The Witcher 2 at the BAFTAs

Released last year to near-universal critical acclaim and over sixty awards, The Witcher 2 was a behemoth of a game that managed to massively outsell its predecessor and carve a name for itself in the PC Gaming Hall of Fame. It’s not uncommon for critically-lauded titles to see a re-release in the form of a “Game of the Year” edition, with all the post-release content and a couple of tweaks here and there, but to claim that CD Projekt RED are doing likewise with their upcoming ‘Enhanced Edition’ would be a disservice to the reality. As they themselves put it, the upcoming enhanced edition isn’t a simple console port, it’s an adaptation.

For the uninitiated, The Witcher 2 is an RPG that boasts a mature, non-linear story based on the works of novelist Andrzej Sapkowski and a moral choice system where your decisions can change the world around you. It also implements a dynamic combat system and a realistic, vast world with over forty-five hours of game-play and sixteen different endings. After Lorna’s preview of the console edition of the game at last year’s E3, I found myself eagerly volunteering to attend a Q&A session with the developers at the BAFTA centre to find out more before the game hits stores everywhere.

Since the initial release of The Witcher 2, CD Projekt RED have been listening to all of the feedback from critics and fans alike and implementing it as best they can, with the game receiving multiple updates that players have been given completely free of charge. With the release of the Enhanced Edition, there’s set to be even more content and, while it’ll be available at retail for PC and the Xbox 360, marking the first release of a Witcher game on consoles, the new edition will be free to download for those who already own the game. During the original development of the Witcher 2, the idea was to have a game that would look beautiful on high end PCs, but would also work on a console, with the engine designed so that a multi-platform release was possible without much compromise and, to this end, they have succeeded – the console version has all of the content, with the only compromise being a lower texture resolution. In fact, the Enhanced Edition also touts entirely-improved systems for the camera, targeting, navigation and controls with the Xbox 360 in mind, with the latter actually sporting a different control layout than those using a supported controller for the PC version would be used to.

On top of the hundred-plus improvements and fixes applied to the game since the original release thanks to the feedback they’d been given, CD Projekt RED took on board the complaints that the third act of the game felt a little short, and so added new content, quests, characters and cinematics that give The Witcher 2 another four hours of game-play. Players will also find another thirty-two minutes of movies and cinematics, including a new opening movie as well as several to be found in the extras menu, which help shed light on the history of the Witchers for those new to the series, though it should be noted that you don’t need any prior knowledge of either the novels or the previous game before playing.

Those buying the game at retail will find it comes shipped with a world map, a manual, a quest handbook, and a copy of the soundtrack, but collectors will want to track down the “Dark Edition”, which comes with even more goodies including an art-book and a Witcher medallion. Those expecting this to be the definitive edition of the game may be proven incorrect in time, as the developers announced that they intended to keep working on the game as long as people keeping buying it.

With that, the Q&A session begun, and the first question was one concerning a matter many developers face when creating a sequel – that of how you introduce a newcomer to the story at this point in the series. After all, The Witcher 2 is a game that heavily relies on its narrative. Admittedly, CD Projekt RED had found this quite difficult, as they realised that they had to introduce the concepts of the Witchers, and had to spend more time introducing the player into the world of the game, which meant that the pace of the beginning was perhaps slower than they’d have liked. The developers felt that they wanted their audience to be mature and to know definitively what they wanted in a game, and appeal to those who wanted a mature, hardcore RPG experience, but what they felt made the game a true adult experience was down to their moral choice system, which often forced you to think heavily about the consequences of your actions, rather than it just coming down to having been given points for being good or bad.

The floor was then opened up for the journalists and audience members to ask their own questions, and the first of these asked if, with the Enhanced Edition being squeezed onto consoles, there was ever anything they wanted to put into the game but didn’t have time to. The developers joked that they’d like to have made the Witcher 2 over two-hundred hours long, but the new release has everything they’ve ever wanted to add, as well as new content based off audience feedback, and that they’re going to continue adding more in future. The next question asked if the original Witcher was going to make its ways onto consoles, and while the developers made it clear that they don’t want to talk about projects other than the Witcher 2 at the moment, it was mentioned that the original had finally landed on the Mac platform.

Another attendee asked how much collaboration existed with the author of the novels when Witcher games are made, to which the answer is none; while the story of the games are based off of the novels, they take place afterwards, and so they have total creative freedom over what happens in the games. This wouldn’t be the only question asked about the ties to the author, as another asked towards the end was about the possibility of working with Sapkowski on any potential future titles, to which there was a reiteration that the developers didn’t want to talk about other projects at this point in time.

One humorous question came when the language of The Witcher 2 was bought into question, specifically, the frequent usage of “plough” or “ploughing” as a swear, to which even the developers in attendance were unsure about, although they suggested that it was probably down to one of the translators, as the dialogue was written in Polish and English at the same time, but that it’d clearly worked seeing as it had stuck in the minds of those who’ve played or witnessed the game. Besides, ‘fuck’ is so overused nowadays. Next up, someone brought up the developer’s intentions to make the game multi-platform, and asked if the fact that it’ll only see a console release on the Xbox 360 was down to a business decision or a technical one. The response was that, as a studio, they’d had more experience with the Xbox 360 than the PS3, which motivated their decision to concentrate on it as the console platform, rather than it being a business decision.

