Eurogamer Expo – The Witcher Demonstration and Chat

The Witcher - Assassins of Kings

The Witcher - Assassins of Kings

I was lucky enough to get a slot with the guys from CD Projekt to see a gameplay demonstration of The Witcher 2 and to have a chat about the game’s development.

The first Witcher game was a great RPG – it was mature, adult and gritty with some tough choices to make and had a combat system that relied as much on the player’s skill as it did hidden dice rolls. I fell into the lore of the game world quite quickly and soon after starting the game I hunted down a copy of Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, who’s short stories are form the basis of the game. It was a real pleasure to sit down with the guys, who obviously have a real love not only for the world they’re developing but also for gaming as a whole. There’s a real feel of aiming to hit every note of the game spot on.

Here’s the game’s story description from the Fact Sheet:

The player takes the role of Geralt, a professional monster slayer who became embroiled in the political turmoil in the Kingdom of Temeria by helping to squash the rebellion undertaken by the Order of the Flaming Rose, and who saved the King’s life by protecting him from a witcher-like assassin. In the second part of the saga, Geralt remains at the center of political events. He begins his quest to reveal the identity of a group of assassins responsible for the slaying of rulers across the Northern Kingdoms, to find their connection to witchers, and to discover their motives. His investigation will lead him up the river Pontar into the turbulent borderland between Temeria, Kaedwen and Aedrin, where he will be entangled in a conflict between the most powerful forces of this world.

Gameplay:
First, I’ll mention some improvements from The Witcher that I noticed through the demonstration.

  • Fist fighting. Non-lethal. This system has been modified from the simple “mini-game” approach of the first game and integrated into the main gameplay. It’s more spectacular and dynamic.
  • Potions are still a core feature – but their use has been refined. The Cats Eye potion (which let Geralt see in the dark) now allows the character to see the body-heat of enemies through walls, allowing him to plan the encounter more. I could definitely see the benefit of this and was reminded of Detective mode in Arkham Assylum. Of course, in Geralt’s world, you need to stock up on the appropriate potion and use it strategically.
  • Swordplay is still made up of different types of attack (strong, quick etc) but rather than change style and attack in time to the rhythm of the combat, the player chooses which attack to perform. This leant a more Action and less “dice driven” approach to the combat sequences.

There are also a number of new features in the gameplay:

Varying approaches will vary the game's progression.

Varying approaches will vary the game's progression.

  • Customisation. Rather than having a few core ‘slots’, Geralt’s wardrobe can be customised far more, with individual slots for gloves, belts, knee pads etc.
  • Also new is the ability to upgrade weapons. The example demonstrated was adding a rune onto Geralt’s sword. You can also craft your own weapons and armour by locating / buying Schematics. You can also craft your own weapons and armour by locating / buying Schematics. Over 300 swords can be created in the game, compared to 10 upgraded ones in the first game.
  • When items are upgraded, this is represented on the model and textures on screen. Add a rune to a sword (for example) and that rune is displayed on the blade.
  • Every bridge, tower, building etc in the game will be playable. Nothing is a cardboard stand – it’s a real location to explore.
  • There are battlefields environments in the game, with hundreds of characters involved.

The emphasis of the presentation was very much on the Non-Linearity of the sub-quests in game. Gone are the “FedEx” style quest, so familiar in RPGs:

Every Building is explorable

Every Building is explorable

  • Each mission can be approached in a number of different ways and each has different results and consequences. In the demo I saw, Gelalt comes across a prisoner being tortured. Depending on events in an earlier part of the game, this prisoner would either be a young man or his mother. Consequences and outcomes will often
  • Depending on how you approach matters in a location, different paths through the level will be available.
  • In addition, you will meet different people depending upon your actions. Sometimes these will be helpful, other times not… again, this all depends upon your actions throughout the game.

Questions and Answers
Did the non-linear approach hinder the over-all storyline at all?
– It’s one of our core features to present non-linear quests within an over-arching story.

You mention in the demo that the Stealth approach yields more experience. Is it always the case that this approach offers more reward?
– The stealth approach is not the main feature of the game and is not available everywhere but whenever it is, you will get an indication. The stealth approach is pretty much always the more difficult one so it is rewarded with a higher experience reward.

The combat in The witcher was based around three stances which were switched between – is this still the case?
– Not really. You are not bound to any pre-defined style of fighting – you can choose your own. You have strong strikes, you have fast strikes but you can mix them in any way you like. The combat in Witcher 1 was really hard to master. In the Witcher 2 the entry threshold is lower.

So it’s easy to learn but difficult to master?
– Exactly.

Does the game kick of straight after the events of the first game?
– Yes. It’s a direct sequel. But you don’t need to have played. We do reward players who have played the first game. You have the option to import the saved game. Major choices are reflected, but it’s not going to change the world. It’s just to reward the players. On the other hand, guys who don’t know anything about the Witcher can start with the second game. It’s a story of it’s own.

I read that the game has been developed to play with a gamepad. Is the idea to port the game over to console?
– Our engine is multiplatform, we have tested it on other platforms than PC so it’s doable. We’re focussed on the PC development. From the very beginning we’ve been doing parallel development so it’s possible.

Quite often game elements are lost between PC games and ports to console.
– If we do a console version, we’ll keep the same mechanics and graphics. The experience is in the gameplay.

How big is the game world? Has the decision to make everywhere explorable meant you’ve had to make the world as a whole smaller?
– It’s huge. Bigger than The Witcher 1. You travel from region to region, each is thousands of miles apart and the regions themselves are bigger than those in The Witcher 1.

Do you know what the specifications will be yet?
– No, not yet.

Thanks very much for the demonstration.
– Thanks for your time!

Roundup
I was looking forward to this game anyway, but having seen it close up and met a couple of the team who are developing it, my excitement has ramped up a great deal. My only concern is whether my good old computer-box will be able to run it when it’s released! Even in it’s current state, the game looks smooth. Character models, textures and animations were all fluid and in keeping with the tone of the game.

For more information about the game, visit the official site.

GS Reporter: WedgeDoc

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