9. The graphics are better
When The Witcher was first released in 2007, it used a version of BioWare’s Aurora engine and its age showed. For the sequel, CD Projekt has built an entirely new engine and the difference is noticeable. The REDengine, as it is being called, has been built with higher end computers in mind, but also promises to scale well with a variety of different graphical settings. From castle parapets to lush forests and ramshackle villages, if the screens and videos are any indication, the graphics in The Witcher 2 will have RPG fans saying, “Kirkwall who?”
8. The combat is improved
Much like Mass Effect 2, The Witcher’s fun but bloated combat system has undergone some streamlining. Gone are the different battle stances. Instead, players will have a quick attack and a heavy attack, along with defensive block and rolling maneuvers. Quick-time events (QTEs) are a new addition to the sequel as well, which is a good or bad thing depending on how you feel about them. The spells from the first game are back and seem as if they will have even more of a strategic use this time around. If strategy isn’t your thing, well, a fireball to the face always works wonders.
7. The game world is interesting
Based on novels by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, the world of The Witcher is far from your standard Tolkien-esque fantasy fare. It is filled with political intrigue that is never simply black or white. Its non-human races are persecuted freedom fighters, rather than the stereotypes we have come to expect. Geralt himself is also refreshingly free of stereotypes. He isn’t an orphan with a Big Destiny, a lost heir to the throne or a hero suffering from amnesia...well, OK, maybe he isn’t perfectly cliché free. Luckily, the amnesia story line from the first game is gone and has been replaced with more of the moral ambiguity fans of the series have grown to love.
6. It’s uncensored
Whether it is an elf, a merchant or that bad guy you just beat to a pulp, NPCs in The Witcher are not afraid to drop the occasional F-bomb. Also, the women aren’t afraid to show off their digital assets. However, when the U.S. version of the game was released, it censored a lot of the naughty bits. This time around, CD Projekt promises that the only difference between regional versions will be the languages, and that western gamers will be able to play the game in all of its naked, cuss-filled glory.
5. Choices matter
The Witcher 2 will allow you to import a saved game from the original. If The Witcher is still installed on your hard drive, CD Projekt says The Witcher 2 will automatically detect all saves after the last critical choice point, and either suggest the file to import, or allow you to choose from all the possible ones. Although the game’s opening will be the same for everyone, they say that decisions and events from the imported save may have an affect later on, giving those who never finished the original a reason to catch up before May 17th.
4. No more playing cards
One of the most controversial aspects of The Witcher was its collection of “sex cards,” graphic depictions of various women that Geralt romances during the game. Many complained that the cards were too juvenile in a game that strove to be as adult as possible in every other way, while others simply complained that the American version covered up all the fun parts. Now, instead of the cards, The Witcher 2 apparently has enough graphic cut scenes to give everyone at Fox News a coronary.
3. Lots of extra goodies
These days, it is standard operating procedure for developers to offer extras with their games, and the guys at CD Projekt have gone above and beyond. Those who order the premium edition will get the official soundtrack, a making-of video, a game guide and more. Meanwhile, those who order the collector’s edition will also receive everything from playing cards to a Geralt sculpture inside a thick cardboard box with the Witcher’s medallion on the front. Of course, there will be DLC available for those who pre-order the game and, presumably, other downloadable content will be available in the future as well.
2. No “always on” DRM
Digital rights management (DRM) in any PC game is always controversial at best and a draconian hindrance at worst. The guys at CD Projekt know this. Thats why they say their DRM seeks to be as light and unintrusive as possible. Players will have to connect to the Internet once during installation, but never while playing. Something I’m sure that anyone who’s played Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood or Dragon Age 2 will appreciate.
1. It just might be RPG of the year
While I’m sure Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Skyrim might have something to say about that, if The Witcher 2 manages to live up to the hype, you just might be seeing it on quite a few end-of-year lists.