At this point, I posed a question of my own, bringing up the additional act three content and asking what the hardest part was of creating new content for that specific act over any other point in the game. Once again, CD Projekt RED joked that it was being able to say “stop”! They’d had so many ideas of what to implement after the original release of The Witcher 2 that the most difficult part was finding a point where they could stop adding new content with the new tools and knowledge they’d acquired over the development of the game. The question that followed on from mine was one which was altogether more philosophical, with the massive fan backlash in the wake of Mass Effect 3; it was asked at what point any game belonged to the fans, rather than the developers. As a company that have embraced the fans so fully, thanks to the feedback and their encouragement of social networking to see what they think, CD Projekt RED were of the opinion that as soon as it’s in the hands of the player and they begin to start giving feedback, that that is when the game belongs to the player more than it does the studio.

For some gamers, the fact that The Witcher 2 is making it to consoles without any content being cut may be a surprise to some, especially those who are keenly aware of Germany’s typically-dictatorial harshness. Despite this, when asked, the developers said they didn’t once have an issue with the mature content in the game when they went up against the ratings system. Those playing the game may find the sight of vodka drinking trolls to be a bit of an oddity and, as a result, it was also asked how much of Eastern European mythology permeated throughout the story and development. While most of The Witcher series is based heavily on the book that inspired it, there are elements of Polish and Eastern European folklore and tales that run through as a result, though most of these are possibly more down to the novel than their own influence.

One element of RPGs that many find so appealing is the ability to take control of a blank slate that they can alter any way they want, but The Witcher 2′s protagonist is very clearly defined by his personality in both the novel and the previous game, so it was asked if having a character with such a defined personality helps or hinders the way he is developed. To this, the developers acknowledged that, while the way that characters such as Commander Shepard and your protagonist in Skyrim are much more of a carte-blanche for you to project yourself onto, they had to take a different approach due to the way Geralt was already defined. What this means is that the way that they allow you to control your play-through is down to the moral choice decisions you have to make, and this is what will set your protagonist apart from other players, rather than his personality. Those who don’t wish to throw themselves into the story will still be able to have a lot of fun with the game and fully immerse themselves thanks to the dynamic combat and the quest lines, although they hope that those will help immerse you into the story in time.

As the moral choices Geralt makes are of such importance to the story, it was asked why The Witcher 2 doesn’t define whether those choices are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ by giving you points, like a certain sci-fi epic by BioWare. The reason for this is due to the game’s grey and grey morality; most of the decisions are neither definitively good nor bad, and some decisions come down to picking what you feel is the lesser or two evils. In fact, some of the consequences of your choices won’t be seen until the later stages of the game, and so giving points based on your decisions would also potentially spoil the impact of the consequences when they arose later on.

As the questions and the evening drew to a close, it became clear to see why people should be excited about The Witcher 2. The original release of the game saw it pulling in an eighty-eight on Metacritic (you know, for those who define a game’s success by Metacritic), and the Enhanced Edition proves itself to be even bigger and better than ever before. CD Projekt RED have put a lot of their heart and soul into the production of the game, and it shows enormously. After my night at the BAFTA centre, the question I’m asking isn’t so much “will it be successful?”, but rather “how could it not”?

Last five articles by Edward



  1. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    I’ve already got this on PC, but just haven’t installed it. The plan was to install it at the weekend, but life kinda got in the way as usual. When I saw this at Gamescom, I was blown away and it was the Xbox version there too. I was surprised, I have to be honest, because I had never paid any attention to the Witcher when it was out and Witcher 2 slipped under my radar too until that day. I left that screening room thinking “is this what I’ve been missing out on all this time?” and convinced that it would be better than Skyrim. I just need the time to sit down and get playing it.

    That should be my plan for this weekend. To hell with everything else, and just play this damned thing.

  2. SimonJK says:

    Hell yeah, it’s finally nearly here! TBH I was following the progress of this game last time, untill the console version was cancelled, and it’s really great to hear that for once the consoles ain’t just getting a ‘symphathy version’. As much as my gaming likes bend more towards games that are released and supported on the PC alas I am console locked, I simply cannot afford the machine updating requirement and cannot get as comfortable as I do on the consoles. I have suffered for years with the weak support RPG get on the console compared to the PC – half arsed versions of Sacred 2 and the like and the fact the PC gets all the free user made content for Elder Scrolls and Fallout etc.

    I already have my pre-order recept and my 40GBP safely stored away ready for the 20th and £35 on my Gamestation trade-in card as I am not certain wiether to claim my Dark Edition or not. The extra goodies sound nice although extra stuff like ‘making of’ vides and art books don’t really attract me and I have also heard it will cost £100 compared to the US $100 which I normally protest against, but I shall see come Friday.

  3. Lorna Lorna says:

    After seeing this last year I was pretty much hooked. Even though I have yet to play the PC version, I can’t help but be interested to see how the console version stacks up. Regardless, I love that the moral choice system isn’t a simplistic good/bad mechanic or something ultimately useless put in for the sake of having the very ‘in trend’ choice system included.

    As for a mature RPG, hell yes. Sex, violence, and brutal combat, with more grey areas than blak and white. I’ll take it.

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