The Witcher 2 Has ‘Longer Combos’ and ‘Prettier Women’
By Matt Peckham
Who knows what The Witcher 2 might spring on us when it ships sometime this winter, promising an even less savory world and deeper gameplay. We certainly weren’t expecting the original, which caught us off guard, highlighting the rest of the industry’s feeble codependency on hackneyed fantasy cliches involving highfalutin elves, avaricious humans, and oafish orcs voiced like a sozzled Robert England.
The Witcher 2’s story designer Jan Bartkowicz and level designer Marek Ziemak recently answered a few questions we posed about the upcoming game’s story, new combat system, and how they think it’ll measure against BioWare’s Dragon Age.
Game On: Is The Witcher series author Andrzej Sapkowski involved in the project? And where does the story occur in Geralt’s [The Witcher] timeline?
CD Projekt Red: The Witcher series storyline has been developed completely within our story-design team. Andrzej Sapkowski is not involved in the process, though his novels are like a bible for us, and we take great effort to keep our game’s story coherent. The story of the first Witcher takes place about five years after the end of the Witcher saga, and the story of the second game starts only a couple of months after the end of the first.
GO: Is the world of Rivia more open-ended than before? And how flexible is the new engine if you want to randomly explore or conjure up dynamic events?
CDPR: The new engine allows us to create a nonlinear story with many parallel paths. There are times when the way you explore the location affects how the story unfolds, and we also have our ‘choices & consequences’ system, which is yet another way to shape your own narrative experience.
All these choices sum up at the end of the game, which allows you to conclude with any of 16 different endings. Within that time, you can actually go to almost any area within each chapter, and thanks to non-scaling enemies, you may very well just get your butt kicked if you wander off without thinking.
GO: Does the combat system retain elements of the original’s timed cue-based button presses, which fans seemed to love?
CDPR: The combat system was one of the features we redesigned, and basically created from scratch. Our goal was to create a more spectacular combat experience, which is based on high responsiveness, instant attacks, dodges and parries. We want to let the players control the pace of the fight, and respond to what’s happening on the screen. Although the new system is more complex, you can easily learn its basic functions, and have a lot of fun, even if you’re not a hardcore action gamer.
GO: The first game had plenty of sex, nudity, and brutal violence. Even Dragon Age looks tame by comparison. Does The Witcher 2 continue to challenge conventional fantasy tropes?
CDPR: The Witcher 2 is first and foremost an epic adventure. It takes place in a world that’s unlike any other fantasy setting. [The Witcher series author] Sapkowski developed a very shady universe. Our game is true to this idea, and that’s why we proudly call it a mature experience.
In The Witcher 2, we plunge our protagonist into a conflict greater than anything you experienced in the first installment. The Witcher is a guy whose job is to hunt monsters and lift curses, but in times of war his skill with sword and magic can change the tide of a political conflict. This is the reason high-placed, influential mortals seek his aid.
GO: Let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room. If you had to contrast The Witcher 2 with Dragon Age, what does your game do better?
CDPR: We have longer combos, prettier women, and more experience points! But seriously, we aren’t really concerned with comparing ourselves to Dragon Age or other roleplaying games. We know what kind of game we want to deliver and that’s the only thing important for us. We’re delivering a mature game in an atypical fantasy universe, with a highly intuitive and exciting combat system, tremendous nonlinearity, and choices that really matter in gameplay.