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The Witcher 2 E3 2010 Preview

by Garnett Lee, Jun 21, 2010 8:30am PDT

QUICK TAKE: Lush environments and exquisitely detailed costuming imagine a fantasy world so vibrantly that anyone who sees the game pauses for a closer look. But it's the depth of interaction with that world that promises to keep role-playing game fans riveted for the long haul.

Based on the works of Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, the Witcher told a darker tale in a more foreboding world than the typical swords and magic fantasy. It connected with many players looking for a more adult approach and helped the game go on to sell over 1.5 million copies in large part on strong word of mouth recommendation. For the sequel, developer CD Projekt has started by developing their own new engine. Along with giving them ultimate control in how the game looks, they made this decision because they wanted to create the framework and the tools to work with it to support the key mechanics they plan for the game.

Though it may appear at times to be an action-oriented game, story, characters, and how they fit together in the world provided the strongest motivation to develop their own game engine. As with many modern role-playing games, how the story unfolds depends in large part on player-made choices. But unlike the typical question of whether to follow the good or evil path, the choices are less clear-cut, and become a matter of considering what the consequences could be down the line.

For this to work, the new engine gives every single character in the game their own unique personality and an awareness and response to the game world as it evolves based on those decisions. So while it might be expedient to defy the local law to help a friend right now, this may wind up leaving your character feared as a vigilante. Depending on your approach, that may or may not be a problem. Some characters might see you as a potential solution to sticky problems they don't want the law involved with but others may clam up and be unwilling to share a quest they could have.

With such strong implications to every action, the combat system too needed more options. One of them is a full non-lethal fighting system that allows enemies to be subdued by knocking them out; a good idea if you think you may need to talk to that person later. The tempo-based combos of the original game have also been replaced with a more familiar open system of fast and heavy strikes which can be mixed and matched together along with magic. And while this offers ample room to develop complex moves, the game will also offer a simple combat mode. It will be easy to progress without dying for those who want to focus on the other elements of playing their character through the story.

Which ever way you chose to go, the Witcher 2 looks well on its way to epic fantasy status. Now would be a good time to go back and catch the original, too, if you missed it the first time around. The Witcher 2 will read saves from the first game and setup the world to reflect all the events and decisions made along the way.

Developed by CD Projekt RED and published in North America by Atari, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is scheduled for release on PC the first quarter of 2011.

"Our engine has also been developed for console games and TW2 will surely be out on console at some point; however, it's too early to talk about the details of console versions," says RED, promising "More details to come second half of this year."

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