher 2. The developers were happy to not so subtly hint that it would be coming to HD consoles, too, but it sounds like they haven't nailed down details yet and don't want to announce anything until they have. Hopefully that happens soon.