The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Preview
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2010-05-04 PC RPG RP (Rating Pending) CD Projekt Red

When I beat The Witcher for the first time, I watched that final fighting sequence and wondered, "That's it? And now what?!". Well, I guess my answer will come with the release of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings.

The world in The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is based on the written works of Andrzej Sapkowski, and was described as "being in the world of the books". Actually, that's the feeling I got from watching the trailer with the Tentadrake (tentacle monster) and the boat in the river, since I vividly remember those from reading Blood of the Elves.

Familiar characters will return (we have seen Geralt, Triss, Zoltan and Dandelion), new characters will be introduced (the elf Iorveth, Vernon Roche), some that fans will recognize from the books.

As for the story itself, it's entirely new. Picking up where the first game left off, order has been restored to the kingdom of Temeria. Only one Baroness remains claiming independence. King Foltest must travel to her castle, escorted by Geralt, who isn't particularly happy about letting the assassin go. But he does. For now, anyway.

Different levels of difficulty to cater to experienced gamers by giving them a good challenge, as well as making it easier for the more casual player who prefers to focus on the story.

Didi: Will we be able to import character data or possibly our moral choices from first game?

Tom Gop: Basically, yes. We have added the feature to import the save game data that you ended The Witcher with. It won't, however, mean that you get all your inventory, journal, etc. with it. We focused on most important things like moral choices and/or some weapons for example.

Again, moral choices will be presented to the player, even less clearer than before. No right or wrong, no black or white, just many shades of gray with less obvious consequences to be unveiled. These choices will dictate how your adventure ends, and you can expect there will be multiple endings. You will also see flashbacks of Geralt's past actions and respective consequences.

You also have the choice of what companions to bring with you on some occasions. Companions can unlock new quests and affect your game ending. Although you can't control them, they will join you in combat.

Combat will no longer be a click-based hack-and-slash fest, and you won't have the strong, fast and group options anymore. Although it will still be fast, there will be a more strategic approach to fighting with a wider range of options, including lighter or stronger attacks, blocking/dodging incoming strikes, plus the use alchemy and signs. Combos can be created by not just by attacking, but the use of blocking and signs also becomes part of the combo. Hand-to-hand combat and the use of traps are also elements of the game.

Didi: How will character development be handled? Is there still a "skill tree"?

Tom Gop: It's still going to be an RPG character development. We've changed the way we describe the skills right now. Instead of passive abilities, like for example "Strength +5", we have created more unique set that gives the player better idea on how the gameplay will change once he applies the upgrade to one of his abilities. For example, you can find a mutagen that gives you "multiplication" of your skill - so no matter whether you apply it to strong strike of your sword or, say, igni sign - it will give you the unique possibility to engage more opponents at the same time. That makes these upgrades not only more intuitive, but also more universal.

Alchemy goes beyond mixing ingredients listed on a recipe by adding a mini-game. You will be able to directly alter and improve recipes whle experimenting with ingredients.

Tom Gop: Herbs are there for the taking, right? There's still alchemy in The Witcher 2, and it has some nice new features. But basically it still bases on preparing potions out of the ingredients that you gather.

Aside from alchemy, there are other types of crafting involved used for the purpose of upgrading your equipment.

Didi: Can we still forge weapons? If so, can we forge them ourselves or will someone require certain materials to do that for us?

Tom Gop: There will be a crafting system in The Witcher 2. Geralt is not a crafter himself, so you will need to find/unlock/pay etc. certain NPC that will help you with this. But the important news here is, that we will have a lot of items to find and/or modify during the game. I'm not talking about ten or fifty of those - there are really a lot of these. And not only they have different attributes, stats and so on - they also look different, and thus change the way our character looks.

There has been so much complaining about Geralt's new look, be it the one in the trailers or the one in the high-res character render. Everone seems to be forgetting the game is still in early stages, so looks may not be final. Some have called him fat, others have called him gay, but above all, it's Geralt's hairstyle that's being criticized. So, the big question is: why the ponytail? Well, everyone knows long flowing hair doesn't go with fighting! Who wants hair blocking their vision, anyway? You try swinging a sword when enemies are surrounding you and your super-shiny shoulder-length white hair keeps getting in your mouth, up your nose and stuff. But no, seriously, the point was to find a new approach regarding Geralt's appearance and the ponytail "fits". No comments regarding alternative hair styles though. But see, this all makes sense, since now we know why Geralt has that big scar on his face: he didn't have his hair tied back at the time! ;)

As for the sex cards, don't expect to see them again. Geralt will still have romantic encounters, but you won't be seeing that as a collection feature but something that actually fits in the story.

Tom Gop: We have changed the presentational approach towards sex and mature content in The Witcher 2. Of course Geralt will have romantic encounters with women every now and then, but this time we'd rather not make it "collectible", so you will not have cards. Instead, we took every scene and presented it in more cinematic, mature way and made sure it's bound to the storyline.

The modding community hasn't been forgotten, and there are plans to create a modding tool later on. For now, the focus is on the actual game though, so we probably won't see it until some time after the game's release.

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings tentative release date is aimed at Q1 2011. The game will be released for PC (digital distribution not confirmed), though the game engine is flexible enough to allow development for PS3 and Xbox 360. A retail Collector's Edition is also planned.

Special thanks to Senior Producer Tom Gop for taking the time to answer a few quick questions.